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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.


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.


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.


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.


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!

Woof Wednesday: Imperfect Pets

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Oscar is Natalie's furry muse . . .

Oscar does many things. He helps watch over his little sister. He keeps the Tempur-Pedic bed nice and warm at night and he helps his Mommy write by sitting on her feet, under her desk. But Oscar has done more than be Natalie C. Markey’s personal assistant. On her latest project he served as her inspiration.

Oscar lives with epilepsy and takes medication twice a day to monitor his condition. Thanks to Oscar, Natalie learned what it takes to successfully care for a special needs dog and wants to help others do the same. That’s why she wrote her first book, Caring For A Special Needs Dog, which releases TODAY–SNOOPY-DANCE-‘O-JOY! Doncha just love when that happens?

I had the honor to review the book even before it hit the shelves. This is an uplifting and practical book that provides down to earth simple advice. It’s easier than you think to live with a disabled dog. Natalie didn’t stop with her own experiences–she reached out to others and the book shares real life tips from families that make it work.

Of course, the vet is the go-to resource when caring for any pet, and Natalie sings the praises of those who helped Oscar. But it’s in the owners’ power to improve their dog’s quality of life, despite a medical condition. One of my favorite parts of the book is Natalie sharing how to prepare your special needs dog for your human baby, and the benefits of having children participate in the dog’s care as they grow up together. Made my tail wag!

Natalie is a fellow Texan, and Oscar received help from a Lone Star facility, so I’m also thrilled that a percentage of the profits from “Caring for Your Special Needs Dog” go to The Texas A&M Foundation to the benefit of the Neurology Section, Department of Small Animal Clinical Sciences, College of Veterinarian Medicine.

Markey is a nine-year seasoned freelance journalist. She writes for several local and National publications including her Pet To Publishing blog, and a regular column on, Special Needs Dog Care Examiner. After a professional career in PR and Communications she now writes non-fiction and fiction full time. This Texan and Baylor University graduate currently writes from a forest in Arkansas where she gets support for her husband, daughter and, of course, Oscar.

Do you have an “imperfect pet?” The Magical-Dawg would never let such a thing slow him down. Seren-Kitty hisses at the thought anyone would DARE consider her less-than-purr-fection. They both have stellar vet care, but if need be, I’d go to a specialist for extra help the way Natalie did for Oscar. Heck, my cutting-edge book has a list of the top vets all over the country!

Where would you draw the line? A “tripod” pet with only three legs? or one needing a wheelchair? A blind or deaf cat? Incontinent old dog or diabetic feline? Please share YOUR special-but-imperfect-pet experiences . . . and why you’d do it again (or what challenges others need to know).

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: Diarrhea & Taxes

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Based on yesterday’s “dogs roll in stuff” video and today’s posts you’d think this blog has gone into the toilet . . . and some days/weeks it really does turn out that way. Sharing your life with dogs and cats, being self employed–or dealing with a !#$%^&*()! boss, means we all shovel a lot of if on a daily basis. Sometimes literally.

The Magical-Dawg has a whoopsie tummy. *sigh* Last year he developed loose stools off and on for a couple of weeks, but still felt fine. We did the standard routine–withheld food and water for 24 hours to rest his gut (pissed off the dawg!) or offered only small amounts of bland food. Plain yogurt to help repopulate the “good bacteria” in the gut, or highly digestible cottage cheese with plain white rice.  How do you handle your pets’ diarrhea?

The boy luvs his food!

Magic likes these alternative foods so much, I sometimes wonder if he doesn’t break with the runs just to get the treat! Anyway, last year we thought it was under control until the several days I had jury duty and wasn’t home to monitor–and returned to find a mess with a majorly sick dawgie. Stoopid me should’ve had him vetted before it turned serious. Oh, he recovered after some major horse-capsule worm medicine rid him of the “bugs” he’d imbibed from swilling drinks from the tank. (A “tank” is Texan for “ginormous manmade puddle)

Anyway, since that time the Magical-dawg’s CREATIVITY has been carefully monitored. Yesterday the vet checked a stool sample and found it negative.  So we’re guessing it’s a result of stress being confined for loooooooooooong hours this past weekend while I spoke at the Professional Journalists conference and my hey-honey prepared taxes for 14+ hours a day.

The gate in the Magic-Mobile should be tax deductible!

Yes, countdown to tax season faces us all. Do taxes make you whimper and howl? I’m still waiting for the Magical-Dawg and Seren-Kitty to be legal to claim as dependents. And hey, if we write about pet food, shouldn’t we get to deduct that cost? Oh, and since the dawg’s diarrhea resulted from the stress of my job (being away), seems only fair to list “diarrhea expense” under itemized deductions.

How many of us don’t have health insurance–or at least, as much coverage as we should? (…raising furry paw) Since pets are good for our health — check out the blog on the topic — Uncle Sam should pay US for housing, feeding, training, and loving our furry charges!

The AKC just sent out a press release “From Puppy Bling to Lavish Toys…” and my furry ears pricked up. Seems they conducted a tongue-in-cheek survey and found “63% of dog owners who receive a tax refund will use the money to pamper their dog.  The most popular splurge-worthy item was doggy bling (a rhinestone collar or fancy leash).”

Will your tax refund “go to the dogs?” How would our dogs choose to spend their tax refund? Never-ending smorgasbord? Herd of sheep? Cats that allow sniffing? Magical-Dawg has his eye on a yogurt machine.  Channel your “inner dawg” (or kitty!) and share how they’d spend a tax refund.

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!

It’s All About the Cat!

I’m still here, in sunny Palm Springs, CA after an energetic and energizing day-and-a-half brainstorming with some of the most caring, influential, and savvy cat-centric people on the planet. I will be writing a couple of columns, perhaps an expanded article, and most certainly a radio show focussed on the subject and will post info and details about that in the days ahead. But what I can say is–we have an ACTION PLAN. Consider this the bare-bones of what’s to come–all the muscles, fur, and c’attitude will soon clothe this furry purring beast, to make it happen. Bottom line–


Here’s the Action Plan:

CATalyst wants to better promote the idea that CATS are COOL, and improve the stature of cats

CATalyst believes it helpful to provide life stage care guidelines for the cat, and NEWS FLASH! in a collaborative effort the American Association of Feline Practitioners (AAFP) and American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) will work on this, and pending board approval, have that ready to assist in better defining what constitutes “good care.”

ANOTHER NEWS FLASH! Once the guidelines have been completed, AAHA, AAFP, Winn Feline Foundation along with funding from Hills and additional help from professional cat journalist will, in a collaborative effort, provide a CONSUMER FRIENDLY VERSION of these guidelines. More on that later!

CATalyst understands that not all veterinary practices are as “cat-friendly” as they could be, and seeks to work on initiatives to make health care venues more attractive and user-friendly to cats and their people.

CATalyst recognizes we love our cats, and many of us already have education and motivation–but others need extra help to enhance this information.

Okay, I’m late for a meeting, so more later.

in haste, the happy but tired,