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Feline Friday: How Cats Show Love

In the Spotlight

Placing himself in a vulnerable position shows you love . . . (Image copr. mhstrp2009 via Flickr)

There’s no doubt we love our pets — but do our cats love us back? The answer is yes. But cats and kittens show affections in ways that aren’t always what humans expect. In fact, a pet’s Valentine wishes might instead puzzle, aggravate or even offend some people. Here are 7 ways cats show love.

1. Cats (sometimes) scratch and pee to show affection. Cats seek out items that smell most like their beloved human — and they find scratching and peeing calming. So marking up your favorite chair or baptizing your bed with urine actually is not only a backhanded kitty compliment but a stress reliever. Providing legal scratch and potty opportunities encourages kitty to love you in more appropriate ways.

2. Cats put their rear ends in your face. This is a friendly gesture we swear! The cat is offering you an invitation to sniff — and to the feline way of thinking, that’s a very loving thing to do. But as you will not want to indulge, respond by scratching the base of her tail instead.

3. Kitties rub against you. This leaves the cat’s scent — marking you as “owned” by them. Cats repeatedly head bump their most favorite people. Bumping your face is the ultimate show of trust, since it leaves eyes vulnerable.

4. Cats knead your thighs. Honestly, we’re not sure why they do this. We know that kittens do it to prompt mom-cat’s milk to release and we suspect this instinctive behavior hearkens back to that feeling of comfort and joy. So a cat kneading her human certainly can be a kitty valentine.

5. Cats purr. Now these noises can mean different things, including delight or concern, but a cat that purrs while snuggled in your lap expresses deep trust and love for you. Return the favor and talk back in a warm, caring voice. Say “I love you.” She’ll understand the emotion, if not the exact words.

6. Cats will groom you. Licking your skin or hair, or even nibbling or sucking on your clothing spreads “family” scent and is an expression of feline love. Return the favor — petting your cat is the kitty equivalent of a love fest of mutual grooming.

7. Kittens curve their tails. When a kitten greets her mom-cat, she holds her tail straight up with the end tipped over. If your kitty directs this tippy tail at you, she is, in effect, calling you “mom.”

These are just some of the ways your pet may be expressing his love. And they certainly don’t apply to all animals, as some cats become very creative and keep us guessing! But there’s no doubt that pets appreciate our love and love us back. The best Valentine’s gift we can give them is learning to understand them, foibles and all. Of course you can learn lots more about kitty behavior in the book COMPLETE KITTEN CARE.

How do YOUR cats show love? Seren also “guards” me to keep the (spit!) unworthy dog from soiling me with his presence. And she taste-tests my food so that I don’t run the risk of poisoning (puts her lil’ life on the line just for me…and that potato chip). Please share how your cats and kittens love you!

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: Pet Proof Christmas & Broken Memories

198/365/928 (December 26, 2010) - Peaceable Kingdom at Christmas

Holiday homes become pet playgrounds at this time of year. Cats delight in un-decking the halls and climbing the tree. Dogs eat decorations and baptize the tree. The result is a holiday that’s anything but merry. My latest Paw Nation article addresses some of the most common holiday safety issues for pets with how to pet proof your holiday.

Dogs and especially puppies chew nearly anything, including plants. Cats rarely eat plants, but they do claw them and then lick/groom away the residue. Fireplaces offer extra warmth and atmosphere to holiday gatherings, but can prompt singed whiskers or burned paws.

Gobbling any sort of candy may cause vomiting and/or diarrhea. But some food items can actually kill your pet.

Holiday trees pose additional challenges for pet families. Refer to these tips to keep your pets safe and your holiday happy.

If you’re planning to board your dogs over the holidays, I urge you to keep him safe with proper vaccinations for kennel cough. You can learn more here about this highly contagious disease in my latest puppy-licious article here.

The holidays is an awful time of year to run short of funds for pet care. For those wanting to make a big difference in the lives of needy pet owners–and their pets–perhaps you’d like to donate to a Good Samaritan fund for vet care help. Or maybe you need a little extra help this year. Here’s a list of several organizations that will help you with vet bills.

MENDED TEARS

Holidays mean memories and damage to “things” may matter more at this time of year than others. My grandmother always displayed a gorgeous white porcelain nativity each year. That nativity symbolized for me all-good-things about Grandma’s house and Christmas–good food, happy reunions, presents, and love shared by our close-nit family. So when Grandma died, I was blessed to keep her Nativity and continue to display it in my own home.

When Seren-kitty arrived, I was nervous about her rambunctious behavior around the Holy Family. But it wasn’t until a decade later that the worst happened while my husband played his nightly fetch game with the dog–it could have been me, so there’s no blame here. The Magical-Dawg’s ball ricocheted off of the delicate nativity and managed to behead Joseph and lop off Mary’s hand.Sounds funny, right?

I had a melt down. You probably could hear my scream for miles and the sobs lasted days. It wasn’t just china, a THING damaged. It was my personal Christmas, my Grandma, childhood happy times–shattered.

Eventually I stopped crying. There was no question of replacing the pieces–they’re hard to find and besides, it was THAT nativity that meant everything to me. We did find a restoration expert able to give Mary back her hand and replace Joseph’s head right in time for the next Christmas. So this weekend, Grandma’s Nativity once again will add to our personal traditions and holiday happiness.

And the Magical-Dawg’s games of fetch are suspended until after New Year’s, at least inside the house! Hey, it wasn’t the dog’s fault. But it’s up to us humans to protect what’s important to us–not just our pets but our memories.

What do you do to keep your Christmas memories safe from doggy damage? Does the baby-gate-of-despair keep the tree and poochie free from harm? Have you ever “lost your head” over holiday damage?

#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: Eat Dirt! & Other Schtuff

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Pups commonly eat sticks--not a good thing!

Owners fill bowls with nutritious food to keep dogs healthy. So why do dogs eat weird, disgusting and even dangerous stuff?

Dogs use their mouths the way we use our hands. They pick up objects and explore their world by mouthing, tasting, and chewing. That sometimes gets them into trouble if they swallow something they shouldn’t.

Does your dog eat grass? What about poop–urk. Actually puppies tend to do more potty snacking than adult dogs and you can find tips to curb the nasty habit here. Adult dogs may continue treating the cat’s litter box like a snack bar–unless you’ve got a Kitty Comando like my Seren-kitty that keeps all *sniff* DAWGS at bay.

What about eating toys or rocks or other non-edibles? The latest Paw Nation article “Weird Stuff Dogs Eat” offers some explanations. And courtesy of one of my Facebook friends, the Ask Amy video addresses the issue of dogs eating dirt.

So how do you manage your dog’s odd snacking tastes? What’s the weirdest thing your pooch has ever swallowed? I remember one of my Grandma’s puppies gobbling up a favorite necklace pendant of mine when I was a kid. Yep, I recovered it later when the puppy passed it back to me–ahem–but never felt the same about wearing it again.

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!

Monday Mentions: Pets, Vets & Furry Writer-icity

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Frankie in the Sun

Frankie in the sun . . .

Monday Mentions is the mash-up-day of all the neato-torpedo links and blogs and writer-icity crappiocca collected over the past week. So I had to share these lovely pictures taken by photographer Jamie Clugston  posted them in my Flickr Kitty Publishing group. There’s also a  Puppy Publishing group on Flicker. A number of these great pictures will also get posted over at the Puppies site but of course you can post ‘em directly there with details about your baby dog’s gotcha day and more. Check out the links, below, and please don’t be shy about sending me your own links or suggestions for others to highlight. First out of the cat-bag today are–CATS!

MEOWY-SHOUT-OUTS

PETFINDER.COM sponsors TAKE YOUR CAT TO THE VET WEEK

During Take Your Cat to the Vet Week, we remind cat parents to take their cats to the vet for preventative care. Even though pet cats outnumber dogs in the U.S. by 15 million, cats go to the vet only half as often as dogs. But cats need preventive care just as much as dogs, and regular vet checkups can help you catch health issues before they become major illnesses that are painful for your cat and more difficult (and expensive) to treat. Check out Jane Harrell’s terrific blog with lots of great information all week long at PetFinder.com

Cats get the short end of the health care stick. According to the American Veterinary Medical Association and the CATalyst Council, cats visit the vet much less frequently than dogs. It’s not that felines are healthier (although cats do hide illness better) but many cats hate the vet so much their owners find it easier to just skip it. But even healthy cats need well exams once or twice a year. Last week’s Feline Friday Heart-to-Heart about heartworms points out one devastating result of overlooked health care.

Why do cats hate the vet? Cats are adept at protecting themselves from stranger danger. What’s familiar is safe, while anything new or different raises kitty suspicions. A vet visit delivers a triple whammy by changing the cat’s routine, environment and exposure to strangers. Here are seven reasons cats hate the vet and how you can ease the angst.

Lily As A Puppy

Lily as a puppy--SQUEEEEE! by Brenda Hawk in Puppy Publishing

DOG STUFF TO HOWL ABOUT

Neat story about a rescue dog from Mexico–check out The Flying Nun from DJones Blog

AMERICAN HUMANE’S HERO DOGS AWARDS Finalists have been named! Take a peek and be inspired by these canine furry wonders–and add your vote to help choose the winner.

Fido & Friend & Five Bobbie Pyron shares recommended books filled with furry inspiration.

WRITER-ICITY YOU NEED TO KNOW

Terry Odell writes romance with a twist of mystery–and her blog today features BLOODHOUNDS! This is great info for writers wanting to include some furry facts.

THINKING BURNS CALORIES according to Joy Held’s Writer Wellness blog.  I need all the healthy help I can get–so I’m loving the fact that angsting over a plot twist gives me an extra boost.

Kristen Lamb’s latest Deadly Sins of Writing blog on POV PROSTITUTION is a must-read for aspiring and established authors.

I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. Do you have an ASK AMY question you’d like answered? I’m nearly ready to record a bunch of new ones, so be sure to get your requests in the comments. 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: Got Herb? Kitty Catnip Delights

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Honest, I didn't inhale...well maybe a little..."

I have no doubt that catnip prompted the Cheshire Cat’s grin. My cat Seren wears the same expression when she indulges. But why do cats find this nondescript herb so attractive? Is it a kitty aphrodisiac, a harmless pleasure or something more sinister?

Nepeta cataria, or catnip, is a strong-scented mint that contains a volatile oil that’s easily released into the air. Biting or rolling on the plant crushes the leaves and releases the oil so cats can get a good sniff. It doesn’t take much. Cats can detect catnip oil in the air at saturations as low as one part per billion. Seren-kitty (in the picture above) can ferret out fresh herb through several layers of shopping bags. I never knew she liked the stuff until some really potent catnip came home with me from the Cat Writers Conference and she went wild.

Do your cats react to catnip? What about other substances? I’ve known some cats that show the same reaction to honeysuckle slices–pieces of the wood–or to other mints, and even a few who rolled and yowled for olives! Here’s more about how catnip works like LSD detailed in my latest Paw Nation article about catnip. And here’s a repeat of an Ask Amy that fits right in with the them.

I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions–and to stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, listen to the weekly radio show, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter with pet book give-aways!

Feline Friday: Translating Kitty Ass-ets

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Today’s Ask Amy video addresses kitty tail talk, and I’ve had fun finding a variety of furry models to tell the tale–er, I mean, tail. So give it a shot–what do YOU think the tail semaphore means?  What does Sleepy-Seren’s tail (above) say about her c’attitude?

Burmese

What about this Burmese beauty? Cats talk with their entire bodies, not just meows and airplane ears. What’s that tail semaphore mean when held on high? Happy? Agitated? Relaxed?

cat on railing

And here’s a couple tails held down instead of up–what’s the significance, or is there any? Do they mean the same thing? Seren’s tail rarely stops moving, but other kitties only flail tail when upset. Why should you care? Well…sometimes kitties lose their homes when there’s mis-communication.

July 15-17, Petfinder.com is joining with over 1,500 rescue groups and shelters across North American for what could be the largest adoption event in history–in honor of Petfinder.com 15th Birthday year! That sweet kitty above, with her tail wrapped around her body, is Bella Luna and she’s available–just click on her picture for a link to details. Betcha once she’s adopted her tail talk will transform into happy signals . . .

This Paw Nation article on understanding felinese includes some translation, but every cat has his own dialect. Just like people from different parts of the country have funny accents–unlike me, cuz I have no accent at-all, y’all.

Devon rex

How do your cats express themselves with their furry ass-ets? What have I missed in the video? And  what’s unique about your furry wonders? Please share!

I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions–and to stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, listen to the weekly radio show, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter with pet book give-aways!

Woof Wednesday: Doggy Moans, Groans & Being Alone

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Dogs and cats with separation anxiety "act out" their angst in different ways.

When a dog or cat can’t bear to be left alone they may “act out” and damage your belongings, or even hurt themselves. These pets aren’t chewing up furniture, defecating on the bed, or breaking through glass windows to “get back at you.” Think of separation anxiety as a form of grief. Cats and dogs miss you so much they can’t help themselves.

Problems develop when the amount of time you spend with the pet changes, maybe due to a new job schedule or baby. Cats may not have problems for years, but often act out when owners go on vacation.

About 14 percent of pet dogs seen in veterinary clinics suffer from separation anxiety. Mixed breeds and dogs adopted from shelters or the streets are most commonly affected, and aging dogs (10 years and older) or puppies adopted before 8 weeks of age also have a higher incidence. Here are tips for soothing separation anxiety in my latest Paw Nation article.

Dogs that feel fearful often yelp, howl or otherwise cry out for help. But what about moans and groans? Do they mean the same thing–even pleasure? What sorts of sounds does your pooch make when he’s enjoying himself? Perhaps he enjoys having his ears rubbed and expresses his pleasure, as in this Ask Amy video. What other ways do your dogs have to express themselves?

I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions–and to stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, listen to the weekly radio show, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter with pet book give-aways!

Tuesday Tips: Pet Introductions 101

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June is National Adopt a Shelter Cat Month, but spring also brings an abundance of needy puppies, cute kittens, and strays. Adding a new pet to the existing furry family can put tails in a twist. Would you embrace that stranger off the street who smells funny, sleeps in your bed, uses your toilet and gets all the attention from your loved ones?

You’ll want to give consideration to your resident pets, too. Figure out the best match for your old dog, young kitten or other fur-kid to improve the chances your second dog is the perfect match. Here’s a recent puppies.About.com article to learn more about picking compatible pets.

You may get lucky with love-at-first-sniff, but dumping pets together can breed fear or aggression that lasts a lifetime. There are exceptions, but resident pets often are more tolerant of younger pets of the opposite sex. Whatever your choice, proper introductions described in my latest Paw Nation article help pets start off on the right paw.

Are you adopting a new kitten or puppy this summer? Or how about an adult–or even senior citizen–dog or cat? How have you introduced your previous fur-kids? It took my Seren-kitty over a year to deign to be in the same room with Magical-Dawg. Today, they get along but only because the kitty had discovered what FUN it is to get the dawg in trouble!

I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions–and to stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, listen to the weekly radio show, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter with pet book give-aways!

Feline Friday: Ask Amy, Neat Freaks & Nasty Gifts

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12-12 persian kitten 2

Persians can be a grooming challenge.

We cherish the cat’s fastidious nature, and I’ve blogged before about the consequences–hairballs, ew!  But neatnik behavior goes beyond looking good. How and why cats groom impacts physical, emotional and social health. Kittens learn to lick themselves by 2 weeks of age using copycat behavior, and a slovenly mother will raise kitten slobs.

Are your cats neatniks, or slobs? Seren has a very specific grooming routine, ever since she arrived as a four-month-0ld stray. Most times kittens wash themselves by the time they are weaned, and adults spend up to 50 percent of their awake time in some form of grooming. You can learn WHY are cats such OCD groomers in the rest of my NEATNESS FREAKS article at Paw Nation.

By the way, I’ll be sending in suggestions for future Paw Nation topics. Have any suggestions (dog or kitty?). Please share! No guarantees, but I aims ta pleeze. And if not there, the topic could be a future Ask Amy.

So does it seem counter-intuitive for some tidy creatures to indulge in playing mousy games with critter entrails? Ew, again! Do your cats bring you special gifts? The few times that a mouse managed to get into the house, Seren simply watched it run by with only passing curiosity. She does attack crickets with relish, though, and leaves the buggy drumsticks behind. I think one reason many of us adore cats is they’re just a paw-step away from that wild-child creature, so it’s like bringing nature closer into our lives.

The Ask Amy video offers a couple of reasons why cats bring us gifts–but what do you think?

I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions–and to stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, listen to the weekly radio show, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter with pet book give-aways!

Woof Wednesday: Have You Howled Today?

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Magical-Dawg with a favorite bear toy--when not shaking the stuffing out of it, he sucks on 'em.

Living in Tornado Alley keeps North Texans alert to the weather changes–and the past week has been a doozy. My phone went out last Friday. This morning (6 days later!) the fine folks at Verizon fixed it. Wind, rain, hail (some the size of golf balls) grabbed and shook those phone cables like a terrier with a rat–or my Magical-Dawg with his stuffed bear. At least this time the electrical downed lines didn’t spark a grass fire.

Still had my cell phone. And the DSL line for the computer and email worked. In this “connected” world we’ve got so many ways to communicate–emailing, texting, faxing, FB-ing, twitter-icity–could you go back to basics? What are the options? Smoke signals? The fire marshall would throw cold water on that notion. Tom-tom drums? Gotta have rhythm for that. Why not howls!

We’ve got lots to howl about, actually.  The horrifying “train your virtual dog to fight” Android Ap created lots of raised hackles in the pet writing community. My colleague Steve Dale’s recent blog details the objections–and the REMOVAL of the Ap. ArrrrrrrroooOOOOOOOOOO!  (p.s., just learned it’s risen from the dead in another incarnation, hisssss!)

Another colleague, Gina Spadafori of PetConnection.com is on the road with my one-time co-author Dr. Marty Becker on a 7-week book tour. They arranged with Marriott for stays along the way–including a place for the tour’s spokes-dog McKenzie, a highly trained and easy going Flat Coat Retriever. Well–at the very first stop in Houston on the 30-city tour, Gina and McKenzie got evicted…no dogs allowed, never mind it’d been cleared by Corporate. Same thing happened at the next stop. ArrrrrrrrrrrrrrOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!! The powers-what-be are working on it–meanwhile, McKenzie aka McKutie-Dawg spends time in the big bus rock star suite with Gina.

A howl works for celebration, for lamentation, for communication–and lots of other  “ations” including the canine n-ation. High tech human conversation loses lots in translation without the natural audible inflection, not to mention (pun intended!) the silent body language that goes with it. And I am NOT referring to elevated digits in rude salutes–although being without a phone for nearly six days tempted me to flex my fingers. Harrumph!

magic & instruments

Howls are canine singing--sorta kinda in a way...

Dogs know how to communicate. You gotta go “low tech” to really connect with doggy wags, growls, whines and more. My Paw Nation article on doggy communication hit the high spots. Do your dogs howl? When do they howl–and why? Have you howled today? Try it–for a terrific stress relief (and you might get your canine’s singing along). Lately the tornado sirens have stirred up the canine chorus at my house. So I thought this Ask Amy was timely, enjoy!

I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions–and to stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, listen to the weekly radio show, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter with pet book give-aways!