Green Breakfast Smoothie Has Changed My Life

Tabby CatAs a Professional Pet Sitter, my days are filled traveling from house to house caring for the most adorable cats imaginable.  I’ve never been a morning person and usually made the easy choice for breakfast, often at a drive-thru. At 54, I thought my fatigue and aches and pains came with age; I didn’t connect my fatigue with my poor diet choices in the morning.

To me, a smoothie was pureed fruit and ice, usually high in calories and carbohydrates.  Then I discovered the Green Smoothie.  The difference is the addition of greens and a good protein.  I was skeptical, so initially I tried one at a local organic food store and loved the taste, hard to believe there was spinach in that smoothie!  Even better than the taste, the smoothie kept me feeling full for several hours and I had a boost of energy.  I decided to try this at home.

I looked up recipes online and decided on a strawberry banana flavor, play around with ingredients to get your favorite flavor and consistency.  First thing in the morning, before the cats are fed because the blender scares them, I throw in:

  • A handful of Spinach
  • A few frozen Strawberries and Blueberries (you can use fresh but I like an icy smoothie)
  • Half of a Banana (freeze the other half for tomorrow’s smoothie)
  • A heaping spoonful of Whey Protein (I like a vanilla flavor)
  • A tablespoon of Chia Seeds (a really good protein)
  • Add a 1/4 – 1/2 cup of water or milk of your choice
  • 3-4 Ice Cubes

Blend until smooth. Yum.  I put it in a tumbler, feed my cats, grab it and proceed to my first cat visit of the day.  What could be easier?

After two weeks of my morning Green Smoothie, I have increased energy, I am not scrounging for something to eat two hours later and overall my body feels so much better.  I think the frozen drink appeals to me because a real milkshake from the Ice Cream Parlor was such a treat as a child and, I thought, a thing of the past.  This lifestyle change works for me because it is easy to do and immediately beneficial.

Happy Green Smoothie making!

 

Green Smoothie

5 Home Owner Questions Your Professional Pet Sitter Should Ask

5 Questions to Keep Your Home Safe

House

Professional Pet Sitters have Service Agreements and Intake Forms to determine the care needed for your pet.  In addition to the questions about your pet’s routine and care, it is just as important for the Pet Sitter to know some details about your home so they can respond to an event that could cause harm to your home and/or your pets.

  1. Where is the water cut off located for your home?  In the event of a water leak, knowing this information can allow a fast-acting Pet Sitter to save you money in damages and perhaps save your pet from needing to be moved to another location.
  2. Where is the breaker box for your home?  Sometimes breakers trip and if your Pet Sitter knows where the box is located they can flip the breaker and get the electricity back on.  What if the outage affected the refrigerator? 
  3. How long has is been since you changed your smoke detector’s battery?  Not only for the safety of the pets and Pet Sitter, when a smoke detector’s battery is low is starts to beep, and beep, and beep.  Our pet’s ears are much more sensitive than our own and the constant beep will increase their stress levels.  The question is a good reminder to the client to go ahead and change the battery.  Some homes have smoke detectors up in the top of their cathedral ceilings and a Pet Sitter would not able to get to the detector.
  4. Where are your cleaning supplies kept?  In the event of a potty accident in the house, the Pet Sitter will want to use your supplies in the manner that you would normally use them.  In addition to successfully clean up the accident, the supplies have been used around your pet before lessening the chance for a reaction to a new chemical.
  5. Are there any problems with your doors or locks?  If you have any little glitches with your door closing or your lock engaging it is helpful for the Pet Sitter to know this ahead of time.  Always test the key with your Pet Sitter.  You probably don’t even think about unlocking and opening your door so doing a test with your sitter may remind you that you have to pull hard on the doorknob for the lock to engage, or that you don’t have the key for the doorknob so only use the deadbolt, etc. 

In addition to the instructions on caring for your pet, these 5 questions can open a dialogue between you and your Professional Pet Sitter to keep both your pet and your home safe and secure while you’re away.

Happy you're home!

Happy you’re home!

 

Cats With Kidney Disease: Earlier Detection Available

Cats With Kidney Disease: Earlier Detection Available

Cats at risk for kidney disease

All cats are at risk for kidney disease

If you own or know of any older cats, chances are you know a few cats with kidney disease.  It was often referred to in cat circles as the real “old age” killer.  The big problem with kidney disease is that it is a silent killer and vets estimate that by the time of diagnosis, cats have lost 75% of their kidney function.  75% of irreversible damage! The standard test measured blood creatinine, but the test could not detect the disease until the later stages.  I’ve had two cats that suffered with kidney disease as older cats and it was hard to watch them waste away.  As a Professional Cat Sitter, I have numerous clients in various stages of kidney disease. It is estimated that one in three cats will develop some form of the disease with a poor prognosis due to the severity of the disease at diagnosis.

There is some good news on this front!  IDEXX Laboratories announced in January of 2015 that they were rolling out a new kidney function test call SDMA (symmetric dimethylarginine) with a new renal biomarker that can detect the beginning of kidney disease months or even years before the old test. Initial findings state on average the disease can be detected at around 40% of lost function.  That could mean years of quality life for our felines! 

The plan going forward was to roll out the tests in the summer of 2015, and they are here!  When I took my cat Ella in for a check up at Charlotte Street Animal Hospital, Dr. Amber explained the new test which is offered in the routine blood panel for cats.  Ella is only 2 years old so I declined for now, she was having a very pleasant visit with Dr. Amber and I wanted to build her confidence in vet appointments.  I am planning on having my two 8 year old cats tested this year during their annual checkups.  While kidney disease is still a silent killer, the SDMA test will give us more time and ammunition to fight kidney disease and more peace of mind when the findings are within normal ranges.

Links:

Feline Kidney Disease

Idexx Article

 Suzette at risk for kidney diseaseGypsy at risk for kidney disease
Gypsy and Suzette will both have the test done this year during their annual checkup.

Cat Art Work

My Cats as Works of Art

Cat art work catches my eye, especially if it reminds me of one of my kitties. I have been fortunate over the years to find pieces that capture the essence of my beloved babies.

Alley’s Art Work

Alley Art Work

Alley as an Artist would see her, fur so black it is blue

Alley Cat Art Work

Alley all curled up, you can’t tell head from tail!

My collection of cat art work began with a print that portrayed Alley to a tee.  She was all black except for three little white hairs under her chin.  She never photographed well which is true of many black cats.  Her favorite sleeping position was curled up in a ball behind my legs or in my lap.  It was if she was trying to absorb all the heat she could get.  I saw this print in a home decorator magazine and had to have it.

Suzette’s Art Work

Tabby Cat Art Work

Artist Rendition of Suzette

Suzette's picture for art work

Suzette posing for the artist!

I was on vacation and stopped by an art gallery in Charleston, SC and I saw this print.  Immediately it reminded me of Suzette.  The inquisitive eyes and forward posture shows off my curious tabby.  We had the print framed locally and it makes me smile whenever I see it.

 

Gypsy’s Art Work

Tortie Cat Art Work

Gypsy in Pop Art. The Artist captured her well.

Tortie Cat Picture

The picture of Gyspy we sent to the artist

Since we now had Alley and Suzette represented proudly on our walls at home, it was time to include our tortie, Gypsy. We scoured the internet looking for prints that showed off her beautiful colors.  Unsatisfied with what we found, we commissioned an artist who did pop art renditions of pets to showcase Gypsy.  She did a wonderful job.  I wish I could find her information to pass along, but, it was many years ago.  A company called AllPopArt seems to be doing the same thing.

 

Ella’s Art Work

Ella, being the baby of the family, has two pieces of artwork, one that captures her physically and one that captures her nature.  The first is a custom Paper Cat Sculpture done by Matthew Ross on Etsy.  From a picture he included Ella’s coloring and the detail of her missing right eye.  The second painting we found online at the AllPopArt site, this painting reminded us of Ella and her curiosity, peeking out from under furniture to ambush any passing sisters.

When deciding on home decor, I was happy to find images that combined my love of color and my fur babies.  Even though Alley passed years ago, I still think of her and smile each time I see the blue cat print. My next addition to the family will have his or her own Andy Warhol Pop Art rendition.  I can’t wait!

Links:

AllPopArt

Kitten Fostering

Kitten Fostering – Many Options Available

Fostering kittens is now a passion of mine!  I left an office job after 27 years to start my own Pet Sitting Company and felt it was important to study for a Certificate in Pet Sitting.  While I was working on that, I found myself with some extra time and did volunteer work for two local Animal Shelters.  From there, I saw the need for fostering kittens to not only improve their health, but their chance for a good adoption. Socialized kittens find homes faster. There are several fostering options available depending on your time and availability.

 

Newborn Kittens

Just learning to eat

Just learning to eat

Newborn kittens with no mother are the hardest to foster.  The time commitment is usually feeding every few hours, helping the kitten with elimination after feeding and keeping the kitten warm and clean.  I spent some time helping a Foster Mom that specializes in newborns and had great admiration for her.  I helped her out by taking three of the older newborns when she needed to go out of town and that was my first foster experience.  The three I took were starting to eat on their own but needed bottle feeding every four hours.  They were so little!  And entertaining!  But, I got no sleep!  If you’re a person who can lay their head down and fall asleep these babies could be for you.  If you’re like me and take 40 minutes or so to wind down before sleeping, I would advise you to foster kittens a little older.  If you can take these little ones you will have the joy of experiencing the world through their eyes.

Mama Cat and Kittens

Fostering a mother cat with her kittens is an easier way to experience newborns because the mother cat does most of the work.  The mother and her babies will need to be monitored to be sure that she is producing milk for the kittens and as long as she stays healthy, she should be able to bring the kittens up fine.  In this situation you get to experience both the shenanigans of the kittens and the interaction between the kittensMama cat and kittens and their mother.

 

Weaned Kittens

Kittens that are weaned and old enough to eat on their own are my preference.  Sometimes they backslide a little and need some syringe feeding but not the time commitment of a newborn.  Very often they either come with an upper respiratory virus or develop one within the time they are with me and require antibiotics.  Cats and kittens need to be able to smell their food or they won’t eat, which is why some kittens with a cold need syringe feeding until they can smell again.  They often have the typical worms you’d see with kittens and sometimes smelly poop.  I bought a Litter Genie to help with the smelly poop and it helped clear the air!  Kittens are a blast!  They are constantly learning by playing and investigating everything in their world.  Every batch of kittens has been different.  Each with their own little personalities and quirks. Spending time with a few kittens is the best therapy in the world!

Scaredy Cats

Kittens that have been found and are either feral or for whatever reason are terrified of people need special handing and care to become adoptable.  This group has been my favorite.  When you first meet these tiny little tigers they use everything they have to keep you away.  They hiss, they spit, they puff up as big as they can.  They are adorable.  Really they’re just scared.  It takes time and patience to convince these little ones that people are good.  People have food, people have toys and people treat you with caressing touches and soft voices.  The first time one of these tiger babies purrs, it will melt your heart!

Reformed feral kitten

A reformed scaredy cat!

 

But, I’ll Keep Them All

Adoption time.  You’ve done your job. You’ve raised these babies and watched them grow into confident, curious and loving kittens.  You think it will break your heart to return them to the shelter for adoption.  Yes, it is hard. Yes, I’ve wanted to keep every single one of them. But, I have to remember that if I keep a foster baby I won’t have the room to foster any others.  I might save one today but would sacrifice the hundreds I hope to help in the future.  And, every single one of my fosters has been adopted and found their forever home!

If you have a little space and some time I encourage you explore this wonderful experience.

For more local information on fostering kittens contact:

The Asheville Humane Society

Brother Wolf Animal Rescue

How to Choose a Veterinarian

How to Choose a Veterinarian

My grandfather was a contractor and built a successful company.  My father grew up and worked in the business becoming a talented carpenter.  He built our house when I was a kid.  It was never finished.  Only small things, some trim here and there, windows with no windowsill, etc.  I have a friend that is an accountant and her taxes are usually late.  Another friend organizes fantastic events, but you should see her closet!   So, maybe it shouldn’t surprise me that as a cat owner, a pet advocate, and a pet sitter with a focus on providing excellent cat sitting services, I found myself with inadequate veterinarian care.

The vet I used was referred to me by a friend.  I’ll call him Vet #1. The staff was excellent and attentive. Immediately, I knew that the vet was a dog person.  He was loud and boisterous and would often scruff my cat when examining her (Alley did have some scary nails on her).  The vet had low rates and was near home.  We only went in for yearly shots, an exam and a cold or two so I kept putting off finding an alternative.  Plus I didn’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings.

Then Cleo got sick.  Very sick.  The vet offered advice, did a few treatments and suggested she was stressed and had a nervous tummy.  After several months I took Cleo for a second opinion and found out she has a serious disease. Inflammatory Bowel Disease. This complex disease and our journey deserves its own article, but let’s just say it’s a hard disease to manage.  Now harder to manage because months have gone by without the correct treatment.

Cleo in good health, top cat of the house

Cleo in good health, top cat of the house

I researched online and learned as much as I could about the disease and then chose another vet.  Vet #2 was better than Vet #1 and calmly listened to the information I learned online, but, he wanted to follow a conventional treatment plan that I knew from my research would be hard to implement with Cleo.

By this time, I was a momma bear with her bear cub.  I needed someone to listen, someone to be in a treatment partnership with me because I know Cleo better than anyone.  She is impossible to give liquid meds, nearly impossible to pill and if it isn’t Cleo’s idea she wants no part of it!  Cleo was top cat in the house and I’m pretty sure that included the humans.

Charlotte Street Animal Hospital

Charlotte Street Animal Hospital

The day that I walked into Charlotte Street Animal Hospital and met Dr. Jaclyn Amber I knew I’d found my partner in pet care.  Dr. Amber was so loving and kind to Cleo, speaking in a soft voice and rubbing her cheeks.  On that first visit, Dr. Amber said, “You know Cleo, if she could talk what would she want us to do?” What a wonderful question!  Dr. Amber was informed about the latest treatments and in full agreement about the different treatments I wanted to try.  She spent time showing me new ways to pill Cleo.  After a week of pilling,  Cleo started hiding from me and the meds weren’t having the response we needed.  Dr. Amber was very concerned about the hiding and we talked about how unhappy Cleo was becoming.  Her quality of life was surely suffering. Dr. Amber came up with an injection regimen I could do at home that is working for Cleo and she is spending her time laying on my lap instead of hiding under the dresser.

When is the right time to find a good vet?  Before you really need one.  When your cat is sick you need an advocate that you trust in your corner.  Make a list of the qualities that are important to you, perhaps you want to to include holistic treatments, acupuncture or nutrition expertise.  A large practice can offer longer hours, coverage for each other and the additional knowledge and experience each vet brings to the table. Not all vets will meet your requirements and if you have to scramble to find one you may waste precious time negotiating treatments with a vet that is not in alignment with your beliefs.

Things to consider when choosing a veterinarian:

  • What types of treatments are you’re interested in?
  • What type of personality do you work best with?
  • How you would like to see your pet handled?
  • One vet versus a large practice?
  • Visit the websites – are they involved in areas of interest to you?
  • Call practices that you like, are their prices for a yearly exam reasonable?

After you’ve done your research, set up a visit, evaluate the practice and the doctor on your preferences. When my pet sitting clients asked for a vet referral, I never referred Vet #1.  Would you refer your vet? If not, it’s time to do the homework and find a good veterinarian, before you need one.

Links:

Charlotte Street Animal Hospital: http://www.charlottestreetanimalhospital.com

Penny Martin
Certified Professional Pet Sitter

Bon Voyage Pet Services
Arden, North Carolina
http://www.bonvoyagepetservices.com

Cat Toy Demo – Cat Amazing Toy & Food Puzzle

Ella working the Puzzle

Ella working the Puzzle

The Cat Amazing Toy can be used for either a Toy or Food Puzzle.  The concept is simple but effective.  Basically a good quality cardboard box with cutouts that encourage the cat to maneuver the treat or toy out of the box.  Inside the box there is tented cardboard that adds a bit of complexity to the puzzle.  I use a good quality dry kibble, drop a few pieces in and enjoy watching the kitties work the puzzle.  I don’t use treats as they tend to be greasier and can leave marks on the cardboard.

Cat Amazing can be a toy puzzle

Cat Amazing can be a toy puzzle

Ella has also enjoyed rescuing toys from the depths of  cardboard and if you place a small toy on the box she can’t resist knocking it in a hole!  I have seen other demos with puffy balls stuffed in the holes and the cats enjoy digging them out.  A little catnip on the fluffy balls and my cats would play that game.

 

 

The toy is reasonably priced, has held up well with four cats and weekly use.  This is our second version since I stepped on the first one in the middle of the night and flattened it!  As with any cat toy, I advise clients to occasionally put the toy away.  After a few weeks bring it back out watch their interest return.

Suzette checking out the inside of the food puzzle

Suzette checking out the inside of the food puzzle

As a DIY project, the Cat Amazing could be constructed from a good quality cardboard box.  A fun project for a rainy day with the kids, the decorating could get very creative!

 

Ella gives a paws up for The Cat Amazing Toy.

Ella gives a paws up for The Cat Amazing Toy.

Litter Boxes for Multi-Cat Households

In my profession, I have seen a lot of litter boxes!  There are some creative ideas out there for how to handle our kitties preferences and problem areas.  Out of necessity, creativity is born!!

Let’s assume for this discussion that you are using some type of scooping litter.  Types of litter will be discussed at a later date.

There are few cats I have seen that use the older typical box – a rectangle measuring a few inches high.  That may have worked somewhat before scooping litter, however, it doesn’t allow the depth of litter you need for good scooping.  In addition, many cats end up going over the edge of the box, which is not a pleasant thing for the person assigned to scooping the box!

20141022_100741

Customized litter box and great placement in the bathroom

There are many taller boxes on the market now, usually with a lid.  In my opinion, most do not accommodate multi-cat households.  Unless you are there to immediately scoop the box after each use, there needs to be enough room for the next cat to maneuver their way into the box without stepping in or on another cat’s waste.  The best boxes I have seen in multi-cat households have been created by the pet guardians themselves!  A good sized storage container box with a smooth surface and the least amount of indentions in the bottom will make the best multi-cat box.  A simple cut out in the front will allow your cats access to a good sized box without breaking the bank.  You can keep the lid on or not, depending on your cats tolerance of lids.  Many cats like the ability to escape from several directions so a lid may not work for every household.  Watch for litter box bullying, it’s a common reason for litter box problems.  Fill the box with enough scooping litter so the urine will form a clumping ball before it reaches the bottom.  This will depend on the type of litter you use.  If you are having to scrape the bottom of the box, you are either not using enough litter or perhaps you need to try a different type.  Target marketed a similar litter box, but, for some reason they disappeared off the shelves.  They were pricey, but, worth it in my eyes.  I have three in my house and would have bought backups if I would have known they were going to stop carrying them.

The other common problem the storage box turned litter box helps with is the “elevator butt” cat.  This cat (like my own Suzette) starts to urinate in the usual position but then she raises up her butt resulting in overshooting the box.  What a mess!  When I tried the taller covered boxes, I found that the urine still collected in the seam where the top met the bottom box and the odor would linger.  With the taller box, I use a wet wipe to wipe down the inside when I scoop the box.  Suzette also likes to walk into a box and turn around before she goes (lucky for me or she might still be urinating out of the front entrance) and this box has the space to allow for that.  Other creative ideas I have seen include placing paper towel rolls around the box to collect and/or absorb the overshoot, plastic table mats placed upright inside the edge of the box, the litter box placed inside a larger box – these ideas are creative but didn’t work as well as the larger, taller box.

Finding a place for the larger box can be an issue.  The litter box rule of at least one box per cat still holds true, even with a larger box.  The laundry room is a common area, as long as your kitties are not easily startled by the noise of the washer or dryer, it can work.  The basement is a good place as long as your cats are not getting older and having a problem with stairs.  If there is any bullying going on, a cat might not feel safe going to the basement to use a litter box.  I have seen a few clients place the litter box in the cutout “vanity” area of a double sink bathroom as seen above.  A good use of wasted space!

Boxes from Target that they stopped making.

Boxes from Target that they stopped making.

If you’ve found a great litter box for multiple cats, I’d love to hear about it – please include a picture to share with other fur friend guardians.