Thursday, December 30, 2010

Cats in Cartoons

When I was a little girl, I watched a Saturday morning cartoon series called The Secret Lives of Waldo Kitty. It was a parody of the movie The Secret Lives of Walter Mitty, as well as parodying pop-culture characters from Tarzan to Captain Kirk. I don't remember it being great television, and according to Wikipedia, it was only around for 13 episodes. Each episode started out with film of real cats and dogs and a voice over. When it came to the pivotal moment and one of the cats was in trouble, Waldo would wish he was one heroic character or another and that's when the show would shift into cartoon mode. The series aired in the fall of 1975. Here's a look at the title sequence:

I don't know why Waldo popped into my head this afternoon, but remembering that series got me thinking about some other Saturday morning cartoons that involved cats.

Hong Kong Phooey (left) followed the adventures of a janitor-by-day-crimefighter-by-night. HKP was an anthropomorphic dog who talked to and worked with human cops. His sidekick was Spot, a striped cat who usually saved the day in such a way that all the credit went to Hong Kong Phooey. HKP was voiced by the incomparable Scatman Crothers. The series aired from 1974-1976. 

Josie and the Pussy Cats (right) aired from 1970-1972. The characters, created first for the Archie comic books in the '60s, have a band and travel around the country performing and solving mysteries. It's sort of like Scooby-Doo with a girl band and a music video segment in every episode. The Pussy Cats' nemesis is Alexandra Cabot, the conniving sister of the band's manager, Alexander Cabot III. Alexandra has a pet cat named Sebastian, but he's the only "real" cat in the show.

Top Cat (below) was a cartoon series that first aired in prime time during the 1961-1962 television season, a little before my time. Cat-about-town Top Cat led a group of alley cats into get-rick-quick schemes and criminal capers that kept them hounded by the neighborhood beat cop.

The movies also brought us some cartoon cats who later made regular appearances on television.

The Pink Panther was designed for the animated title sequence of the 1963 Blake Edwards movie. In the film, clumsy Inspector Clouseau is searching for the cat burglar who stole the priceless pink diamond known as the Pink Panther. The cartoon was so popular that Warner Brothers, commissioned a series of cartoon shorts featuring the characters. In the late 1960s, the shorts were airing on Saturday morning television while new short cartoons were still being made for theatrical release.
Warner Brothers' Looney Tunes gave us one of the most fmous cartoon cats, Sylvester. The black and white cat was always trying to eat Tweety Bird, but the clever canary is wise to Sylvester's schemes. After uttering, "I tawt I taw a puddy tat!" the bird always manages to foil Sylvester's plots. Sylvester shorts started appearing in theaters in 1945, and since then he has had numerous appearances on television and in film. Some of the cartoons feature his precocious kitten, Sylvester Junior.

The adventures of Tom and Jerry have
entertained audiences for 70 years.

The oldest cat on my list is Tom from Tom and Jerry. Between 1940 and 1957, MGM released 114 cartoon shorts featuring the cat and mouse. Seven of those received Academy Awards for Animated Short Subject. From 1960-1967, another 47 shorts were made, and from 1965-1972, those cartoons aired on television. The shorts had been criticized for its portrayal of a stereotypical black housekeeper, so in some cases, animators replaced that character with a white woman, and for other broadcasts, only the voiceover was changed. New stories for television were created in the '70s, '80s, '90s and the first decade of the 21st century.

Tom and Jerry cartoons have also been criticized for its portrayal of smoking and its use of extreme violence. Though the cartoons never contained any blood or gore, and sometimes Jerry and Tom even seem to be friends, in the course of their adventures, Tom gets sliced in half, flattened by a window, burned in a waffle maker and so forth. Those criticisms led to some episodes being heavily edited for recent TV broadcasts.

I'm sure I'm missing a lot of cartoon cats. What are your favorites?

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Catster - Best In Show

Every year, the feline social networking site Catster has a photo contest. The winners of the 2010 event have been announced, and the pictures are great. Visit the World's Coolest Cat Show to view the winners.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Enjoy a Coffee with a Cat

In Seoul, Korea, coffee shops are as commonplace as Starbucks in the U.S. The cafés are all looking for a gimmick to help them stand out, and one such shop, Kwon Hjuk-jin's Cat Café, decided it would stand out by hosting cats along with the people. Patrons enjoy petting the cats, and prominent signs remind them to treat the cats with kindness and respect.

You can read more about the Cat Café in an article at the Los Angeles Times.

Monday, December 20, 2010

DIY Mousie Toy

Several years ago, I tried to make some catnip mice for the cats. What I ended up with were several little padded squares with tails. If only I had found this handy guide on All Free Sewing back then, the toys would have looked like proper mice.

Using their guide (it's not even a pattern, really), you can make a little gray mouse like the one at left, or you can use patterned fabric. It's a great opportunity to turn old clothes, towels or scraps from sewing projects into toys for your pets.

All Free Sewing has guides for other dog and cat projects, too, as well as human clothing, holiday crafts and home décor. The site has sewing tips and tutorials, too, if you're like me and don't have a lot of experience. This mouse toy is simple enough that you can even sew it by hand if you don't have access to a machine.

Have fun making toys for your cats, and please share if you have any other tips for making homemade toys or cat furniture.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

In the CATegory - Now I've Seen Everything -

Have you heard about the iPad game for cats? Seriously, someone has created an app that iPad owners can download to amuse their felines.

I don't have an iPad, but if I had one, I would consider downloading this game to see what my cats would do. I'm not sure I could trust them not to claw the screen though. They never seem to worry about the damage their claws do to human skin when I'm playing with them or holding them.

Has anyone tried this? What do you think of the game and, more importantly, what do your cats think of it?

Sign up for Dinovite Emails for a Chance to Win

I received an email today about Dinovite's Healthy Pet Give-Away. I do not work for or have any relationship with Dinovite other than I have previously registered for one of their giveaways (I didn't win) and I am on their email list. I thought some of the readers here might be interested in learning about the giveaway and the product line, so here are the details:

One very lucky dog and one very lucky cat will win a 90 day supply of DINOVITE products specifically designed for him (or her)! Many other runner-ups will win selections of our all natural and organic pet products.

Here are a few things you need to know about our give-away. In order to enter:
* You must own a dog or cat.
* You must click directly through this email to be entered into this give-away. So, forward this email to your friends and family who own a furry friend! All information provided on the form must be valid to win!
* Limit of one entry per person please!

To register , simply click on the link below and fill out our Pet Health Guide questionnaire. This will serve as your entry. Within a couple of hours, watch your email for your pet's FREE Health Report! And, the week of January 24, 2011, watch your email for the announcement of our winners!

Dinovite Healthy Pet Give-Away

By submitting our Health Guide form to register, you are giving DINOVITE permission to email you additional information about natural pet products, pet food and treat recipes, coupons/promotions, newsletters, etc. You can opt out at anytime by simply clicking on the "manage email preferences" at the bottom of DINOVITE emails and choosing to unsubscribe.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

100 Ways to Love a Cat

It takes a while to get through all 100 ways to love your cat, and the tune will stick in your head after a few minutes. This video about nice things to do for your cat is well worth the time watching it and the time spent humming the tune to yourself for the next six weeks.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

What Does Your Pet Mean to You?

I just read a post over at Single Dad Laughing about the rude and insensitive comments people will make to an adoptive parent. People say similarly rude and insensitive things to people who love their pets unconditionally.
Jynx is Feline Leukemia positive so he
can't be around our other cats.
I don't have children, but I have a lot of cats. I love them as much as any parent loves a human child. When I have a big vet bill or buy them special food or medication, some thoughtless people ask how I could possibly spend so much money on an animal; they certainly wouldn't. I guess I'm a better person than them.

Some people have told me that I couldn't love my cats as much as I would love a child, because I didn't give birth to them. Hmmm. Tell that to an adoptive parent. Once, when someone made a comment about it not being the same, I asked her, why? Is it because you can have a conversation with your son and I can only talk to my cats, not with them? She said, yes, that's it. I thought, but didn't bother contining the conversation (because you can't change their minds), what about those parents whose children are born with a condition that keeps them from developing speech or other communicative skills? What about the child who has a head injury or develops severe autism? A lot of parents cannot have meaningful conversations with their children, and they spend a lot of time and money providing not just the medical care that keeps them alive, but also anything and everything they can to give the child some stimulation, some happiness perhaps, in a difficult world.

Would the people who question my love for my cats, my spending on their health and happiness, suggest to those parents that they just let their children die and move on? Get a different kid? Would they tell these parents they can't possibly love their children because they can't talk with them?

I have a lot of respect for people who care for disabled or sick children, whether it's their biological children or they adopted them. It takes far more work and more money than my cats usually require.  My cats can reach the limit of their potential. 
Wicket and Misha
Well, not the limit of their potential to the extent that they will never star in a movie, commercial or Broadway show, because they'd be hiding under something, drenched in the blood of the mommy who dared to take them someplace scary.  But they can play with their toys, watch birds and squirrels through the windows, point out nasty bugs that come in the house, snuggle on a lap, and act deceptively cute when they've done something really bad.

We love each other - my cats, my husband and I - and we are a family. Perhaps it's not a traditional family, but sometimes, like the song says, love is all you need.

Monday, December 13, 2010

How to Wrap a Cat

When I was a little girl, my cat Midnight would let me dress her in doll clothes, and I think I could have gift wrapped her. None of my current pride would sit still for it. Would yours?

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Pill Pockets - A Miracle for Cat Lovers

If you've ever had to give a cat a pill, you know how difficult it can be, especially if it's a maintenance drug or a course of medication that must be given over several days.

Finding Pill Pockets was a blessing. Our cat Quinn had gone through six months of heart medications, sometimes multiple pills several times a day, and many times he would run from us, even when we just wanted to pet him. It was heartbreaking, so when his littermate Remy was diagnosed with a heart murmur, we were so afraid he'd start to fear us as well.

Thankfully, by then we had found Pill Pockets. Made by an independent company at that time, Pill Pockets are now made by Greenies. Here's the way it works: Pill Pockets are very soft and malleable. It's shaped like a cup, so you can drop a pill in, however if you try to hide a whole pill in a full Pocket, unless your cat has a large mouth, s/he may have trouble chewing and swallowing it all.

Remy only has to take one quarter of a small pill per day, and we can easily hide it in half a Pocket. He's been on the medication for about five years and only recently did he begin turning up his nose at the Salmon and Chicken flavors. Fortunately, Greenies, which makes the pockets, has added a new Duck flavor, and he likes that just fine, so far.

We currently have nine cats, and we use the Pill Pockets for their regular worm treatments as well. Those are larger pills, so we quarter them and hide the pieces in half-Pockets. Same with allergy medicines.

It's very easy to break the Pockets into smaller pieces and press them around a small pill or piece of pill. The cat smells only the treat, grabs it, it's very chewy, and they usually don't notice the pill at all. Whole pills, though, tend to get bitten into, meaning the cat tastes the pill and spits it out. That's why we break larger pills apart now.

On the whole, I highly recommend Pill Pockets for helping the medicine go down. By the way, they're also available for dogs.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Steve Martin on Kittens

I was thinking about the whole 92Y vs Steve Martin debacle this morning while looking at my cats, and my brain suddenly recalled a brilliant comic essay written by Mr. Martin and published in his book Pure Drivel. I looked up the title, and it's "Mars Probe Finds Kittens." I thought it might be posted on Mr. Martin's website but I'm not seeing any of his essays there anymore.

Do yourself a favor and look up this essay. It's not very long, but it's brilliant in its accuracy about the behavior of little catlings. I have often recalled it when I had insane crack monkeys tearing through the house and bouncing off the walls.

Steve Martin is in the center of weird

I was looking at my Twitter today, and I noticed some odd tweets from Steve Martin. Stuff about how he'd be erasing his name from signed books and how he'd made love to his wife and she demanded a refund. Funny but weird, right?

Then I saw another tweet, with a link to an article. An NPR blog, actually, and that explained what happened. Earlier this week, Mr. Martin made an appearance at  the 92nd Street Y, which I gather is a real center for arts and culture; they have a regular interview series featuring many well-known figures. He has a new book out which is set against the backdrop of the arts scene - you know, paintings and stuff - and so the interviewer, Deborah Solomon - a journalist, a friend of his, and if not an arts "expert," she has written on the subject - talked with him about art.

In the middle of it, according to this blog and an article in the New York Times, someone passed a note to Ms. Solomon (right). The note said that people watching the interview online were sending emails demanding that the interviewer ask more questions about Mr. Martin's movie career. Ms. Solomon read it aloud, and the live audience cheered. She took some questions from the audience, and the interview wrapped up on time.

That's all a little surreal, but here's where it gets downright rude.

The 92nd Street Y (seen at left) sent a notice to everyone who'd bought a ticket (apparently they were $50 a pop) and basically apologized for the interview and offered them a credit towards a ticket to a different event.

That's just crazy. Let me make a few points:
  • The patrons of the 92nd Street Y are supposedly interested in arts and culture.
  • The interview was, theoretically, not advertised as a comedy show.
  • Any idiot can Google "Steve Martin" and find video clips, interviews, and print articles about his career.
  • Any moron scheduling an appearance with Mr. Martin now should know that he has a book to promote.
  • Ms. Solomon has since said that the organizers gave her no guidelines on topics of conversation.
Switching gears for just a moment, I'm a big fan of Harrison Ford's. I know all his stories. I've read all about his career. I know how he got the scar in real life, how Indiana Jones got the scar, how Jack Trainer got the scar in "Working Girl," and I can tell the story verbatim of how, after his first movie role (a bellhop in "Dead Heat on a Merry-Go-Round"), an executive called him into his office and said, "Kid," (he called him "kid"), "The first film role Tony Curtis had he was delivering a bag of groceries, a bag of groceries, and you took one look at him and you said, 'That guy's going to be a star.'" To which Harrison responded, "I thought you were supposed to think, "That's guy's a grocery delivery boy."

These things still come up every once in a while, but a lot of times, even when he has a new movie out, the interviewers will talk to him about his flying (he's a licensed airplane and helicopter pilot, if you hadn't heard), about his work with Conservation International, about his ranch in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, and you end up with great stuff like, "Moose are the El Dorado of ungulates" and the story of how he went to a store on behalf of a friend with a young child, and he asked a stockboy where the diapers were, and the kid sent him to the aisle that had the Depends.

Then there's Michael Palin of Monty Python fame. I tuned in to his "Around the World in 80 Days" expecting a bit of a lark, but it was a serious attempt to recreate the journey described in the Verne novel. It had moments of humor but it was also educational and enlightening and quite enjoyable. On the flip side, I went to a history lecture by another Python alum, Terry Jones, and expected a somewhat dry and trying-to-be-funny-but-embarrassingly-falling-short talk based on one of his books, and it was actually quite entertaining as well.

The point of these digressions is to show that an open-minded, intelligent person sitting quietly and listening to someone who interests them for one reason may find new reasons to admire and appreciate that someone. The same tired stories may not be boring exactly (Harrison could read the phone book to me and I'd be happy) but why not break new ground. That would be even more stimulating. The people who complained had no right to complain. They paid to see an interview with a talented, well-rounded, intelligent artist and that's what they got.

The 92nd Street Y was well within its rights and responsibilities to its patrons to quietly provide refunds or credits to patrons who demanded their money back or even to those who actively expressed some displeasure. I have no idea how many emails the Y received or from whom. It could have been six guys sitting together in a pub firing drunken volleys every three minutes from their iPhones. The cheer from the audience, by the way, is not so telling; a live audience will cheer at anything.

Instead, the Y chose to send a blanket email that assumed everyone was unhappy with the interview and wanted their money back. It was a slap in the face to Mr. Martin and Ms. Solomon. It sets a dangerous precedent for their lecture series - in future, should interviewers and special guests shy away from new territory and open discussion and focus only on old news and the standard stories the guests are famous for? And what if I, upon hearing the same old stories, complain vociferously that I wanted something new? Will I get a credit to see another speaker? What if I'm only in New York for a couple of days - will you refund the money to my charge card? Why charge people to see it at all? You can't please all of the people all of the time, so what's the use in even trying?

The 92nd Street Y owes Mr. Martin and Ms. Solomon public apologies. And  a credit to select another, more intelligent and discerning audience for their next interview.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Battery Pack Giveaway from Rayovac

'Tis the season for buying and using battery-operated toys and devices. A lot of people will wake up Christmas morning and realize they don't have enough batteries to run everything under the tree. Rayovac wants to help out by giving away huge packages of batteries along with cash money to pay holiday bills.

Rayovac's "Mom Rocks the Holidays" sweepstakes will award three Grand Prize winners $1,000 cash from Rayovac. Twenty First Place Prize winners will receive a Rayovac Jam kit including a Paper Jamz guitar, drum, amp, guitar strap as well as 2 packs of Rayovac Alkaline AAA 24 packs.
Here's how to enter:
  1. “Like” Rayovac on Facebook:
  2. Log on to, complete the entry form and tell Rayovac in 120 words or less how you (or your mom) rocks the holidays.
The Mom Spark blog is spreading the DC joy & teaming with Rayovac to give five winners a $50 Visa Gift Card, Paper Jamz Guitar, and one pack of Rayovac Alkaline AAA 24 pack batteries! Visit Mom Spark to enter.
DISCLOSURE: Followers who promote the Rayovac Mom Rocks the Holidays Sweepstakes may receive gifts from Rayovac. Nothing has been promised to me at this point, but this post is an attempt to win a Rayovac prize package via Mom Spark's promotion.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Morning Glory movie review

It was months, or maybe even years ago, that I heard Harrison Ford would be playing a morning show anchor in the movie Morning Glory. Now, I'm not only a huge fan of Harrison's, but I used to produce a 90-minute morning news show, so I've been looking forward to the movie ever since.

My husband and I saw Morning Glory Sunday afternoon. It drew a big crowd, and at least 2/3 were my age or older. I don't remember any really big reactions, like the whole theatre laughing uproariously or anything. DH laughed out loud a few times and so did I; some of my laughs definitely came out of my own experiences working with news people and on-air personalities.

Here's how the story goes: Rachel McAdams plays Becky Fuller, the producer of "Good Morning, New Jersey." When she's called into the boss's office, she expect to be promoted to senior producer, but instead he lets her go. Relentless job hunting gets her an offer from fourth-place network IBS. They want her as executive producer of last-ranked morning show "Daybreak." Network executive Jerry Barnes (Jeff Goldblum) tells it's a next-to-impossible job, but he can't dampen her enthusiasm. She practically blackmails old-school journalist Mike Pomeroy (Harrison Ford) to co-anchor the show, and he immediately clashes with female anchor Colleen Peck (Diane Keaton) as well as refusing to do most of the stories Becky asks him to handle. Ratings continue to sink, but Becky is determined to turn things around. Through sheer force-of-will, she gets the team working together, the ratings start to edge up, and she gets the job offer of her dreams. Then she has to decide if that dream job is what she really wants after all.

Overall, it was a good movie, well paced and entertaining. The acting is great. Some of the directorial or editorial choices are a little strange, but not overly annoying. The music is mostly unobtrusive, except for a few music video moments, which play out okay.

I feel like the movie fell a little short of what it could have been. The script paints Pomeroy as a stodgy and arrogant newsman who only wants to do hard news; he thinks the softer segments of a morning show are beneath him. The movie would have been stronger and more relevant if it placed his debates with Becky in a broader context. I started in news production in 1999, and I was promoted to producer in 2000. By the time I left the industry in 2007, I had seen a lot of degradation in the news biz, both locally and nationally. Sensationalism and a fancy graphics package became more important than solid reporting. Celebrity reports often seem to overshadow the day's "real news" events. If Becky's a good producer, her show would have a good mix of hard news, information, and fluff. In her drive to get the show's ratings up, she was studying the "minute to minute" ratings, which my small-town station never had. In big cities, the major ratings company, Nielsen, has hooked up boxes to the TV's of willing participants, and it generates reports showing exactly when viewers turn on a show, switch channels, or switch off the TV. A young, single-minded producer could see a spike during an interview with a hot rap star, for example, and start booking more rap stars because that's what her viewers seem to want. That could have given Becky the impetus to reject a "boring" hard news story in favor of expanded music segments, thus earning the ire of Mike Pomeroy. All the same clashes and laughs would be in place, but the story would have a little more meat on it, relevant commentary about news in the 21st century.

A few technical things that bugged me:
When I was the only producer on my morning show, I was in at 11pm to write and assemble the show. At the beginning of Morning Glory, Becky is the producer of "Good Morning, New Jersey" and she's hoping for a promotion to senior producer of the show. She sets her alarm for 1:30am, meaning she couldn't have been at work before 2:00am. I think she mentioned having a story meeting at 4:00am, which is about when my news anchors started arriving at work, but they just read over their scripts and asked me if they had any questions. When Becky is E.P. of "Daybreak," I can accept her coming in early morning, then staying after the show to book segment guests and plan the next day's show. She had producers and reporters under her who presumably would have been in earlier. If anyone's reading this who's produced a morning show and didn't have to go in to work until 2:00am or later, I'd love to hear from you about how that works.

Mike Pomeroy's first day on the job, there's an embarrassing mistake on one of the over-the-shoulder graphics. The picture changed, but the caption underneath didn't. On the systems we used, the caption was part of the picture, so that's a pretty unlikely mistake. Not to say it absolutely couldn't happen, but it's unlikely. The most astounding part, though, was that Becky - who got hammered with at least nine questions, non-stop from her crew on her first day and kept them all straight - apparently got so flustered that she couldn't remember what an over-the-shoulder graphic (AKA an insert) was called. Again, unlikely.

When Pomeroy goes out to do his big live shot on a breaking news story, it appears to be just the driver/cameraman, Pomeroy and Becky in the satellite truck. When they arrive, they all jump out of the truck, the cameraman gets his camera, and they all walk up to the front door. When I was in news, we didn't have a sat truck (the station has since gotten at least one), but setting up a regular live shot required raising the mast and tuning in the shot with master control. Sometimes they had to move the vehicle in order to aim the transmitter in the right direction to hit one of our towers. I don't think it's much different with a satellite truck. Our set-up also required cables to be run from the truck to the camera. I wouldn't be surprised to learn that wireless transmission from the camera to the truck is possible, but "Daybreak" didn't seem to have a very big budget by network standards. It would have meant having an extra cast member -- allowing a driver/sat truck operator to do the set-up while the cameraman jumped out and ran some cable while Pomeroy and Becky argued.

The script wasted a lot of time developing a relationship between Becky and Adam Bennett (Patrick Wilson), who works at IBS but can't seem to understand the pressure of daily news. Becky talks about never having any long-lasting relationships because she's so career-driven, but she quickly opens up to Bennett and starts sleeping with him. When Pomeroy points out that if she focuses solely on her career, she's going to end up with nothing, we don't see her taking that to heart in her personal life. If we'd seen her with the string of dead-end dates that's referred to in the script, if she'd turned down Bennett before but finally accepted a date with him, it would show that she changed and grew. Also, it's always a little sad for me when movies portray everyone as being loose and having sex with someone as no big deal.

Ultimately, I enjoyed Morning Glory and recommend it. Some of the things that bothered me won't distract someone who's never worked in the news. Overall, it's a well-made film with a good and positive story that should appeal to young and old alike.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Cat v. Gator - what's your take?

Have you seen the video of the Louisiana cat who takes on two alligators and wins? On the one hand, it's pretty awesome that this tough little fellow chased off the alligators, but on the other hand....

What were all those people thinking? I don't know if the cats are strays or if they live at the park. Are they someone's pets?

When I first heard about the video, I didn't realize that it was taking place at a gator park. That more or less explains why the people were videotaping in the first place. There's a grown man standing next to the gator, a child and another cat can be seen a few feet away. Do they not realize how fast an alligator can move when he wants to? The man makes a sudden move at one point, and I'm not sure if he was trying to shoo the cat away or the gator.

I guess the most disturbing thing, besides no one either realizing or caring that alligators are dangerous, is that I'm sure that even if the black cat, the Siamese cat, and the kid had all gotten eaten, the video would probably still be generating millions of hits on YouTube.  Cell phone cameras and the internet have made everyone a "journalist" -- there simply to record images, not to interfere or take part in the event.

Finally, just hearing the description of this brave cat reminded me of my mom's little cat Bitsy. She was up for the world's record as the smallest living cat, but her health was just too poor. Despite her small stature, Bitsy was feisty. She took swipes at much bigger cats, and when we were at a rest area once, she looked like she was about to take off after the industrial lawnmower down the hill. She wasn't afraid of anything, and if she'd run into a gator, well, it's not an experience the gator would soon forget.

So, what are your thoughts about the video of the cat attacking the gator? Harmless fun? No one in real danger? Or a sign of how careless and thoughtless people can be these days?

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy in Cats

Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy is a heart disease that causes the heart walls to thicken, so that they can't work correctly. It strikes many people without warning, and it's also the most common heart disease in cats. In 2004, I learned about hypertrophic cardiomyopathy the hard way.

Quinn (August 2000 - January 2005)
My husband and I had spent the day working in our new house doing some renovations. When we got home, we found Quinn struggling to breathe. Trying to stay calm, we rushed Quinn to the emergency vet, and they managed to get him stabilized, although it took a while to get a correct diagnosis. Over the next several weeks, we took him in to our vet, as well as to at least two other animal hospitals for specialized testing our vet couldn't do. Quinn was on so many medications, we had to tape a chart to the wall to keep track of what he took and when. He didn't want to eat, so we bought baby food and begged him to "eat just a bite for mommy, baby, please."

At one of the other animal hospitals, he picked up a respiratory infection, which spread through our other cats before we realized he was infected. We added that antibiotic to the drug chart, and of course, we had to dose the others with that as well. Quinn's appetite got even worse. He began to run from us because he didn't want to take another pill.

It was heartbreaking for us. It hurt our bank account, too. In the middle of it all, we got hit by a major hurricane and basically evacuated into the new house.

A few months after his heart attack, Quinn's medications had been reduced significantly. He was finally starting to seem happy and healthy again. We thought we were on the home stretch to full recovery, when he had another heart attack. That time, we set him free. He was four years old.

Many people criticized the money, time and attention that we devoted to trying to get Quinn well again. They didn't understand that our cats are our children. We had to give him every opportunity to survive. Years before, I'd had a cat with an enlarged heart who exhibited the same symptoms. Allie was not diagnosed with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy specifically, and I have no record of the central Florida vet who treated him. Allie not only survived, he thrived and lived to be 18 years old. I had no reason not to give Quinn the same chance to live a long life. The money we spent also gave us time to tell Quinn over and over again how much we loved him. Would we do it again? I don't know.

A few months after Quinn died, his littermate Remy was at the emergency vet for a urinary tract infection when he was diagnosed with a heart murmur. My husband, who was present when Quinn was put to sleep and witnessed the worst of his second heart attack, was ready to have him put to sleep to prevent him suffering. We waited, though, and took him to our regular vet for a second opinion. He listened and listened and listened to Remy's heart and finally found the murmur. He said it wasn't all that pronounced; he could only hear it if he held the stethoscope in just the right place. We had some other tests done, including a sonogram of his heart, and he now takes atenolol every day, but five years later, he's still doing fine.Hopefully, his heart will continue to stay strong.

You can learn more about feline hypertrophic cardiomyopathy from the Cat Fancier's Association. Certain breeds are more susceptible than others. If you find your cat gasping for breath, one possible cause could be HCM, and a rush visit to a veterinarian is in order. I hope it's something you'll never have to experience.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Stop Thinking Pink.

If the Pink Panther got breast cancer, wearing a pink ribbon wouldn't help him.

The "pink" foundation - aka Susan G. Komen for the Cure - was created in 1982 to support breast cancer survivors and raise money to research a cure. Kudos to the Komen organization's marketing department, because the color pink is now synonymous with breast cancer. The organization and their network of survivors and supports have raised over $1.5 billion dollars, at least 75% of which has gone into their programs, such as research grants and scholarships. I'm sure it's a wonderful organization.

Today, I received a postcard informing me that Purina Mills, a company that makes food for horses, goats, chickens and rabbits, is packing that food in limited edition pink bags and a portion of the sales of those bags of food will be donated to Susan G. Komen for the Cure. Purina is organizing at least 50 awareness and fundraising events for the organization. In the past, I have seen the pink ribbon branding of the Komen organization on Purina Cat Chow. Press releases and articles suggest that this decision is based on cancer victims' relationships with their pets.

Meanwhile, more pets are dying of cancer, and my internet searches today are not finding any evidence that Purina is supporting veterinary cancer research. If the company is donating to research into treatment of animal cancers, they're not very vocal about it.

Then I wondered if perhaps I was mistaken about the Komen organization. So, I did a search for "cat" on the Komen website and nine results came up. Not one of them had anything to do with feline cancer.
  • 4 - references to the Purina partnership
  • 3 - references to CAT scans
  • 2 - references to an herb known as cat's claw

A search for "feline" found nothing. A search for "veterinary" found one reference to using pets for therapy.

This is Mah-Mah. She arrived at our home in the winter of 2000, with two kittens in tow. It took several months (and another four kittens) before she trusted us enough to go into a carrier. We had her spayed, brought her into our home, and loved her until she died of breast cancer in 2007, about three months after this photo was taken.

My husband found the lump on her chest while petting her belly one evening. She had two surgeries, and had just recovered from the second when she began coughing. The cancer had spread to her lungs.

Research is being done in the field of veterinary cancer, and many resources exist to help pet owners recognize the warning signs. Here are some links:

Veterinary Cancer Society - an organization for veterinary professionals & researchers
Pet Cancer Awareness - an organization created by Blue Buffalo Natural Dog & Cat Foods
New York Online Access to Health -health information site started by librarians

People who consider their pets to be family members buy quality food, treats, and other products because we want them to live long, healthy, happy lives. Purina should support that tradition by raising awareness of animal cancers and by supporting pet health research at the same levels and with the same marketing power that they are putting into this humans-only organization. Leave the pink ribbons for the people products.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Movies for Cat Lovers

When I was a little girl, I fell in love with a movie about a cat. It was called The Three Lives of Thomasina. The title character is a cat who wanders around a small town to three different homes. I haven't seen the movie in years, but I still remember loving it when I was little.

I was a little older when a silly and fun science fiction film called The Cat from Outer Space came out. I read the book, and it was one of the few movies I saw in a theatre when I was growing up. I saw it again a few years ago, and it's by no means a great film. I still enjoyed it, though.

A few days ago, I saw the original That Darn Cat, with Hayley Mills on a rack of discounted Disney DVDs. I passed it by, but I might have to buy it. As I recall, Hayley's character says that her dad is the reason the cat is called D.C. It stands for "darn cat," except that dad didn't say "darn." It's a charming movie with a bit of a mystery to it.

A couple of films with cats in minor roles are Star Trek: Generations and Alien. Interestingly, both cats are orange tabbies.

In the former, Data's cat Spot is featured prominently early on. During an intense segment in which the ship is about the crash and everyone must evacuate into the saucer section, Spot disappears. We don't find out until the very end what has happened to Spot, and it really irritated me because I, of course, was worried.

Alien takes place on a spaceship, and Jones is the ship's cat. When the crew decides to evacuate due to the dangerous alien on board, crewman Brett is sent to find Jones. As he approaches, Jones starts hissing, but it turns out, he's not mad at Brett, he's warning off the alien that's right behind him. Jones and Ripley are the only survivers of the doomed flight. I tell you the outcome, because if you haven't seen this 1979 classic film by now, this blog probably won't make you rush to view it.

Finally, I'll just mention Mr. Bigglesworth from the Austin Powers series. Initially played by a Persian cat, Dr. Evil's pet loses all its hair after being cryogenically frozen, and henceforth Mr. Bigglesworth is played by a hairless Sphynx.

Are there any good, positive cat movies that I haven't mentioned here? I may have forgotten about it, or maybe I haven't seen it. I don't like to watch movies where cats are portrayed as evil or where they are the victims of cruel humor, but I would love to hear about movies featuring our feline friends.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

"Your cat has diabetes."

Years ago, when I first heard that cats could have diabetes and could be required to have insulin injections, I hoped it would never happen to any of my cats, because I didn't think I could handle giving them a shot. Now, I can give an injection easily.

Indy was a skinny kitten when he and his mother and sister found their way to our rural home. Unable to turn away a hungry nursing mother, we began putting food out for them. Indy was the bravest, or maybe he just liked eating too much to be scared.

We kept a close eye on him because we knew that his weight put him at risk of diabetes. When we noticed him losing weight around his hips, drinking a lot of water, and making very large puddles in the litter box, we had him tested and confirmed that he had diabetes.

The vet showed us how to gently shake the bottle of insulin to insure it was well mixed, how to load the needle, how to create a little tent with the skin on his upper back to give the injection. My husband tried it at the vet's office, but I didn't want to jab Indy unnecessarily. That night at home it was my turn, and I botched it.

I forgot to brush the hair forward a little so that I could see Indy's skin a little as I inserted the needle. Tim had said I'd barely be able to feel it entering his skin, because the needle is so small. I tried to gently insert the needle, and I asked if he thought I had it in place, and he did, so I hit the plunger.  And squirted insulin all over his back, because the needle had not, in fact, entered his skin. Tim was a little mad, and I was upset, and we were both kind of nervous that maybe some of it had been injected but not all of it. We wiped his back dry with a paper towel and did not try again that night.

The next time, I was more careful about the procedure, and the needle went in just fine. We give the shot while he's eating a little Hill's W/D Prescription Diet canned food, and Indy usually doesn't seem to even notice the shot. Once in a great while it'll seem like there's a little problem with the needle or something and he'll flinch a bit, but he really doesn't seem to mind, and that makes the whole process easier.

We started with a very small dose twice a day, and we took him to the vet once a month to have his glucose checked. The levels were going down but were still high. Eventually, he was up to nine units twice daily. After just two or three days of that, we had trouble.

Shortly after Indy had his dinner and his shot, he began acting strange. He acted afraid of everything, hissed at Tim, then started stumbling around like he couldn't see.

The vet had not discussed what to expect from a hypoglycemic episode. That's where the body gets too much insulin and the blood sugar level dips dangerously low. Fortunately, right after Indy was diagnosed, I'd come home and read up on feline diabetes online. The site had described the situation perfectly. I didn't trust my memory entirely, though. I was pretty sure that we needed to feed him, though. When we put the food in front of him, he started trying to wolf it down, but he kept hitting the side of the bowl, whether because he couldn't see or was uncoordinated, I'm not sure. It might have been a combination of both.

I jumped online and quickly found the information on the site. I was right -- the site suggested offering maple syrup or Karo syrup, so I ran and got a tablespoon of it, and he lapped it up. As the sugar and food got into his system, he began to behave more normally, and we were able to relax.

As a precaution, we took him to the all-night emergency vet who confirmed that his blood sugar was extremely low. She said we'd done all the right things and to give him food every couple of hours throughout the night, then take him to our regular vet in the morning.

We ended up skipping a couple of doses of insulin, and with each successive glucose test over the next few months, his doses were reduced until he was able to go off insulin completely. Our vet had told us that in some cases, cats did recover from diabetes. Unfortunately, a few weeks later we noticed that Indy was losing weight again, and he's been on insulin ever since. His doses have remained fairly low, though, and he seems to be pretty well regulated.

  • Always keep an eye on how much your cat is drinking and going to the bathroom. Excessive thirst can indicate diabetes or kidney problems. 
  • Compare the prices of diabetes supplies from your vet and from other suppliers, such as American Diabetes Wholesale. We were paying 50 cents per needle from the vet, and it's about half that from ADW. Be sure to get the right needles; we use U40 veterinary syringes and were able to match the exact specs, such as the length and gauge of the needle against what the vet had sold us. When we received the shipment, we took one by the vet's office and had him look at it to make sure it was right and wouldn't affect his dosage. The vet has since started carrying the same brand, but ADW's prices are still a little better, and they ship very quickly.
  • Whenever your cat is diagnosed with any condition, it's a good idea to research it online. You can find very good information on websites, some of which have been created by veterinarians or universities and others by cat parents who have been through what you're going through now. 
  • Most important of all: keep loving and playing with your cat. Even though it's sometimes frustrating to have to set your schedule around the insulin shots, it's worth it to protect the life and health of your trusted companion.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Hey Sly, zoom out!

Today, we went to see The Expendables, the new action flick starring a bunch of the old action heroes from the '80s. I was interested in seeing the film, but probably we wouldn't have seen it at the theater if I hadn't won a free code for Fandango.

It was a good movie, and for the most part we enjoyed it. Our biggest problem came during the intense action sequences. One of the first fight scenes came when Barney (Sylvester Stallone) and Lee (Jason Statham) are scoping out the situation on Vilena, an island run by a corrupt dictator and an American mercenary. The fight seemed like it was well choreographed and performed, but it was shot too tight, mostly handheld, and with that stroboscopic "heightened reality" effect made popular by Saving Private Ryan and Gladiator. It not only makes it frustratingly hard to follow what's going on, but it kind of makes me a little motion sick trying to watch it.

Later fight scenes and a major vehicle chase and battle back in the U.S. all have the same problem because the camera is zoomed in, it's shaky from being handheld without a Steadicam, and the stroboscopic effect is used. I would have preferred more standard shooting, so I could tell what was happening.

The story is fairly simple, but that's fine for an action pic. Barney and his gang are hired by the U.S. government to go to Vilena and take care of the dictator. Barney and Lee go check it out and meet the
general's daughter Sandra (Giselle Itié), who's determined to fight him and free her people from tyranney. Barney and Lee fight some bad guys and blow up some things and leave. If I understood correctly from one throwaway line, they decided not to take the job, but I was never clear if they called the government guy and told him that or returned any of the money.

Barney, however, is haunted by thoughts of Sandra, who could have left with them but chose to stay. He decides to go back on his own to help her. Of course, his guys want to go with him. Meanwhile, Dolph Lundgren's character has a bone to pick with Barney and cuts a deal with Vilena's leaders to take him out.

After that chase and fight, Barney and gang leave for Vilena, fight some guys, blow things up, and rescue Sandra. Barney and Sandra have a poignent exchange in which he tells her to keep something, maybe some money she was trying to offer him, but I'm not sure what exactly, and then the plane takes off. I'm not left with the impression that he'll ever go back to see her, unless she calls on him for help.

It's definitely set up to be a "franchise" if it does well at the box office, and so far it is making a lot of money. The Expendables features the same kind of story and characters as a lot of the '80s action blockbusters, though it is a little more graphic in showing heads hacked off and such.

People, if you want to talk go to your house or a restaurant!
To anyone in the industry who wonders why people aren't going to the movies much and are watching films at home, I simply suggest that you walk into any movie theatre and try to watch something without someone carrying on a conversation. We moved once because the people behind us were talking in a normal tone of voice. Then a couple of people sat down in the same row as us, and they started talking and looked surprised when we shushed them.

Anyway, if you like action movies, I recommend The Expendables, but if you're prone to motion sickness, get some dramamine on the way to the theater.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Great cat toy found at Home Depot.

Our cats love to chase the red bug of a laser pointer. The first pointers we had used watch batteries, which would only last for one or two play sessions. Later, we found a combination laser pointer and LED flashlight at American Science and Surplus for about $7.00. This one uses AAA batteries and will last a long time. It's also handy for finding mousie toys and balls behind or under heavy furniture.

Today at Home Depot, while Cat Daddy was checking out, I spotted a similar laser pointer-flashlight with the impulse buys. It's just $2.88 and comes in several colors. I didn't check what kind of batteries it takes, but surely not the old watch batteries. It's the best deal I've ever seen for a laser pointer cat toy.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Opening Soon

The Crazy Kitty Chick will be posting product reviews, information, and discussion about cats and other aspects of life.