Cookie’s Little Incident, Senior Kitties, and Keeping Your Pets Well

tortoiseshell cat in autumn leaves

"Aha," Cookie says, "the season has finally come around to coordinating with me."

Happily sunning herself in a patch of sunlight on the leaf-covered ground, Cookie approves of the season and how it coordinates with her fur color and pattern.

But Cookie had a little health issue this week, perhaps a minor thing for a younger cat but at age 19 anything can become serious. It turns out she had an abscess under her chin which may have originated in her mouth—her teeth have always been a problem—or may have been an infection on her chin itself.

Cookie and I enjoyed our morning visit to the back yard on Tuesday, November 1, but while I was photographing her in the autumn leaves (the “Autumn Leaf Queen”) I kept studying her face; something wasn’t right. Most of us will notice when something familiar is different even if we can’t identify the difference. Artist that I am, I am always grateful for the ability to remember details, especially when it comes to my cats and their health. I’ve been looking at Cookie for 19 years, and though she’s been changing more rapidly in the past two years with age finally taking its toll on her muscle mass, hyperthyroidism and mild chronic renal failure changing her body’s shape, how she moves, how she talks, I still know her face pretty well from one day to the next. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that I photograph her multiple times each day so I actually have a record as well. Read the rest of this entry »

Living Green With Pets: Bringing Plants Indoors

cookie looks at the snow

Cookie greets a snowy morning.

We had an unexpected snowfall overnight and this morning, and while I’ve known for weeks I needed to do something with my plants before they ended up as frozen mush, snowfall was decidedly a surprise.

It was also better than the alternative at this time of year, a freeze, because while more tender plants will be tinged with air cold enough to produce snow, it’s also full of moisture which helps to protect leaf and petal surfaces, and plants under cover of a deck or tree aren’t as badly affected. A freeze is typically cold with a clear sky and low humidity, and any plant outdoors that has moisture in its leaves is pretty much done for.

Often annual plants are thriving in the autumn, into a second bloom after the heat of late summer is moderated by the cool dampness of early autumn. Many plants can be brought indoors and kept as houseplants through the winter, which saves you both time and money next spring when you can start with plants that are already growing.

geraniums in the snow

The geraniums were enjoying the autumn.

You may have a variety of plant or a color of flower that is difficult to find, a plant that has an emotional tie to someone, or heirloom plants you’ve purchased or started from seed or cuttings. But you need to take precautions about what plants do well indoors, what might hitch a ride indoors with your plants, and what your pets might decide to do with all that lush greenness.

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Pet Wellness and Breast Cancer Awareness—Spay Early

Poor Mimi doesn't even get a break to eat.

Poor Mimi doesn't even get a break to eat.

Mimi, above, arrived in my home on July 30, 2007, with four black fuzzballs who were three days into this existence. To my knowledge, she was about four years old and had had several litters of kittens, though this litter would be her last. Incidentally, this is the Fantastic Four at their inglorious beginnings.

I frequently give Mimi’s belly a little extra rub top to bottom, not because she likes it, but because I like her.

Feline breast cancer is the third most common cancer among cats after lymphoma and skin cancer. In a 2005 study done at the University of Pennsylvania, “cats spayed prior to 6 months had a 91% reduction…those spayed prior to one year had an 86% reduction in the risk of mammary carcinoma development compared with intact cats.” Spaying between 1 and 2 years of age only reduces the risk by 11%, and after two years it doesn’t reduce the risk at all. Actually giving birth to kittens doesn’t change the risk factors, either. The average age of diagnosis is 12 years.

While breast cancer in cats is more common than in humans, it is far less common than it is in dogs, but cats have the highest malignancy rate and the lowest survival rate of all three.

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