Living Green With Pets: Flowers for Your Valentine

cat sitting behind vase of flowers

Sophie is not eating the flowers! "The Perfect Camouflage", pastel © B.E. Kazmarski

Apparently, you can’t go wrong with roses, either for your Valentine or for your kitty—as long as they don’t have thorns! The roses, I mean.

Many of the cautions in this article apply to dogs as well, but cats are a little more sensitive to certain plants—lilies, for instance, may give a dog a tummy ache but they may kill a kitty—plus kitties can jump and climb and get themselves into truly amazing places, so I am focusing on cats for this article. But for any pet, please be cautious of flowers and plants and keep the list of toxic species linked at the end handy.

pencil sketch of cat with flowers

Would a cat eat a daisy? Namir did. "Conversation With a Daisy", pencil © B.E. Kazmarski

Cats aren’t necessarily particular in what greens they’ll nibble on; generally they’ll try anything green and fresh, and some cats will completely chew down a plant that can’t have tasted very good and wasn’t very easy to chew. They don’t stop with leaves, either, but will eat the petals off of a flower.

And while many pet owners know the dangers of various houseplants, most people don’t associate cut flowers with these dangers, yet many cut bouquets include flowers from  some of the most toxic plants for cats and dogs. What makes it complicated is that we recognize them when they are individual growing plants, but may not even notice them in a mixed bouquet.

Some plants cause gastric upset which can be a mess to clean up and is uncomfortable for your cat, but it can also have long-lasting effects such as ulcers in the mouth or digestive tract, and excessive vomiting or diarrhea can dehydrate and even kill a very young or old cat.

white lilies

Sunday Best

Other plants more seriously affect a cat’s organs and can be deadly within hours, even to a healthy cat.

Lilies in all their forms

Lilies in just about all their species can cause kidney damage in cats which is permanent and can lead to kidney failure within 48 hours if left untreated.

alstromeria

Alstromeria

Sure, we know the big white lilies at Easter, but consider an everyday small grocery story bouquet: a few yellow mums, some white daisies, pink carnations, fern, baby’s breath and—alstromeria, a South American lily, which comes in colors from white to scarlet.

Or a medium-sized get-well bouquet: Yellow roses, white mums, blue larkspur and—two big pink Stargazer lilies.

And what used to be part of my favorite backyard bouquets in spring: pink climbing rose, red rambler rose, Shasta daisies, blue widow’s tears and—big orange daylilies.

Bulb-forming plants

purple tulips

Purple Tulips

Instead of a bouquet of cut flowers we’ll often give or receive bulbs forced to bloom early in baskets and pots. I used to welcome the new year and the last long days of winter with forced bulbs all over my house as pots of paperwhite narcissus, trays of daffodils and baskets of mixed fragrant tulips, hyacinth and crocus along with squills and starflowers.

Then I learned that any part of these plants can not only cause gastric upset but also organ damage, specifically kidney damage and heart failure. I remembered a healthy fifteen-year-old cat I’d lost years before to acute kidney failure—her kidneys just failed one day and I had to put her to sleep the next. This can happen without an outside stimulus, but I’ll always wonder if that was the cause and I have never forced bulbs in any place my cats could get them since then.

In the same way, onion and garlic, also bulb-forming plants though they are considered food, are toxic to cats.

Other plants

rhododendron flowers

Rhododendron

While most plants are not that immediately toxic, other plants, such as azalea and rhododendron, lily of the valley, ivy and yew can be deadly to cats in impaired health or kittens, since they’re small enough to get a big dose with an enthusiastic bite. Though not deadly for adult cats in good health, they’ll often cause extreme abdominal pain, nausea, salivation and vomiting. Repeated exposure can be cumulative with some plants.

Sometimes cats have no sense

“Oh, she’ll stop eating if she gets sick,” or “she won’t eat this, it’s got little thorns”, don’t believe that. I’ve seen cats try to eat cacti, drool while they are chewing aloe and vomit up philodendron and go back to eating again. Don’t rely on their non-existent common sense, just remove the plant.

You can’t really punish them for following both a natural impulse and a physical need. We don’t really know why cats, obligate carnivores with no obvious need for greens, chew on grass, but some guess they help cleanse their mouth and digestive system, and to add fiber to their primarily protein diet to aid in elimination. An indoor kitty will take what she can get to simulate the natural outdoor environment she craves.

namir in plant

Namir in the arboricola.

The problem is that, while you may get some cats to stay away from your plants, most cats will return again and again, even if they suffer discomfort from their snack. The best way to keep your cats safe from plants is to put the plants completely out of reach—bearing in mind that cats can jump six times their height and can be ingenious about launching from strategic furniture to get into a hanging basket. Sometimes it is necessary to completely remove the plant from the house, no matter how much you like it.

Signs of plant poisoning may include vomiting, diarrhea, and swelling or pain inside the cat’s mouth. If you know or suspect which plant your cat has eaten, identify the plant by name when you call your veterinarian. Bring samples of the plant’s leaves or flowers when you take your cat to the veterinarian for treatment.

Keeping your cat out of your plants…?

black cat in plants

Loo-See of the Jungle

What happened to that nice spider plant you used to have? Oops—while enjoying the scene out the window, Fluffy forgot it wasn’t just a clump of grass and chewed it down to little nubbins. Then, because it really wasn’t grass and really wasn’t digestible by her little system, she deposited it back on your carpet in a most inelegant manner.

And that wandering jew? She used it for a bed? I’ll bet she looked sweet.

A determined cat will do what she wants. Remember, you have to sleep some time.

As for the non-toxic flora, even though Fluffy won’t suffer if she chews on it (unless you get your hands on her), you still don’t want her shredding your greenery. Several commercial sprays will give the plant a bad smell and/or taste without damaging the plant with recommended use, and a nibble by Fluffy will not harm her. One product is “Bitter Apple for Plants”, a stronger version of which is available for dogs learning not to chew on everything. Other products are named “Off for Cats” and such like, and simply smell bad.

You can also try your own home brew by dabbing hot sauce on the tips of some of the leaves, or rubbing a citrus peel on the leaf. For the sake of your plants, however, just try it on one or two leaves to make sure you won’t fry the whole plant in an effort to keep Fluffy from eating it.

You could also place “Sticky Paws” on the countertop around the arrangement or plant so that when she steps close to the plant she steps on the product and backs off; please read the instructions on the Sticky Paws package for what surfaces are appropriate for its use.

Distractions

peaches with cat greens

Peaches with her Cat Greens

One other thing to help the situation—and it’s a nice thing to do for your cat even if you don’t have a plant problem—is to plant her own pot of greens and make it available to her at all times. Don’t use regular plant seeds such as grass seed because some seeds are treated with chemicals, at least check before you use them; instead, purchase “cat greens”, usually a mixture of wheat, oats and barley grains, all three of which are not only a pleasure for your cat, but full of nutrition. Some other commercial “cat greens” mixtures contain catnip, a sure winner, sage, parsley, chickweed, colt’s foot grass, and other herbs and wild plants that your cat would eat if outdoors.

Most of these plants can be grown in a small container on a windowsill, and if you keep two containers growing, one available to the cat and one just sprouting, you can have a constant treat for her. These plants need a good bit of sunlight to thrive, so try to find a sunny spot that your cat can get to. It will serve two purposes: because she tends to chew when she’s gazing at the outdoors, you’ve provided exactly what she needs for her little interlude.

Keep toxic plant and flower information handy

Your local veterinarians and shelters often have lists of toxic flora has handouts, and plenty of resources exist on the internet.

And as far as those flowers, you just can’t go wrong with roses!

17 Common Poisonous Plants

ASPCA Searchable Database of Plants

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All images and text used on this site are copyrighted to Bernadette E. Kazmarski unless otherwise noted and may not be used in any way without my written permission. Please ask if you are interested in purchasing one as a print, or to use in a print or internet publication.


Flowers for Your Valentine

pastel painting of cat with flowers

The Perfect Camouflage

Apparently, you can’t go wrong with roses, either for your Valentine or for your kitty—as long as they don’t have thorns! The roses, I mean.

Cats aren’t necessarily particular in what greens they’ll nibble on; generally they’ll try anything green and fresh, and some cats will completely chew down a plant that can’t have tasted very good and wasn’t very easy to chew. They don’t stop with leaves, either, but will eat the petals off of a flower.

And while many pet owners know the dangers of various houseplants, most people don’t associate cut flowers with these dangers, yet many cut bouquets include flowers from  some of the most toxic plants for cats and dogs. What makes it complicated is that we recognize them when they are individual growing plants, but may not even notice them in a mixed bouquet.

Some plants cause gastric upset which can be a mess to clean up and is uncomfortable for your cat, but it can also have long-lasting effects such as ulcers in the mouth or digestive tract, and excessive vomiting or diarrhea can dehydrate and even kill a very young or old cat.

white lilies

Sunday Best

Other plants more seriously affect a cat’s organs and can be deadly within hours, even to a healthy cat.

Lilies in all their forms

Lilies in just about all their species can cause kidney damage in cats which is permanent and can lead to kidney failure within 48 hours if left untreated.

alstromeria

Alstromeria

Sure, we know the big white lilies at Easter, but consider an everyday small grocery story bouquet: a few yellow mums, some white daisies, pink carnations, fern, baby’s breath and—alstromeria, a South American lily, which comes in colors from white to scarlet.

Or a medium-sized get-well bouquet: Yellow roses, white mums, blue larkspur and—two big pink Stargazer lilies.

And what used to be part of my favorite backyard bouquets in spring: pink climbing rose, red rambler rose, Shasta daisies, blue widow’s tears and—big orange daylilies.

Bulb-forming plants

purple tulips

Purple Tulips

Instead of a bouquet of cut flowers we’ll often give or receive bulbs forced to bloom early in baskets and pots. I used to welcome the new year and the last long days of winter with forced bulbs all over my house as pots of paperwhite narcissus, trays of daffodils and baskets of mixed fragrant tulips, hyacinth and crocus along with squills and starflowers.

Then I learned that any part of these plants can not only cause gastric upset but also organ damage, specifically kidney damage and heart failure. I remembered a healthy fifteen-year-old cat I’d lost years before to acute kidney failure—her kidneys just failed one day and I had to put her to sleep the next. This can happen without an outside stimulus, but I’ll always wonder if that was the cause and I have never forced bulbs in any place my cats could get them since then.

In the same way, onion and garlic, also bulb-forming plants though they are considered food, are toxic to cats.

Other plants

rhododendron flowers

Rhododendron

While most plants are not that immediately toxic, other plants, such as azalea and rhododendron, lily of the valley, ivy and yew can be deadly to cats in impaired health or kittens, since they’re small enough to get a big dose with an enthusiastic bite. Though not deadly for adult cats in good health, they’ll often cause extreme abdominal pain, nausea, salivation and vomiting. Repeated exposure can be cumulative with some plants.

Sometimes cats have no sense

“Oh, she’ll stop eating if she gets sick,” or “she won’t eat this, it’s got little thorns”, don’t believe that. I’ve seen cats try to eat cacti, drool while they are chewing aloe and vomit up philodendron and go back to eating again. Don’t rely on their non-existent common sense, just remove the plant.

You can’t really punish them for following both a natural impulse and a physical need. We don’t really know why cats, obligate carnivores with no obvious need for greens, chew on grass, but some guess they help cleanse their mouth and digestive system, and to add fiber to their primarily protein diet to aid in elimination. An indoor kitty will take what she can get to simulate the natural outdoor environment she craves.

namir in plant

Namir in Plant

The problem is that, while you may get some cats to stay away from your plants, most cats will return again and again, even if they suffer discomfort from their snack. The best way to keep your cats safe from plants is to put the plants completely out of reach-bearing in mind that cats can jump six times their height and can be ingenious about launching from strategic furniture to get into a hanging basket. Sometimes it is necessary to completely remove the plant from the house, no matter how much you like it.

Signs of plant poisoning may include vomiting, diarrhea, and swelling or pain inside the cat’s mouth. If you know or suspect which plant you cat has eaten, identify the plant by name when you call your veterinarian. Bring samples of the plant’s leaves or flowers when you take your cat to the veterinarian for treatment.

Keeping your cat out of your plants…?

black cat in plants

Loo-See of the Jungle

What happened to that nice spider plant you used to have? Oops—while enjoying the scene out the window, Fluffy forgot it wasn’t just a clump of grass and chewed it down to little nubbins. Then, because it really wasn’t grass and really wasn’t digestible by her little system, she deposited it back on your carpet in a most inelegant manner.

And that wandering jew? She used it for a bed? I’ll bet she looked sweet.

A determined cat will do what she wants. Remember, you have to sleep some time.

As for the non-toxic flora, even though Fluffy won’t suffer if she chews on it (unless you get your hands on her), you still don’t want her shredding your greenery. Several commercial sprays will give the plant a bad smell and/or taste without damaging the plant with recommended use, and a nibble by Fluffy will not harm her. One product is “Bitter Apple for Plants”, a stronger version of which is available for dogs learning not to chew on everything. Other products are named “Off for Cats” and such like, and simply smell bad.

You can also try your own home brew by dabbing hot sauce on the tips of some of the leaves, or rubbing a citrus peel on the leaf. For the sake of your plants, however, just try it on one or two leaves to make sure you won’t fry the whole plant in an effort to keep Fluffy from eating it.

You could also place “Sticky Paws” on the countertop around the arrangement or plant so that when she steps close to the plant she steps on the product and backs off; please read the instructions on the Sticky Paws package for what surfaces are appropriate for its use.

Distractions

peaches with cat greens

Peaches with her Cat Greens

One other thing to help the situation—and it’s a nice thing to do for your cat even if you don’t have a plant problem—is to plant her own pot of greens and make it available to her at all times. Don’t use regular plant seeds such as grass seed because some seeds are treated with chemicals, at least check before you use them; instead, purchase “cat greens”, usually a mixture of wheat, oats and barley grains, all three of which are not only a pleasure for your cat, but full of nutrition. Some other commercial “cat greens” mixtures contain catnip, a sure winner, sage, parsley, chickweed, colt’s foot grass, and other herbs and wild plants that your cat would eat if outdoors.

Most of these plants can be grown in a small container on a windowsill, and if you keep two containers growing, one available to the cat and one just sprouting, you can have a constant treat for her. These plants need a good bit of sunlight to thrive, so try to find a sunny spot that your cat can get to. It will serve two purposes: because she tends to chew when she’s gazing at the outdoors, you’ve provided exactly what she needs for her little interlude.

Keep toxic plant and flower information handy

Your local veterinarians and shelters often have lists of toxic flora has handouts, and plenty of resources exist on the internet.

And as far as those flowers, you just can’t go wrong with roses!

17 Common Poisonous Plants

ASPCA Searchable Database of Plants


Let’s All Stare at the Bird

four cats staring out a window

Let's All Stare at the Bird

I’m sure the sparrow was glad there was a screen between him and four enthusiastic hunters, Mr. Sunshine, Giuseppe, Jelly Bean and Dickie.

I couldn’t get an angle with the cats and the bird, but it was hanging on the edge of the casement window and couldn’t figure out how to get out of its predicament. Usually they figure it out, but when it kept trying to fly through the window I opened the casement far enough for the bird to get a good angle and go free.

Those screens take a beating every summer when the windows are open and the birds are at the feeders, but it’s well worth the investment to replace them for the exercise and enjoyment everyone gets—including me! I originally installed the bird feeders outside that window so I could study the birds who visit my yard, count them for Project Feederwatch, and study their markings, colors and habits for illustrations and drawings. The view has become an important part of my cats’ well-being by “enriching their environment”.

The boys all had naps after all that exertion, and I’m sure they dreamed of little birds that were “right there”.


Mimi Introduces Giuseppe, Mr. Sunshine, Jelly Bean and Mewsette

black cat profile

Mimi's Profile

Mimi’s third and final installment of her Mother’s Day trilogy with an introduction to her last litter of kittens, and a little more about the FIP study.

Summer 2007

I loved all of my kittens, especially the four I currently live with, my last litter, who as adults are more my friends and playmates than anything like grown children still living with their mother. Funny what spaying will do for your outlook.

cats in bathtub

Everybody in the Pool

When I gave birth I thought I was going to be on the same little kitten treadmill as before, litter of four, all black, four weeks, in heat again before these were done, seeing these off while gestating the next litter to be born in late October. I’ve always kept things in order, but I didn’t mind the change in schedule for what happened next.

photo of black cat nursing kittens

Mimi With Her Babies

These kittens were born the last Thursday in July and we moved here the following Sunday. You can read about the reasons and the move in A Nice, Nice Kitty. We’ve been here ever since.

This litter had three boys and one girl, kind of unusual, and one of the boys is the little one while the girl is as big as the other two boys. Well, there’s no accounting for genetics. I can clearly see which of the studs is father to which of these kittens as well, though the little guy gets his more petite build from me. The most unusual feature about them is that they all have white hairs in their ears. I have no idea where they got this—I don’t have even one white hair in my ears and I don’t remember that in their fathers, but there’s genetics again.

four black kittens

A Four-kitten Pile-up

Somehow, mom tells them all apart, though she sometimes has to guess, but she can see details most people can’t. I sit by to check her accuracy and she’s almost as good as me. Now, my mom could go on and on and on…about these four, but I have a little more restraint when it comes to these cats, so let me give a little description about each one.

First, my human mom took all four of them into her paws as soon as they came into her house, and although she was a stranger and I should have tried to protect my newborns, I decided that not only did she need to do that, it would also be good for them. And so it has been—having been handled practically since birth they are relaxed and gentle with everyone, even the lady who pokes and prods and shoots us up.

Giuseppe

black cat in tub

Giuseppe

Giuseppe is the biggest and heaviest of all the four at 15 pounds, and he thinks he’s the ringleader but we don’t always pay attention to him. He trained with Namir in greeting people at the door and in the ways of getting a human’s attention, and he is long enough to stretch and reach above the waistline of most people, so people pay attention to him, but when it comes to being brave around a loud noise or the like, Giuseppe is gone. He is playful and talkative, but sometimes he tries to tackle mom by walking in front of her and grabbing her legs, considering this play. This is not a good idea. However, he cuddles and loves little Peaches and keeps her warm in the winter, and this is a very good idea. Even though he is silly and not very brave, he has a very good heart.

kittens nursing with colored ears

Kittens nursing with colored ears.

His name is derived from La Boheme in this way: when the kittens were babies, they looked identical except the one with the white spot. Mom was concerned about this FIP thing and about their health in general, so in order to be able to tell them apart she put a dab of tempera paint on their left ear, keeping the color consistent with the kitten. Giuseppe was the “green” kitty. Now, the composer of La Boheme is Giacomo Puccini, but Giuseppe Verdi, Joe Green to you Americans, is also a composer of opera, so mom decided to have a little joke on the name, which apparently only she understands. It takes a little too much explanation to be really funny. When he was young she called him Joey, but a big boy needs a big name.

Mr. Sunshine

mr sunshine

Mr. Sunshine

Mr. Sunshine is the man cat of the household and even when mom’s friend started whacking the tub with a sledgehammer at the beginning of our bathroom renovation and all normal cats found safe places to hide even after mom had locked us up, Mr. Sunshine escaped and strolled into the bathroom saying, “This man needs supervision.” He’s the next biggest at 13 pounds with very thick fur that makes him look even bigger, and while he could probably take on any intruder and is totally unafraid of any noise or circumstance, he is the biggest cuddler and regularly flips onto his back and kneads his paws in the air for a belly rub.

Young Sunshine

Young Sunshine

How did a black cat get a name like Mr. Sunshine? Well, it was like this. He was supposed to be named “Marcello” after the second male lead in the opera, but mom noticed that his eyes were just like his half-sister Lucy’s, just like them, so mom decided to name him Luciano after the great tenor Pavarotti, who famously sang the lead role in La Boheme. We’re not done yet. Mom noticed that she was singing “You Are My Sunshine” to the little guy, just as she had to Lucy when Lucy was a baby, and Lucy actually is derived from the word for “light”…it’s just another one of those things that only mom understands.

Jelly Bean

black cat looking in mirror

God, I'm Cute

He’s the little guy at only 11 lbs., and is distringushed by his smeared little white collar and large white triangular Speedo on his belly, plus the few white hairs in his armpits. He’s just like the goofy little brother, but he purrs professionally. Mom noticed that he would toddle to the cage door and purr before his eyes were even open when she walked in the room and greeted the kittens. He is very playful and the most congenial, but he is also the most friendly with other cats. When Fromage, the neonatal foster kitten, entered the house, he would sit by the bathroom door where she lived and purr. When mom decided Fromage needed the company of other cats despite some risk of disease, she opened the bathroom door to Jelly Bean who sat and purred and blinked his eyes happily as little Fromage tried to take him down; following his example, the other three siblings also adopted her, though I think Mewsette thought she was a little toy. But later when Dickie entered the house, Dickie was frightened by the advances of four large black cats, though Dickie is larger than even Giuseppe, but Jelly Bean squinted and purred and walked right up to him with his tail straight in the air and rubbed noses with him. He is the most charming little kitty, and he is the biggest proponent of drinking out of the bathroom sink faucet.

black cat with mouse toy in tub

Toys are better in the tub.

Okay, “Jelly Bean” appears nowhere in any opera, but his nose looks like a black jelly bean, and he needed a silly name, so there you are. He was originally Rodolfo because he was so completely charming, even as a newborn, but he was just too silly and became Little Guy when he was a little guy, the Jelly Bean, and it stuck.

Mewsette

photo of black cat with plant

Mewsette considers the Christmas Cactus © B.E. Kazmarski

Mewsette is the only girl, and she’s a big girl at 12 lbs. with thick lovely slightly longish fur that makes her look very big, plus a very round face and round eyes and big paws. While the boys fall all over you for attention, Mewsette is off in her own little world, having spent a good bit of her childhood in the basement training to be Basement Cat. But she is fiercely affectionate in her own good time and likes to tenderize mom’s arm or shoulder with all four paws at once, purring vigorously. She is always paired off with one of her brothers or with me for the long afternoon naps because she likes best to use another cat for a pillow. She has been working as an understudy with Cookie to learn to be the female lead in the household and to be her mom’s lady in waiting.

photo of cats on bed

Mewsette questions Cookie

Now, there really is a Musetta in La Boheme, but my little girl thought that name was a little too fussy for her, so when our mom called her Musette instead she answered. Our mom of course changed the spelling on the first syllable to resemble our little kitty sounds, though none of us currently says “mew”, but why not?

How the FIP figures in

Lucy, Pink and Gray

I know that several people were interested in my perfect black kittens and in me, but from overhearing conversations with my mom and the lady who comes to poke and prod and shoot us up once in a while I learned about the FIP. I am a tiny cat, as I mentioned, but my kittens were also a little small for their age and that was a concern. Apparently, not much is known about this disease and there is no test or vaccination, but if a cat is carrying FIP it’s likely the symptoms will begin to show in the first year, as they did with Lucy after she was spayed. Mom and the lady decided to keep us all together for the entire first year just to be sure; my mom said over and over that she wouldn’t want anyone to adopt a kitten and then lose the kitten as she had lost Lucy.

Well, my kittens were born at the end of July. One year later those who had been interested had adopted other kittens, and the shelters and rescue organizations were full of little kittens, not a good time to start marketing a family of five adult cats. By the time the shelters were emptying out, it was October, not a good time to be adopting out black cats.

five black cats at basement door

We do many things together.

And of course, we are especially gorgeous, especially when seen all together, so, of course, my human mom began photographing and sketching us, and before we knew it she became “our” human mom. Any feline mother would want the best home for her kittens, and why not the one she preferred herself?

Note from human: We’ll keep you updated on the FIP study, and everyone will be writing again soon.

Mimi’s Mother’s Day Trilogy

Mimi, on “Mother’s Day”

Mimi’s 2006 Children: Lucy, Charlotte, Angus and Donal

Mimi Introduces Giuseppe, Mr. Sunshine, Jelly Bean and Mewsette


Peaches Says, “Thanks for all the good wishes, they worked!”

photo of cat on table

Your 42 minutes is up.

Well, I think I lost a few days in there, but at my age I don’t really care about time, except for when it’s time to eat, which is still every 42 minutes.

But I felt pretty bad for a while there. My mom kept waking me up and looking at me and smelling my breath, and then she’d follow me around and watch me in the litterbox—please! some privacy for a dignified older kitty! Then we would go into the kitchen, and I would get up on my counter to eat but I just felt crappy and even though I was hungry nothing tasted good. Then I’d go back to sleep some more, but I wouldn’t get any peace because mom would wake me up again.

Even before this I’ve had some bad days now and then. My tummy would gurgle and I’d throw up everything I ate, and it would be really hard to do, you know, number 2. I always thought that was the way it was supposed to be because I was 15 when I came here and it had been that way for years, even with my other mom when my sister was still around.

But this mom would have none of it and let me out of the room here but left my sister in so she could watch just me. I thought I had gotten used to my sister pushing me around and stealing food, but no one did that here and finally I could eat a whole meal and use the litterbox without anyone chasing me in the middle of…you know. Wow, I really started to enjoy mealtime and not worry so much.

cat peaking over blanket

If you don't get up I will dig you out.

Then my sister was gone and my mom started feeding me all sorts of different food “to see what works for you,” she said. That was nice. I really liked everything, but anything with salmon was the best. I felt very special, and I could eat whenever I wanted, well, almost.

Still, I would have days when nothing agreed with me and mom would hover. I just wanted to tell her to leave me alone and I would be okay.

And that’s the way this started out. I was comfortable curled on mom’s lap and she seemed relaxed about it. I had contacted Eva about the job opening for an office assistant and it seemed like that was going well, and I was trying to keep it a secret. Mom was at her computer all day, Cookie was mad because I was on mom’s lap all the time so she walked on me, and I figured I would be okay again in a day or two.

cat on blanket

Will you please get up?

But it went on longer than usual. I knew I felt bad when Giuseppe tried to curl up with me on mom’s lap and I just didn’t feel like moving to make room, and he licked my face but I didn’t even have the energy to look up at him. About that time I started losing track of things and I knew I was really sick.

All I wanted to do was sleep, especially after mom and that lady that smells funny and the guy that comes with her were talking about “kidney failure” and all teamed up on me in the kitchen and tried to make me into a kitty sacrifice or something, sticking needles into me and filling me up like a water balloon. When I woke up later, I was really hungry and ate for the first time in I-don’t-know-how-long, and I felt a lot better too. Mom was so happy when I woke her up the next morning. I was hungry!

cat at top of stairs

The kitchen is this way.

But it didn’t last all day. Mom tried to do the same voodoo thing to me and I said there was no way I was going to put up with that again so she didn’t get too far with it. Later my mom pulled some stranger in off the street about whom she said something like “vet tech school graduate” and “glad to find her and she lives just around the corner” to help her but I stopped that before they were done too. I may only be 5.4 pounds, but I know how to fling all four paws at once and throw everyone off. Mom said that was probably enough and they talked about how kitties “had to get used to this”—as if we’d ever get used to torture like that! Enough torture, just bring on the salmon pate! I’ll eat already!

I started out okay the next day and got right back to work pushing papers around on the desk and walking on the keyboard, but by later on I felt crappy again. It was really dark and everyone else was sleeping and I heard mom on the phone telling someone that she really didn’t want to wait until the next night when she’d “have someone to help her”, and suddenly I was in a plastic carrier with a warm blanket and we were moving!

cat on landing waiting

I am losing patience.

I never did figure it out, but we ended up in a strange place with lots of lights that smelled like more things than I could figure out and we were doing the needle thing again. Many hands were petting me and telling me how cute I was and what a strong kitty I was to have lived this long and they were sure I’d be fine. I wanted to tell them they had no idea what I did all day, that I am one hard-working kitty! And at my age yet!

I think we had a little snack when we got home, then the next morning I sat on mom until she got up and this time I was good all day. In the evening the same stranger came around who had tried to torture me with the needle a few days before, but she and mom just talked and petted me, and then they petted everyone else and I knew I was off the hook.

cat on crochet project

Peaches keeps my crochet project from getting away.

So I got to eat some pretty good stuff, that pureed chicken in the little jar that mom feeds me off a spoon, and all sorts of salmon pate, even little bits of cooked real salmon and, most exciting, real raw meat, little slivers of salmon and venison that mom warms up in her fingers. Mom gives me this now and then already, and I can’t eat too much of it but I don’t need to. I feel supercharged after I eat it.

And I got back to work and worked all week, helping around the house and I don’t know if mom would ever stop dawdling upstairs in the morning if I didn’t coax her down. Mom kept an eye on me, and that was a problem because I could barely get back to Eva to tell her I was well again and we should get back to our interview thing.

Near the end of the week, though, I started to slow down again and mom kept pulling at the skin around my shoulders and frowning and saying, “Hmmm.”

peaches and Kelly on the butterfly rug

Peaches and Kelly

Then Kelly, who usually eats with me and curls up on the butterfly rug with me, wasn’t feeling well and I discovered she was upstairs in the bathroom. Mom called that stranger, who I guess isn’t a stranger anymore but this time she didn’t just visit, they did the voodoo needle thing again, both me and Kelly.

Maybe I really am getting used to it, and I also remember that after I had a nap and slept it off I felt really good, so I just put up a little fuss so they wouldn’t think I liked it or anything but I didn’t make them stop. Mom had me in a death grip against her chest, anyway, so I couldn’t even wave a paw, and she kept talking and talking which was really nice because she was warm and it felt like she was purring.

cats on desk

Dinner, now.

So now I’m waiting for dinner, and not only do I have to wait longer than usual but one of those annoying young cats is taking up her entire lap. The only good thing about them is that they are warm and soft and don’t mind when I touch them, not like Cookie or Kelly who can sometimes be prickly, but when I try to walk on him he squirms around and I land on the keyboard and mom picks me up and puts me back on her desk.

But it looks like mom is getting up now and dinnertime looks imminent.

And I got get well wishes from Daniela and Eva and Ingrid and Amber and Marg’s Pets who sent us “lots and lots of purrs, 2 woofies, 2 Heehaws and 1 Baa” and Allia and Bogey from My Three Cats who always sends us cool toys and everyone else who wished me well and so many others, and it made me feel so good that everything seemed normal again. Read the comments in “Get Well Wishes for Peaches”. What’s a kitty to do without the internet these days?

I’ll be in touch Eva!

Read about what started it all in “Get Well Wishes for Peaches”.

P.S. Peaches’ mom thanks everyone too! Your support was just as important to me as it was to Peaches!


A Green Party for Your Pets?

photo of a cat in plants

Loo-See of the Jungle © B.E. Kazmarski

What happened to that nice spider plant I used to have? Oops—while enjoying the scene out the window, Cookie forgot it wasn’t just a clump of grass and chewed it down to little nubbins. Then, because it really wasn’t grass and really wasn’t digestible by her little system, she deposited it back on your carpet in a most inelegant manner.

And that wandering jew? Lucy used it for a bed? I’ll bet she looked sweet.

Oh, and that special dozen roses you got at Valentine’s Day with all the greens and baby’s breath? Did Kelly think it was for her?

This article covers information and resources for both cats and dogs, and since I live with cats all the references and photos are of my own cats. Cats and dogs have different reactions to many plants and other substances, but many toxic dangers exist for both of them.

You can’t really punish them for following both a natural impulse and a physical need. Cats chew on grasses specifically to help cleanse their mouth and digestive system, and to add fiber to their primarily protein diet to aid in elimination. And, of course, an indoor kitty will take what she can get to simulate the natural outdoor environment she craves, digging in the soil of a potted plant or making a bed of a lush, healthy pot of foliage.

pastel painting of a cat with flowers

The Perfect Camouflage, Sophie with zinnias, pastel © B.E. Kazmarski

Cats aren’t necessarily particular in what they’ll nibble on; generally they’ll try anything green, and some cats will completely chew down a plant that can’t have tasted very good and wasn’t very easy to chew.

While it may be amusing if you’re not too attached to your plants, it can be EXTREMELY DANGEROUS to your cat. Several common houseplants, or plants we bring in for some holidays or for winter, are deadly, and another longer list can cause a range of symptoms from temporary discomfort to permanent health problems.

And while many people know about the dangers of houseplants, plants are just as toxic in a pretty arrangement from the florist as well as when they are growing in the yard. My cats find anything green to be a tasty snack!

photo of easter lily

An Easter lily is toxic to cats, but sometimes they can't resist © B.E. Kazmarski

For instance, consider the lilies we bring into our home around Easter, or other species in the lily family (including those we may have as cut flowers). According to Jill A. Richardson, DVM, Veterinary Poison Information Specialist, ASPCA/National Animal Poison Control Center, “Several types of lilies can be deadly to cats. Easter lily, tiger lily, rubrum, Japanese show lily, some species of day lily, and certain other members of the Liliaceae family can cause kidney failure in cats. Within only a few hours of ingestion of the plant material, the cat may vomit, become lethargic, or develop a lack of appetite. These signs continue and worsen as kidney damage progresses. Without prompt and proper treatment by a veterinarian, the cat will develop kidney failure in approximately 36-72 hours. All parts of these lilies are considered toxic to cats and consuming even small amounts can cause severe poisoning.”(1)

photo of daffodils

Daffodils and other bulbs are commonly forced for indoor bloom © B.E. Kazmarski

While most plants are not that immediately toxic, other plants, such as azalea, lily of the valley, yew and bulbs we might force to bloom, including tulip, daffodil and crocus, can be deadly to cats in impaired health or kittens, since they’re small enough to get a big dose with an enthusiastic bite. Though not deadly for adult cats in good health, they’ll often cause extreme abdominal pain, nausea, salivation and vomiting. Repeated exposure can be cumulative with some plants.

That was not intended to scare you, but to illustrate the seriousness of the cat and plant issue. The problem is that, while you may get some cats to stay away from your plants, most cats will return again and again, even if they suffer discomfort from their snack. The best way to keep your cats safe from plants is to put the plants completely out of reach-bearing in mind that cats can jump six times their height and can be ingenious about launching from strategic furniture to get into a hanging basket. Sometimes it is necessary to completely remove the plant from the house, no matter how much you like it. This has been my solution, much as I need to have my greenery in the house.

Signs of plant poisoning may include vomiting, diarrhea, and swelling or pain inside the cat’s mouth. If you know or suspect which plant you cat has eaten, identify the plant by name when you call your veterinarian. Bring samples of the plant’s leaves or flowers when you take your cat to the veterinarian for treatment.

photo of black cat with plant

Mewsette considers the Christmas Cactus © B.E. Kazmarski

As for the non-toxic plants, even though Mewsette won’t suffer if she chews on them (unless you get your hands on her), you still don’t want her shredding your greenery. Several commercial sprays will give the plant a bad smell and/or taste without damaging the plant with recommended use, and a nibble by Mewsette will not harm her. One product is “Bitter Apple for Plants”, a stronger version of which is available for dogs learning not to chew on everything. Other products are named “Off for Cats” and such like, and simply smell bad.

You can also try your own home brew by dabbing hot sauce on the tips of some of the leaves, or rubbing a citrus peel on the leaf. For the sake of your plants, however, just try it on one or two leaves to make sure you won’t fry the whole plant in an effort to keep Mimi from eating it.

You could also place “Sticky Paws” on the countertop around the plant so that when she stepped close to the plant she would step on the product and back off; please read the instructions on the Sticky Paws package for what surfaces are appropriate for its use.

cat with grass in planter

Peaches enjoys her snack in the sun © B.E. Kazmarski

One other thing to help the situation—and it’s a nice thing to do for your cat even if you don’t have a plant problem—is to plant her own pot of greens and make it available to her at all times. Don’t use regular plant seeds such as grass seed because some seeds are treated and they don’t all grow well inside; instead, purchase “cat greens”, usually a mixture of wheat, oats and barley grains, all three of which are not only a pleasure for your cat, but full of nutrition. Some other commercial “cat greens” mixtures contain catnip, a sure winner, sage, parsley, chickweed, colt’s foot grass, and other herbs and wild plants that your cat would eat if left outdoors. Alternately, get grass seed you’re sure hasn’t been treated.

Most of these plants can be grown in a small container on a windowsill, and if you keep two containers growing, one available to the cat and one just sprouting, you can have a constant treat for her. These plants need a good bit of sunlight to thrive, so try to find a sunny spot that your cat can get to. It will serve two purposes: because she tends to chew when she’s gazing at the outdoors, you’ve provided exactly what she needs for her little interlude.

kitty enjoys her greens

Peaches enjoys her grass © B.E. Kazmarski

Many local shelters  and websites have information on growing grass and other plants indoors for your cats to enjoy, and many pet supply stores actually sell pre-planted organic seeds that you only have to water and place in a sunny location. If you plant the seeds yourself, it’s important to make sure you use potting soil that has no commercial fertilizers in it since, if your animals are like my cats, they’ll eat it right down to the roots and even eat some soil! Also, the soil may be spilled if the plant is knocked over. To be completely safe, you can always use just plain old peat moss, which doesn’t contain enough nutrition to sustain a large plant, but will grow grass and small herb plants just fine.

And am amazing resource in finding indoor and outdoor plants that are toxic to dogs, cats and horses is on the ASPCA website at http://www.aspca.org/pet-care/poison-control/ under both “17 Common Poisonous Plants” and a hugely comprehensive list of over 400 plant species in “Toxic and Non-toxic Plants”, which even has photos.

Also, in my series on creating your Backyard Wildlife Habitat, I address the issue of choosing pet-safe plants for your backyard in Bringing it All Together, Enhancing and Developing Your Habitat.

Shelters and animal welfare organizations also have comprehensive lists  of plants toxic to cats and potentially toxic foods, visit the Humane Society of the United States for Keep Your Pets Safe and Happy During the Holiday Season and the ASPCA’s Holiday Safety Tips. Both have tips and links to information on toxic plants and “pet-safe floral arrangements”, and various potentially toxic foods. Also keep a link the the ASPCA’s Animal Poison Control Center for reference at before your purchase a house plant or bring an arrangement into the house.

This article was authored by me and first published in  Cat Chat on the My Three Cats website. Visit to read other articles I’ve written for them over the years!

(1) Information obtained from http://www.cfainc.org/articles/lily-dangers.html


Why People Do—and Don’t—Adopt Cats

The neighborhood tomcat

The neighborhood stud cat on seeing his girlfriend

It’s proven in statistics and surveys that, although more cats than dogs are kept as household pets, cats overall get fewer visits to the veterinarian and fewer studies are done on behalf of their physical and emotional health and welfare.

This overall lack of treatment also bears out in lower spay/neuter and adoption rates and, unfortunately, somewhat higher euthanasia rates—and an average of 3,000 kittens born every hour in the United States (more on that later).

The Morris Animal Foundation, in its Happy Healthy Cat Campaign, decided to begin a search for the answer to this lack before the cat is even adopted. They’ve recently completed an online survey of non-cat-owners, asking how likely they would be to adopt a cat and if so, why, and if not, why not.

This would help to focus on two things: finding the most likely adopters of cats, and determining the objections to cat ownership so that education and awareness could help potential feline owners with these issues making adoption more likely and permanent. Theoretically, those homes would be more likely to increase feline health care and the general population of more attentive cat owners would request more studies on feline health. If education could be simply given to the general audience of potential homes and adoption campaigns could be targeted at the audience most likely to adopt it might make all the difference to cats in shelters all over the country.
Keep reading…


Winter Tips for Pets and Outdoor Animals

Orange cat sleeping on windowsill with miniblind.

A Sunny Spot Deserves a Cat

First, get a windowsill. It’s a great place for a cat or dog—or person—to soak up the winter sunshine.

Don’t take for granted that animals can survive outdoors. Simply because other animals live in the outdoors without human intervention doesn’t mean that our pets can—and it doesn’t always mean that those animals whose habitats are outdoors live well or even survive the winter. A Chihuahua with short, thin fur or a delicate Italian Greyhound with no body fat obviously don’t have the resources of a squirrel who’s doubled his fur and fattened up on nuts and fruits (and my bird seed and suet). Cats may tolerate cold for a while, but their small bodies lose heat quickly and extremities like tails and ears can easily be lost to frostbite.

While the cat above isn’t a stray like yesterday’s kitty, I’m sure a windowsill like this one would be the dream of many a cat who’s found itself fending in the great outdoors. I’m starting off the winter tips as a follow-up to yesterday’s post about feral cats with information addressed specifically to caring for stray or feral cats outdoors during the winter.

The Homeless Cat Management Team’s website, www.homelesscat.org, has a detailed page on how to build a shelter and provide food and water for strays and ferals through the winter at Winter Care for Ferals. In addition, they also have in interesting page describing the difference between strays and ferals at What is a Feral Cat?
Keep reading…


Help Cats Who Live on the Streets

Orange Stray Cat on Porch

Neighborhood Stray

Pittsburgh’s Homeless Cat Management Team is hosting a Volunteer and Caretaker meeting on Sunday, December 13, 2009 at Atria’s Restaurant near PNC Park. For more information, visit HCMT’s website at www.homelesscat.org.

This is the group that holds no-cost or low-cost spay and neuter events for stray and feral cats only, and helps people who are caring for colonies of stray and feral cats.

You may have heard about feral cat colonies, or groups of stray cats inhabiting abandoned buildings or the garage in your back yard, and you may have heard people say they are just a “nuisance” and should be “exterminated”.

Not so–they are peoples’ cast-offs who usually end up on the street through no fault of their own. Cats don’t choose to be strays, but end up out there after being abandoned by owners who no longer want them, very often females with kittens left to fend for themselves or cats left behind when owners moved on. These are considered strays, while feral cats are those born outside of human contact, often to mother cats who have also had no human contact so they are more like wild animals than the loving and playful cats we know. Often cats allowed to roam outdoors will join the colony, too.

Unlike the popular myth that cats can survive on their own and are exclusively solitary hunters, cats will instead seek safe shelter and a ready food source as well as the company of other cats for safety and survival. Therefore, a garage in an alley with a dumpster nearby becomes a place for the group to collect, and a stray/feral colony is formed. Likewise, in isolated or wooded areas where people tend to “dump” unwanted cats and kittens, they will gravitate to the nearest house or facility if food is readily available. In both cases, urban and rural, unaltered cats will reproduce and the colony will grow.

If no one steps up to take care of them they usually become the targets of abuse or anger, and without vaccinations they also harbor and spread feline diseases that would otherwise be kept under control.

For years, countless individuals have taken bags of cat food to cat colonies in parks and isolated areas as well as the alleys and abandoned buildings of cities. Often, this person will find themselves feeding a small group which continues to grow through the addition of kittens born to colony members and individual cats who are dumped where people see cats gathering, and before long the generous person is overwhelmed with the number of hungry mouths to feed and the sight of injuries and illness.

HCMT assists these people in providing spay/neuter and low-cost medical care for stray and feral cats, as well as people who care for individual stray cats.

Cats don’t belong in colonies living at such risk. Even if you can’t manage a colony or donate time to their effort, at least let HCMT know you thank them for the work they do, and consider making a donation to help offset the costs of surgery, vaccinations and treatment.


A Very Classical Cat

I’ll look at anything with a cat in it; I just accept that I’m not terribly discriminating where cat things are concerned. Cat videos on YouTube, though, are usually off-limits because they are typically 1) blurry beyond recognition, 2) the audio and video have nothing to do with each other, and 3) probably they’re really funny when they were filmed but by the time they get to YouTube they’ve lost their sparkle.

And though I admit that any interaction any of my cats had with a musical instrument I would think was 1) beautiful, 2) clever and highly intuitive, I would also think it was 3) interesting to no one but me.

This particular feline musician is so unique and the music so lovely that I have to post the link. Nora the cat both pats the piano keys and rubs her face and shoulders on them, and the classical chamber piece that accompanies her is gentle and moving. It’s just a few minutes long. You’ll find sequels, too.

Nora is not on stage, she is in her home at her own piano, a gray tabby with an orange and white tabby and a dark tabby with white paws as her audience. It could be that they remind me of a long ago trio who shared my life in Moses, Allegro and Stanley.

I first saw this on Bogeysblogshpere–make sure you stop by and visit Bogey of My Three Cats & Company, Inc. Many thanks also to Mike Friese of the Cat Writer’s Association for posting this to our group. Enjoy! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zeoT66v4EHg

And I discovered there is a website for this Lithuanian composer at www.catcerto.com.