Sunday, March 18, 2018

Best Days for the Westie




It is still just March and although the outside temperature is not all that hot or humid, inside I have the air conditioner running.  Normally this event does not happen until May.  Okay, sometimes April, but really it is sort of a badge of honor between my husband and I that we hold out as long as possible before turning on the AC.  No, I don't know why except that being tough and frugal is sort of a thing in our household.

Not this year though.  This year the AC is running cold at least in one room (window units for this old house).  The fans in the room circulate this cold air and an essential oil diffuser is providing a light scent of rosemary. It almost feels like a little bit of winter, or at least early spring in here while outside Houston is showing its humid, 82 degree plus, dark underbelly of impending horrible summer.

Have we come to our senses and opted for a more comfortable existence for the humans in this house.  No.  Although this human is enjoying the 'room of comfort', this is all being done for a very special family member.  The Westie.

Just this last December his royal highness (see Westie Rules) turned 15.  We have never had a dog this old before, but it isn't just age that is the issue.  It turns out that the Westie breed comes from Scotland originally.  The Scottish isles are known for things like sheep and green and above all a maximum temperature of 63 degrees.  They probably also don't have daily humidity ranging near the 90 percent range and I am guessing not as much mosquito, flea and other irritating pests that plague our sweet Westie.

Border collies also come from Scotland
so these two were destined to be together.

Summers have always been tough on him.  His pretty white fur us accompanied by tender pink skin.  Somehow this combination makes it possible for a type of fungus to grow on him.  It is called Malassezia Dermatitis and according to one website "Some conditions which could lead to a yeast proliferation include: high environmental humidity, an increase in skin oils (from an allergic flare up), an immune deficiency, flea, airborne and/or food allergies, or seborrhea (excessive oil production of the skin). Some Westies are actually allergic to the yeasts themselves."

Well, we at least have
the 'green' of Scotland

Gosh, can we check just about all of the above for our dear little guy.  So, every year of his life has been a battle to keep his skin under control and give him some peace from his excessive itchiness.  Thus he has on average had 1 to 7 baths per week for his entire life (less in the winter and more in the summer).  Our go to shampoo is a tea tree oil human shampoo followed by a tea tree oil conditioner.  We also make many of his meals using this recipe guide and when we give him kibble it is grain free.

He also gets bathed for other reasons...
Although we have also used medications, about 5 years ago he became intolerant to anything oral.  He then became intolerant to any topical flea preventatives.  Just this year he seems to be verging on being intolerant to a topical anti-fungal/cortisol cream.   

He is also intolerant of photo shoots, proclaiming "You ain't the boss of me!"
Only one of us thought getting a photo with the pretty flowers was a good idea.


All of our care of him is met with tough resistance by a larger than life personality.  He does not want to be touched unless your are combing him or brushing him.  "Hands off you peasant!"  This is such a deal for him that once when he was starting to fall off the bed I reached for him to keep him from falling.  He reacted by pulling back from me so violently that it hurled him off the bed.

Best one after about 50 attempts
His long fur which is great in the winter needs to be trimmed for warm weather comfort.  This amounts to a wrestling match between me, an indignant Westie and an electric trimmer.  No, he will not be still, "Unhand me you knave!!", and ultimately I have to pin him with knee or foot in order to use both hands to trim without cutting him.  It is exhausting for us both but must be done.

Second favorite of photo shoot
Nail trimming is another ordeal by fire.  Through the years I have learned just to treat this much like a cowboy pins a roped calf.  Get him on his side and hold him down then quickly choose a toenail.  Snip.  Any hesitation is seen as weakness and he will exploit it.  Now I know you are thinking that two people could do this better than one, but actually he takes advantage of this in devious ways which result in two people knocking heads into one another or otherwise inflicting personal damage.  At the vets it takes three skilled people to subdue him into cutting nails.  As a result his nails are not as short as I want, but not so long that they interfere with him walking.

He has in the last 12 months had the following:

  1. Vertigo after rolling on his back in the yard.  This at first looked like he was having a stroke, but his stumbling about eventually lessened and he is basically normal now, but prone to repeated attacks.  This is a common occurrence in older dogs.
  2. A broken tooth caused by falling off the bed when he was dizzy.  I didn't know he had broken the tooth and we spent a very, very disturbing Sunday night with him pawing at his mouth in a way that made me think he was having a seizure.  It was the most awful couple of hours late at night until it resolved.  He would have his 'seizure' and I would hold him and stroke his throat and it would stop.  Then he would do it again.  I was sure he was about to die each time and was looking up the emergency vet in a panic when he did it again and I heard a click.  Out comes his tooth, broken off at near the gum line.  That tough boy pulled out his own broken tooth.  
  3. An ear hematoma, which is basically a swelling in the skin of the ear.  It can be caused by excessive head shaking or rubbing the ear, things he does a lot.  It was relatively small and since ultimately treating it would not prevent recurrence and would require surgery we opted to let it heal naturally. Now he has a little cauliflower deformity causing this ear to bend in a most endearing way.  
  4. A dog fight in the middle of the night.  Somehow he pissed off his sister the Border Collie who proceeded to thrash him in a loud screaming battle that caused me to fall out of bed in an attempt to pull them apart.  My husband's loud booming voice broke them up.  The Westie ended up with ear nips which bled, but he also started shaking which made me fear he might have had a heart attack.  It was Sunday 2am (always it is Sunday when my animals need medical care...) so I just put him in the middle of the bed and stroked him for a couple of hours.  It was just adrenaline.  He eventually calmed down and fell asleep.
At least his ear thing is cute...
We love this little guy so, so much.  All his tough, indignant, bull-headed ways are in the end very endearing to us.  Maybe it is Stockholm Syndrome or something, but I just can't think of life without this sweet little, hard headed guy.

Better days at age 13
You make different decisions when a dog is three than when a dog is fifteen.  Those extra years weigh heavy in choices and eventually they may push us to make a final choice with him.  I have a friend who had a dog who was 15 plus years old when he began to go through 'old dog issues'.  During one of the multiple vet visits a veterinarian said to her "You know you don't have to wait until the bitter end.  You can just decide you have all had enough."  Those are wise words indeed.

I have taken those words to heart and last year after the 'pulling his own tooth incident' put forward a Best Days plan for my little guy.  Each day my husband and I will strive to make sure our little Westie is having a Best Day.  This means things like frequent snacks.  It means things like seldom leaving him alone.  It means being proactive in treating the yard and other animals for fleas.  It means brushing him and flea combing him multiple times a day to make sure nothing is biting him.  It means making one room in our house as much like Scotland as we can.  It means doing things his way unless it would be harmful.


We are living in his Best Days which hopefully will be many more days to come.  But when the Best Days are over we are not going to be selfish.  If we cannot make him comfortable we will help him in the best way possible.  No one wants to make an end of life choice for their pet.  Everyone hopes that when the end comes the furry little love will just pass peacefully in their sleep.  That may or may not be the way he goes.  Considering how he 'is', he will probably make it very hard on us.  We have made our choice not to wait for the bitter end in order to forestall our grief but until that day we will do everything in our power to make his life the best it can be.

All the best to you and your little furry children.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

The Cat who would be Dog


I am no stranger to strange animal minds, having the fortune of being the human mother to several at the moment and many more in the past. What passes for acceptable or common behavior around here brings people up short when I mention it. What? You don't have a Border Collie who does art? You mean to tell me that your cats eat cat food? Doesn't your Westie eat bees?

So, I guess what I am saying is that I am pretty calloused to bizarre pet antics and nothing seems to shock me very much. Until recently.

To set the stage, let me outline the situation. We have had a relatively large number of outdoor cats shacking up with us for years. The number sometimes grows as high as 6 or more which means we are definitely in 'crazy' cat people territory.

We had two 'original' recipe cats that graced our back yard. They both started off as feral/homeless joiners but hey, it has been more than 20 years since I had any urge to 'get a cat'. They just drift in like the breeze. Anyway, these two cats lorded over the back yard while any other 'new' cats claimed the front yard and front porch. You would think that these two groups would interact, but they avoided contact with one another. As time went by, first one of the backyard cats passed on due to extreme old age and then the other got doddery so I brought him inside to finish his life crated and spoiled. Thus the backyard was empty of cats.

We expected the front door cats to take over the back yard. This did not happen. Six months later and my doddery old cat had left for rainbow bridge and the front doors still would not visit the backyard. Give it time we thought. Meanwhile they stayed rooted to the front yard and front porch. This would not be so bad, but four cat food bowls, a water bowl and four kitty condos on a front porch makes it very hard for people to walk through. We dreamed of the day they would take the hint and transfer their homestead to the backyard.

Two years passed with the cats venturing into the backyard rarely and if we found them there they would scramble to exit as if caught with their hands in a cookie jar. No amount of calling sweetly would bring them back. The dogs thought this was hilarious and would snort with laughter. Then one day, Sandy, our littlest cat 'found' the backyard. She began hanging out on the back porch all the time.

She wandered our back garden looking around like she could not believe what a wonderful place she had found. She was not troubled at all by the dogs and if they even looked at her wrong she would chase after them. She became the backyard queen. After eating on the front porch she would march inside when we opened the door and lead us to the back door so she could re-enter her domain. Very royal, that cat. No going round the side under the gate for her, nope - opened doors all the way.


So Queen Sandy ruled the backyard. Little did I know but she was taking notes and plotting her next step. The first slightly cold weather of this last year, Sandy moved inside. We had been accustomed to letting all the cats come inside anytime we opened a door. Invariably they would then ask to exit the next time we opened a door. Not Sandy. She took up residence and that first night plopped herself onto the bed and slept there all night. She was very quiet, found a place that was not occupied by a human or a dog (not an easy task on my bed) and didn't move a muscle all night.

In all fairness they left me one quarter of the bed.

Now, mind you this was a rejection of her personal kitty condo that featured soft cushions, heated floors and a clean cat towel every day. That was in the past. She had been taking notes and decided that the dogs had it better. She decided that she would become a dog. How I know this is that within 24 hours she began to demand every thing the dogs got, but in cat form. Dogs come in and out of the house as they please? So does Sandy. Dogs get fed lunch as well as breakfast and dinner? So does Sandy. Dogs sleep on the bed or on a dog bed? So does Sandy. Dogs get brushed in the mornings? So does Sandy. She totally assumed the role and played it perfectly.

There is close, there is too close, and there is 'let me explain it to you...'

The dogs didn't even bat an eye and just accepted this as normal. The Westie, who normally cannot control his 'snap at the cat' behavior even though we have said 'No Cat' so many time he must think it is his second name,  LOVED Sandy and would snuffle her and lick her ears. Trudy took to bathing Sandy in Border Collie saliva so that her entire head would be wet. They made room for her on any bed she wanted and stood back from the feeding bowl Sandy was using.

The other cats overnight shifted from front yard to back yard mode as well. I don't know, I guess they have some sort of email group or something and coordinate their activities, but one day, no cats in the backyard and then 24 hours later, it's all cats except for the one who is now a dog.

Strangely, Sandy's trans-dog thing was also noticed by the cats who began to treat her like a dog. They expressed distrust of her and I overheard them calling her names and trying to bully her. She, not being a wimp, gave it back and currently there is an uneasy truce.

Now that the weather has warmed up, Sandy does not spend every night inside, but most nights. I can also say that I don't think she is through with the species ladder climbing either. Due to all the time she spent inside there were a couple of 'accidents' of a bathroom nature. She always chose one of the dog beds and was immediately regretful and would come to me to show me there was a need of 'cleanup on isle 3'. So, even though we swore we would never have a cat box in the house, guess who has a cat box in the house... She only uses it occasionally and never anything more than liquid, thank God, since our 'truffle hounds' would find that oh so delightful.

So, what is Sandy's next stop. I am pretty sure she has set her sights on human. After all, we have an indoor toilet and now so does she. I haven't found her wearing my clothes yet, but who knows...

Or maybe 'bird'..

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Great Gifts for Pet Lovers

If you have a little furry child you will find yourself spending a lot of your time and money on making their lives happy, healthy and comfortable. It is estimated that we spend more than 60 billion dollars on our pets each year with dogs being the most expensive pet.

That is a lot of kibble, toys and pet beds to be sure. I think it is about time we reward the pet owner with some well deserved pampering. Here are some great ideas for the pet friendly people in your life, as well as perhaps some much needed personal pampering for yourself.

All the images you see here are from designs I have created, inspired by my own furry companions and in certain cases they posed for me.

Pillows

As I am typing this, I have one of my little furry kids soundly snoozing on top of a pillow right next to me (and occasionally on top of me...). What could be more natural than having pillows with a kitty design on them:

Throw Pillow

Tabby Cat Throw Pillow
This cute little tabby cat throw pillow was inspired by the personality of a cat I currently have and the coloration of a cat I helped foster. His charming little face shows a sweet disposition and his handsome tabby looks match up perfectly with his green eyes. Just image how his sweet image will perk up a couch or bed. view at society6.com


Rectangular Pillow

You Can't See Us
Rectangular Pillow
This rectangular pillow shows a lovely example of what often happens in my house as soon as I wish to find my cats. They have a special way of blending into the background, or at least that is how they see it. It is definitely a case of 'if I can't see you, you can't see me' but I also am sure the true problem is that my tubby little kitties have no idea just how plush they really are. view at society6.com

Mugs

When it is cold, a hot beverage can go a long way in warming us up and our favorite hot beverage is something we desire all year long.

Ceramic Coffee Mug

Yawning Dog
Mug
This yawning dog will connect with many people who need that first cup of caffeine laden beverage to get started in the morning. The art wraps around the mug offering three different views of a cute puppy's yawn. It is dishwasher and microwave safe and comes in an 11 oz and 15 oz size. view at society6.com

Travel Mug

Basic Border Collie
Travel Mug
When we are on the go we don't need to sacrifice that hot beverage, not when we have a travel mug. This one is double-walled and has a press-in suction lid. It holds 12 oz and can maintain your beverages temperature while keeping it safe from spilling. It is 6 inches tall and features a wrap around artwork of my lovely border collie. view at society6.com

T-shirts

When it comes to our pets we often wear our heart on our sleeve and now we can also wear our heart on our chest with a wonderful T-shirt. Short sleeve and long sleeve T-shirts are always a great gift idea.

Short Sleeve T-shirt

Horse on Parchment
T-shirt
This all over print T-shirt features a bold and simple design. The color of this shirt is the color of the buckskin mare Daisy I had as a child. It is sure to delight the horse lover on your gift list. view at society6.com

Long Sleeve T-shirt

Big Fish
Long Sleeve T
This bright and colorful big fish makes a splash on this long sleeve T-shirt. I like long sleeve Ts because they bridge the gap between the temperature extremes of fall and winter. This shirt comes in seven different colors. view at society6.com

Hoodies

Schnauzer Witness
Hoodie
Hoodies are great for staying warm without feeling encumbered with something like a thick jacket. The hood can keep out the wind and the rain as well as keep our ears warm. The schnauzer on this hoodie is the image of my beloved Dewey, long since departed over the rainbow bridge but still judging us all with his intense stare. It comes in 6 different colors and the image can be placed on the front or back. view at redbubble.com

Throw Blankets

When the wind is howling outside and the temperatures dropping there is nothing better than cuddling up under a throw blanket with your little furry loves.
School
Throw Blanket
This throw blanket features a school of brightly colored fish that will swim their way into your heart. It is available in three sizes and feature vividly colored artwork on one side. A very cozy fleece that is machine washable. view at society6.com

Tote Bags

I don't know how I would live without tote bags. Whether I am using them to bring home my groceries or sherpa-ing around my oodles of stuff I almost always have a tote bag over my shoulder.
Ounces of Pounces
Tote Bag
The image on Ounces of Pounces is one of my all time favorites because to me it captures my littlest cat Sandy as she pursues one of her favorite past times, stalking the insect life in our back yard. Her spirit is willing but that butterfly is in no danger. Her body is built for comfort, not the aerodynamics necessary to catch a winged creature. It is however great fun to watch her try. These tote bags are very sturdy and they come in three sizes. The artwork covers them front and back. view at society6.com

Pouches

Peacock Tabby
Pouch
This zippered pouch is just the thing for keeping organized. I use these pouches for everything from holding pens to phone accessories and organizing random things in my purse. The artwork wraps around the pouch and they have a black interior lining. They come in three different sizes. view at society6.com

Rugs

I have wooden floors at home and although I like them, I also like having area rugs around to keep my feet warm in the winter.
Basic Cat
Rug
The furry children also love these rugs and they make a great pet mat. They are 100% woven polyester and are soft, durable and machine washable. They are available in three sizes. view at society6.com

Hopefully these ideas will help you with your gift giving. If you liked a particular image, keep in mind that each image shown can be placed on any of these items listed so if you like what you have seen on a pillow, you can have that image on a shirt or a rug, etc.

To view more of my designs check out my shops at Society 6 and Redbubble.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Dog Exercise

My dynamic duo of the Westie and Border Collie have been keeping in shape with their own private exercise regime. 


I think we can all learn from this example and use it for our own workouts.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

The Tyranny of the Cats

I used to be a person who thought cats were basically benign creatures. Sure they sometimes got underfoot and a person with a more cynical mind might want to believe they were trying to trip us intentionally. Not me. I figured they were just either very poor leaders or very poor followers, this penchant for being right where your foot was supposed to land. Now I am not so sure.

It started with a change in eating habits. For the eight years of our life with the fantastic four, our rescues from two consecutive litters by the same feral female, we were treated to the satisfying sight of four kitty heads in their food bowls happily munching away at the kibble we provided. Twice a day, even three times a day if we were in a 'feed the kitties' mood we could lay down the grub and there they would be, like hogs to the trough, eating whatever amount we put down. They were bottomless pits and their little swinging bellies showed the evidence of their hard work as eaters.

It was their one job and they had a remarkable work ethic. They couldn't have eaten with any greater gusto if they had weekly meetings and a mission statement. Those cats were the best at eating kibble. Were we concerned about the calories consumed? Well, yes, a little.

Our four cats come in different sizes with the male being a full sized econoline van, one female a four door sedan, another a two-seater sports car, and the final one a tiny mini-cooper. The two larger cats were 'big boned' so they could carry the extra fat well, looking robust and swarthy, and yes, admittedly sporting droopy hanging beer bellies – but they handled it well. The sports car version of our cats was lean, mean, and carried not an ounce of excess flesh. She would never be fat no matter how much she ate and we should all be envious of her incredible metabolism. The little one was only half the size of a regular cat, but full sized in her appetite. She could throw down with the rest of them and if anyone left anything in a bowl she would vacuum that up as well. She attained the plush toy status in her body composition. Every part of her was soft and spongy just like a stuffed animal. You knew she had to have bones somewhere but they were incredibly insulated. Her belly undulated beneath her and not too far away from the floor either, what with her being so small to begin with. I called her my little football and she was just about as wide as she was long.

Yes, we were a bit concerned about all the cat fat. That is what made us forgo the mid-day feeding and institute portion control as best we could. Given the variation in size we had to choose what we felt was appropriate for the big guns and hope the micro cat would at least slim down a little. We had good success and although they were still fat, micro-cat's belly was further away from the floor. This regime went on for quite a while and we were all blissfully happy with the arrangement.

The something happened. Our happy eaters, our dedicated consumers stopped eating the kibble.

Purina One. No longer only chicken.
A sure sign of corporate cruelty.
We had been purchasing what we felt was reasonable quality cat food. Purina brand was our chosen preference although sometimes we changed to other brands. It didn't seem to matter although when we first opened a new bag they chowed down with even more gusto to our seasoned eyes. We decided to upgrade to Purina One because its first ingredient was chicken. We were doing our best to draw that fine line between high quality cat food and financial ruin. Our good eaters were polishing off a twenty pound bag of cat food with alarming regularity. The cats loved the Purina One and showed the kind of enthusiasm better suited for farm animals. Then Purina changed the chicken formula to include turkey.

Now just a word here about turkey and these cats. The only time we ever had a breakdown of the cat consumption ethic was that one time I thought to bring down the kitty fat with a change to the leaner turkey formula cat food. They let us know on no uncertain terms that we had replaced their succulent repast with what amounted to garbage. Oh, they still ate it mind you, but with resentful looks and lots of leaving it in the bowl until the ants got it. Lucky for me I had chosen a small bag so we were able to get back to the 'real' food quickly and all was forgiven. Learning point for me: these cats hate turkey. Gotcha.

So, why did Purina change the formula? We went from happily buying 22 pound bags to empty shelves. In desperation we chose another brand that had chicken as the main ingredient. A little more pricey, but okay, we could tighten our belts a little for them. They started off eating it like this was the new ambrosia, but within a day or two we were getting the food left in bowl and angry, hungry cat routine.

Taste of the Wild Tried and rejected.
I guess they did not identify
with the cougar or something.
This went on and I tried another brand. Even worse results. We were in the habit of keeping their food in a large airtight container that could hold a full 22 pound bag. I was buying smaller bags to try out and if they ate it, pouring that bag into the container. Eventually the container resembled some sort of sand art project with different kibble at various layers.

Purina started appearing on the shelves again, but the new chicken flavor also contained turkey. Damn their evil hearts. I nearly had a breakdown in the pet isle when confronted with that ingredient label. I got really desperate and began buying small bags of increasingly expensive cat food. These too were rejected.

Then we had a health crisis. One of the most unfortunate things about keeping cats outside is the potential for infectious diseases. We live in a neighborhood of feral cats. Aside from our four, there are probably no other cats in the neighborhood that have been neutered or have had shots. There is a constant influx of cats from all the fecund felines around here. Such a high cat population density allows illness to spread. Although luckily we don't seem to have the scourge of feline leukemia, we do have a feline herpes virus in the neighborhood. I had never heard of this before it afflicted our cats. The vet told me all about it when I brought in one of our elderly cat who had all these sores in his mouth. These are the equivalent to cold sores and make life very uncomfortable for the afflicted. There is no cure and the only treatment is supportive. Keep them eating my vet told me. Give them lots of reassurance and they will get over it. Expect a return if the cat gets stressed.

It turns out that the kibble fiasco was stressing out my cats and the big guy couldn't find his zen place. He developed a very distressing outbreak. Overnight he went from eating steadily if somewhat reluctantly the various kibbles we tried to hissing at the cat bowl after the first mouthful. At first I thought that this was just his 'opinion' of the kibble, but it became obvious there was something wrong.

Wellness Brand. Expensive gooshy food.
Thus we tried 'gooshy food' therapy. Usually we only give canned cat food as occasional treats. We reserve it for special times so it remains special. Feeding kibble is much preferred because kibble does not leave a nasty residue in a bowl. Such residue attracts ants and roaches faster than we can pick up the bowls. We also know that wet food is even more of a dice throw than kibble. More times than not there will be a half-hearted consumption and sometimes there will be complete rejection of whatever canned fare we offer.

Thus we have languishing on our shelves can after can of initially accepted but on the second try rejected canned cat food. We knew enough not to offer them turkey, but we also learned that pate was the only way and this shredded stuff – well you might as well just open the can and pour it directly into the garbage because no cat in their right mind was going to eat that stuff.
For our sick big guy we brought out the cans. He would take a bite, then suddenly hiss or scream and run out of the porch. We were desperate, all of us. He was hungry but now fearful of even the bowls we put the food into. We would coax him to the food and the same scenario would repeat itself.

He began to lose weight. The only thing he could tolerate was the water from our water packed tuna. We would bring him in three times a day and give him that but since there was little calorie content his weight was still plummeting. I scoured the shelves for what might be tolerated and came up with an organic chicken pate that cost over $2 a can. If I mixed it with water until it was totally liquid he could tolerate it. First he drank what amounted to a quarter can. If he drained the liquid and tried to eat any of the residue he would end up hissing and crying. So, as soon as he had drunk the liquid I would pick up the bowl and add more water and stir to recreate the special kitty sauce. Over the course of 30 minutes or more we would go through this routine so he could consume about a half of a can.

Eventually he was able to down an entire can in this way. It seems that his penchant for eating large amounts of kibble actually saved him since it allowed him to consume two cups of liquid at a meal without overstretching his tummy. He still lost weight but thankfully he had a lot of fat to go through.

After several weeks he was doing better. His weight was actually much more appropriate for his size, but I worried that if he were to go through another episode that he would be in danger. We fed him as much wet food as he would eat, which was about two cans a day. He would also eat some kibble, but it had to be very small sized. I found a very expensive tiny sized kibble that he would consume.

Meanwhile his sisters were still in full kibble revolt. I would find a kibble they seemed to like and then a week later that kibble would have run its course and they would eat a mouthful or two and leave the rest. They were bringing me to my knees. Each week I would scour the shelves for something new to try. The feed store had several varieties, but I was daunted by the extreme price.

Acana Brand.
Human grade
- Expensive kibble
- totally rejected.
Cat kibble is a money making opportunity if there ever was one. Some of the kibble costs 7 to 10 dollars per pound or more. I balked at feeding my cats what would amount to the equivalent of prime cuts of beef or lobster when I don't allow that kind of expense for my own food. I especially balked at buying the expensive kibble only to have to throw it in the garbage when they rejected it.

I started to spike all the cats food with tuna juice. This worked for a while but neither my husband nor I could eat enough tuna to provide all the juice we needed. Then I found a special kitty tuna. The can even said it was line caught – oh joy – no social stigma of net caught tuna for my kitties. This brought exactly two weeks of peace. All the cats got some canned tuna on their kibble. The kibble was being eaten and even our big guy was back to eating almost normal.

It didn't last. The big guy started just drinking the liquid from his bowl and then rejecting everything else. The girls were still mostly eating their food, but his bowl would remain. He started losing weight again.

We have now gone into canned food variety mode. I no longer even look at the cat food prices and just accept that I am working primarily to feed my cats. He is eating again but only if we bring him into the kitchen and add some liquid to his wet food and feed him in his special bowl. He gets the kitchen to himself because while he is eating we keep the dogs outside. The dogs are not happy about this arrangement at all.

There doesn't seem to be anything wrong with his mouth. Last night after he polished off his can (half a can at first then when he is done with that you can put the other half can in – he won't eat it if you put the whole can in at once – no, I don't know why) he joined me on my bed where I was lying exhausted from all the care taking he needs. I was petting him and giving him that emotional support the vet says he needs during these tough times. He thought that was nice but he then thought what would be nicer was if he could just bite me. Bite me and hold my hand roughly in all his claws and kick me a little too. Bite me and rub his mouth on me so that I could tell there is nothing wrong – no kitty cold sores.
Halo Brand.
Haven't tried it yet, but no doubt, soon to be rejected.

Tomorrow I will be searching for more varieties of expensive canned cat food for his highness and we will begin buying smaller and smaller bags of expensive kibble to try and keep them eating. He is a tyrant. The are all tyrants. I have been defeated and to the victor goes the spoils.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Cat Furniture

Even though it is still very warm, also known as too hot, I have been looking over the kitty condo situation in our house.  As detailed in my previous posts, kitty condo deluxe, we have spent a considerable amount of effort making our cats as comfortable as possible.

Being that our current four are outdoor denizens, the kitty condos get limited use in the summer months.  They do use them when its rainy, but otherwise they prefer to lounge about on the porch floor or on our cars.

Yet, all good summer fun will come to a close and it might be another cold winter, so I decided to check out their furniture to make sure it was ready for the upcoming season.  I also decided to check out what pre-made cat furniture was to be found and wow - there is a lot on the market.

Starting with the basics was this Flexrake 1 Story Kitty Condo which is small enough to fit practically anywhere but has some great things going for it.  From a cat perspective it has a very necessary 'den' where kitty can hide out while observing the world.  The top will also make a nice nap area and for the humans, the carpet covering will blend with most home furnishings.

However, if there are multiple cats, a single little kitty condo just won't do.  This attractive Feline Lotus Tower would be suitable for a number of cats and in my opinion is one of the best looking of its type.  These things usually are a carpet covered monstrosity, but this one has sleek styling while still serving the needs of the feline persuasion.

Speaking of sleek, I ran across this attractive scratching post. The Pet Fusion Cat Scratcher Lounge looks almost like an art object with its sleek lines.  I can totally see kitty using this thing too.  If you are like me, you are wondering just how long it will last, but according to the reviews it can withstand kitty assault for a long time.  It can also be turned over to a fresh side when side one has had too much love.  Its scratchy part is dense corrugated cardboard which means it will not last forever and one reviewer did reveal that after about a month it loses some of its sleek lines.

Now if you are looking for something useful to both humans and cats then this ABC Cat Ottoman would suit both species.  It has a nice bottom chamber so kitty can hang out while their human can rest their feet against the top part.  This will work well for those who like to diminish the 'catness' of their home while still proving kitty with all the creature comforts.

As soon as the weather changes I will be sorting out my crews arrangements and getting things ready for the upcoming cold weather.  The front door foursome will no doubt let me do all the heavy lifting.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

4 Steps to Solving Flea Problems

It seems that every year we come in to the hot summer months and along with the heat we find ourselves battling fleas.  It is a bother to the cats and annoying to the Border Collie but it is unrelenting torment to our Westie.

He is like sugar to them.  I don't know if it is his white coat or whether he just emits a 'come bite me' kind of pheromone but he quickly becomes the scratchy dog in no time.  Of course as these things go he also has flea allergies.  It only takes one bite to set him off, but usually it is far more than one bite.

Because of his age (now 12 years) we are very careful in how we treat him.  We make our own dog food for our crew because the Westie has such difficult skin problems.  When he was younger we were challenged with keeping him from developing infections from all his skin problems but these days we have it under control most of the time with how we feed him, how we bathe him (every 3 to 4 days minimum) and how we deal with outbreaks.

I know that some people use various oral treatments for both fleas and heartworms.  We have always given our canine duo their heartworm meds but stayed clear of the flea stuff because of fears that it would be too much for the little guy's kidneys.  Last year, because of a bad flea outbreak I finally broke down and tried an oral flea/heartworm remedy.  The first month it seemed to work like a charm with no negative symptoms and blessedly no fleas.  The second month, within a few days of giving the Westie his dose he lost bladder control in the house.  I was so angry at myself for giving in when I should have stayed with my gut instinct.  We have never again given him that oral flea med and he has not had further kidney symptoms.

We do however have an effective way of combating the fleas without resorting to that medication.  Here is our flea knockout guide:

4 Steps to Getting Rid of Fleas

Vacuum the floors and apply Boric Acid.  We have wooden floors but have found that sprinkling boric acid lightly on the floors and then using a broom to brush it around will allow the powder to sink into all those small spaces between the wood slats.  Boric acid works to dehydrate the flea larvae and kill them at that stage.  It is not effective on the adults, so it is best to vacuum up any and then make sure you throw away the vacuum bag.


Treat the yard.  If we are not in a flea infestation we will use Insect Growth Regulator alone.  This is amazing stuff that acts as a hormone that stops the larval flea from developing into an adult.  When adults come in contact with it they cannot reproduce.  Some are formulated for indoor use only but  Archer makes one that is not photosensitive so it can be used outdoors.  If you have fleas you will want to also use a knock-down agent to get rid of the adults.  We use pyrethrins since we want a natural pesticide and one that will not have any residual effect.  We apply the pyrethrin in the evening and then keep the dogs inside until morning.  You will probably have to treat the yard more than once in order to break a flea cycle.  After a few applications every 2 to 4 weeks things should be fine for a couple of months.  



Bathe the dogs.  We do not use flea killer shampoo because it is unnecessary.  Any soap lathered into their coat and left for about five minutes will drown any fleas on your dog.  We do prefer to use a human grade shampoo that has Tea Tree oil in it as this is a natural anti-fungal and antibacterial substance that really helps with the Westies skin issues.  After bathing we make sure to check their coat to remove any lingering fleas just in case they revive.


Apply Frontline Plus.  During a flea outbreak, three days after we bathe the dogs (or three days before) we apply Frontline Plus to our dogs.  Although I am reluctant to use any agent that remains on the dogs, we have found this one to be safe.  It works by entering the dogs oil glands and hair follicles and constantly re-applies itself to the dogs skin.  When a flea contact this it kills them in a day or two but also stops them from reproducing (that is what the plus means - it contains insect growth regulator).  We also make sure to apply this to our cats since they come into the house and go into the yard as well.

Although this sounds like a lot of work, each step is simple and easy to do.  You will probably find that doing these thing once will not be enough to stop a flea infestation completely and repeated efforts will be necessary at first.  If it happens to be very rainy you must retreat the yard or else the cycle will start up again.

You may wonder how it could start up if you have your dogs and cats treated.  The fleas will come back from all the creatures that visit our yards when we are not looking.  There are squirrels, opossums, mice and rats as well as wandering cats that are part of any urban landscape, even if we never see them - believe me they are there and bringing fleas with them.

What flea remedies do you use?