Everyone is enjoying the more frequent sunny days now. Getting fresh air and sunshine is important for kitties but so is staying safe. We most often think of cats as being great hunters since they often keep your home free of the occasional moth, spider or fly that makes it inside. However kitties are also prey for many animals and that's one reason they are capable of sleeping "with one eye open" so to speak. They need to stay alert to dangerous dogs, coyotes, hawks or eagles (or frightening and loud humans they dislike). Speeding cars are unfortunately one thing cats are ill prepared for. Keeping your kitty enclosed in a catio, on a harness, or staying close by him for supervised only outdoor time in a fenced yard are options where he can be safe yet still experience the outdoors. Bright days also offer fabulous conditions for some charming pictures!
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.
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.
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.
"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.