I have been thinking about my first three cats a lot lately. These were the trio of kittens I adopted when they were a mere 8-weeks old. They spent their lives with me, enriching mine as we all grew together. It has been 6 years since Sam passed, 2 since Muffin passed and Crash left me almost a year ago. Still, I miss all of them so much.
I thought today I would celebrate these three amazing cats when they were in the prime of their lives. These photos were taken around 2005 or 2006, placing them at about 10 years old. Looking pretty good for Geriatric Cats.🙂
They may be gone from this world but they will always live in my heart. We never truly get over the loss of a pet- we learn to accept the loss, the pain, the hollow space they occupied. We accept it and we move forward with our life. We fill the areas around the loss with new animals to love (because that is only right). I wear the scars on my heart from these three with pride, because it means I loved and was loved.
Last night a friend on Twitter sent the following tweet:
— Edna Wong (@EdnasPetHacks) April 10, 2016
It got me thinking. There is so much we don’t know, scientifically speaking, about how cats communicate. As I was reading some of the material for this post, I realized how much of what science is just proving, is stuff that I always assumed from my experiences with cats. Or stuff I just didn’t notice. For example, an article I read talked about cats rubbing on your leg when you get home as a way of your cat greeting you. Yup, that was always what I thought my cat was doing. Greeting me and claiming me as his again. It’s what cats do to each other, so why not to me, the giant 2 legged cat?
It also got me thinking about how cats and their communication changes. Within the last few months Sneakers has become a very vocal cat. After 3 years with us, he has started meowing and squeaking at us. Mostly when he is hungry and excited to be fed. Occasionally he squeaks if he wants attention and just isn’t getting it. (He finally realized making noise gets attention!) Every once in a while he squeaks a bit when playing with his toys.
Edna’s tweet also reminded me of something I read recently, that adult cats only meow at humans. They don’t meow at each other. Sure, kittens mew to their mother to get her attention, letting her know if they are cold or hungry. Adults may also yowl or growl at each other, according to the ASPCA, but they do not meow at each other.
When I read this I didn’t believe it. Of course cats meow at each other. My cats are not just meowing at me to manipulate me…except they totally are. When I looked back at all the cats I have lived with and worked with, I realized I didn’t have any memories of them meowing at each other. Muffin would growl or hiss at her brothers. My poor Poosh yowled for his mother when he was left behind. Mamma Kitty and Little Black don’t meow at each other. Not one have I seen them vocalize towards each other. I walk outside though and that Ms. Black has a thousand stories to tell me. This is also something that developed over time.
According to this amazing article on Nymag.com “cats and their human develop a secret language of meows.” Basically, you can tell what your cat means when she meows at you, based on the tone etc. Other people hearing your cat meow don’t understand what those tones mean though. Which makes sense. Why wouldn’t we make our own language with our cats? Think about it, when your partner says “fine” you know by their tone just what is meant by that “fine.” You know what your mom and your best friend mean by the tone of their voices and the way they hold their bodies. Why wouldn’t it be the same with your cat? (I frequently have clients at work tell me “that’s her sad meow” or “that’s his pissed voice” when I comment on a patient’s vocalizations)
I look forward to learning more about cat vocalization. Of course cats do most of their communicating through their body. Watch her ears and that tail for the most obvious clues to your cat’s mood. It will be interesting to see what other little things we learn about cats communication and vocalizations with us and each other.
I have a new post in the works. It will be up by the end of the week. Thank you for standing with me during my extended hiatus.
Happy Easter Friends!
Hope your holiday is filled with Spring Blessings–whether they be religious or not.
Friendly little reminder that Easter Lillies are highly toxic to cats. Keep them out of the house. If you get one and don’t want to toss it, keep it high and away from any place your cat can get it until you can safely remove them from your home.
Please be aware that lillies are so toxic, even the water they are in can be poison to your cat. The signs of lilly poisoning are not visible immediately, but if you catch your cat getting into lillies, get them to the vet immediately! If your cat gets into lillies and you can’t get to a vet you can try calling ASPCA Animal Poison Control at (888) 426-4435.
Sorry for the unannounced leave of absence. I needed some time to heal.
Two weeks ago was a particularly rough week at work. We had two emotional days, filled with lots of loss, and kitty emergencies. Then we spent the rest of the week dealing with weird stuff and trying to heal–as individuals and as a clinic. I was too emotionally tapped out to write. I was too emotionally tapped out to do much of anything.
So I didn’t. I took time for myself. Time to heal, recover and replenish my cup. I read, played computer games, colored, watched tv and most of all I enjoyed my Sneakers. It really did take me two weeks to get past a few rough days. Partially because of my Depression, and partially because of Compassion Fatigue. Both leave me with tendencies to be overwhelmed by all the emotions around me, especially when things go south.
Sneakers also took some time, mainly because I wouldn’t turn the computer on for him.
I will gradually be getting my butt back in front of the computer now. I have a lot of things I need to write about.
First though, if you think are you suffering from compassion fatigue- as so many in the animal caring fields do–I encourage you to check out the Compassion Fatigue Awareness Project. They are a great resource for learning about compassion fatigue and burnout.
In my last post I talked about Dental Health in cats.70% of cats over the age of three have dental disease. With the majority of dental disease occurring below the gum line, it can be hard to tell how serious your cat’s dental disease is without her going under anesthesia for dental x-rays. Of course we all want to limit the number of times our cat goes under anesthesia- both for her health and for the health of our pocketbooks.
So, what is a concerned cat parent to do? How do you keep your cat’s teeth as healthy as possible? The same way you keep your own teeth healthy and disease free-Preventative care.
Did you know you can brush your cat’s teeth? It’s true! There are great little toothbrushes designed just for cats! If you decide to brush your cat’s teeth you have to start slowly, get her used to the concept of having your finger, and eventually a toothbrush, in her mouth. The video below is a great demonstration of how to introduce tooth brushing to your cat.
Not every cat will accept tooth brushing. As mentioned in the video, there are a number of other ways to help prevent dental disease. There are products you can add to your pet’s water or apply directly to her gums to help prevent dental disease.Check with your veterinarian to see if he has a preferred product product.
You can also try feeding your cat a dental diet, that is a dry food specifically designed to help remove plaque. Please note that not every dry food helps remove plaque. Most dry foods are the equivalent of eating cereal or a ginger snap for humans. They may be crunchy, but they don’t help clean our teeth. Additionally, many cats swallow their dry food whole. Dental diets, such as Science Diet’s t/d, Royal Canin’s DD or Purina’s DH, are larger kibbles designed to be chewed by your cat and scrape the plaque off her teeth. Some of the foods work chemically as well, having added ingredients to help prevent plaque formation in the first place.
If your cat won’t accept a dental diet you can also try dental treats to help remove plaque and prevent tarter buildup. My favorite, and the ones we highly recommend at the clinic I work at are called CET chews. They look like corks.They are designed to work chemically (added ingredients to prevent plaque buildup) and mechanically (the chewing helps remove any current buildup on the teeth). Because the size of the treats, many people cut them in half the first few times they give them to their cats. As I said they look like corks and many cats think they are great for playing with.
Anyone who walks down the treat aisle of the pet store will notice that lots of treats lay claims to helping prevent plaque. Beyond treats, if you go to the supplements aisle, there are hundreds of different products for keeping your pet’s teeth healthy.How is a pet parent to know what works and what doesn’t? You certainly don’t want to waste money on hundreds of different products. Especially since cats are notoriously finicky about what they will tolerate in their food, not to mention what they will allow their humans to do to them. If you have questions about a dental product, talk to you veterinarian. He or she will be able to direct you to the best products available for your cat’s particular needs.
I would also advise looking for products with the Veterinary Oral Health Council (VOHC)’s seal of approval on them. These products are held to a high standard and have to go through rigorous trials to ensure they actually help control plaque and tarter in your cat. You can find a complete list of products they certify on their website: http://www.vohc.org/accepted_products.htm.
Every cat is different. Some cats will tolerate brushing, some won’t accept brushing, but will take a gel rubbed on their gums or a water additive. Some won’t accept anything. As with any medical issue, talk to you veterinarian about what is best for you and your cat. If the stress of having her teeth brushed is ultimately going to ruin your relationship with your cat, it’s not worth it for either of you. Ultimately preventative care is just that, preventative. Cats, just like humans, will still need regular dental work. Human dentists recommend we be seen every 6 months for cleanings, even though we brush our teeth at least twice daily. Despite your best efforts, some cats will still need to see the vet for dental cleanings on a yearly basis, some may not need a professional cleaning for years. It depends in large part on genetics. Preventative care can help decrease need for professional cleanings. Again, the best thing is to talk with your veterinarian about the best options for your cat.
February is National Dental Health Month for pets. Many people know Dental Health Month simply as a time to get a discount on getting their cat or dog’s teeth cleaned by the veterinarian. Dental Health Month is so much more though, because Dental Health is so much more than professional dental cleanings. Your cat’s dental health is just as important as your own!
Did you know that 70% of cats over the age of 3 have dental disease? According to the American Veterinary Dental Collage, it is the most common clinical condition in cats and dogs. Like people, cats develop plaque on their teeth. If not removed regularly (by brushing teeth, etc) the plaque then hardens to form tarter.If not removed tarter can cause infections, such as gingivitis-a reddening of the gums around the teeth. It can result in the loss of a tooth and other more serious periodontal disease.
Worse than your cat losing a few teeth due to periodontal disease is the risk to all her other major organs. Tarter build up can loosen the tooth’s gum socket, making an opening for tarter to get into the blood stream. Once the bacteria gets in her blood stream it can do damage to her kidneys, heart and other organs.
Unfortunately, because most periodontal disease occurs below the gum lines there aren’t many signs of periodontal disease in cats beyond bad breath and tarter on the teeth. At least not until it gets bad. If you cat is drooling, seems painful around the mouth, stops eating or eats less, please see your veterinarian immediately, these could be signs of serious dental disease.
The only way to know the full extent of the damage to your cat’s teeth and gums is through dental x-rays, which must be performed while your cat is under anesthesia-because what cat is going to let anyone stick stuff in her mouth then sit still long enough for x-rays to be taken? (I have a hard enough time cooperating for my dental x-rays and I know what is going on.)
At the clinic I work at, we regularly tell clients about the four stages of dental disease. If your cat sees a veterinarian regularly, your veterinarian should be able to tell you what stage of dental disease your cat has. Hopefully, her dental disease will be caught before the first stage. The first stage of dental disease, gingivitis, is the only one that is reversible. Beyond that damage starts to happen to your cat’s mouth, such as root changes, abscesses and tooth resorption-a weird thing cats do where their mouth resorbs the tooth, turning it to bone. No one yet knows why this happens.
If you want to learn more about dental disease and learn about the 4 stages of Feline Periodontal Disease click here: http://www.cathospitalofchicago.com/online-cat-health-library/dental-disease-in-cats#4
Even if your cat has severe dental disease and needs to loose a tooth or two, she can live a happy life. I have known several cats who had to have all their teeth pulled due to stomatitis (a painful disease in which the cat’s gums are swollen), bad oral health care, or bad genes. These cats have still chowed down on their dry food. They have been happy cats. Well, one cat was chronically grumpy and would try to gum me when she got particularly upset.
While much of the determining factors for dental disease rests in your cats genetic makeup, there are steps you can take to help keep your cat’s teeth healthy and clean. I will discuss those steps more in Dental Health Month Part 2.
Hello. Sneakers Saturday again, and a very important Saturday it is!
Did you know today is Love Your Pet Day? Neither did I. Everyday is Love your Pet Day around here. I love My Katie everyday, not just on silly holidays…Wait, My Katie informs me that I am the pet in this case…sure I am. I will let her believe that.
More important today is my Gotcha Day! Three Years ago today I came inside to be with My Katie. I had been living outside for several years before I told My Katie that I wanted to come inside.
My story starts a few years before I came inside. My Katie and I stumbled upon each other when I was sitting in a yard enjoying the sun. We surprised each other. I was scared and ran away. My Katie eventually came back with a large scary metal box thing. She put some really good smelling food in the scary cage. Eventually my tummy and nose got the better of me. I went in the scary metal box thing. I was enjoying a really tasty meal when the box closed on me! It was terrifying. I was then carted all over the place. First I was put in a car, which drove away. Then I was taken out of the car and bumpped around alot. When I finally stopped moving I was inside for the first time. It was dark. I was so scared. I was in a tiny box with a towel over it in the dark. I could not see anything. I heard scary noises and could not get away from them. After a long, long time in the dark, sitting on the food I didn’t get to eat, I heard someone come towards me. We moved around again and I could tell we were back outside. Then we were back in the car. I found myself in an even scary place where people tried to touch me! They gave me a shot and I got all sleepy. When I woke up I felt really weird. Part of my ear was gone and my bottom hurt. My Katie says this is when I was neutered. She says I was part of a TNR project and the ear tip was to let other people know I was already neutered.
When My Katie brought me back from the scary clinic place, she said she didn’t think I was feral. She ran out to the store and bought a big dog cage. She got me to go from my tiny box to a bigger box. She told me she was going to try to socialize me. I told her I had other plans. For several days I sat in that big box. I just sat there. I was frozen in fear. My Katie came down and read to me, she talked to me and tried to engage me with a toy. She gave me lots of tasty food and a clean litter box every day. And I sat there in fear. After a few days of this My Katie decided maybe she was wrong; maybe I was feral. So she got me to go in yet ANOTHER box and took me outside. She opened the door to that box and I ran away. I then stood outside and cried at the top of my lungs. I had run into a different yard at that point. My Katie later told me this was the worst decision she ever made. She told me she was in school at the time and was afraid she wouldn’t have enough time to give me between school, work and the other cats.
Fast-forward to a year and a half later. It is Christmas Day 2012. I showed up for breakfast with Mamma and Little Black. They were reluctant to let me share their meal, but My Katie saw me and brought some food out for me. For two months I would appear at meal times to share with Mamma and Little Black. I patiently waited for them to eat, then I took my share. Even if there was a bowl set for me, I waited until Little Black was done before I ate. I was also very polite and let the girls go first. I would run at the first sign of conflict. I also ran anytime My Katie came out to put food down.
My Katie says this was the second worst time of her life. She told me that she finally realized I was the same cat she had trapped before. She says she spent days stressing over what to do for me. Then one day, a few months later, I jumped up on the trunk outside the window and looked in the house. My Katie saw me. She saw the giant bald spot on my chest. She brought out the big scary cage and trapped me again. We went into the vet.The vet couldn’t find any bald spots on me.
My Katie figured that was my way of saying I wanted to come inside. She watched me at the vet and said I certainly didn’t act like a feral cat. The doctor and technicians were able to handle me with only mild sedation. So My Katie did the smartest thing ever and decided to keep me inside. She set about “socializing” me to people. It was a long, hard road for both of us. I was back in the scary big box in the basement. Again I sat perfectly still for days. It took us weeks before I finally agreed to play with a toy while hiding behind the couch.
It took us months before I let My Katie touch me. Then one day, I realized that My Katie is amazing. She showed me love when I hadn’t known love before. She gave me tasty food. She accepted me. We spoke to each other and it was love.My Katie, silly girl that she is, thought she would try adopting me out to a new home. She could tell I was getting bonded to her. Then one day I looked at her with the deepest love in my eyes and she finally got the message that she was MY Katie and I was not going anywhere. We agreed to change my name, and after much debating My Katie and I agreed that “Sneakers” was a perfect fit for me. I like to sneak around the house, silent as can be. And I sneaked my way into My Katie’s house and heart.