Friday, August 17, 2012

Cats Scratch

I know this may seem silly, but let’s talk about cats and scratching.  I’ve been thinking of this lately….because I recently opened my home to a sweet little kitty who was no longer wanted by her previous owner, after many years. She is de-clawed on her 2 front feet. Living with 2 indoor-outdoor cats it is hard to keep her from escaping outside. She loves it out there and my worries about her ability to protect herself eased when I witnessed her bully my confident male cat into submission.

So on to cat scratching. This sweet old cat is enjoying her life in my home with abundant healthy food, laps to sit on and love. Her happiness overtakes her to the point where she finds herself pawing at the scratching post out of sheer pleasure.  A sad scene to watch, however, as her little nubs rub on the post and I swear a look of confusion on her face.

What would make a de-clawed cat scratch? Cats do scratch to exercise their muscles, and groom their nails but also to scent their territory and to visually mark it. Neat huh? And you thought cats scratched your couches just to be mean and annoying.  Each cat has their own personal preferences for perfect scratching spots, some like vertical surfaces others like horizontal. Also, according to veterinary behaviorist Jacqueline Neilson, the spot needs to be sturdy, have traction, be tall or long enough for a full length stretch and  placed in a prominent location.

To succeed in providing this wonderful exercise and enjoyable activity for your cat, test and observe your cat to see if they like horizontal or vertical surfaces. If they scratch your carpet-horizontal. The upright of your couch? Vertical. One of my favorite cat scratchers is a corrugated cardboard box on the floor, corrugations exposed.  For vertical scratching posts you must get one they cannot knock over and it must be high enough for them to stand on their hind legs and reach up and tear on it. Any home with a new kitten must have a tall cat tree. Although it may be expensive, it saves couches and carpets and lives. Many cats love scratching on wood so why not bring a log in for the cat.

Oh, one other thing….once the item is all shredded and worn do not change it for a new one. They worked hard to get it that way and they like it that way.  Their scent is on it. Life is perfect, if not pretty.

Some tricks that have been employed to prevent scratching on unwanted items: tin foil applied to the surface or double stick tape. No cat likes to have a dainty paw stuck to tape.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Ticks! Ticks!

Hi all. My husband camped near Jefferson Lake on the SE side of Mt. Jefferson last week and encountered a TON of ticks. To be honest...I have not seen a tick since I moved to Oregon 3 and a half years ago, but, I guess they are here. Please, please if you are taking your dog to the mountains now or this summer, use tick prevention. Start with Frontline plus, that should be enough unless you are visiting a heavily tick infested area.

Remember ticks can transmit Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever...and other diseases not so common here.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Pet Hospice

Greetings, I am back if you are listening. Since I last wrote I have had to say good bye to my second and final dog child after 13 and a half great years. Being a veterinarian I am confronted with the emotions and decisions regarding euthanasia weekly...and sometimes daily. Because of this I felt prepared to send my lovely German Shepherds on to the spirit world, let their energy be free of the flesh and go back to the universe, perhaps to be a companion again someday. I was wrong.

Nearly one month before we actually had to put Guinness “to sleep” I had placed an IV catheter and was about to end her life because she had a bout of seizures and looked so terrible and confused. But something told me it was not time...maybe she would be a little better if I just waited. Sure enough she rallied and came out of her mental fog and began to eat and take her walks again.

So many adjustments had been made to our lives, and our house, to accommodate the lovely aging ladies, but it never bothered me. I felt I was caring for them as we care for elderly humans. Non-slip mats in front of the dog bowls, ramps to go in and out of house and cars and a an occasional piece of dried poop found under a dog bed...well that got to be more frequent.

Living through caring for aged animals, I realized so many parallels to human hospice...with one difference: we can decide when to end it. What an important and difficult place to be in. During my struggle I asked...”What right do I have to decide it is your time to go???” “Do you want to go Guinness?” “Should I have let you go sooner?”

So life is. Pain and sadness, loss...but only all these things because of the joy, happiness and comfort that comes to us too. Winding down the path of aging with Guinness one day we came to a place where she was ready to leave the world, my husband knew it, I knew, she knew it. We helped her pass on and then I lay with her for a long while smelling her fur and just taking in the sight of her. Over time it seemed the soul left her physical body. Spending this time with her I realized how important it is to be home with your pet at this special moment.

My story is not special or new, I know. But I wanted to write this to remind myself and others that we go on a journey with our pets and we are forced to see them through infancy to geriatrics to the process of dying. I feel it is normal for this to be challenging and sad and draining. We should expect for the final months to push us to certain limits and to question our decisions. It is normal to be sad, really, really sad to see them go and to bawl at the moment of their death.

Word of advice...practice reality in your mind on a regular basis. What I mean is; do not tell yourself “I can't live without my faithful dog” but instead tell yourself “I will cherish my pet while they are here and make every moment count. I will stand by their side until the end and let them go with dignity and peace. And when they are gone I will have enough love to give to another needy pet and they will have something to give to me.”

Thanks for listening and I more blogs about aging dogs!!!