Sunday, December 8, 2013

Shopping for the Holidays?

If you plan to do online shopping check out this link first. Register for free and the Feral Cat Spay/Neuter Project ends up getting a donation from the retailers you purchase from!

Here's a great idea for any cat lover on your list - sponsor a kitty for the month at Purrfect Pals with a one time donation of $25 and receive a beautiful card with a photo of the kitty you selected to give to your gift recipient.

If you have people on your list who might prefer to see a gift made in their name to an organization that helps a broader audience  than just kitties (such as those who think Heifer International is a worthy group to support), check out Help Animals India. Your donation will go far to support disaster relief, environmental projects, educational efforts, and help individual animals who are suffering as well. This is a top-rated charity of 2012 and you can be sure you are helping humans and animals.

Woman holding dog

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Furry Little Animals

As an ode to Halloween, check out this Finnish photographer who captures other-worldly images of wildlife in abandoned country cottages. What a perfect spot once winter hits.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

The Rewards of a Rescued Kitty

Dorothea, pictured above in her back yard, is a bright, beautiful kitty who might easily have become a free-roaming feral cat living on the streets of Seattle. She was clearly abandoned and hanging out with two older, friendlier male cats. I came upon Dorothea when I met up with friends for lunch. We inquired at nearby apartment buildings and the people we chatted with said they had seen the cats outside for days and that the cats didn't seem to belong to anyone. A rental house that had recently been vacated posed a possible answer as to where the kitties had been living. We will never know if the three had lived together prior to losing their homes or formed an impromptu family when they discovered each other. The boys were easy to pick up and put into carriers to transport; Arthur, the kitty whom Dorothea still lives with to this day actually implored us to help them all. "Little Doe" was frightened however and we had to resort to a humane trap to safely removed her from the alley.
All three kitties went in for health checks and neuter/spay. One of the boys was a handsome Siamese and not as bonded as Dorothea and Arthur were. He was adopted out to a couple. Dorothea and Arthur remained in their "foster home" and eight years later I am thrilled to sit them when their daddy goes out of town. While Arthur may have been taken in eventually by a neighbor, he also may have faced sad and hungry times ahead as a former companion kitty accustomed to an indoor life now living outside. Dorothea however, being shy and lacking Arthur's outgoing demeanor and human experiences would likely have become a feral cat. "She was so damaged by the experience of being abandoned at that tender age that she almost gave up on accepting human contact," says her daddy. He patiently extended unconditional love, safety, warmth and quality cuisine and she blossomed into a sweet and precious little soul. Dorothea's story reminds us to treat each kitty as an individual and never accept the black and white dichotomy of the term "feral."
While some feral felines are born outside and never socialized to humans, others have lived in homes as companions yet are forced outside due to no fault of their own. Sometimes unfeeling people will take a dog with them when they move yet put the cat (or cats) outside and drive off. Was the trio we rescued waiting for their guardian to return or had they reached a point where they simply did not know what to do or where to go? Truly feral cats can have a quality life with a regular caretaker who feeds them daily and provides shelter and health care when necessary. But no cat, especially an indoor cat who has depended upon his person for everything, can live a safe existence completely on his own in a busy city environment. National Feral Cat Day is October 16th and an excellent time to educate others about free-roaming cats and being a responsible cat guardian.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Pity the Kitties in Edmonds, WA

The first I heard about an outright ban on outdoor cats appears to be a done deal in Edmonds, WA. This archaic attitude towards free-roaming felines smacks of intolerance and ignorance; evidence proves that catch & kill does NOT work the way that trap/neuter/return does to control populations of community cats. Even worse, the city of Edmonds apparently won't even give a break to obviously domesticated kitties wearing collars and tags sunning themselves out of doors. Frightening to think that one of my cat's favorite activities, peeing outdoors just because he can, would become a life or death proposition if Big Brother were watching.

Looks like Edmonds city council members have no compassion for felines OR for those individuals seeking medical marijuana to alleviate their pain, as there is an existing moratorium on dispensaries. Guess progress can be scary for some folks. Next, the city councilmembers will be hating on squirrels, crows and blue jays. And pesky little children. Fortunately I live in Seattle and never need patronize any businesses in the small minded and hateful city of Edmonds.

Just as there are not strictly indoor or outdoor cats, remember that not all free roaming felines are feral cats. Check out the article below for a recap on how you can tell subtle differences amongst kitties you might encounter.


Wednesday, July 24, 2013

The Secret Life of Cats

In this fascinating BBC program about cat behaviors kitties were fitted with GPS devices and small cameras on their collars to see what their days and nights are like. These often solitary animals manage to keep the peace in their picturesque village while roaming outdoors, hunting, and even pilfering neighbors' meals. The last household featured offers evidence supporting multi-cats as the healthiest and most harmonious. Shamley Green appears an idyllic community for felines and the people who love them. This hour-long show is definitely worth the watch.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

No Fireworks please!

The 4th of July can be stressful for both domestic animals and wildlife. The noise and smoke from illegal neighborhood fireworks is terrifying to beings with such acute senses. Sadly, many pets go missing in their attempts to "get away" from the source. Indoor cats may end up not eating their usual amounts and hiding. To add some levity to the holiday I've included a link for a little kitty cuteness that's educational as well .

Other things you can do to help companion animals this weekend:
  • Give your animals extra TLC and talk to them in a soothing tone. Hang out with them wherever they are hiding so they don't feel as frightened.
  • Keep classical or smooth jazz on in your home at a low volume (but not talk radio - cats hate it).
  • Be sure they drink lots of water. I always advise against feeding only or mainly dry kibble and in the summertime it's even more important that cats get food with a high water content.
  • While you are out on the roads and in your neighborhood this weekend, watch for stray animals! Remember that any vet can scan for a microchip at no charge if the animal doesn't have a tag on.
  • If you have guests over, keep kitty confined in a quiet room with a "do not disturb" sign until the party is over. Not everyone is careful about shutting doors and you can relax more if you know your fur kids are safely confined.
  • Use Feliway Comfort Zone plug-ins to reduce stress at anytime (they last one month is you leave them plugged in continuously). Dog pheromone sprays, plug-ins and wipes are also available for nervous pooches.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Special needs kitty inspires a non-profit

Check out this lovely story about a cute kitty with a permanent disability who inspired her adoptive mom to start a new venture for disabled companion animals!

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Another pet food recall...

More dry kibble recalls due to salmonella - be sure to check your bags at home!

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Tabby Twin Habitat

Odin on the top shelf!

Odin (L) and Adian (R) enjoy the warmth of the cement
Odin's log
Wondering what the tabby twins are up to these days? They turn four years old next month and have a fabulous enclosure they are enjoying! The walls and ceiling are polypropylene netting that's supposed to be quite resilient over time given our weather. It's not inexpensive but is much easier to work with than chicken wire and doesn't pose any sharp edges. The shelves the kitties perch on and scratch are cedar. There's even a long walk way across the top so they can be up as high as possible. If you were to build on a non-paved surface you'd want to create an "apron" along the bottom to prevent wildlife from digging in; not keeping any food outside overnight also helps prevent unwanted visitors. I like that the boys are less available to fleas since it's not a grassy patch. (I frequently grow pots of oat or wheat grass for them to munch on if they like.) Odin and Adian are such loving kitties and as you can see, very happy with life.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

The Vaccination Debate

Here's a short blog entry about vaccinations from a vet regularly featured in my Pet Sitters International magazine. The frequency of vaccinations is finally being discussed amongst conventional vets and companion animal guardians; holistic vets have long questioned this practice. However, just yesterday I was looking at a website for a popular dog and cat veterinary practice in Seattle and checked out their vaccine protocol recommendations. I was surprised that they list nearly every vaccine every year for cats, even strictly indoor cats! Dogs are much more active within their community, either at a dog park or with neighbor dogs they meet regularly on walks than most cats so I can understand a greater need to vaccinate canines.

My personal experience is with feline health and I believe that vaccinating senior cats or cats who have current chronic health issues can be dangerous to their overall wellness. I know that some feline boarding facilities request recent vaccinations before accepting new clients; one of my clients refused to vaccinate her 16 YO kitty and we worked on finding a different place for her kitty to stay. I've heard plenty of stories of both cats and dogs who developed tremors, twitching, vomiting, and lethargy after being vaccinated. Cancer at vaccine sites is well documented. Of course rabies could be a very serious concern for animals who spend a lot of time outdoors and obviously vaccinating feral cats at the time of their spay or neuter surgery is a good idea (the Feral Cat Spay/Neuter Project offers these services for free for community cats). FIV and FeLV are mainly spread via puncture wounds or sexual intercourse with unaltered cats at greatest risk. But outside of a shelter setting (which commonly harbors upper respiratory infections), consider your kitty's actual exposure to the illnesses vaccinations address within your own home. People have told me of instances where their cats were medicated in a non-emergency setting or vaccinated without the guardian's consent, which is completely unacceptable. As with all veterinary healthcare issues, you need to feel comfortable with the staff and doctors you patronize. Fortunately here in Seattle we have a multitude of highly skilled vets to choose from and a variety of specialists and alternative providors as well.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Looking for a BF

I love Best Friends in Kanab, Utah and was fortunate to visit for a day two winters ago with my mom. It's a magical place where lucky animals of all kinds end up, some move onto adoptive homes and others call BF their home for life. Read the lovely story above about an adorable kitty who needed not only a little expert medical care but some cat savvy folks to understood he isn't limited by his physical disabilities.

I actually contacted BF today to see if they might be able to take in a kitty I've become involved with from Spokane. A friend of mine noticed this long-haired Siamese boy in his neighborhood months ago and wasn't sure if the cat belonged to someone or not. His coat was becoming increasingly matted and then my friend noticed the kitty was declawed! The "owners" had abandoned him months prior and even though other neighbors left out food for him, they never let him inside or took him to be neutered. My friend decided to take this cat in and made an appointment with his local vet. I suggested he have the kitty tested for FIV/FeLV (leukemia) since any shelter or potential adopter would want this information. Sadly, the kitty has tested positive for feline leukemia. 

Feline leukemia is contagious via saliva such as a bite wound (Tom cats fight and this is likely how he contracted the disease) but also could potentially be spread through shared food bowls or litter boxes, so it's essential that this kitty be strictly inside and an only cat. The virus does not jump to other species and is not spread on a person's clothing like feline upper respiratory virus can be. This kitty's not showing any signs of illness at this time and it could be several years before he develops cancer or becomes obviously sick. He is eating well and very affectionate. After the lousy hand he's been dealt I feel like he deserves to enjoy the time he does have left. Of course my friend and I both have cats and don't have the room to give him his own living quarters, like most everyone I know. Whoever takes him in will do so knowing that their bond may come to an end sooner than if they adopted a young, healthy cat and that they will likely have to make that fateful decision we make when our companion animals are truly suffering. But this kitty won't be counting the days or worrying about his hidden virus; he will be living in the present. The one shelter in WA that does have a "leuki land" sanctuary space is at capacity. I know BF receives hundreds of requests every single day from people searching for a place for an animal they are wanting to help, but I am holding out hope that BF or some kind person will offer him a space in their heart and their home.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Community Cats get a new website!

Photo credit: Kaye Counce, a Seattle feral colony

Check out Alley Cat Allies' new website designed to counter the damage done by junk science reporting from the Smithsonian several months ago. It's full of awesome graphics and easy to understand points for those people you may work with or live next door to who are stuck in the "feral cats=dead birds" mentality.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Puppy Love

Schoep, a 19 year old dog, is taken into the lake every night by his owner, John, to help soothe his arthritis and help him fall asleep.  

I write about senior companion animals a lot because they hold a special place in my heart. Our kitties and canines trust us so much and when they become disabled or elderly, they rely on us even more. You can often see the love they have for their people very clearly, such as this lovely photo demonstrates. This was sent to me by Jeannie Lindheim, my favorite Animal Communicator (

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

A Serious Subject

A recent NY Times article discusses the fact that most cat (and dog) guardians will eventually face agonizing decisions about treating terminal illness or serious injury. While I've often (half) joked that I am going to make up a cardboard sign that says, "Need $ for my cats' acupuncture & cardiology appointments" and stand by a freeway on-ramp, I am glad to have so many options for care. One of my clients has a health savings account for her cats; this is an excellent idea for people with younger cats who haven't started racking up the health problems as it gives you years to prepare. Cost is often not the more emotionally troubling issue amongst those of us who count non-humans as our family members but quality of life; how much should you put your cat through to make her well? Those of us who have made decisions to assist our kitties in passing (by employing a doctor to do so) understand all too deeply that we are only wishing to alleviate suffering. One of the comments in this story is an expression of gratitude that at least we have this option as our animals' caregivers, whereas it is much more problematic (and illegal) when our dying loved ones are human.

Given my education in sociology, I am always interested in reading the comments at the bottom from readers from all over the world. The fact that there were so many people weighing in conveys the meaningfulness of animals in our daily lives and the heavy weight our hearts bear when we lose them. One issue that isn't discussed much is the emotional strain of caring for elderly and ailing companion animals. There are good days when your kitty is eating well and obviously comfortable and then there are days when you think, "This might be the end." I've learned on a group that offers an animal caregivers' support circle that offers free meetings in two different Seattle locations. Check out for more information. Cats often receive second billing in a dog/cat practice since most pain management drugs and newer therapies are approved and researched for dogs only. Plus, doctors need to keep up their education by attending seminars. I realized this after seeing one senior kitty sent home with very manageable issues but a lack of communication on lifestyle changes and information on basic medications from an old style vet. Seek out veterinarians and care providers who support a holistic vision of health and offer advanced hospice options for you to provide at home to make the most of your time with your kitty. We should never be ashamed of being compassionate and wanting the best for our "fur babies."

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

A Love Story

Want your warm fuzzy for the day? Check out this endearing tale of a soldier and the young kitty he fell in love with in war-torn Afghanistan. Not to worry, he managed to arrange safe passage for his tabby and the kitty is living safely stateside while awaiting for the hero's return.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Reviewing "The Cat Whisperer"

You may have seen cat behaviorist Mieshelle Nagelschneider on television or in popular magazines. I love that cats are finally getting mainstream airtime and enjoyed Jackson Galaxy's book last year, so I recently checked out Nagelschneider's new book "The Cat Whisperer." Unlike Galaxy's memoir, there are no gritty details of drug addiction and the difficulties of holding down jobs and making rent. Whereas Galaxy seems to have a spiritual and deeply empathic connection to felines, Nagelschneider bases all of her findings on science and her rigorous training. If you are new to being a kitty parent or simply want a broader understanding of cat behavior norms, I'd recommend "The Cat Whisperer." Keep in mind that like me, you may be live with a delightfully "different" kitty or two who defy "normal."

Nagelschneider makes great suggestions for setting up your home to maximize feline satisfaction and enrichment, especially if you have multiple cats. Placing tall kitty condos in areas that offer some views, not in windowless corners; offering water in areas away from food (such as the bathroom) since most cats like to drink separate from eating; and maintaining scrupulously clean litter boxes in a variety of spots in the home rather than all in one place are all ideas I encourage as well. She illustrates her points with real life cases and speaks out against declawing with a sad tale from her days as a vet tech. I do however strongly disagree with her suggestion that free feeding is optimal in a multi-cat home because it discourages competition for food. She claims that most cats won't overeat to the point that they become overweight yet in the U.S. 55% of domestic cats ARE overweight and from my experience free feeding dry food because it's convenient and less messy than canned or raw is to blame. Nagelschneider doesn't discuss diet much or point out that changing to a whole foods (usually raw and/ or homemade) diet can make a huge difference in a cat's behavior. I think maintaining a twice a day feeding schedule lets you cat feel secure that he won't get too hungry while allowing time for proper digestion. If you snack all day how can you ever work up an appetite for a healthy meal? Of course senior cats often need small, frequent meals with lots of moisture content. A section, or perhaps an entire second book, on senior kitties would be wonderful since our companions are living longer than ever before.

Nagelschneider discusses clicker training, which I have yet to try but live with two kitties who would be excellent candidates. I can't see how it could work if a cat wasn't food motivated and in my experience probably less than half the kitties I meet are. I've included a link to a Best Friends video on clicker training. Raed is the furry white and black kitty pictured and one of my favorite felines to follow on their blog! As adorable as he is, Raed has had some trouble getting adopted into a permanent home because he dislikes other cats and tends to get overstimulated and swats at people. Clicker training has channeled some of this energy into a positive outlet.

Having you kitty checked out medically is naturally always the first course of action if he or she starts missing the litter box or yowling all night. Again, advancing age accounts for cognitive decline that makes cats confused, and often harder stool and stiffness in the spine and back legs make using the litter box more challenging. Talking to an animal communicator if the vet gives your kitty an all clear may prove insightful. Utilizing alternative wellness techniques such as acupuncture and supplements may also make a difference over time. Just like the film "Best in Show" comically illustrates, your stress level contributes to your companion animal's stress level. Spending time playing, cuddling and napping with your kitty is a good de-stresser for everyone. My take-away regarding "The Cat Whisperer" is that there are lots of good techniques to try if your kitties have some bothersome habits, but keep your expectations under control and remember that your kitty might just be "special." Reframing his habits as endearing and unique to him might be more helpful in the long run, just like you do with the humans in your life. "Cats have taught me much... I really don't think I could ever be completely happy without having them around me. They have always been my truest friends," comments Nagelschneider in the afterword and I totally agree.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Cutest Station Master ever

I love this story about an entire destination spot in Japan devoted to a delightful calico kitty named Tama. She is quite the Kitty Star!

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Great White Hero Kitty!

Emily, my Mom's kitty
I love all kitties of course but white kitties are especially magical to me. Maybe it's the combination of pink ears and nose and usually pale green or blue eyes. Perhaps because totally white kitties are far more unusual than many other color variations such as black, tabby and tuxedo. It's rare to find white cats in feral colonies for obvious reasons; "moggies" (striped tabbies) are the ideal pattern that allows for survival in the outdoor world.
Here's a short, heart-warming story about a true hero who happens to be a white kitty. Enjoy!

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Just my cup of tea...

Hot coffee or tea, a delicious sweet and and a sweet kitty to hang out with - isn't that the best part of your day some days (most days maybe)? Some poor unfortunates can't actually live with a kitty or perhaps like me, they just can't get enough feline affection, so here's the ideal business! If anyone reading this is interested in investing, I'd love to chat about opening a shop just like this. Seriously, call me!

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Fabulous Feral Site Shelters

Maintaining a feral cat colony (in which all the kitties are sterilized and vaccinated against rabies of course) is so hip that New York City architects are getting their grove on designing housing for these cats! Most colony caretakers I know utilize the old plastic storage tub from Fred Myer with a doorway cut into it with a jigsaw and the sharp edges covered with electrical or duct tape. Straw, wool sweaters or fleece make good insulation. Or they find Styrofoam shipping crates on Craigslist and easily cut doorways into those. Pretty much any box made of waterproof material that you can cut at least one door into (two is ideal if it's large enough) will work. But for caretakers who want to unleash their creativity, here are some cool cat cubby ideas.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Not so feral friendly

You've probably already seen the NY Times article attributing the deaths of over 14 BILLION birds and small mammals in the U.S. every year to  free roaming cats.  The American Bird Conservancy and the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute have been trying to dissuade the growing number of humane organizations advocating trap/neuter/return (TNR) of cats who are not considered adoptable to the average person seeking a "pet" cat. These cats may be truly feral (never socialized to humans) or simply accustomed to living outdoors due to a course of events in their lives. My point being that they are individuals and do indeed have preferences and agency when allowed. Taking into account that a percentage of cats are cruelly abandoned and would relish the opportunity to become a 100% indoor couch potato again given the chance, plus tiny kittens (preferably 5-6 weeks of age) born outside who can still be socialized and offered a plush indoor life, other cats will only be happy and sane outdoors with minimal human interaction. It's rarely a black and white issue although "scientists" do their best to make it appear so.

News of note that was omitted from the original story is that one of the Smithsonian researchers was actually arrested for poisoning cats outside her work site and apparently also acts as spokesperson for a zoo, which I think speaks volumes about how she objectifies and perpetuates the exploitation of animals. The NY Times piece follows, along with a very impressive follow-up by a cat advocate.

It's heartening to remember that spay/neuter clinics, such as the Feral Cat Spay/Neuter Project here in Puget Sound, are breaking records every year achieving higher numbers of surgeries performed on both owned and free-roaming kitties, and there's a bill being heard in our state capital this week that would enable more low-cost surgeries for dogs and cats in WA. So people want to work towards a no-kill community; the feral and free-roaming felines just need a little extra help from those of us who "get it."

Saturday, January 26, 2013

One Incredible Journey

Holly, a beautiful calico kitty, was lost almost 200 miles away from home and yet she found her way home. Cats especially are good candidates for microchips since many of them "accidentally" lose their collars until the guardian gives up putting one. I recommend "Beastie Bands" since they are stretchy and soft but even with these some cats will try to get out of them and then be stuck with it around their chest and one arm out. Consider a snug fitting harness while traveling, certainly if you have to take them out of their carriers such as at an airport. Or better yet, hire a wonderful pet sitter so your cat can avoid the hassle and stress!

Being on the road as much as I am I see quite a few dogs loose in moving vehicles or sitting in the driver's or passenger's lap. It is illegal to drive with a dog in the open bed of a pickup truck but there are no companion animal restraint laws similar to laws for babies and children that I am aware of. I have heard of dogs being expelled from cars that are in accidents and either dying at the scene or being lost. Think about it - how would your dog (or cat, although I know anyone reading this is far too intelligent to let kitty ride loose in the car) survive being thrown around a vehicle if you were hit or simply had to slam on your brakes to avoid an accident? Every pet supply store sell restraints sized for individual dogs that attach to the car's seat belts or for small dogs, a carrier could be secured in the back seat. Many of us think of our animals as our "kids" but it would be unconscionable in this day and age for any parent to let their human child stand up in the back seat while the car was moving. (It was different back in the 1950s when my sister had her front teeth knocked out when mom had to hit the brakes hard.)

I will end this post on a positive note: I just today heard the happy ending to a lost dog story I was following. A senior dog was lost when his also senior guardian was rear-ended while driving his dogs to the vet in Kirkland. Paramedics had to access the car to get the man out, resulting in both dogs fleeing from the car. One dog was immediately caught but the other poor girl was lost for 11 days! Fortunately volunteers posted fliers throughout the surrounding neighborhoods and a kind person who had the dog in the backyard and had been feeding her saw the fliers. Yeah!

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Cats & their Drinking Problem

We all know we need to encourage kitty to drink water, just as we know staying well hydrated is good for our own bodies. As felines age it becomes crucial to their kidney and urinary tract health that they drink enough fresh water every day. I've often suggested placing water bowls in the bathroom, which I find is many cats' favorite spot to drink. Be sure to use a china or pyrex bowl that gets washed frequently and never use plastic for water or food. I love the kitty theme bowls you can buy at Uwjimaya.

Here's a good article with more information on this topic: