30 April 2012

Knowing what's normal for your pet can save their life

Bentley our Golden RetrieverA few days ago I wrote about almost taking Raven to the vet to have a perfectly healthy tooth looked at. I later realized her tooth was fine and cancelled our appointment.

But I've also been in the situation where suspecting something was wrong and taking my pet in for a check-up turned out to be a life-saving decision. This happened a few years ago, but it's an excellent example of how being familiar with your pet's normal behaviors and being proactive can save your pet's life.

Bentley was panting a lot. Summer was coming and it was getting warmer, but not so warm that he should be panting all the time. He was panting for no reason - while just lying around the house, or he'd wake up and start panting. This didn't seem right, so I took him to the vet. The vet could feel something in Bentley's abdomen, and an x-ray showed an abnormal mass. The vet was concerned, so we got the soonest appointment with the radiologist for an ultrasound. Bentley had a large mass on or near his spleen. The vet was very concerned that this large mass could rupture and Bentley could bleed to death! Two days later Bentley was scheduled for surgery.

The mass turned out to be a non-cancerous overgrowth of his spleen. Bentley's spleen was twice as large as normal and was taking up so much space that it was interfering with his breathing. After surgery, Bentley recovered very quickly and without any complications. Within a few weeks the only evidence that something had been wrong was a shaved belly.

Our situation shows how important it was that I knew Bentley's normal behaviors and I trusted my instincts that something was wrong. I didn't hestitate to get my vet's advice as soon as possible, even though Bentley didn't seem to be "sick". By being observant and proactive, we probably saved Bentley's life.

Here are my thoughts for being a great advocate for your pet's  health:

  • Know what's normal for your pet.

  • Trust your instincts when you think something is wrong.

  • Be proactive.

  • Have a skilled vet who you trust, literally, with your pet's life (thanks Dr. C).

  • Have a good relationship with your vet.

  • Don't be afraid to ask your vet for advice, even if you think you'll look foolish (this is why you want a good relationship with your vet).

27 April 2012

Saturday PhotoHunt - texture (learning about a cat's tongue)

Sammi's cat tongueAnyone who's been licked by a cat knows their tongue can be very rough. A cat's tongue is an amazing structure that serves many purposes. The center of the tongue is rough due to the backwards-facing spines called papillae. The spines are stiff because they contain keratin, the same substance that makes up hair, fingernails, and claws.

The texture on a cat's tongue makes it a perfect tool for eating and grooming.  The spines help cats in the wild lick meat off a bone. For Sammi, they help her lick canned food off a plate! During grooming, the spines act like a comb and help a cat smooth their fur. But since the barbs face backwards, it also means they ingest a lot of fur. This can be a problem for long-haired cats who then get hairballs.  Yesterday was National Hairball Awareness day and you can learn about the seriousness of hairballs from Raven.

Surprisingly, the barbs on a cat's tongue aren't very important for drinking. The tip of a cat's tongue is smooth because it doesn't have barbs. Cats drink by dipping just the tip of their tongue into liquid and quickly pulling it up into their mouth, so the barbs don't matter much.

Different cats have different roughness to their tongue. Sammi had a very soft tongue while Raven's tongue is much rougher.

This week's PhotoHunt "Texture" starts here.

25 April 2012

Hairball Awareness Day - April 27

RavenApril 27th is Hairball Awareness Day.  We've been preparing for this day for several weeks, because I can produce some mighty hairballs. Last August I was hacking up so many big hairballs that mom started keeping track on a calendar. At the worst point, I had 5 big hairballs in 3 weeks. One was scary because after I regurgitated the hairball I rolled onto my side then hunched down on the floor for about 15 minutes breathing very quickly and shallowly! Mom was worried because she's never seen a kitty react to a hairball like that. Mom decided she had to get serious about brushing me to try to prevent hairballs.

Beginning in March, Mom started brushing me more often. She knew I'd start shedding more with the warm weather and she didn't want a repeat of last year's hairball nightmare. Every few days mom grooms me and gets out a small clump of fur. That means the fur isn't going into my tummy to create a hairball. It's April 25th and I haven't had a hairball yet.

Hairballs are more than just annoying, they're unhealthy. Here's an informative article by a vet describing how hairballs form and how a cat with hairballs might seem sick, and how to treat and prevent hairballs.

I have lots of grooming tools that help me keep my fur shiny, tangle-free, and prevent hairballs. Mom is really good at brushing me gently so I enjoy my grooming time.

  1. Good quality slicker brushes that have gentle wire bristles.

  2. The Zoom Groom rubber grooming brush

  3. A wide-toothed comb where the tines rotate in the holder.

  4. A flea comb

  5. A natural boar-bristle finishing brush

grooming toolsThe purple thing is a Zoom Groom. It works by gently grasping the loose fur and by static attraction between the rubber and fur. At first I didn't like it, but now I enjoy being ZoomGroomed - gently! Mom uses that first, then the wide-toothed comb and slicker brush to get the loosened fur off. The flea comb gets the last strands of fur. The natural boar bristle brush is for my head, cheeks and chin. One of the best things about boar bristle is that it doesn't create static. What girl wants static in their fur?!

23 April 2012

Being an observant and proactive pet owner.

[caption id="" align="alignleft" width="350" caption="Raven enjoys biting on my eyeglasses"]Raven biting my eyeglasses[/caption]

I read an interesting blog post the other day by Dr. Plotnick, a vet who specializes in feline veterinary medicine. His blog, "Cat Man Do" is a mix of veterinary information and other personal experiences. A recent post, It’s snot what you think… or maybe it is reminded me of a recent experience I had with Raven.

Raven has a broken upper canine tooth. We adopted her that way so we don't know when, or how, she did it. Every few months I take a peek in her mouth to check on her teeth and gums. She has a few tiny red areas on her gums, so I like to keep an eye on them to make sure they're not getting too inflammed.

The last time I checked her teeth it looked like she had broken another tooth. She had a stumpy little tooth in her upper jaw and it didn't look right to me, so I called the vet to make an appointment to have him look at it. Her mouth didn't seem to be bothering her at all, which seemed odd if her tooth was broken. So a couple days later I took another look in her mouth.  After looking at some photos on vet web sites and my cat health books, I realized her tooth wasn't broken. It was a normal, healthy, small premolar behind her upper canine tooth.

I called the vet to cancel the appointment and admitted my mistake. No broken tooth, just an over-protective mom. 

After having multiple cats and a dog who have all had serious health issues, I'm a firm believer in dealing with a potential issue as soon as possible. That gives us the best chance to catch things early and have good treatment options. And after nearly 15 years, my relationship with the vet is one where I wouldn't be embarassed by taking Raven in to have a perfectly healthy tooth looked at. He knows that I put my pet's health above everything, including my ego. And had I taken her in to have her healthy tooth looked at, he would just tell me everything is fine and I'd laugh and say thanks for taking a look at it for me.

22 April 2012

Raven's Warning?

[caption id="" align="alignleft" width="200" caption="Credit: Pekka Parviainen/Science photo library"]meteorite[/caption]

Around 7:30 this morning Raven was in our bedroom being very active and meowing. She jumped on top of our dresser, which is something she doesn't do very often, and meowed and paced.  Raven can be talkative when she wants to play, but this seemed different. Later in the morning we turned on the news and they said they were being flooded with calls about a loud noise. The police in several neighboring counties were getting a lot of calls too. They suspect a meteroite hit ground somewhere in the area, and that's the loud noise people were hearing. Maybe Raven knew something strange was happening and tried to warn us. I'll have to watch the news later and see if they say a meteorite hit around the time Raven was meowing.

Here's an excerpt from the newspaper:

Explosions over the Sierra today caused by meteor shower

By Loretta Kalb

The sound of a powerful explosion punctuated the calm over a wide area of the Sierra Nevada in Northern California about 8:30 a.m. today, the apparent result of an ongoing meteor shower left by the annual Earth fly-by of Comet Thatcher.

Craig Shoemaker, meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Sacramento, said the Lyrid meteor shower - the debris cloud left by the comet as it makes its annual pass -- is capable of producing fireballs and sonic booms when it enters the atmosphere, "similar as a plane would make" when it crosses the sound barrier.

20 April 2012

Saturday PhotoHunt - Reflect (and learn about cat's eyes)

Light reflecting from Sammi's and Raven's eyes.

Sammi and Raven reflecting eyesWhat looks like a simple (or spooky) reflection is due to a special layer of tissue that cats and many other animals have behind the retina of their eyes. This special layer of tissue is called the tapetum lucidum and it reflects light that wasn't absorbed by the retina back into the eye so that it has another chance to be absorbed and send a signal to the brain.

Because of the tapetum lucidum, cat's are about 6 times more senstive to light than humans. This allows cats to see so very well in dim light, which is great for those late-night mouse (or toy) hunts.

When light hits the tapetum lucidum just right, it is reflected back out the front of the eye and we see that as eye shine. Most cats eyes shine green, but Siamese cats eyes shine red.

Since humans don't have a tapetum lucidum, our eyes don't shine.

Note: my cats are not harmed by the occasional flash that catches their eyes, but please don't torment your cat or any other animal by shining bright light into their eyes. And don't shine bright lights into nocturnal animals eyes like a hamster.  Their eyes are designed for vision during darkness (night) and bright light can cause damage to their vision.

The Saturday Blog Hop themed "Reflect" starts here.

Is a dog sibling in my future?

Last weekend, Mom & Dad went to a dog show. Bentley has been gone for almost three years and they've been thinking of getting another dog. I liked Bentley, so they think I would be happy to have a doggy sibling. I've made it very clear that I do not want a cat sibling. Sammi was my special friend and I liked her, but I don't like other cats.Raven and Bentley

Here are some of the dogs they saw at the show. Bentley was such an amazing dog that they are most likely to get another Golden Retriever. Mom & Dad like that they are gentle, smart, and easily trainable. Golden Retrievers

Then they saw some Siberian Huskies. Mom's family had Huskies when she was young, so she likes them. But we live in a very hot climate and that wouldn't be enjoyable for a cold-loving Husky.Siberian Huskies

Then she was the Big Doggies! These Saint Bernards were so big they couldn't fit in the picture. Mom likes big doggies, but these are too big and drooly for our home. Saint BernardsUnfortunately, Mom & Dad were very disappointed with the dog show. There were no breed clubs or information booths, and the people were busy showing their dogs and didn't want to be bothered by the public. We're not 100% ready to get a dog yet, but I suspect there might be one in my future.

Murder Past Due & Classified as Murder - Book Reviews

Classified As Murder bookI'm catching up on my reviews from books I read this winter. I enjoy reading fun mysteries with cats in them, and found two books by Miranda James that I really enjoyed. First is Murder Past Due. The second book in the series is Classified as Murder.  Usually these types of books involve women and their cats, but the main character in this series is Charlie Harris, a college librarian in Athena, Mississippi. He and his cat Diesel are a wonderful pair. One way or another, they find themselves in the midst of a murder mystery that needs solving. Charlie is a likable man and his young, affectionate, and very large Maine Coon Diesel is a cat every cat lover would want to have.

Murder Past Due bookThe books are entertaining and easy to read. I like a book with a good story, smooth writing style, and no words I have to look up in the dictionary! Four paws up for these books because it was a nice change of pace to have a man and his cat as the main characters. I've ordered the next book, File M for Murder and I hope it will be as entertaining as the first two.

18 April 2012

Sleight of Paw - Book Review

Sleight of Paw bookA while ago, I reviewed a book called Curiosity Thrilled the Cat by Sofie Kelly. I liked that book enough to read another book by the same author - Sleight of Paw.

Kathleen lives in the small town of Mayville Heights, Minnesota with two formerly feral cats Owen and Hercules, who have unusual abilities. Once again, Kathleen finds herself in the middle of a murder mystery and Hercules won't be left behind. There are funny, suspenseful, and tense moments as Kathleen and the kitties figure out who killed a local woman.

Three paws up for another easy to read, fun book for cat lovers.  I just ordered the next book in this series, Copycat Killing, and I'm looking forward to reading it.

16 April 2012

Foxy Intruder Plays in My Yard

After a long, cold, and rainy winter, it was a beautiful weekend and mom put on my harness so she could take me outside. Since I'm not allowed out on my own, it takes me a few minute to get comfortable outside. I walked around for a few minutes and was just starting to enjoy the sunny outdoors when I was scooped up by mom and taken inside.

What? This isn't right!  But then I saw what was going on. Mom heard Foxy meowing on the other side of the fence and she knew Foxy would be over the fence in no time. Sure enough, the little intruder came into my yard.
Mom took photos of the invasion. Foxy didn't just come into my yard, she played in it. She walked all around, sniffed the plants, got into the side yard - where My dad had to pick her up and take her away from all the yard equipment. She watched My mom & dad plant strawberries, layed in the sunny dirt, and even played with my dad.

Foxy the neighbor's cat Dad carying Foxy
Foxy by the strawberries Foxy in the dirt

Foxy playing with Dad

Mom thinks Foxy is cute, and even though she doesn't want to encourage Foxy to come over, she plays with her because Foxy comes over when her family is away and she's lonely. Foxy is only about 1 year old and my mom is a softy when it comes to making sure cats are happy. But this was just wrong! Foxy got to do all the things I should have been enjoying. She even had the audacity to come right up to my screen door! That's when I screamed at her in my loudest meowl and let her know I don't like her. Mom put Foxy up on the fence so she would go back home, but it wasn't until they were ready to come back in the house. Because of Foxy, I didn't get to have any time outside in my own yard.

Now I'm wondering when I'll get to enjoy my backyard. If Foxy hears us outside she'll come over and it wouldn't be safe for me to be out on my harness.

This is a frustrating dilema! What am I going to do? Spring is here and I want to enjoy my backyard.

09 April 2012

A Quacky Visitor

The other day, this little Mallard duck girl visited my back yard. I've never seen anyone like her before. She was fun to watch as she waddled around. Mom tried to toss some bread out to her but that startled her and she flew away. We didn't know it,  but her boyfriend was on the roof. He flew away with her. I hope they come back someday.

08 April 2012

Sunpuddle Sunday

Raven laying in the sunThis is how kitties worship the sun.

07 April 2012

My New Fence Gives Me Privacy

A few months ago my fence blew down in a winter storm. It was nice to have a bigger view of the side yard, but I didn't like that the neighborhood cats could visit the space between my and the neighbor's house. Neighborhood catThis guy came by frequently. He and some of his friends learned they could get into the crawl space under the neighbor's house. That must have been a lot of fun for them because every morning someone would come out from under that house. The cats would walk by the crawl space and meow for each other. This guy would sit by the crawl space and stare into my window, which I thought was very rude. There was another black cat who would sit in the side yard sunning herself.

This was my view while the fence was broken.

Looking to the left:

looking left from my window 

Looking straight ahead....where the cats went under the neighbor's house or sat on our pile of fence boards sunning themselves! looking straight from my window

And looking to the right:

 Looking to the right

It was really noisy as the workmen put the fence up. The noise made me nervous and made my head rattle. Dad was home to comfort me, but I was glad when it was done.

Workman making lots of noise putting up fence

The noise made my head rattle

Now I have a beautiful fence. I'm sure the neighbor cats will be walking along the fence soon. But at least I don't have to watch them sunning themselves in my side yard and playing under the neighbor's house. Oh, mom closed the screen into the neighbor's crawl space so the cats wouldn't go under their house anymore.

Here's my view now.

Looking to the left:

A pretty fence

Looking straight ahead:

Pretty fence

Looking to the right:pretty fence

Isn't that better? I think it is. My view is a little smaller but the area won't be so enticing to all the neighborhood cats. And, sniff, sniff, it smells like a redwood forest.

02 April 2012

Bye Bye Fishies (and it wasn't my fault)

It's been a long time since I've been able to write because we had a little disaster at our house. Dad has a coral and fish tank in the living room. I don't find the fish very interesting, but I like to watch Dad as he works on his tank.

A few weekends ago, a noisy pump in the tank woke us all up very early in the morning. Dad got out of bed to check on it, and the next thing I knew he was telling mom to "get up, we have a problem". The problem was that the tank sprung a leak and water was drizzling down the tank, onto the floor, leaking out the wall of the house, and was making a puddle on the back patio!

Yeah, that's a problem.

Mom and Dad spent the entire day - from 7 am until 10 pm getting all the creatures out of the tank, taking the critterrs to the aquarium store where they would be safe, and getting the tank out of the house.  Here are some photos of the adventure.

Yes, that's duct tape holding the back of the tank together. It was mom's ingenious idea and it bought them enough time to get all the creatures out of the tank.

Here I am supervising Dad's activities. Each coral had to be removed, put in a little plastic bag with water and air, then put in the styrofoam box to stay warm. It took two trips to the aquarium store, but everyone - all the corals, fish, snails, crabs, clams, and an abalone survived.

After the tank was drained and moved outside, I had to live in another mess for a week while the carpet, padding, and floor dried out. The carpet was folded back and a heater and fan was blowing on it. The worst part is that I lost my favorite spot - sitting on top of the heater vent next to the sunny sliding glass door.

About a week later, Mom & Dad moved almost all the furniture out of the room and a guy came and cleaned the carpets. I had to stay in the bedroom but I didn't mind because it wasn't too noisy. 

I did get to do something different during all this comotion. We had the carpets in another room cleaned too and that room has a big sectional couch. They pulled apart the sectional so they could move it around and I decided to sleep on the part where the cushion usually goes. It was the only place to nap since all the other furniture was gone.  Can you see me? If you look real hard you may be able to see my eyes on the black part.

We won't have that fish tank anymore but soon we'll have some new furniture in that room. Mom and Dad are turning it into their office. The best part is that I have my heater vent and sunny window back.

Oh, and mom told Dad his fish tank made a bigger mess than us kitties have ever made!