Sunday, March 25, 2018

Total Cat Mojo, a book review

Total Cat Mojo, The Ultimate Guide to Life with your Cat by Jackson Galaxy with Mikel Delgado, PhD, is the perfect book for both new and experienced cat guardians.  Mr. Galaxy explains all those weird little isms that make cats such a fascinating combination of wild creature and ideal companion in the home. If you are planning to introduce another feline, a dog, or a human baby to your current kitty, or are currently having a challenging situation involving your cat, Total Cat Mojo is a must-read. This isn't a book that will tell you how to train your cat, but will instead help you understand your furry family member. "If you took the species part out form the equation and just saw your cat as another member of your family, you'd be left with a relationship. At the core of this relationship are fundamental elements that dictate your ability to successfully navigate the relationship...," states the author. He then lists components he views as vital to any relationship, such as listening and compromising and vulnerability - components that folks who think of having a cat as "ownership" really need to grasp in order to have a truly meaningful and deep bond with their kitty. All of Mr. Galaxy's solutions take the cat's feelings into account and emphasize empathy as to why the cat may be reacting in such a way.

Total Cat Mojo is a trade paperback (fairly low priced) and features lots of cute graphics that get the author's points across. I'd love to see this book included in adoptions packets when people adopt a rescue kitty. I'd love to see this book sold at veterinarian clinics and anywhere people with companion animals frequent. Truthfully, My Galaxy is television personality with no scientific training so many professionals might balk at some of his information. However, I've seen firsthand many frustrated kitty guardians who went the route of veterinarians and certified veterinary behaviorists and still need help. It is Mr. Galaxy's experience with traumatized shelter cats and desperately unhappy felines in private homes, along with his passion for all cats that give his work depth and breadth. His suggestions all ring true to my own ideals and years of working with a wide variety of kitties. So I give Total Cat Mojo two paws up and highly recommend it.

Sidneys got total cat mojo 24/7



Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Save the Claws!



Cat people know that cats need their claws! Removing a cat's claws is a painful, debilitating procedure with lasting effects such as phantom pain, remaining bone fragments, and behavioral changes. Since stepping on the surface of the litter may be uncomfortable cats may stop using the litter box. Cats may also turn to biting since they feel defenseless. Other cats may hide all the time whereas they used to be confident and outgoing. Since felines without the ends of their "fingers" don't have their whole feet to walk on their gate and spine can change over time and arthritis can develop. So why do veterinarians continue to offer this service? I have heard some doctors comment that they suspect the guardian might surrender their cat to a shelter if they don't perform this surgery. Actually, more kitties end up in shelters after such a procedure because of the resulting behavioral and personality changes. I tend to believe that guardians who seek to change and control their cat in such a way are probably less committed to the relationship in the long run anyway. Whatever the reason veterinarians give, they do profit from these surgeries and outlawing declawing has historically been an uphill battle in the U.S. The light on the horizon is that feline advocates are attempting to pass laws outlawing declawing in the states of New York, New Jersey, Rhode Island, and West Virginia. Currently Denver, eight cities in California and 42 countries have all made declawing cats illegal. Learn more here:  Alley Cat Allies

Americans love their companion animals and most are open to learning about issues impacting the lives of dogs and cats. Look at the recent Olympics and the amount of attention that Korea attracted with the practices of dog and cat meat eating. Puppy mills have come into the limelight in the past decade and California recently became the first state to ban the selling of puppy mill dogs in pet stores. (County and city bans but no other state bans exist throughout the U.S.) The saddest part of declawing, as well as debarking, and the cosmetic procedures of tail docking and ear cropping in dogs, is that all of these surgeries are completely unnecessary and utterly worthless for the health and happiness of the animal. Cats scratch just like dogs wag their tails and bark for a reason. All of these actions make your animal who he or she is; expressing their kitty or doggy self is vital to their catness or dogness. So next time your co-worker or neighbor mentions they made an appointment to have their new feline declawed, please educate them on why this is a bad idea.  There is usually resistance at the beginning of any social change, but we need to continue on for the kitties. 


Tuesday, February 20, 2018

National Love Your Pet Day!

Hannah


Today is National Love Your Pet Day but don't you love your pet EVERY day? Of course you do! Americans are crazy for their companion animals, spending over $60 billion every year on them.  More and more companies are allowing their employees to bring their dogs to work with them because they know this will make for happier workers who don't have to rush home at night to take their dog out and feed him. People are calmer and less anxious when hanging out with a well-behaved, social dog. Dogs are now routinely deployed to communities after a shooting or other tragedy has occurred simply to help those suffering mentally and psychologically. Dogs are usually the species selected as therapy animals but there are certainly lots of other domestic animals who fill that role, officially and unofficially for their guardians.

Yet it's still legal in most U.S. cities to pay a veterinarian to surgically amputate the first digits of your cat's paws. Or to have your veterinarian "debark" your dog by altering his larynx and amputate the tender ends of his ears and tail because of tradition. And it's legal to leave your cat to roam outside in all kinds of weather or your dog chained up outside 24 hours a day and in freezing temperatures as long as there is some sort of shelter.  I propose that we replace the love with the word RESPECT. Respecting animals would mean that we allow them to have some autonomy and agency in their lives, while understanding that they rely on our common sense to know what is safe and healthy for them. We do not force them to meet our every expectation and try to suppress their innate behaviors just because they are inconvenient for us.

I am an advocate of adopting rescued animals but even animals purchased from a breeder can be vastly different than their usual "breed profile." That's why in addition to lots of mixed breed dogs and cats, there are always purebred animals at shelters or in foster homes with purebred rescue groups. Just like the person you once dated and now wonder what attracted you or the "dream job" you left after a few months, these animals turned out to be different than what their guardians wanted or expected. We may end up with a kitty who tends to hide when there is too much activity or company in the house, or a dog who piddles when he gets too anxious. We can use positive reinforcement and lots of affection when our animal chooses to do something we prefer over something we dislike, but ultimately we accept trade-offs within the relationship. We understand that a walk may take three times as long as it should because our dog has to smell everything extensively. We may know that we cannot leave anything remotely edible on the counters because when we turn our backs, it will be eaten by someone who shouldn't have such things. We understand that if we leave clothes, towels, or cotton rugs on the floor our cat may urinate on them because they have an ingrained "surface preference." We may sacrifice a single upholstered chair our kitty started clawing and prefers over any other scratching surface we've offered and just let him have the chair. We stop getting upset about these things because the relationship with our companion animals is worth much more than these small adjustments we make. In turn, our animals are confident and happy, not cowered and constantly having to adjust who they are to make us love them. They are their own little persons and we learn from them when we grow quiet and listen. 

Hannah (pictured above) only came to live with us about four months ago. I knew and loved her before adopting her but since our visits were previously limited I didn't fully appreciate how incredibly sensitive and intuitive Hannah really is. Hannah keeps me on my toes when I am not listening and plodding ahead in typical human fashion. She's a wise and beautiful soul in a cute tuxedo package.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Love and Animals


 "Country living" to me means having lots of animals around, both wildlife who lived here before I did and domestic animals who require my care and attention. Much of my property will be left natural to encourage butterflies, bees and wildlife to flourish here. There are quite a few snags now with lots of woodpeckers taking advantage of them. I've heard owls at night and seen deer and one gorgeous coyote. I don't plan to operate a sanctuary for large animals but maybe someday I'll adopt some domestic animal friends larger than house cats. What the Animals Taught Me is a lovely book about the author's experiences with rescued sheep, a pony, donkeys, cats, chickens and even deer who take up residence on her farm. Stephanie Marohn weaves each of their stories along with life lessons she gained from these special animals. Her amazing relationships with the animals are based on respect and allowing the animals autonomy.

Ms. Marohn's first unconditional love lesson is about letting go of control. "Letting go of the need to dominate allows trust and love to blossom. It is a basic lesson in learning to open the heart and love unconditionally. Loving unconditionally means we do not predicate our love on the other doing what we want. Loving unconditionally means we work together for the highest good of both of us. To enter the realm of unconditional love, we let go of our desire to control, and focus instead on our desire to connect and communicate. And soon, a whole field of flowers is blooming before us," writes Ms. Marohn. Readers will get to know Charlotte, Pegasus, Gabriel, Wonder, and other animals as individuals. The animals' relationships with each other are also remarkable to read about from such an empathetic view. All of use who have shared our lives with a beloved kitty or dog understand the deep bonds that cross species and the love that stays with us long after the animal is no longer physically with us. The word "love" is commercialized, publicized, and tossed about a lot on Valentine's Day but love takes on many forms. What the Animals Taught Me is a wonderful book about love, simple and real.

Friday, December 15, 2017

KittyStar has Relocated!



We moved out of the Seattle area this past Halloween. It was very bittersweet to leave all of my wonderful Seattle clients, some of whom I knew the majority of their lives. (I still miss seeing all my regular kitty clients and taking a Christmas off is actually really tough.) I will be starting my kitty sitting business over in our new location as well as starting up a feline sanctuary. I have plenty of space on our new Camano Island property to provide a life-long home for special needs kitties. I also plan to board kitties, which I had many requests for in Seattle but lacked the space to do. So far, we've been focusing on getting the house catified with fun catio spaces that are also secure from predators such as coyotes and eagles. I saw my first deer on my property this week and have set up incredibly popular bird feeding stations. 

Adjusting to a slower way of life outside of the city has also been a challenge in the short time I've been on "Island Time" but everyone tells me by this summer I will be loving the county life. Lots to do as we sail into 2018. Stay tuned for a completely new KittyStar website featuring many of my own beloved kitties and also adorable kitty clients.

Wishing you and your kitties a fabulous New Year!

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Monday is Global Cat Day!

October 16th, formerly National Feral Cat, is now Global Cat Day. This is an excellent opportunity to appreciate the kitties in your life as well pledge to be an advocate for all cats, whether indoor companions or community cats. Alley Cat Allies coordinates this annual holiday to help educate lawmakers about feline friendly legislation and bring together volunteers and caretakers with cats needing services.

Sadly, many people think taking an outside kitty to their city or county shelter is best for everyone. Actually, TNR (trap/neuter/return) is the sustainable and humane solution. Did you know that approximately 70% of cats who wind up in traditional shelters end up being killed there? Many municipal shelters don't have the resources or staff to spend on cats they consider "unadoptable." Cats living outside don't often get the care they deserve because people feeding them may not know how to humanely trap the kitty, aren't able to transport him to a vet clinic, or simply can't pay for those services. This is where community rescue groups and dedicated volunteers come into play. YOU can volunteer by learning to trap, fostering and socializing, or giving money if you have more dough than time. Or you can make a lifetime commitment with kitties who were likely born outside and may have been passed over by people wanting outgoing, "life of the party" cats. Below is the story of Tom and Jerry, two brothers who have a loving home today because someone cared enough to catch them as kittens and work with them until the Humane Society of Seattle/King County could place them.
Waiting for "outside time"



My client Judy had always had a kitty in the house. After her last cat passed from old age, she knew she wanted to adopt and probably wanted two cats this time instead of one. At the shelter, she met Tom, a gentle, long haired boy and Jerrie, his sleek tuxedo brother with a squeaky voice. Both boys hid when she got them home but they acclimated fine to her quiet household. Judy didn't know about socializing kitties and I imagine the shelter staff thought it might sound like a daunting process if they had suggested it when she took the boys home. Fast forward three years and Judy decided she wanted to reduce the boys' stress levels when they had to meet new people; such as when they needed a petsitter over a few days. Judy called on me to do weekly visits with the kitties. I worked to make interacting with a stranger a positive experience and at the same time, getting them comfortable with being touched (but not held). At first they were anxious for me to leave them alone, but after several month they are excited about our play time and greet me! It's been incredibly satisfying seeing their confidence increase and to watch them having fun with me in their presence.

Tom relaxing in his back yard

Jerrie playing with his favorite wand toy
 You might notice ear tips on these boys but they are far from feral. They are family members. 
Adopt, don't shop. Happy Global Cat Day!


Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Book Review: Strays




In the sea of books about people rescuing dogs and dogs rescuing people, Strays is a beacon of hope that cats are (finally) getting some literary creed. And thankfully the heroine is not a precious purebred kitty but a tabby mix with a whole lotta chutzpa. Strays is told by a writer gifted with the ability to see the world from both a feline and human perspective. The story focuses on lost kitty Tabor and homeless man Michael finding each other and their evolving relationship. Tabor becomes a well-seasoned back packer and takes all kinds of crazy experiences in stride with Michael by her side. Living on the street and enduring harsh conditions is second nature for Michael, but with Tabor's well-being now at the forefront of his mind he finds himself drinking less and thinking of her needs and security first. What Michael doesn't know is that Tabor's original daddy Ron and cat brother Creto are still searching for her in Portland where Michael started caring for her. While not a very likable person, Ron does seem to be a dedicated pet parent and the reader is able to empathize with his loss.
Strays is important in that it offers a very humanizing glimpse into a homeless person's lifestyle choices. Like community cats, homeless people are usually marginalized and other people often think they know what's best for them. The point is they are individuals and some, like Michael, prefer their freedom and the option to go anywhere at anytime. Tabor is a domesticated cat but not all cats settle into being house cats after they have been out for a while. I believe in trapping community cats (and street dogs) for a vet visit and sterilization; this makes the individual healthier as well as the whole population of cats in a community. This is accepted as the humane and intelligent action in many countries but sadly some animal control agencies as well as organizations such as PETA think death a better alternative than living on the street.  We must remember that each cat put to death is an individual with a distinct personality. If we acknowledge that people have different lifestyles then why can't we do the same with domestic animals? This book also brings up the controversial issue of homeless people "owning" pets.  There are free clinic days for these animals but not nearly enough resources available. Veterinarians have high overhead costs and medical school debt so I don't know what the answer is. (I would love to see subsidized medicare for rescued pets!)

I've commented before that our companion animals are also "therapy animals." They naturally bring out our better qualities that other humans often cannot. To anyone unaccustomed with how deeply enriching and fulfilling a relationship with a cat can be, Strays is a beautiful testament to such a partnership. I highly recommend this book as it gives us several compelling points to think about. It has some lovely, endearing moments and yet moves quickly enough to be entertaining. Tabor is a brave and adventurous kitty who quickly adapts to new environments and i found myself wishing I could meet her in person.