Furryornot Stories and Petcare Tips

Ramses representing the @furryornot Home Office Gang

February 14, 2021

In February I started a new monthly social media post featuring animal facts. When I research topics for the regular Pet Care Tips, attend webinars, and other online training I keep bookmarking interesting tidbits. There is so much that I could cover, but I figure once a month is a realistic and achievable goal. In this post I am going to elaborate on the first Animal Fact post about hearing abilities.

Hearing Our Pets

I enjoy learning about animals and hope you do too. The important take-away I want to point out is that because animals have different abilities from us, in this case a range of hearing, we can learn why they react to things differently than we do. Rather than getting frustrated with a dog for barking at something you cannot hear or if they get scared about a loud noise just know that they have much more sensitive hearing than you do. And, while you may want to teach them to not bark or be afraid please understand that they are technically not barking at or reacting to ‘nothing’. They are simply barking at something you do not hear or personally feel is a threat.

This post will cover:

  • How animals hear with or without ears
  • Hearing range for different species
  • Differences and similarities between cats, dogs, and other common pets

How Animals Use Their Ears and other Adaptions

There is a wide range of ear shapes and ability. Dogs and cats are well known for their amazing sensitivity to sounds. But many other species have excellent hearing or have developed other ways to sense either their prey and/or a predator nearby.

Some animals use specialized organs or sensors to detect their surroundings and specifically food or danger. Pythons and boa constrictors use what is called a pit organ that detects infrared radiation from their potential prey. Spiders use body hairs called trichobothria on their legs to detect vibrations and movement. The platypus has special receptors in it’s bill that can detect electrical impulses in the water.

For more information about other animals check out this article https://www.bioexplorer.net/animals-with-best-sensors.html/

Bats famously use echolocation and have excellent hearing. But, they first must emit sounds from thier mouth or nose and then detect the echo of that sound bouncing back with their ears. Interestingly, moths have developed ways to either fool or hide from the bats. But, that is going down a whole extra rabbit hole so I digress.

If you want to learn more about bats Google ‘echolocation’ or check out https://askabiologist.asu.edu/echolocation

Dogs, Cats, and Humans

Humans have decent hearing but still have limitations.

The outer ear or ‘pinna’ (also called an ‘auricle’ for humans) is what we can see and is a distinctive size and shape for different species and pet breeds.

One of the functions of this very visible part of the ear is to funnel and amplify sound for the internal parts of the ear. The appearance or size of pinnae does not necessarily dictate the animal’s ability to hear. For example an elephant (huge pinnae) can hear between 16 – 12, 000 Hz and an owl (no pinnae) can hear between 200 – 12, 000 Hz.

Interesting fact: Some species of owls appear to have ‘ears’ but they are actually just feathers!

Dogs and cats both have distinctive pinnae and many more ear muscles than humans. These muscles are used to manipulate their ears and detect sounds from quite a distance. Humans have 6 muscles in each ear while dogs have 18 and cats have a whopping 32!

I did try to find out how many ear muscles mice, elephants, and rabbits have but after skimming very technical articles (apparently there is a lot of research about the middle or inner ear in mice) I gave up. So if any of you know those facts please let us know in the comments below!

Both dogs and cats can move their ears independently, up to 180 degrees, to help focus in on a sound they are curious about. They also have a much greater sensitivity to higher frequency sound.

Interesting fact: The little fold of skin at the base of a dog’s and cat’s pinnae is technically called a ‘cutaneous marginal pouch’ and more commonly known as ‘Henry’s pocket’. The exact function of this skin fold is unknown but some theorize that it may enhance sound or aid the movement of the pinnae.

The pinnae are not just for hearing of course and are used for heat regulation, expressing emotions and communication, as well as general adorableness.

Hearing Range

Humans hearing range is 64 -23,000 Hz and are most sensitive to sounds around 3,000 Hz which is the typical pitch of human voices.

Cats hearing range is 45 – 64,000 Hz and are most sensitive to sounds around 8,000 Hz.

Dogs hearing range is 67-45,000 Hz and may find sounds sounds greater than 25,000 Hz very scary or uncomfortable.

So cats definitely can hear a wider range of sounds than even a dog. Both cats and dogs hear much better in the higher range than humans. And, they can also hear from a farther distance.

Note: Hertz is just a standard measurement used to indicate the frequeny of a sound wave so the higher the number the higher the frequency or the greater range of sound an animal can hear.

Interesting fact: Beluga whales and porpoises have no external pinnae but can hear up to 123,000 Hz and 150,000 Hz respectively.

Other pets

I thought it was really interesting that a goldfish (20-3,000 Hz) has a greater range of hearing than a chicken (125-2,000 Hz). Cows have a greater range than humans, 23-35,000 Hz vs 64-23,000 Hz! Canaries and cockatiels have a range from 250-8,000 Hz. Rabbits can hear up to 42,000 Hz, rats up to 76,000 Hz, and mice up to 91,000 Hz. Mice and beluga whales cannot hear below 1,000 Hz. And ferrets can hear as low as an elephant, 16 Hz (the lowest I saw listed).

For more information about hearing ranges in a variety of animals check out https://www.lsu.edu/deafness/HearingRange.html

In conclusion…

Animals develop many different behaviours and physical adaptations to help protect them from predators and other environmental pressures. So it’s not all about how well they can hear. But it is really interesting to see the comparison between these species and learn more about how they use their abilities.

Next time your dog barks ask them what the neighbour down the road is up to, maybe it is something interesting. They probably will not answer you in english though. I will discuss body language more in future posts. But, for now if you’re not sure check out one of my favourite celebrity dogs and the english translations of their vocalizations. The translations are definitely funny and may be close enough!

Resources for further reading:

Cat ears and hearing: https://www.petmd.com/cat/care/cat-facts-10-interesting-things-about-cat-ears and https://www.cathealth.com/behavior/how-and-why/1328-how-well-cats-hear

Dog ears and hearing: https://iheartdogs.com/8-fun-facts-about-your-dogs-ears/ and https://www.psychologytoday.com/ca/blog/animal-emotions/201903/how-dogs-hear-and-speak-the-world-around-them

See you next time and follow @furryornot on Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter for more helpful tips and photos.


Furryornot Stories and Petcare Tips

Moxie representing the @furryornot Home Office Gang

January 22, 2021

How to Approach a Pet Like a Pro

I recently posted a series of Pet Care Tips on Social Media about how to approach a pet and set them at ease. It comes up a lot but I had a few interactions over the past month that made me think it was a good idea to share some of the things I have learned. So I am going to discuss:

  • Why the “Slow Blink” is a useful tool for meeting a new cat or just communicating with your cat
  • How to properly greet a new dog and why you should not try to pat his head
  • How to approach birds, lizards, and other pets when you meet them and have to put your hand in their cage or terrarium.

As a Certified Professional Pet Sitter I have spent a lot of time in the last 10 years learning about best pet care practices, animal behaiour, and other tips and tricks. A few have really stood out to me as invaluable tools and it turns out not everybody knows. So, take these ideas and implement them in all your future pet interactions.

The “Slow Blink” and why it’s awesome

I think I first caught on about this useful tool from either from Jackson Galaxy (check out his YouTube channel) or a training session from Pet Sitters International by Marci Koski (felinebehaviorsolutions.com). Since then I have used it so much it has become a habit and I use it with my own gang. Ramses in particular always responds with his own blink. Ziggy may think I just have something in my eye. But, work-wise it is truly a game changer.

It is such an easy way to put a fearful cat at ease and I use it almost every time I meet a new cat client. If the cat responds with a blink then you are good to go. Sometimes it takes a few blinks. Sometimes that cat may still hide and need extra time but I just keep using the Slow Blink. It is not meant to be a staring contest, so you should not keep doing it till you ‘win’. I view it as a ‘hello, nice day today isn’t it?’ type of small talk interaction. It just lets the cat know that you have no ill intent and will be about your own business. So try the blink and if the cat keeps staring, give it another go and then move on if the cat still seems unsure. Try it next time and eventually you might just make a new best friend.

I read an article on sciencealert.com discussing a recent study about this “Slow Blink” technique.


This study recorded the cat owners using the technique as well as a second experiment where a stranger used it with the cat. And they did find that the cats were more likely to blink back and approach the people they did not know. And, while they could not conclusively figure out why it works it did show that the “Slow Blink” is a good way to build rapport.

Butt vs. Head Pat – How to properly greet a dog

I love dogs and the urge to pat a dog’s head is almost instinctual and unavoidable. Their head is soft and they are just so cute, it is a natural desire to put out your hand and give them a pat. A very common image that we have all seen over and over is a dog owner patting their dog on their had and saying ‘good dog’.

Unfortunately while a very highly trained dog used in movies and T.V. is going to do what their trainer asks of them, the regular dogs back at home laying by the couch are not convinced.

I really struggled when I first started my business because I wanted all dogs to love me as I instantly loved them. But, I learned early on that you should not stick out your hand (to avoid a bite) and to let the dog come to you. I have met many super-friendly dogs that have no fear of strangers. They tend to wiggle their whole bodies and their tail, and immediately treat you like their best friend.

Then there are other dogs who take a bit more time and this is where learning more about dog behaviour comes in super handy. I took a course in 2012 with Kathy Gibson of Custom Canine and learned so much about reading body language. When a dog is uncomfortable or stressed out by someone’s behaviour they will demonstrate what experts call ‘calming signals’. This includes lip-licking, yawning, freezing in place or turning away, raising a paw, and many more reactions. While most of these behaviours will occur in a variety of circumstances (we all yawn when we are tired as an example) the context is very critical. So, if for an example a dog is at the dog park and a new dog approaches one or both of them may move their body sideways, lick their lips, turn their head, maybe start sniffing something to avoid direct confrontation. These are all calming signals that the dogs use to avoid a bad interaction.

Do not pet your dog’s head

When you stick your hand out to pet a dog’s head they may perceive this as a threat or even just an unwanted interaction. So a better way to greet a new dog is to let them approach you instead of running at them like some nutty dog at the dog park. Once they approach you can try petting them under their chin on their neck or better yet a good butt scratch so you are well away from their mouth. Most dogs love the butt scratch and will wiggle their whole body and sometimes stomp their feet and wag their tail. It is my most valued tool in winning over a new dog client. Once the dog realizes how awesome you are you can incorporate a sneaky head pat in while massaging their neck and shoulders which dogs also seem to love. But I would leave that till later. Think of the head pat as a big huge hug for a loved one, it should be saved for those close relationships.

If you google “Calming signals dogs” and “Why you should not pet your dog’s head” you will find a bunch of great articles going into more detail.

How to approach a bird, lizard, or other more unusual pets

The main thing to keep in mind is that while dogs and cats have lived around humans for thousands of years many of the other types of pets we care for do not have the same type of connection and communication we are used to. So it is important to always research what your specific type of pet may need for care and the best way to interact with them.

As a general overall technique, I would suggest approaching all new pets and particularly cage or terrarium pets calmly with slow movements and use a low or quiet voice to talk to them.

Birds are definitely more vocal and can have very close bonds with their loved ones but until you get to know them it is still important to approach them slowly and calmly. Do not run over to a cage and wave and stick your fingers in, just respect their space and try to make them feel safe and comfortable with you. I have been known to sing the Love Boat theme song to birds when I am working around them. Luckily they do not judge my ability to sing!

Lizards are also not always sure what you are up to and some species are more chill or nervous than others. If you have to put your hand into their terrarium just move super slowly so that you do not startle them or make them feel like they have to defend themselves. This is particularly true for new pets or when visiting a pet as a pet sitter. They may have developed a bond with their owner but don’t know you yet.

See you next time and follow @furryornot on Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter for more helpful tips and photos.


Positive Take on 2020


It was a difficult year to say the least. But for me personally 2020 was not the worst year. Financially it has been a challenge, frustrating and scary at times. However I had been experiencing extreme burnout and the closures and cancellations forced me to stop working insane hours and take a much needed break. Thanks to my amazing clients I was still able to work enough to pay the bills. But I got to have lunch and dinner breaks or whole afternoons off. The pace was unnerving at first but I have discovered that I really like not working 12 plus hour days. Weird, but true!

In the spirit of recovery and healing I have been fostering a different perspective on this crazy year. And for the month of December I celebrated all the adorable pets I got to meet and spend time with. As a New Year’s treat I created a slideshow of all the good 2020 moments. And I really love how it turned out.

I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did. Here is to a fresh start in 20201.


Furryornot Stories and Petcare Tips


Playtime and Enrichment for Your Pet

In honour of my current holiday break and Staycation, I am sharing some more details about a topic that I have touched on with our Pet Care Tips on Social Media.

What is enrichment?

Enrichment is a practice used by pet professionals that I first learned about while volunteering at the Greater Vancouver Zoo. The zoo keepers use different techniques to keep the animals happy and healthy by encouraging natural behaviours and introducing new and interesting items into their space. The majority of enrichment activities involve food in some way. This can be as simple as spreading the animal’s regular food in different parts of their enclosure so they have to hunt or forage as they would in the wild. It can also be added to homemade ‘food puzzles’ the animal has to open or play with to get the food out. A paper mache pinata was a very popular item for the volunteers to make for this purpose.

Scent is also an important aspect of enrichment practices. For some of the big cats in particular, staff or volunteers would add nice stinky manure into the pinatas which the cats would then carry around and tear apart. Sometimes different spices or perfumes may also be used. Other items include ‘boomer balls’, lures, cardboard boxes, sparkly disco balls, pools, brushes, barrels, and so on. Many zoos will also have seasonal items such as pumpkins in the Fall and used Christmas trees after the Christmas holiday is over.

One of my personal favourites is what the Oregon Zoo does for their Beavers Maple and Filbert. If you want to experience the ultimate joy in life I think you should check out their videos on YouTube. The zoo keepers take the Beavers on little field trips around the zoo so they can collect braches and bring them back to their house. It is brilliant.

One way to apply this practice for your own pets is to add some pizzazz to their regular routine. You can add items like pet grass, food puzzles, and interactive toys.

Pet Grass

Pet grass is a particularly useful enrichment item because it lets the pet self regulate any digestive upset and they can do it as needed. Some pets do nibble a bit too much and may throw up so if you really care about your carpets you could supervise and limit the amount your pet ingests by only putting the grass out for a short period of time. You could also use scotch guard or something like that to protect the carpet. Either way, if you can find a way to make it work your pet will appreciate it. I also have a catnip plant which Bean really loves to chew up.

Food Puzzles and the Kibble Toss Game

Ziggy is my food puzzle champion. He is obsessed with food and due to some health issues I have to limit what kind of food he gets. He is also devious, or maybe tenacious is more kind, and will go to great lengths to steal food he should not eat. To keep him engaged, active, away from my other cats, and healthy overall I use a bunch of food puzzles and different spots so that it takes him a while to get all his food. He has 5 treat dispensers that I divide his kibble into and I also put a few kibbles in a bowl up on the hutch and under a shelf for extra exercise. Before bed we also play a treat toss game. I think that may be his favourite part of the day. I throw a small handfull of kibble, one kibble at a time, across the kitchen and he has to catch them, run, sniff them out, and he has a blast. The only caveat is that occasionally a kibble ends up in a tricky spot and I have to help find it for him. But we both really love this activity and it is a fun way to end the day.

I also make Moxie and Ramses ‘hunt’ for kibble twice a day by spreading their kibble portions around the room. This keeps them moving and sniffing around to find them all. Ramses is a little less active than his brother so sometimes gives me what as I interpret as an incredulous look, but he still joins in because he loves food.

Interactive Toys and a Playtime Routine

Interactive toys are also a great way to keep your pets interested and engaged. Some toys are set up for the pet to play on their own but I would specifically recommend using ones that you need to do together. You are likely to get your pet moving more if you play with them. I also highly recommend making playtime a part of your daily routine, even if it’s only for a few minutes. And even though older pets may no longer play like they used to you can still spend a bit of time trying to entice them to keep moving. Ziggy and I play in the morning before breakfast. Ideally he plays himself out and does not chase Bean, but this admittedly is not often the case. Bean plays a bit different but whenever she hides in the cat tunnel it is time to play so I have to indulge her. Ramses is not as playful but I can still get him going with a feather wand toy. In his case this means a paw swat. Moxie likes chasing a fleece strip on a stuffed toy. It’s the only toy that really brings out his playful side.

Items like the Furbo are a fun techie way to engage your dog. Wand toys are a fun way to get your cat playing. Lure toys or ‘flirt poles’ for dogs are also a great idea.

Cardboard Boxes

Cardboard boxes are a hot commodity for cats. Particularly in this era of Amazon shopping use your large boxes for your cats. You can set them up as is for a cat to jump in. You can flip them on the side so the cat can use it as a mini-cave. Ramses in particular loves this and uses a sideways box as his primary scratcher and hang-out spot. You can also cut out cat-sized holes and set them up around the house as an escape for your cat or even a mini obstacle course game. The Fraser Valley Animal Hospital has a great video about this on their YouTube channel (“The Power of a Cardboard Box”).

DIY Agility and Food Sniffing Course

You can also set up some DIY agility courses for your dog (or cat). One cool and easy way is to set up different containers (muffin tins or different pans), food puzzles, treat dispensers, lick mats, stools, chairs, boxes, tunnels, blankets, and so on around the living room or a playroom. Then put a portion of their kibble or some treats that they really love in all different spots so they have to sniff around and hunt for the food. This was an idea I discovered watching a presentation by Sarah Fisher, a Tellington Touch instructor and dog trainer, who has developed a way to assess a dog’s mobility and overall health by watching the dog go through this elaborate food finding course. I may do a separate post about this eventually because I found it intriguing and want to do more research about it. But, to summarize, this type of easy food/scent driven obstacle course allows her to see how a dog moves, if a limb or their neck is a bit stiff for example, if they favour a particular side (left or right), if they have trouble with sniffing stuff at a higher elevation or on the ground, spinal issues, and much much more. To watch a video about Sarah and her work check this out on YouTube: https://youtu.be/10C4qdizEtw

Rotate and Enhance Old Toys

Another good tip is to rotate the toys your pet uses so that old toys can become new again. One thing I used to do for Hal in particular was to put his toys in a container with catnip so they would be even more enticing once we pulled them out to play with later. You could try this with some clean toys and place them in with your dog’s kibble or treats so that they kind of smell interesting when you pull them out again. If you can sew try restuffing your dog’s toys so they can tear them apart all over again.

Catnip and Silvervine

Of course catnip is a good tool, though not all cats care about it. Another thing you can try is silvervine. It is getting used more here in Canada in certain cat toys but you can also order it as a powder that you can use at home.

Other Must Have Items

Cat scratchers, particularly large ones that have a nice sturdy base, are also an important item. A lot of the typical ones sold in stores are often for kittens so if your cat ends up tipping over their post it is time to find them a bigger one, so they do not use the couch.

Find some comfy beds and blankets and put them in different spots around your house. Some dogs may like a specific spot but if you are not sure try out a few places they tend to hang out and give them the option to choose. Cats definitely like to move around and so I make sure to have a lot of different comfy spots that they can use depending on their mood. Sometimes pets need some downtime to themselves so it’s nice if they can have that option when needed.

Here is a really in-depth article about enrichment activities for dogs:


Visit the blog on felinebehaviorsolutions.com for several articles about playtime and enrichment for indoor cats.

See you next time and follow @furryornot on Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter for more helpful tips and photos.


Furryornot Stories and Petcare Tips


Furryornot Petcare Update


I have been avoiding blogging about my loss of Hal in June. I am naturally very linear so prefer a chronological documentation of events. But I think I placed too much pressure on myself to publicly tackle such an emotional and heart-breaking experience. I would still very much like to write something about it but clearly I need more time. If you would like to see my post about Hal’s passing here is the link:


In the mean time, if you have a cat with Kidney Disease check out this extremely comprehensie website for lots of tips and useful information:


To get myself back into the blogging groove I will write about some easier topics!

Yucky Water Dishes and Why You Should Clean Them

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One of the things I tackle when I start taking care of a cat or dog is to clean their water dish. A film can develop particularly in standing water, ‘biofilm’ or ‘mildew’ that appears as pink (or sometimes brown) gunk at the bottom of the bowl. Some clients have mentioned that it caused acne which typically appears on the cat or dog’s chin. Plastic, especially if it is scratched up, and ceramic seem to be the most problematic. A good and thorough cleaning with soap or in a dishwasher can help keep it from developing but once the gunk forms it is very hard to completely eradicate. Never mind what is not visible to the naked eye. So regular sanitizing is best. Some other species are particularly sensitive to chemicals, like birds and amphibians, so it is important to research how to safely clean your particular pet’s dishes to keep them safe all around. Hermit crabs for example should not have metal dishes. #petcare #petcaretip #pethealth #cats #dogs #wednesdaywisdom #petsitter #petsitterlife #petsittinglife #fraservalley #abbotsford #abbotsfordbc #canva

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In September I started a new content idea on social media, sharing petcare tips that I think are really important or helpful. My first choice was about cleaning water dishes. It is one of the first things I tackle when petsitting because I want to make sure the pet is happy and healthy while I am responsible for their well-being. There is a yucky film that can develop and I have learned over the years that it can be a health problem. Clients have requested that I wash the water bowls daily due to previous health concerns, particularly acne which formed on the pet’s chin. I have also noticed that pets, especially cats, will not drink enough water and this can be because their water dish has the yucky film on it which affects the taste. I became a bit obsessed with this particular task as a pet sitter and would do what I call the ‘paper towel test’ on the water dish after I rinse it out. If there is brown or pink gunk then I scrub it thoroughly. This film also seems to come back quickly so I would be careful to wash it more often than a bowl that passed my crude test.

When I Googled it to get some more insight I was pretty grossed out by my findings. The main article was from 2018 by Stanley Coren, a well known dog expert I use to watch on TV, titled ‘What is Lurking in Your Dog’s Water Bowl?”. It discusses many problems and research related to water bowl cleanliness, material types, and possible consequences. One of the issues is plastic, which can be problematic depending on the type/quality of plastic used as well as if it is scratched up. What struck me was that while ceramic is a safer material it can be as bad or worse because of cracks that can form in the glaze which can be a breeding ground for bacteria. Stainless steel seemed to perform better, though in my experience it can still fail my ‘paper towel test’ and needs regular cleaning.

The article also named Serratia Marcescens as the bacteria that we see as that pink film at the bottom of the bowl. When I Googled that so many medical concerns popped up. I am sure it is more dangerous when it forms in a hospital care situation, particularly on equipment that should be sterile, but nevertherless it is still scary.

On top of that, what we cannot see with the naked eye can be just as bad. Both Salmonella and E. coli were found to be present on water dishes in the research Dr. Coren is discussing.

Recently I watched an online presentation by Dr. Jean Gauvin, a veterinary dental specialist, and he mentioned a link between the bacteria in a water dish to dental health. He said that when plaque forms on the tooth it can form on top of this bad bacteria causing more serious dental problems. This is another reason to keep your pet’s water bowl clean, as well as clean your pet’s teeth. But, I will tackle the topic of dental health more thoroughly at a later date.

So to sum up…

It is critical that you clean your pet’s water dishes regularly! Rinsing out with hot water is not sufficient.

Wash with warm soapy water or run through the dishwasher. If you use plastic make sure to wash frequently, and if you notice scratches it may be time to get a new bowl – preferably stainless steel if at all possible.

Other pets…

If you have a pet that is sensitive to chemicals like a bird, amphibian or reptile just be careful how you sanitize your bowls. You may need need to use elbow grease rather than soap, and change bowls more often. If you have any concerns about a specific species please ask your veterinarian or local specialized animal rescue to find out what they use and can recommend. When I volunteered at the local Zoo we used a special type of cleaning product for the Vivarium that was safe for reptiles, but it required special protocols to ensure everything was thoroughly cleaned and ready to go back into the enclosure.

Some species, like hermit crabs, may be sensitive to metals so you cannot use stainless steel in those cases. Again, just do some research and reach out to your veterinarian, specialty pet store, or other experts to find out what is the safest option for your particular pet.


Here is a link to Stanley Coren’s article if you would like to read more: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/canine-corner/201809/what-is-lurking-in-your-dogs-water-bowl?amp

See you next time and follow @furryornot on Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter for more helpful tips and photos.


What are we up to?


April 15, 2020

The past month has been a challenge, emotionally and mentally as much as anything. I suspect like most people I did not really see this coming. Using the word ‘pandemic’ seems like something out of a movie, something to fear but something that will probably not happen here (meaning wherever I am). I had seen news about the Coronavirus but generally avoid following major news feeds, questionable Facebook posts, and general fear mongering. So at first I thought nothing would happen here. Then as the cases in BC in were announced and suddenly toilet paper was flying off the shelf to be stockpiled by worried people I finally started to pay attention. Though I assumed after a few weeks the panic would die down and things would go back to normal. Within a very short time my business was drastically affected as people started cancelling their vacation plans, and eventually most people had to start working from home. I am prone to worrying, so it was really quite alarming how quickly things changed and how the future seemed very uncertain. I think the scariness of it really hit me the first time I went to Save On to buy groceries after the self-isolating began. It was very alarming to see people so terrified of each other, people in masks and gloves, and completely empty shelves.

On a personal level having more time at home, a kind of ‘forced sabbatical’, is much needed. As my business has grown over the past few years, and particularly in 2019, I have been working very long hours and experiencing extreme burnout. I do love my job, but working 7 days a week and often 12 plus hour days was taking a toll. So, while I was scared about finances and the future I was relieved to have some extended down time. I have luckily still been able to work a little bit and have some savings to fall back on so my situation was not as dire as it was for a lot of people. The biggest hardship is simply that my future plans are postponed, I have to crack down on unnecessary spending, and I will have to wait to buy some wishlist items in the distant but more stable future. I have been living as a crazy cat lady hermit anyways so all this social distancing is not a stretch at all. I have work, I have a roof over my head, I have entertainment, I have food, and I have 5 (yes 5!) cats to keep me company when I am home with all this extra time.

One of the positives (and negatives) of this extra home time is attempting to integrate my cats with foster cats Moxie & Ramses. As many of you know, my client Jim passed away in the Fall and I took in his cats rather than let the family take them to the SPCA or another rescue. I did this partly because I was already taking care of them while Jim was in the hospital which was for almost 2 months. I had also known them for 7 years at that point and was bonded particularly with Moxie. See my previous post for more about that story. But, I had hoped I could find them a home together as that was literally Jim’s last wish. I placed an ad on Social Media for a while and did receive one offer by a cat rescuer but I held out hoping to find them a home of their own where they would be loved like they had been their whole life. Christmas holidays came and went and I advertised again at the Pet Lover Show in February with absolutely no interest shown. It was really discouraging and I had to seriously consider that this may be a foster fail situation.

Then we have a pandemic where rescues are scrambling for foster families and resources and less pets are getting adopted out while more pets are coming in. I am happy to have the boys with me, I love them. But do I really want 5 cats? 3 senior cats, and a cat with urinary issues and pancreatitis? The answer is no, and maybe yes…?? I admit I have envisioned a future with a ridiculous amount of animals, maybe a small acreage with a donkey, chickens, a llama, lots of cats, and dogs, and so on. I think it is really important to give back and help where I can. But I also had to spend a couple months worth of rent on my sick cats in February between 3 vet visits, medication, and special food. Things happen and those things cost money. I have some resources so it is not impossible for me to care for all these cats. If they all get really sick at once, well I can hopefully manage it. It would of course still be ideal to find them a home where they can live out their days cuddling in someone’s lap and peacefully enjoying food, treats, and sunshine, but realistically that may not happen. So, I had to start the process of integration and I finally had the time to do it.

The main reason this integration is happening now though is that Moxie was no longer content having half of my home. There were breakouts, system repairs, flaws discovered, and then more breakouts, and repeat. So, I mustered up my courage and released the hounds, so to speak. As I anticipated the issues are mostly between Ziggy and Moxie, and then poor Bean gets chased by Moxie too. Ziggy and Moxie have very similar personalities and Ziggy was a handful so I figured they would clash. And, clash they have. They have had two all-out brawls apparently trying to eat each other’s faces. Mostly it has been what I have started calling a serious ‘tiff’, meaning not an all out howling biting rolling around frenzy but posturing and smacking of a paw, then a retreat. Luckily bloodshed has been minimal. There was a scary eye injury that took a day to heal (Moxie), some minor scratches (both), and a paw was bleeding but healed quickly (Moxie? but not sure as no injury was visible). The eye injury was the most upsetting of course but luckily was very minor and nothing was seriously damaged. I have experienced lots of guilt and anxiety and stress for putting these cats through this. These less violent tiffs are still frequent but these seem less dangerous and more just vying for their spot or area of choice. Moxie is still really territorial about his half of our home but Ziggy is determined to check it all out and spend time there which is generally when these tiffs occur. If only I had a second hallway or the ability to catify my place completely. But, as I have only the one hallway and can’t start drilling holes in walls here I am working on easier techniques to create a peaceful household.

I have participated in several cat behaviour webinars over the years via Pet Sitters International education resources, online conferences, etc. The latest of course stuck with me more because I was able to immediately see a way to apply it to my situation at home. It featured Marci Koski (https://www.felinebehaviorsolutions.com/) a feline behavior and training consultant. And one of the things she mentioned was allogrooming which is something a mom or another cat in a group will do to create a group scent. So she suggested that the pet parent can do this themselves by using the same soft bristled brush on all the cats. I also watched a Jackson Galaxy video (https://youtu.be/wcIUHjfzTvA) where he discussed the cat’s safe space and transferring their stuff from that space to the rest of the house as part of the integration process (he calls it ‘exploding basecamp’). Both of these are easy to do, and I latched onto hope. Space is limited but I used a few blankets and toys and spread them around. The grooming is a bit trickier because Hal is not keen on brushes of any kind so I can only get in a few swipes. Bean and Ziggy are tolerant for a brief brief brushing. Ramses likes to be brushed up to a point. Moxie on the other hand loves being groomed and I am not sure how helpful that will be (other than keeping him busy for a few minutes). I also put up two of the special Feliway plug-ins for multiple cat households. Every little thing can help.

One of the other tips is to use feeding time or treats to get the cats to associate each other with happy things. That is a tricky business with my gang because Ziggy is restricted to urinary care food and no treats at all. He will also eat everyone else’s food given a chance. Hal is a finicky eater and likes to graze so needs to be cajoled and supervised so Ziggy doesn’t get any of it. Bean likes to eat in different spots and can be a bit tricky too. Ramses will steal and eat any food he can find and Moxie eats in elevated spots so that Ramses can’t eat his portion. It took me a while to figure out how to sort out everyone’s needs and keep it positive. The current system seems to be working. When it is dinner time everyone gathers, Moxie & Ramses hang out with me in the kitchen while my gang waits in their usual dinner spots. Then once everyone’s food is prepared the boys eat back in their room and I close off the hallway so Ziggy can do his thing safely and Ramses doesn’t eat all of Hal’s food. So it is a modified version but at least it’s something.

I am struggling a bit with frustration and impatience. Ziggy & Moxie may always be problematic or they may eventually accept each other. I am trying to enjoy the hours of peaceful coexistence we do have, minimize the fighting, preventing injury, and distracting with playtime and cuddles. I wish I could just sit back and relax and have 5 best friends cuddling on the couch with me, but I will settle for a few hours with no fighting, chasing, or hissing.

I am still separating them at night which I think is part of the possessiveness over their room. However, my sleep is critical so I am still debating on what is worse and whether I should attempt to leave them all out all night or not. I lean towards not yet, particularly for Bean to have a peaceful period to do her own thing. But, I hope to get to a point where I feel they are more respectful of each other and perhaps can integrate for the whole day.

During these peaceful periods, or when I have given up and separated them again, I have managed to make use of this extra time and clean up my place a bit, take care of some paperwork, and so on. The cats have been a huge distraction at times so I am not getting as much done as I had hoped but I am chipping away.

I will keep you posted on our progress! Wish us luck!


Moxie & Ramses


February 9, 2020

Find Moxie & Ramses a home

Moxie and Ramses were one of my very first cat clients way back when I started my business. Moxie and I had an instant bond. Ramses took a bit more time to warm up to me (food and treats helped a lot!). Every time I got to take care of them again it was like seeing old friends. They were always happy to see me, and get fed too of course.

In the Fall of 2019 their Dad had a heart attack on what was only supposed to be a week trip. He spent many weeks in the hospital waiting for tests and then finally surgery. I took care of the boys that whole time. I spoke with my human client just before his surgery and his biggest worry was about his boys. They are biological brothers and grew up together and the idea that they may have to go to the SPCA and be split up was very upsetting to him. I tried to reassure him that it would not happen. To stay positive that all will go well and he will be back home as planned. However I found out he passed away the weekend he should have been coming home.

The family was unable to take the cats and were planning on taking them to the SPCA. I asked for some time to try to find them a home and tried advertising on social media but did not get any serious offers. There were a lot of helpful people but I was looking for a home where they would be loved and pampered like they were used to. So when they had to leave their apartment I took them home. At least that way they knew me and I was hoping that would help with the tough transition. It would also buy me more time to find them the perfect home together.

They have now been with me for several months and are doing fine. I have a pretty crazy work schedule and 3 cats of my own so they do not get all the cuddles and attention they would like but I try my best.