Saturday, October 5, 2019

Cozy Home Improvements

Just as parents with young children generally have kid paraphernalia in every room, my house is filed with cat "stuff." The kitties have scratchers of course, flat cardboard ones, a very sturdy sisal post, and various carpeted condo styles. Comfy beds, both open and cabana style abound. Chair cushions are covered with fleece kitty blankets, plus step stools are placed in front of these chairs to make it easy for my senior kitties to get into the chair. (One of my kitties who isn't even very old needs steps because she has a BB lodged in her spine and cannot jump.) There is a wicker trunk with a heating pad and kitty bed on top that gets direct sun next to a large window, making this a coveted spot. An iron daybed, also with a heated bed and multiple pillow, is placed under another window. Multiple kitties can enjoy this sunny spot. Heated beds are so important for kitties as they age and often suffer from arthritis and kidney disease, as warmth can make them feel better.

I've put some thought into creating areas kitties will be able to lounge in comfort. It so satisfying to see happy kitties! I'm certainly not alone in "catifying" a space. I've seen so many ingenious ideas for kitties who like to get up high, hide in cozy caves, or simply have a small area all to themselves - like their own little clubhouse. Just pay attention to where your cat wants to be - it may be the busiest area of the house so they can be involved, or it may be a "panopticon" position where they can observe everything, such as the top of the refrigerator.

 My decorating style is more shabby/flea market/granny chic, however I was excited to learn that IKEA has a whole new line of dog and cat related furniture items. Of course it's a well known fact that cats love plain cardboard boxes, but with items this cute and reasonably priced you can splurge. No matter what your style, there are cool ways to make your home more fun for your kitty. Your feline is a member of your family, so embrace cat stuff!

Sidney snoozing in his armchair

Wednesday, August 7, 2019

How to have an Old (& Happy) Kitty

It's been said that getting old is not for sissies. Your eyesight and hearing diminish, your joints hurt, your digestion can suffer... you get the picture. As your kitty's guardian however, there are many things you can do to help him or her age gracefully. Keep in mind, I am not a veterinarian and your cat's doctor may or may not agree with my (free) advice. 

1. Feed your cat a high protein/high moisture diet. Yes, some veterinarians still subscribe to the lower protein prescription diet they can sell you. They might truly believe this is an ideal way to ease the burden on senior kidneys (and they also make money selling you this food). I think that belief is fortunately not as popular now, since most cats I met who had to eat that food really hated it. I advocate a raw food diet for cats who enjoy it and can digest it. If your cat won't touch it or vomits it up, stick to canned food and supplement with digestive enzymes and probiotics. Canned, grain free food is always preferable over dry food since your kitty needs the moisture to keep this kidneys hydrated. Adding extra water to make the food as soupy as they will tolerate is helpful too.

2. Build your kitty a catio! My darling orange tabby Roy was the last free-roaming cat I will ever have. He joined our household when he was about 9 months old and even though he was neutered, he acted like a Tom cat. He was very unhappy staying inside and I didn't have a catio at the time. When I later had a catio, other cats he disliked occupied it most of the time. My point is that I worried about Roy every single day he went outside. He always came in at dusk, except the first warm night of spring every year. When he was diagnosed with diabetes during the last year of his life, he would run inside at "shot time" because he knew I was taking care of him. Roy passed away at 17 1/2 YO from the pancreatitis which caused his diabetes. We were very lucky he was never hit by a car or attacked by a dog or shot at, or any of the horrible things that can happen to a cat alone outside. Now we have several catios that are basically bear/eagle/coyote/human proof. I don't have to worry about the kitties getting the sunshine and fresh air they need.

3. Rethink annual vaccinations. There is a ton of information on the Internet about the dangers of vaccinating animals every year. I personally know cats who got cancer and had to have amputations, or suffered twitching/tumors forever after, and most commonly, are sick for days afterwards when they ere perfectly healthy before the shots. Obviously if you have a kitty who is outside a lot, such as a barn cat, you would want an initial rabies vaccination. But for a cat who lives a strictly indoor life, consider the risks of vaccinating once they are grown. And never vaccinate a cat who is already sick (yes, I once a vet try to do this on a kitty with a high fever).

4. Choose a "Muttigree." Purebred cats have more health issues, from my experience. 

5. Sadly, cancer is a common killer in companion animals and we don't really know the role chemicals have in contributing to different cancers. Avoid as many chemicals in your home as possible, such as scented litter, fabric softeners and air fresheners. Your kitty is likely in your home 24/7 and breathing those chemicals into his tiny little body at a much higher concentration than the average human. If your cat's litter box stinks, chances are it needs to be cleaned! There are many good natural and clay-free litters available now. Buy a scoop for each box, keep a little covered waste can, whatever you need to make it EASY to clean a few times a day. Also, open the windows to ventilate as often as possible and keep healthy houseplants that filter the air.

6. Help your kitty with extra steps/ramps and rubber backed throw rugs if he has trouble getting up on furniture or slips on the floor. Keep heated beds in multiple locations to soothe his aching joints (kidney kitties also seek heat to help themselves feel better). Don't let your cat become obese in middle age, which may later translate into joint problems. Keep your senior kitty's nails trimmed so the nails don't grow into the pads or cause his gait to be off. Help him stay groomed with brushing or combing more frequently, since older cats often don't groom themselves as frequently. 

Sure, young kitties are cute but I enjoy meeting senior kitties, who often have unique preferences. If we are lucky, we all get to grow old. 
Lottie (left) and Paddy (right) enjoying an after breakfast sun bath

Hannah sitting in her zen pose.

Sunday, March 17, 2019

Free Feline Behavior/Enrichment Class!

Ever wonder why your kitty wakes you up at 5 AM, walks on the counters, or turns his nose up at his dinner? Do you worry that your kitty is bored or being destructive when you are away from home? Do you want to make your senior kitty more comfortable and help maintain his or her activity level? Gain insights on innate feline behaviors and how you can provide mental stimulation and environmental enrichment to create a happier, richer life for your kitty. Learn how nutrition can affect cat behavior as well. Nancy and Diane will address your questions and challenges about living with cats. Free kitty goodie bags to take home!

Saturday, April 13th, 2019 1-3pm 
NOAH Events Center
31300 Brandstrom Rd
Stanwood, WA 98292

Nancy Howard is the owner of The Whole Cat and Kaboodle and Cafe Cocoa- two cat resource stores in the greater Seattle area. The mission of the business is to help cat owners see the world from their pets perspective. They offer grooming, boarding, nutrition, behavior modification as well as adopting out cats from local rescues and area shelters. Nancy also founded the feral cat sanctuary, Sanctuary at Hidden Creek Ranch, in Bothell in 2000. This space is home to over 100 feral, and otherwise unadoptable cats. Whole Cat website

Diane Venberg operates KittyStar Services for Cats on Camano Island, offering in-home visits for companion animals, assistance with medications and hydration for kidney issues, and behavioral/enrichment consultations. As a professional pet sitter and former volunteer with the Feral Cat Spay & Neuter Project, she has over 20 years of experience working with and caring for felines of all ages and personalities. Along with her mother, Diane founded Flower Feline Sanctuary, which offers a life-long home to senior and special needs kitties. Flower Feline Sanctuary website

Sunday, February 3, 2019

Transporting your Kitty

We recently had two kitties who required surgery; Ally had a dental procedure with six extractions and Coco had a mass removed from her eyelid. Thankfully, they are both recovering fine. The multiple trips to the veterinarian were probably the most stressful factor for all of us, humans and kitties alike. There are ways to reduce your cat's anxiety, motion sickness, and reluctance to even allow you to place her in a carrier. While not every trick will help every kitty, hopefully you can find a combination of measures that help calm your kitty and make traveling a bit more pleasant.

1. Use the right carrier for your cat. A top and front loading crate will make it easier if your cat uses her legs to brace herself when you attempt to put her into the carrier. Rigid plastic is easy to clean if your kitty is a nervous pee-er or a senior kitty who cannot always hold her urine. A soft carrier, such as a Sherpa brand, often has a full zip top. This means you can totally unzip it, nudge your slightly suspicious kitty onto the soft "bed," and then rapidly zip the top with your hand on her back to hold her there. Because these type of carriers cannot be cleaned very well, I recommend putting piddle pads inside under a towel in case of accidents. Bring a plastic bag and extra blankets in case there is a #2 accident and you need to pull over (been there). 

2. Spray the carrier and blankets with Feliway Comfort Zone an hour before loading kitty. Spray your car a bit too. 

3. Try Rescue Remedy flower essences on your kitty's temples before the trip. The formula made for animals doesn't have alcohol in it so they won't even smell it. 

4. If you have a kitty who was/is somewhat feral or works herself up by howling for the entire trip (been there too!), resort to Gabapentin. Your veterinarian can prescribe this and it's inexpensive. You can even get it compounded if you have better luck with liquid meds. My tabby twins will usually eat something tasty such as baby food with a capsule mixed in and not notice it. Note that this drug often needs at least two hours to reach a noticeable effect. CBD may also help if you wish to experiment with the variety of products made specifically for pets.

5. Since I moved to a colder climate and my kitties are mostly geriatric, we use a cuddle disc under the blankets inside the crate. Alternatively, you could warm blankets in the drier before placing them in the crate (NEVER use drier sheets with fragrances and chemicals around cats).

6. Always cover the carrier when walking to and from the car, to reduce the feeling of being exposed and unprotected. If you go to a veterinarian that also sees dogs, keep the crate covered until you are bot in the exam room. Obviously if it is very warm out, use common sense and make sure your cat doesn't get overheated. 

I've read that the safest place to put your crated kitty while driving is on the floor of the back seat. My car doesn't allow for this so I put the crates in the back seat area where the kitties can both see and hear me talking to them. Some newer carriers can be secured with the seatbelt, such as SleepyPod brands. If I had to purchase a carrier for air travel or wanted to splurge on a luxury carrier, these would be my choice. Safe travels!

Our favorite carriers

Monday, December 17, 2018

Happy Holidays!

Bramwell and Christina help string up some lights 

Christina with Rudolph

The shortest day of the year at the end of the week means a lot of darkness during our waking hours. Fairy lights help make the early evenings less dreary and the kitties love them. (Just use caution if you have kittens or a kitty who chews and secure the lights where kitties cannot access.) Everyone knows cats love Christmas trees  - all those dangling toys hanging from a tree right in the living room! You don't need to spend a lot of money of store bought toys to make your kitty happy. Everyone also knows that cats love boxes too! Create a play gym out of boxes with cut-out tunnels and tape it securely together. Add a sprinkle of catnip and your cat will likely spend hours in it. Be sure to keep pieces of ribbon and string picked up after gifts are opened, as any veterinarian will tell you that cats can swallow these and surgery is usually necessary to extricate the foreign matter. Most kitties enjoy nibbling on fresh grass and actually derive some digestive benefits from it. Growing you own cat grass is easy once you get the hang out it. You can buy a kit, then buy wheat in any bulk food section at the grocery store and re-use the pot and lid to keep on growing.

If you decide to splurge for your kitty, consider a sturdy cat tree that will provide your kitty exercise and fun for many years to come. Look for a locally made one instead of one made in China, so that you can sure the materials are safe and you can support a local crafts person. NOAH in Stanwood sells beautiful cat trees in their lobby at prices that are quite a value: NOAH Center.

Shopping for a cat lover on your list? A donation to a cat charity in their name is a wonderful gift with a big impact. Donating cash, or supplies via their Amazon wish list, helps kitties get spayed or neutered, adopted into loving homes, or warm and well fed in a safe sanctuary space.

Wishing you and your kitties a healthy and happy New Year ahead!

Saturday, November 10, 2018

Happy Autumn

Misha, Cole and Odin share a heated bed in the sunshine on a cool autumn afternoon.
As the weather turns chilly and we start to think about the upcoming holidays and new year, it's both a time to prepare and look back. With Election Day behind us, we can be proud as Americans that Florida will enact a ban on greyhound racing and 11 tracks in that state will close forever. Like animal based circuses such as Ringling Bros., attendance was down making it unprofitable to continue to exploit animals. Even China closed it's only legal dog track earlier this summer and volunteers are working on getting the dogs placed into loving homes. In California, Prop 12 passed by a landslide, and will require that eggs, veal and pork sold in that state come only from cage-free animals. This historic law will hopefully set a precedence for the rest of the country as more consumers become educated to the atrocities of factory farming and demand changes. (In Washington State, a 2011 bill eliminated a total phase out of battery cages for egg laying hens along with mandatory enrichment, such as having perches available, by 2026.)

November is often a busy month with preparation for either traveling, house guests, or both. It's definitely time to book for pet sitting if you are going to be away. Choose a professional sitter who pet sits as a career and not just a part-time job, has years of animal care experience along with references from folks whose companion animals she has cared for over the years, and has insurance in case something in your home gets accidentally damaged or your pet gets injured while in her care. If you will be home and hosting guests, be sure to put your dogs and kitties' collar and tags on - splurge on a cute, new collar so they look their best for the party! Some kitties may do best however not actually attending but lounging in a quiet room closed off from noisy guests. Be watchful that your dogs or cats do not get into food or drinks that will make them ill. "People food" isn't necessarily bad for them, but ingesting rich, fatty food, alcohol, sweets (especially xylitol and dark chocolate) and cooked poultry bones could require a trip to the emergency clinic.

I'm sure your kitties will be tops on the list of everyone and everything you feel grateful for in your life. Our companion animals provide us with unconditional love, help us relax (petting a sweet, furry animal can actually lower your heart rate), and entertain us with their antics and expressions. They truly are "our sunshine" on dark and stormy Northwest days.

Have a cozy autumn!

Sunday, November 4, 2018

Help Support the Kitties!

Visit our our table at the Holiday Gift & Craft Bazaar on November 17th, from 9am-4pm at the Camano Center. We will be selling unique greeting cards featuring KittyStar and Flower Feline kitties, organic catnip pillows, and beautiful handmade earrings with semi-precious stones and silver or gold filled wire. Buy gifts or a little something for yourself and your kitties while helping artisans do their creative thing!