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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: National Hairball Awareness Day

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That blue bed is as hairy as Seren-Kitty!

Do you know what today is?  It’s National Hairball Awareness Day! RomeoTheCat and FURminator are once again co-sponsoring an event to bring attention to this big-hairy-deal.

Have you ever discovered the latest squishy “kitty creation” by stepping on it, barefoot, at 3 a.m.? Ewww!

Cats, and some dogs (Pomeranian owners, am I right?!) swallow fur during self-grooming. Hopefully it ends up in the litter box or yard. But when it comes out the other end, the cat vomits hotdog or cigar-shaped hairballs.

Cats spend 30% of their lives grooming.

 Shedding season increases the odds kitty will “urk” more often, especially in longhair cats. The techie term for hairball is a “bezoar.”   I warn you, don’t click that link until after breakfast. I’m not posting a picture cuz I don’t want readers to “urk.” (Turns out, humans get bezoars, too, Ewww!)

I’m fortunate that Seren has short fur, but even that can accumulate and be swallowed. We kid that fur in a pet home should be considered a condiment, but if kitty swallows too much, it stops up the system. Baseball-size hairballs have been removed from cats. Most cases won’t need surgery, though, and most hairballs can be easily eliminated.

That's a wad won't go into the cat, or stain my carpet on the way out.

The no-brainer solution is to groom kitty and pull off the fuzz before it gets swallowed. I have grooming tools–the dog Furminator (above) is awesome and works especially well on the Magical-Dawg. (I don’t even wanna think what size bezoars he’d produce!)

I received a kitty-size Furminator to test on Seren-kitty for this month. She is IN LOVE…I have the handy grooming tool next to my chair. Each evening Seren arrives for a session of lap-snuggling and purr-icity while the kitty Furminator massages her whiskers to tail. She has not “urked” up a hairball this whole month, ever since we began getting rid of the extra fuzzies.

Here are more ways to manage hairballs. Do your cats get hairballs? What do you do to prevent ’em? What about your DOGS and hairballs? Cats that groom dog friends increase their hairball risk, too. Do your fur-kids like or loathe grooming. What are some tricks you use to keep a handle on fuzzy-icity? Please share!

Groom the cat. The cheapest, easiest hairball cure is to regularly comb and brush your cat. Any hair you remove won’t be swallowed to end up staining your upholstery. The Furminator eliminates up to 90 percent of shed fur.

Feed a hairball diet. A variety of commercial products are designed to prevent hairballs. They include extra nondigestible fiber. That helps push swallowed hair through the digestive tract, so it is eliminated naturally with each bowel movement.

Add some fiber. If you’d rather not switch foods, just add fiber to kitty’s regular diet. Mix in a teaspoon of plain bran or Metamucil to canned meals. Flaxseeds or psyllium husks, available in health food stores, also act as natural laxatives and work well. Add ¼ teaspoon of flaxseeds or psyllium for every meal.

Offer pumpkin. Canned pumpkin—the plain type, not for pies—is very rich in fiber and cats often love the taste. Get a jumbo-size can, and divide into teaspoon-size servings and freeze in an ice cube tray. Thaw one serving at a time, mixing into the regular food or offer as a treat once or twice a week.

Give a bit of honey. If your cat doesn’t appreciate canned pumpkin, you can offer a natural laxative, two or three times a week. Combine raw oatmeal, honey, and olive oil into a paste. Offer one to two tablespoons as a treat when hairballs are a problem.

Lubricate the gut. Butter will make your cat purr, but it won’t help hairballs. Digestible fats like butter can cause diarrhea and usually get absorbed before they can move the problem out. Instead, offer non-medicated petroleum jelly. It looks nasty but many pets like the taste. It will coat the hairball to make it slide more easily out of the system. If kitty refuses to accept a finger-full scraped into his mouth, just spread the jelly on his paw so he has to lick it off as he grooms. Commercial hairball remedies often add salmon or malt flavoring to similar petrolatum products. Take care to follow label instructions or your veterinarian’s advice, though. Overuse of these products can interfere with the pet’s use of fat-soluble vitamins.

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 & Kitten Litterbox Training

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Nótt

"You want me to do WHAT?" (Copr Maria Magnus)

Did you get a kitten for Christmas? Today’s Feline Friday is the kitty version of Woof Wednesday’s dog house training tips. Most cats come pre-programmed to use the potty but you’ll need help if the baby is very young. Felines are great imitators and simply “copy cat” their mother’s behavior when they watch and follow her to the litter box. Most kittens and cats will already know what a litter box is for and how to use it by the time you adopt them.

But if you hand-raise an orphan or adopt a kitten younger than 8 to 10 weeks, you’ll need to do the job of the mother cat. Transitioning outdoor cats to an indoor lifestyle also may mean re-training bathroom etiquette from “going” among the flowers to aiming for the litter box. Check out the Ask Amy video below, and you’ll find more of the basics here.

LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION!

Felines are naturally clean creatures and dislike eliminating where they sleep or eat. They also appreciate privacy when (ahem) doing their duty. Build allegiance to the litter box by positioning it correctly, in a low-traffic area away from the cat’s bed and food bowls. Also remember that kittens may not have the physical capacity to “hold it” long enough to run clear across the house or down the stairs. Provide a box on each end of the house, or one per floor.

SIZE MATTERS

A regular size box may be too large for new kittens to climb in and out. A disposable cookie sheet works until he’s bigger. Average size adult cats do well with standard commercial litter pans, but jumbo-size cats (Maine Coon kitties come to mind!) may need larger toilets or risk hanging over the sides when they pose. Translucent plastic storage bins with a cat-size hole cut in one side may be ideal.

FILLER ‘ER UP WITH…WHAT?

A variety of cat box fillers are available, from plain clay to pine pellets and recycled wheat or corn crumbles. The ideal material absorbs moisture, contains waste and odor, and most important of all, suits the cat. Fine textures such as the “clumping” clay litters seem to be the feline favorite. Fill the box an inch or so deep with the filler.

If you’re transitioning an outdoor cat to an indoor box, do a bit of research and follow him to find out his preferred substrate. Dusting a bit of plain garden dirt, or a layer of grass or leaves over top of the commercial litter may help give him the idea of what you have in mind.

TRAINING TO THE BOX

Kittens and cats new to your home won’t know where the box is, even if they do know what it’s for. Place the kitty on top of the clean litter, and scratch around with your fingers to prompt imitation. Even if the cat doesn’t need to “go,” a pristine box often tempts them to dig a bit, which may lead to the first deposit.

When he’s creative in the box, reward your cat with verbal praise, a toy, or even a tasty treat reserved only for training. Don’t pick your new kitty up out of the box. Let him make his own way out of the box and the room, so he’ll better remember how to get back there the next time nature calls.

For tiny kittens, leave one recent deposit in the box after he’s been productive. The scent is a reminder of where the box is, and what he’s supposed to do once he’s there. But remember to keep the box clean or the cat will avoid the dirty toilet and find a better spot—such as under your bed.

CREATE A POTTY SCHEDULE

Until you’re sure the kitty consistently uses the box, make a point of scheduling potty times. Kittens need to eliminate more frequently than adults do. Take the baby for a pit stop after each nap, meal, and play period.

Teaching basic bathroom allegiance from the beginning ensures your kitten gets off on the right paw—and saves your carpet. You’ll find even more of kitten “must knows” in the book Complete Kitten Care.  Have you ever had problems training kittens to “go” in the right spot? How did you manage?

#AskAmy Sweet Tweets

Folks who “follow” me on Twitter @amyshojai and @About_Puppies are the most awesome Sweet Tweets around–they love #cats and #dogs and #pets, many #amwriting.  Just follow and include the #AskAmy in your tweets if’n you’re interested in pithy links to articles, books, blogs, experts, fictioning and sparkle-icity!

I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. Do you have an ASK AMY question you’d like answered? 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 pet book give-aways!

Woof Wednesday: How To Give Puppies As Gifts

1 male 3

"I fit in your Christmas stocking..." (Copr. RickieBPhotography)

I’m just home from a WONDERFUL and long-overdue visit with my parents–and got to see my brother and sis-in-law, too. I had a lovely visit and ate and talked way too much AND….(drum roll please)….I didn’t do ANY work. Well, I read and answered a couple emails but that’s it. So today’s blog is brief but also has some important info especially around the holidays. If this is a re-run of some info previously shared, tough cupcakes…it bears repeating. I hope you’ll share with others contemplating a “furry” Christmas morning.

Everyone who adores puppies wants to share the furry love affair and give puppy gifts, but not everyone is ready to receive puppies as gifts. Maybe the recipient will appreciate your thoughtfulness. But don’t gamble with a puppy’s life. Sure, Grandma is lonely and needs a wagging lap-warmer to keep her company. But she may have other plans, such as traveling to visit all the grandkids. A puppy that chews up Aunt Ethel’s hat collection will cost you favorite nephew status. A busy new parent may want a pup for their kids, but have other demands that take priority.

I used to say NEVER EVER give a puppy (or kitty) as a gift, especially around the holidays but new stats from a study by the ASPCA showed that holiday pets actually do stay in homes pretty well. So I’ve amended my recommendations. You can give pets as gifts–you just need to know how to do it. Here are 4 steps to giving a puppy — the right way.

You can also refer to these questions to ask before someone adopts a pet–and put yourself in the recipient’s “paws.” That helps you (and them) choose the best puppy match. Here are 7 questions to ask before you get that puppy.

Finally, how do you know what’s a good puppy (or kitten) source? There are many folks this time of year advertising cute fuzzy pets available for Christmas morning. They’re available from shelters, from breeders,  from newspaper ads, and even in the WalMart parking lot (ew!). Some may become wonderful pets but having a good start in life can make a big difference in how they’ll develop and become family members. Besides, you don’t want to support “bad” establishments even if you feel like rescuing that needy waif. So here are 10 questions to ask that puppy source.

Did you ever give–or receive–a pet as a gift? Was it a good experience–what challenges did you face? Where did you find the dog of your dreams? What are some other tips to think about when “gifting” someone with a new pet? Please share!

#AskAmy Sweet Tweets

Folks who “follow” me on Twitter @amyshojai and @About_Puppies are the most awesome Sweet Tweets around–they love #cats and #dogs and #pets, many #amwriting.  Just follow and include the #AskAmy in your tweets if’n you’re interested in pithy links to articles, books, blogs, experts, fictioning and sparkle-icity!

I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. Do you have an ASK AMY question you’d like answered? 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 pet book give-aways!

Feline Friday: 12 Weird Cat Behaviors Explained

Seren's Valentine Rose
Yes, this is a repeat of a previous blog post but I’ve many more followers since it first appeared. And frankly, I’m at deadline on a number of projects so–DO-OVER TIME! Enjoy!

We love them but cat behavior can puzzle and frustrate owners, making us think we have a weird cat. Does your cat eat weird things? Seren-kitty (above) can’t get enough of roses. Some cats act like battering rams, and pummel their special humans with head butts and body rubs. It’s called bunting behavior, and is one way cats communicate with each other, and their humans.

Why do cats pose in a quirky front-end bow with their nether regions raised? I call it elevator butt, although there’s a more polite technical name for the display. And what’s up with presenting his tail to your face? Actually, your cat’s action is a backhanded compliment and kitty-correct.

Cat with bowl
Do your cats cover their–ahem–creative efforts? Not all cats do this, and some try to cover their food bowl. How weird is that? Especially when they seem to prefer eating plastic.
Myster E. Watching TV 016
Does your cat want to phone home? Is kitty jealous of your time with the telephone?  or maybe they want attention when you’re on the computer? This quirky behavior also has a logical explanation. Learn about 12 weird cat behaviors, why cats do them, and how you can learn to live with them – or even enjoy your quirky kitty’s antics.

What are your cats’ foibles? Every cat is different, of course. My Seren-kitty, for instance, adores Philly cream cheese and has learned how to get the Magical-Dawg in trouble. She just “meow-meow-meows” so he comes running, and then her head spins around and she throws a hissy fit and chases the 90-pound lug across the room. How do your cats express their “inner creative kitty?”

#AskAmy Sweet Tweets

Folks who “follow” me on Twitter @amyshojai and @About_Puppies are the most awesome Sweet Tweets around–they love #cats and #dogs and #pets, many #amwriting.  Just follow and include the #AskAmy in your tweets if’n you’re interested in pithy links to articles, books, blogs, experts, fictioning and sparkle-icity!

I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. Do you have an ASK AMY question you’d like answered? 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 pet book give-aways!

Feline Friday: Cat-mas Trees & Book Winners

two Persian kittens with Christmas ribbons

Red & green--festive, but be sure all decor is safe!

The Christmas tree might as well be an early holiday gift to your cats. Kitty can’t resist the urge to sniff, cheek rub, claw—and scale the branches to reach the highest possible perch. Don’t blame your cat. It’s normal for cats to compete for the top spot (literally and figuratively) to secure their place in kitty society.

Youngsters won’t care about social standing, but high energy kitten play turns the holiday tree into a jungle gym. Tree encounters of the kitty kind not only risks breaking your heirloom ornaments, your furred family members can be injured by chewing or swallow dangerous items.

Rather than fight a losing battle to keep cats at bay, create a second cat-safe tree with these 12 tips, so the fur-kids can enjoy the holidays as much as you do. Today, I’m a guest blogger over at Petflow with these 12 tips for a cat-safe Christmas tree. For all you dog lovers–and especially the folks with SQUEEEEE! puppies, check out the Woof Wednesday topic just for doggies here.

Hey, I’m not the only one with cautions for pets this holiday season. My colleagues over at VNN (Veterinary News Network) just posted this excellent video.

WINNERS WINNERS & MORE WINNERS!

This month as a special “thank you” to all my furry-fantastic-followers, I’ve drawn two names from all the awesome folks who commented on this blog during the past month. There were FORTY-FIVE INDIVIDUALS who commented about their aging dogs and/or cats, wow! Although there wasn’t extra incentive to comment more than once, some of you did–5, 7, 9 and one person 18 times during the month. WOOT! So instead of just drawing two names, I’m adding one more winner (I can make up the rules *s*) and giving one book to the 18-comments follower:

KARYL CUNNINGHAM–I’ll email you to get your snail mail address, your choice of either the AGING CAT or AGING DOG book and how you’d like it paw-tographed. Thanks so much for following the blog and adding to the conversation.

The other two winners by random drawing are:

LESLIE SMITH

GRACEY

CONGRATULATIONS! And thanks so much for commenting on the blog and adding to the conversation. I will email each of you for your choice of which book:  Complete Care for Your Aging Cat or Complete Care for Your Aging Dog. If the book isn’t for you but will be a gift, I’m happy to send it to the winner or paw-tograph to the person of their choice for a holiday gift.

And as an EXTRA-special incentive–and to encourage all of y’all to mentor each other and spread the blogging/twitter/Facebook love–LESLIE SMITH and GRACEY each get to name one purr-son  (someone who gives them wags of support) and I’ll send those chosen mentors a paw-tographed book, too!

#AskAmy Sweet Tweets

Folks who “follow” me on Twitter @amyshojai and @About_Puppies are the most awesome Sweet Tweets around–they love #cats and #dogs and #pets, many #amwriting. We’ve become a great community including those in the #MyWANA social network twibe hosted by the awesome @KristenLambTX.  I’ve created my own hashtag to make it easier to follow my writerly & sparkle-icity endeavors by including the #AskAmy in your tweets. Lots of like-minded folks have started using this #AskAmy to find pithy links to articles, books, blogs, experts, fictioning and more!

I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. Do you have an ASK AMY question you’d like answered? 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 pet book give-aways!

Feline Friday: Copy Cat & Socializing Kittens

kitten with blue window

Squeeeeee, kittens!

It’s Black Friday–and the cats don’t care, unless you’re in the market for another feline. Some time ago one of my feline followers ask about kitty copy cat behavior (asked and answered in today’s ASK AMY video, below). And with the holidays off to a purring start, and some folks likely to add to their cat quotient, today’s blog addresses feline socialization.

Persian kittens on chair

Copy cat behavior begins with watching--cats pay exquisite attention to the world around them.

Dog people seem better at this. If you’ve adopted a new puppy, this article offers 10 ways to socialize puppies. But with kittens, the prime socialization period comes much, much earlier–age TWO TO SEVEN WEEKS!

WHAT IS SOCIALIZATION?

To be good pets, all kittens require early-age socialization. That’s a fancy way of describing how they learn to interact with the world around them.

Basket kitten
You can use natural kitten curiosity to teach confidence–a confident kitten is more emotionally healthy than a shrinking-violet-cat.
Nose to Nose cats

"Watch me, Junior, and I'll show you where they hide the tuna."

Cats can be trained (yes, they can!) at any age, and continue to learn throughout their lives. But kittens are furry sponges that absorb lessons, both good and bad, at an incredible pace. This prime kitten socialization period is a narrow window during babyhood when learning the “wrong” lessons can emotionally cripple the cat. For example, kittens not exposed to positive experiences with humans during this period will be wild (feral) critters and never accept people.

Proper socialization teaches a cat how to be a cat, proper feline manners, how to communicate with other felines, and who the cat’s friends and enemies are. Read more about 8 reasons to socialize kittens here. Of course, if you have a new kitten or plan to adopt soon, I’d strongly urge you to prepare by reading my COMPLETE KITTEN CARE book–the pictures in today’s blog are just a few from that book, available in print and/or all Ebook formats.

What about older cats? Can they be socialized? Do kitties copy the behaviors of adult cats? Do yours? What many folks may not realize is that the copied behavior can be either a good one (learning “clicker training” by watching your other pets), or a bad one (figuring out how to swipe turkey from the frig). What are some things YOUR cats have learned from other pets? C’mon, you know you want to share! Do tell!

SPECIAL THANKS

This month as a special “thank you” to all my furry-fantastic-followers, I’ll give away a paw-tographed copy of Complete Care for Your Aging Cat and Complete Care for Your Aging Dog. To get in the running, simply post a comment in the blog about your special pet (old fogey or not) and I’ll draw two names at the end of the month. You can use these award-winning updated books as a resource for yourself or wrap up for a pet-friendly holiday gift to a fur-loving friend. And as an EXTRA-special incentive–and to encourage all of y’all to mentor each other and spread the blogging/twitter/Facebook love–the two winners get to name one purr-son who gives them wags of support and deserves a book, too!

#AskAmy Sweet Tweets

Folks who “follow” me on Twitter @amyshojai and @About_Puppies are the most awesome Sweet Tweets around–they love #cats and #dogs and #pets, many #amwriting. We’ve become a great community including those in the #MyWANA social network twibe hosted by the awesome @KristenLambTX.  So I’m stealing borrowing Kristen’s methods and creating my own hashtag. Just follow and include the #AskAmy in your tweets if’n you’re interested in pithy links to articles, books, blogs, experts, fictioning and sparkle-icity!

I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. Do you have an ASK AMY question you’d like answered? 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 pet book give-aways!

Thoughty Thursday: Thanksgiving & Rainbow Pets

Happy Thanksgiving! After a whirlwind trip last weekend to New York and back, I’m grateful to be home safe again. The Cat Writers’ Association conference has been good to me, and this year was no exception. While I’m thankful for the business opportunities and awards bestowed, those pale compared to the friendships developed through my work. I am honored to be in the company of these wonderful, dedicated professionals.

I’m thankful to be home with my family—furry and human—rather than on the bumpy road and bumpier plane. I’m thankful my human family, though miles away, remain close-nit and loving. And I’m thankful all remain healthy.

I’m thankful for veterinarians who make life better for the pets we adore. I’m thankful for researchers who work to find diagnoses, treatments, and cures for our ailments, both for pets and for people. I’m thankful for the animal welfare volunteers who do the work of the angels when others somehow let pets down.

I’m thankful that I have the best job in the world, sharing information about the cats and dogs that have become so important to our emotional and physical health. I’m thankful for publishers, editors, magazines, newspapers, TV and radio shows, websites, bloggers and email lists that share these important resources to benefit cats and dogs and the people who love them. And I’m thankful to writing organizations, teachers, agents and all those who promote the craft of good communication and help others pursue this rewarding craft.

I’m thankful that I found a dumped kitten fifteen years ago and brought her into my home and heart. I’m thankful that Seren-kitty still acts like a kitten and stays so healthy. I’m sure my veterinarian also is thankful Seren remains spry, since she is not a happy patient and the clinic staff likes to keep their fingers intact. I’m thankful Seren only rarely presents a hairball “gift” and that I’ve not found it barefooted at 3 a.m. for many months. I’m thankful she’s given up playing “gravity experiments” with my fine breakables, and has decided it’s okay to nap on my lap now and then. I’m also thankful that she’s decided the dog is a boob and great fun to torment, rather than spending all of her time sequestered upstairs.

I’m thankful for responsible breeders who ensure purebred dogs and pedigreed cats have a healthy paw-start in life. I’m thankful that Magic-dawg at age five has become a bit…just a bit…less driven. I’m thankful for water hoses, and tennis balls, stuffed teddy bears and Frisbees that wear Magic out without exhausting me at the same time. I’m thankful my roughneck dawg hasn’t had any injury or digestive “whoops” this year. I’m thankful Magic is smart, funny, a comedian, and a wonder to train—and doesn’t argue but has accepted that the cat is the boss of him.

I’m thankful that although he never grew up with pets, my husband loves Seren and Magic as much as I do. I’m even more thankful they adore him back (that could get awkward!). I’m thankful for my church family—pet lovers or not—who also support my furry notions. I’m particularly thankful to the Cuchara Gang (you know who you are) who lift me up with friendship and love.

I’m thankful for music that has always been so much a part of my life. I’m thankful for theater that feeds my soul. And I’m thankful my co-author helps me combine music, writing, theater  and pets into exciting new possibilities–see the sample in video, below. Note that all the CUTE DOG AND CAT PICTURES are in the video. *s*

Finally, I’m thankful to you—yes, those who read this blog or any of the other writer-icity hangouts I frequent. Without you, I would not have a career, and my life’s passion would remain unfulfilled. Without you, your pets wouldn’t have the wonderful love and care you provide. Without you, there wouldn’t be any reason for this heartfelt—THANK YOU.

RAINBOW PETS

Black and white, brindle or tabby,
Merle or brown, sable, Abby,
Persian, Collie, whole or fixed,
Rainbow pets a perfect mix.

I was young, I was old.
I was rescued, I was sold.
I was sick, and you were kind.
By some mystic Master’s design
Can’t you see, meant to be
You will always be mine.

Whoops or planned, shown or banned,
Shelter, rescue, foster, pound,
Bottle babies, purebred ladies,
Perfect, damaged, all are found.

You were clueless, so were we.
Lessons learned don’t come for free.
Can’t go back, regrets define.
By some mystic Master’s design
Shed no tear, have no fear,
Pay it forward in kind.

Blond or blue, calico, curly,
Pointed, smooth, wirehair, surly,
Sweetheart, bold, or shy thereof,
Rainbow pets—we’re yours to love.

Love me now, love me then,
Love me when we meet again
At the bridge, the rainbow shines
By some mystic Master’s design
In its light, Ever bright,
You will always be mine.

Whisker Wednesday: Pet ‘Net & Cat Intros

Tímon að hugsa um systur sína

Adoption love...a beautiful thing! (photo courtesy of Maria Magnus)

Yes, it’s time for the 4th Annual Pet ‘Net Event, yee-haw! And this year we’re re-visiting the first topic, and a fav of one and all–PET ADOPTIONS!

Pet ‘Net 2011 joins pet bloggers (including me!) all across the country to spread the furry word on November 16 about the many advantages of pet adoption. There are even ways you can donate and help promote all adoptions.

Since November is also National Adopted A Senior Pet Month, I’ve already blogged aboutpuppy-to-senior-dog-adoptions at my Puppies Site. That means today’s Woof Wednesday blog has been hijacked by the kitties. Mee-wow!

Kitten to Old Fogey Cat Intros

Cat lovers often decide to adopt a new pet without consulting the old-fogey feline. Maybe you’ve recently lost a beloved old cat and believe the surviving feline is lonely, or perhaps you worry that the singleton kitty is bored without companionship.

Maybe. Or maybe not.

Here’s the deal–would you want to have a funny-smelling stranger come into your home, sleep in your bed, eat from your place, poop in your toilet (without flushing!) and go cheek-to-cheek with your beloved? Proper intros work wonders to smooth the hissy fits.

Kittens Don’t Count

Well, they do, but not so much in terms of social standing. Your senior citizen kitty already “owns” your pillow, the top of the TV, the litter box and food bowl–and your heart. A kitten due to age won’t challenge the older cat’s authority nearly as much as an in-her-prime adult feline. So when thinking about adopting a new furry wonder, a baby cat won’t be as big of a threat or challenge to your resident feline’s status quo.

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Shelter kittens smell like...well, shelters.

Stranger Danger

Getting hissy with strange cats is a NORMAL cat behavior. In the wild, the feline that’s too friendly with a weird interloper risks getting eaten. Cats identify safe people (or other pets) by their familiar smell. A fresh-from-the-shelter a new pet that hasn’t been kitty-groomed by the group with licks and cheek rubs might as well be Frankenstein-Cat.

Tolerate THIS!

The sight, sound, and smell of a strange cat pushes kitty buttons to extreme. But blocking one sense (sight of each other for example) reduces arousal. That helps enormously during cat-to-cat intros, which is one reason my must-do list includes initially separating the cats. That also allows your older cat to maintain run of the house and ownership of all the prime kitty real estate.

Shut The Door

Confine the new kitten in a single “safe room” so the resident cat understands only part of his territory has been invaded. Young kittens that haven’t a clue anyway won’t care. But if they’re the least shy, being sequestered offers a safe, soothing retreat with a litter box, food and water bowls, toys, scratch post and other kitty paraphernalia. Being the “new kid” can be stressful for shrinking violet kittens so build the baby’s confidence with a room of his or her own before the whisker-to-whisker meeting.

Keep the solid door closed for at least a week before risking a face-to-face. Watch for your resident cat’s reaction. Hisses are normal. Trust me on this! It may take more than three weeks before those growly-sounds fade.

See, if you try to intro them too soon and the fur flies, the cats will remember that AWFUL-NASTY-TURRIBLE-DEVIL and bring a bad c’attitude to future meetings. It’s better to take it slow and avoid having the kitties practice bad behavior. They’ll have a lifetime together so what’s a delay of a few days or weeks?

Feed the cats on opposite sides of the door, to associate each other’s smell with good things. After each cat has had a meal, switch out the plates temporarily so that they can sniff the bowls and become even more familiar with each other. It’s even better when a bit of food is left, because that helps the cats identify good stuff—food—with the other animal.

Try some playtime on opposite sides of the door, too. Have another family member deal with the kitten while you (or whoever your aging kitty ADORES THE MOST) interacts with the resident feline. Catnip could be helpful–sure, get the old guy drunk. If he sniffs the kitten and gets a bit of a buzz, that could be a very positive association.

Sniffing and paw pats underneath the door are positive signs. The cats should “know” each other by scent before they ever set eyes on each other. Expect normal posturing, fluffed fur and hissing and when that begins to fade, you’re ready for the next step.

Trading Spaces

Swap out the cats after a few days. That gives the old cat a chance to get up close and personal sniffing where the devil new cat has been. And it allows the newly adopted baby to scope out the environment.Kitties have no interest in meeting new people or pets unless they feel comfortable with their environment.

Reduce any potential kitty controversy by creating a house of plenty. Your home should have so much good-kitty-stuff that there’s no need for the kitten and old cat to argue over it.

Place multiple litter boxes and feeding stations in different locations so that one cat can’t own and “guard” the facilities. Increase territory with cat trees, shelves to lounge, tunnels and boxes to hide, and toys galore. It doesn’t have to break the bank, either. Cheap thrills like empty paper bags or wads of paper serve as irresistible toys that often appeal more than the high dollar versions. Cardboard boxes, a cleared shelf on the bookcase, or a soft blanket under a lamp really get the purr-motor rumbling.

Nose-To-Nose At Last

Once the BIG DAY arrives, just open the “safe room” door, stand back, and let the cat’s meet. Supervise, of course, but don’t force interaction. You can feed them on opposite sides of the room or play interactive games at a distance to smooth this first meeting. The cats may ignore each other for hours or days and that’s fine, too.

A bit of posturing with hisses, cautionary swats and other snark-icity is to be expected. Do stop the interactions if growls start rumbling. You may want to replace the closed door with a baby gate so the cats can sniff and meet through the safety of a barrier but still be segregated. Until you’re sure the old cat won’t mangle the baby, or the baby won’t terrorize the oldster, supervise or keep the new kitten segregated when you can’t. It can be love at first sight, or may take weeks or months to accept somebody new into the family.

For all you new kitten adopters out there–conCATulations! You’ll find many more kitten-specific tips in my Complete Kitten Care book.

SPECIAL THANKS

This month as a special “thank you” to all my furry-fantastic-followers, I’ll give away a paw-tographed copy of Complete Care for Your Aging Cat and Complete Care for Your Aging Dog. To get in the running, simply post a comment in the blog about your special pet (old fogey or not) and I’ll draw two names at the end of the month. You can use these award-winning updated books as a resource for yourself or wrap up for a pet-friendly holiday gift to a fur-loving friend. And as an EXTRA-special incentive–and to encourage all of y’all to mentor each other and spread the blogging/twitter/Facebook love–the two winners get to name one purr-son who gives them wags of support and deserves a book, too!

#AskAmy Sweet Tweets

Folks who “follow” me on Twitter @amyshojai and @About_Puppies are the most awesome Sweet Tweets around–they love #cats and #dogs and #pets, many #amwriting. We’ve become a great community including those in the #MyWANA social network twibe hosted by the awesome @KristenLambTX.  So I’m stealing borrowing Kristen’s methods and creating my own hashtag. Just follow and include the #AskAmy in your tweets if’n you’re interested in pithy links to articles, books, blogs, experts, fictioning and sparkle-icity!

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