Sunday, August 28, 2011

A bad hair day

As you can see Gabriel is in a bad mood.  From what I hear he's going to the vet.  Not to worry, his not sick or injured, he’s going to the vet because of his hair.  It’s a bit matted.

Mom tried to shave him herself, but that didn’t work at all.  This morning was actually the second time she attempted to do this.  The first time she tried to do so in the kitchen and all was fine until she switched on the shaver.  Gabriel got a fright, ran like the wind and went into hiding.

Mom proceeded to consult some of her cat friends, who all told her the same thing: take the cat in the bathroom, have someone hold him by the scruff of his neck and then quickly do the shaving.  It sounds simple enough, doesn’t it?  Yeah right.

Like I said, this morning mom gave it another shot.  She took Gabriel in the bathroom and Dieter went along to hold him.  Seconds after I heard the shaver being switched on WWIII broke out. 

Gabriel left the bathroom first (in a bit of a hurry I might add), followed by mom and Dieter.  They agreed right there and then that taking Gabriel to the vet might be a better idea.
Even though I have no personal experience in this matter, I do know that the pros have a way of handling pets.  They do this sort of thing every day, so they know what they’re doing, and this in turn puts us pets more at ease. 

It makes sense I suppose.  Humans go to the baker for bread; consult a plumber for a leaky pipe; and go to a stylist when they need a haircut; so why where it comes to pet care do they think themselves qualified to handle the job themselves? 

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Hurricane Irene

From what I hear hurricane Irene is passing along the east coast of the United States.  I just saw mom reading a report that 380,000 people in New York have left their homes to seek safety in shelters or move to homes of family and friends.

I image that people in North Caroline, Virginia and other states have done the same, left their homes to seek shelter elsewhere.  While a hurricane of that magnitude is certainly frightening, I wonder how many people gave any thought to their pets.  Did they take their cats, dogs, rabbits, hamsters and other animals with them? 

The news reports about people who lost their lives and material damages, but seldom or never is any attention given to animals who died in natural, or man-made disasters.  I’m not only thinking of cats, dogs and other pets, but also about cows, horses, pigs, chickens and other livestock. 

When hurricane Irene has come and gone, and we mourn those who lost their lives, let’s take a moment to remember out furry friends too.

Monday, August 15, 2011

The importance of an up-to-date passport

Oh mother, now what did you do!  It has come to my attention that you didn't renew your passport on time.  Now you're stuck in Belgium and we have to wait another two or three days for your return.  That's humans for you, careless and irresponsible.  But speaking of passports ... mom once ... well, I'll let her tell you the story herself.
I never gave my passport photo much thought. I figured if I could recognize myself, then others would too. Then I attended a lecture on the importance of using current identification, and saw passport photos in a whole different light.

The speaker at this lecture was Phillip, a jovial, middle aged man, born and bred in St. Louis, Missouri. As a financial consultant, overseeing several accountants, he has traveled the world and has learned from his mistakes. 

"I can't stress the importance of up-to-date identification enough," he informed us. "Never mind if you don't look beautiful or even remotely attractive in your passport picture. Look at your passport, or other identification picture, and ask yourself, am I recognizable in my photo?" He then proceeded to tell everyone why this is so important.

Phillip related his experience during a visit to Israel fifteen years ago and his audience hung onto his every word.

"If I had known then what I know now, I never would have traveled with an outdated passport photo," he started. "I had no trouble leaving for Tel-Aviv from St. Louis, and was treated with professional courtesy by my business associates, but returning to the States proved to be a nightmare."

He recounted that the trouble started at Ben Gurion airport when he handed his passport to the customs officer for inspection. The male officer took one look at his photo, then he carefully looked at Phillip, and his brown withered face morphed into a mask of hostility.

"What is this?" he barked.
"My passport," Phillip had replied politely.
"Your passport?" the customs officer had said in a mixture of disbelief and contempt. "You want me to believe that this is you? This is not your passport. Look at this man. This man looks nothing like you."

Phillip smiled at first because the customs officer had a point. In the passport picture he was a few years younger and sporting an afro, while his hair at the time of the Israel visit was shorter, and due to the lack of a hair dryer, teasing comb and lacquer, considerably less voluminous.

He was taken aside and led to a tiny windowless room. After a while five men walked in, four surrounded him with guns, while the fifth one starting firing questions at him in a language he didn't understand. When Phillip said that he didn't understand them, the leader of the group turned to English and instructed for him to remove his clothing. Phillip thought this rather odd, but complied.

When ordered, at gunpoint, to remove his underwear too, he was not so compliant. More so, he was now severely ticked off and at a point where he didn't care anymore what happened to him.

"No !@#$ way," he swore. "There is no !@#$ way I'm taking this off. You can !@#$ shoot me if you want, but I'm not taking this off. I don't know you well enough for that."
Much to his surprise, within minutes he was let go.

From what he was told his attitude and bad language had saved him. Apparently, only real Americans can swear with such gusto.

Needless to say, as soon as he arrived home he had his passport picture updated.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

How to safely travel with a cat

After a week in Belgium, mom is coming home tomorrow.  I'm purring in anticipation.  Dieter took good care of us cats, but the place wasn't the same without her.
The last time mom went to Belgium was for the funeral of her mother and she came home with a cat ... Mickey.
In the following, mom tells the story of how Mickey come to us.

When my mother died and my father applied to go into a nursing home, a new home had to be found for Mickey, their ten month old cat. It was not easy. If Mickey had been a kitten he might have had a chance, but as a fully grown cat, nobody was willing to give him a new home.

Taking my parent's beloved cat to a shelter was, as far as I was concerned, not an option. There was only thing left to do; I decided to take him back with me to Canada.

My research brought a few surprises.
I started off by phoning KLM and asking them a few questions:
Would I be able to keep Mickey with me in the plane or would he be traveling in the cargo space?
What sort of carrier was required?
If Mickey traveled in the cargo space, would there be heating and was there some kind of supervision?

The representative asked me some questions:
How heavy was Mickey?
In what sort of carrier would he be traveling?

Mickey, I told her, was about five pounds and had a spacious hard plastic carrier. This qualified him to travel in the cargo space.
In the cargo space there would be suitable air pressure, heating and some supervision. One of the flight attendants would check up on the animals during flight.

The only time an animal qualifies to travel with the other passengers is when the animal is less than 2.5 pounds and travels in a soft carrier. In Mickey's case this would not be a good idea. He would be much more comfortable in his spacious carrier, where he could stretch out and sleep in peace and quiet.

One last question was if Mickey would need any sedatives on the day of the journey. "No," I was told, "sedatives do more harm than good with a cat. Dogs need sedatives when traveling, but cats can handle a plane journey very well."

To be on the safe side I decided to get a second opinion and phoned a veterinarian. She told me exactly the same thing as the KLM representative. Mickey did not need any medication.

Next I checked his passport. To my relief I saw entries required by law- inoculations and a Rabies shot.

On the day of the journey I placed some food, a bottle of water, and two plastic containers in his carrier and we were all set to go. I was in for a bit of an adventure. Lugging around the airport with a suitcase (on wheels), a heavy bag, and a cat carrier was not exactly a walk in the park.

Still, at Schiphol, Amsterdam's airport, I found a trolley where I could load my suitcase, bag and carrier and this set of wheels made the walking and standing in line at the luggage check-in a lot more comfortable.

Once my suitcases were off my hands it was time to send Mickey on his merry way. For this I had to be at another counter where a KLM representative took Mickey's details and prepared the carrier with safety handling instructions.
"Not to worry," she told me. "Mickey will be well looked after." And, he must have been, because when we landed at Pearson's airport in Toronto, Mickey appeared completely relaxed. I, on the other hand, was not quite so relaxed.

Once again I was lugging around a suitcase, a bag and a heavy cat carrier, but without a helpful trolley. Suitcase trolleys were available, but required $1 for use. I didn't have $1. I had plenty of Euros, but no Canadian dollars.

Hot and sweaty I went through passport control and was then asked to present Mickey at "Live Animal Control" for inspection. Lucky this didn't take long and required no effort.
Mickey was healthy and alert and with his passport in order, he was let into the country with no problems.
Mickey was, at last, on his way to his new home.

More of mom's articles can be found at

Friday, August 12, 2011

Adopt from a shelter or a breeder

Yesterday we talked about toys, today we're gonna take on a more serious subject.  The subject of adopting from a shelter or a breeder.  Since I was a shelter cat once, I feel I should bring the problem of over populated shelters to your attention.

When considering adopting a shelter pet or a purebred pet, you might want to ask yourself how far you are willing to open your wallet. Do you want to spend $500 to $1,500 for a purebred animal? Or, $0 to $120 for a shelter pet?

It sounds good, doesn't it, saving all that money? And, it gets even better.
An added bonus when adopting from a shelter is that the fee includes spaying/neutering; and most times, required vaccinations are also current. When buying a pet from a breeder, this is not the case.

With a global problem of overpopulation of cats and dogs, spaying/neutering is not only the right thing to do, but the responsible thing to do. Shelters know this and have introduced the free spaying/neutering program.

Knowing that so many homeless pets need a loving home, does it really make sense to fork out hundreds of dollars on a purebred pet? Have you ever visited a shelter or looked at pictures of shelter pets on-line? Does your heart not bleed just a little bit seeing the miserable faces of so many cats and dogs? Can you look into their sad green or brown eyes and turn away?

What makes a purebred animal so much better than these cats and dogs? Both are fury, with a head, a body, four legs and a tail. Both will be your faithful, loving friend for years to come.

If a kitten or a puppy does not appeal to you, there are plenty of adult pets eager for your company. Some of these older cats and dogs were birthday or Christmas presents, only to be cast aside when they grew out of their cute stage. They were banned to a life outside, exposed to the elements, with minimal food and water. They were yelled at, kicked at and had to endure a variety of other abuse and neglect. Where is the love they once received when they were kittens and puppies?

You can change their lives. You can give them what they had to do without for so long and crave the most - love and attention.
By adopting a pet from a shelter you do more than gaining a friend, you save a life. Now, wouldn't that make you feel good? In the eyes of Fluffy or Fido you would be a hero. And don't think they don't know it, they do and they will be ever so grateful.

Now as for purebred animals, it is true that they come with a pedigree which is probably longer than yours. But do those papers make any difference to you? Do Fluffy or Fido's parents and grandparents really matter? If you were considering a racehorse I would say okay,' the family tree is important; but we are talking about a cat or a dog, a rabbit or a hamster!

Look into your heart.
Look into your soul.
Look into your wallet.
What do you see?

When adopting a purebred animal you will see a lot less in your wallet. And perhaps at night you might see a shelter animal invade your dreams and ask, "Why didn't you adopt me?"

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Cat Toys

I'm feeling a little bored, so perhaps this is a good time to talk about cat toys.  Cat toys serve more than one purpose. Not only are they entertainment for your cat, they keep kitty mentally stimulated and provide exercise.

Popular Cat Toys

What do cats like to play with? Just about anything and everything. Anything that can move is a potential cat toy. Like people, no two cats are the same; but fake mice and balls are the two most popular cat toys. Some cats like toys stuffed with a little catnip, others are completely indifferent to the herb.

Cats are not the most active creatures and have to be encouraged to play. Not only is playing a much needed distraction, playtime benefits the cat's health. The physical activity of running and jumping gets the heart rate going, the blood pumping and is exercise for the muscles. Playtime is also a vital part of relationship building. While cat toys are great, your cat will most appreciate you taking part in the game too.

Cat Toys That Challenge Your Pet

Cats are clever and need to be mentally stimulated. Some popular cat toys are:

* Rump and Roll
* Crackling Hide and Seek Sack
* Leopards Den Kitty Cat Teaser
* Laser Mouse and of course the
* Cat Tree

The Laser Mouse in particular will provide hours of fun. Cats are predators and even the most docile cat feels the need to hunt. Trying to catch the red dot of the Laser Mouse presents the perfect opportunity. Whether directed to the floor or a wall, a cat will chase this dot and never grow bored of this game. A clever pet owner will allow kitty to catch the dot, and praise her for its accomplishment.

For those who don't have a lot of money to spend, Wal-Mart and on-line pet stores always have discount cat toys. An excess of a certain brand of toy, a new shipment, or a special promotion usually is the cause for discounted items. Interacting with members of a cat forum can also be a great way to pick-up on special offers and ideas.

One has to be aware of dangers in discounted pet toys though. You may question why the price of a cat toy seems low. Are the eyes, nose, whiskers or feathers on the toy secured, or can kitty bite them off? You don't want these small items ending up in your cat's throat. No matter the price, choosing quality items is always preferable.

Handy pet owners with a sewing machine can make their own creations. Whether it's a mouse or a bird or even a simple pillow, if stuffed with a little catnip it's sure to have you cat's attention.

With a little ingenuity, you can even make a cat tree yourself. All it takes is a few pieces of left-over carpet, some wood, and if you lack the expertise, a conversation with a knowledgeable handyman at your local hardware store.

Not willing to spend any money? The packaging of your new lamp or new pair of shoes will fascinate your kitty. They can hide in them, push them around, and after playtime curl up in them. Some form of paper is probably the cheapest of all cat toy possibilities. Whether it's a brown paper bag or a scrunched up newspaper, for you it is a cast off, but for your cat it is a toy.

Cats are quickly bored and more than one item should be available to them. Another good idea is to rotate their toys. When they appear to become bored with a toy, put it away for awhile and then re-introduce it at a later time.

Keep in mind that your love and attention is the most valuable and the best cat toy of them all.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

If I’m not mistaken mom is leaving.  

The first clue ... the house has been a beehive of activity today: washing, ironing, getting bits and pieces together from here and there and now tonight mom was packing a suitcase. 

Second clue ... I saw an airplane ticket from Air Canada.

Third clue ... mom is on edge.  She has flown before, but she’s never flown with Air Canada and she’s never flown in an airbus.  I overheard her talking and it seems she doesn’t trust that airbus.  She’s always flown with a jumbo jet or something and apparently there are quite a few differences between an airbus and a jumbo.

For one, the plane is not as big and doesn’t fly as fast.  Where it takes a jumbo only 6 hours to get to Belgium, it will take this airbus 7 hours. 
A jumbo has 4 engines, while an airbus only has 2.
To make the flight even longer, there is a 1,5 hour stop in Montreal, making the journey in total 8,5 hours. 

The reason for the trip can only be a phone call mom received last Wednesday, at 6:15 a.m. mind you, when we were all still fast asleep.  Shortly after she answered the phone, I overheard her saying to Dieter, her son, “Your grandfather is dead”. 

Since then they’ve been running around, calling and emailing like crazy.  I don’t know the details, because I don’t see and hear everything, but it’s been pretty intense.

And so now mom is leaving.  She’s going to Belgium for her dad’s funeral.  It’s gonna be strange and lonely here without her. 

Friday, August 5, 2011

Brutus the Rat Catcher

Today's guest blog post comes from Amanda Dcosta.  Amanda writes informative articles for and from time to time dabbles in creative writing.  The following is a poem inspired by lazy kittycat who turned out to be quite useful.  To see more of Amanda's work, please visit

Brutus / Uterus: Make Up Your Mind!

Here is a tale of a cat from home
Who never bothered when any one called
The name that he was given.
Or was it he tried to tell us his preference?

His name was Uterus. No, Brutus, in fact.
The house maid could never pronounce it right
We never corrected nor told her his name
After we heard her again and again.

Poor Brutus, or Uterus, I wonder if he knew 
that his name was a tongue twister, for she
Spoke a different tongue, and it 'mused us so
We'd laugh and laugh our guts right out.

Brutus was a lazy cat
Who'd sit around doing nothing but
Eat and sleep and sleep and eat
The dogs eyed him as real treat.

Every dog has its day, it's said
But what if it's Brutus, then what of that?
He got his chance to clear his name
Would he jump to it or consider it insane?

The cabinet shut, was all a mess
The food inside was contaminated
A rat had made its way inside
And found a lovely place to hide.

The plastic jars were chewed into
The biscuit packs were eaten through
The baby food was a disaster to see
The shelf was just so darn oily.

We didn't know how to deal with that
Did we need a rat trap or a glue pad?
To have Brutus catch it, was never thought of
Coz he just never moved whenever we'd want.

Brutus sat as if he was deaf
We called out Brutus! , but he paid no heed
Then to the rescue she came and said
Oh Uterus, Uterus, and he lifted his head.

With one swift move he jumped into
The cabinet we opened for him
Just wide enough to let him through
And before we knew it, he was out again.

We jumped around, to view him better
Brutus was finally a rat catcher.
He won his game, between his teeth
Our Uterus, that day, achieved his feat.

And then it struck me plain and clear
Of Brutus he was never sure,
But Uterus he loved to be
And that's what his name would finally be.