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Sunday, February 27, 2011

Hawkeye State Cat Club cat show

Last year I wrote an article for The Des Moines Register about cat shows and in it I said that I am addicted to cat shows. That is still true.

On a recent weekend I took part in the Hawkeye State Cat Club’s annual CFA cat show in Altoona, Iowa just to salve my addiction. My cats Mulberry Spot and Gooseberry (pictured) accompanied me and did their part to feed my addiction by bringing home their fair share of ribbons.

The weekend was perfect with temperatures in the 50s and driving conditions nearly perfect (there was a little frost on the roads in the mornings but careful driving kept me safe). I got to the show plenty early both mornings allowing the cats to acclimate before they had to go up to a ring. I was in charge of hospitality so as soon as the judges arrived I made sure they had their caffeine fix or water to wet their whistles. Then I was able to settle down for a few minutes.

But that would be one of the few moments of peace for me that weekend. I spent a lot of time visiting with friends, looking over the competitors and watching the judging. I love to take pictures of the shows too so I nearly filled my camera with photos. Unfortunately, I seem to have had a problem with shaking or something because at least half of my shots were fuzzy. I sent my better shots to the regional website at:

(Unfortunately the pictures aren't up on the site yet but I'll let you know when they are)

I wish I had a video of the most stressful time of the show for me – and for Mulberry Spot. I was talking with a friend and was showing her Gooseberry but forgot that the cage door was open. Suddenly my neighbor shouted that Mulberry Spot was out! I made a desperate grab for his tail but that was the wrong thing to do. It only served to frighten him more.

He hissed at me and took off at full speed under the tables. He snuck his way through the exhibit tables and made a beeline for the judging rings. Once there he darted back and forth beneath the two adjacent judging tables at least a couple of times. He stopped halfway between them only once and I thought I could catch him but then he took off again. I could tell people were trying to help with comments and suggestions but all I could think was he could very easily sneak up on the stage and disappear in the storage area behind it!

Luckily for both of us our show manager, a friend and fellow club member Bill Glunz, stopped him in his tracks by calling his name. Mulberry Spot walked right up to him and let him pick him up. Thankfully all was well and I carried my baby back to the benching cage where both of us rested up for a time.

The rest of the show went almost uneventfully and by the end I’d added up the points to find that two brother cats, Paddy and Drew were 3rd and 2nd place overall and Furby of Demigod was the overall high scoring Household Pet Cat. Unfortunately it was late by the time the judging was over so not many people got to see the awards ceremony but it was wonderful. Those three top cats were deserving of their awards as each of them had “sucked up” to each of the judges in their own ways.

So now we wait until October for the next local cat show when I will once again be able to feed my addiction. I can’t wait!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Show me those pearly whites

I came away from the Iowa Veterinary Medical Association’s Winter Conference with a new respect for dental hygiene. If you had seen the graphic photos I saw you would join me in cleaning my cats’ teeth tonight and examining not only their gums and teeth but the throat and under the tongue as well.

Of course you should be brushing your cat’s teeth at least weekly. But those pictures brought home to me that brushing is about more than teeth cleaning. While you’re brushing those teeth you would probably notice anything unusual in the mouth simply by looking more closely.

This is particularly significant now since February is National Pet Dental Health Month. The AVMA is promoting proper dental care for all pets this month. Check out their website for information and an instructional video.

Now, if you are like me, you are on your way to brushing your cat’s teeth.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

What is normal?

What do you think is the most important part of pet ownership? Could it be good preventative care? Yes, that is important. Make sure your pets are vaccinated regularly. Brush their teeth, clean their ears and check their skin for lumps, bumps or scratches. But that’s not it.

Could it be keeping the pet under control? Use a good leash, identify your pets with tags and/or microchips and have your pets neutered. All of that is important but not the most important thing. No, the most important thing about being a pet owner is to know your pet.

1.     Know what is normal behavior for your pet: does he normally eat heartily or is he a finicky eater? Does she normally like to play at certain times of the day or she play at the drop of a toy? Does she warm up to strangers or are strangers her worst enemy? Is your cat normally a happy cat or is he a persnickety, grumpy curmudgeon? If you know how your cat behaves when he is healthy, you will be better able to notice changes in his behavior when he is ill.
2.     Keep track of your cat’s normal diet, how much he eats and drinks. Does your cat usually eat an entire can of a certain diet in one sitting or does he pick at it a little at a time? Does he prefer dry over canned food? Does he like to drink water out of the faucet or a fountain or will he drink from a bowl? Can you tell if your cat gains or loses weight?
3.     Watch for normal litterbox habits. Is she a shy cat preferring her privacy when she’s in the box? If so, you’ll have to learn to be a spy. Never sneak up on a cat while it is using the litterbox though, you may frighten it and give it a complex about the box or the room. Does she have well-formed bowel movements, not too hard but not too soft or does she have looser, smellier “stools?” Normal stool consistency is determined by the diet but you should be familiar with the norm so that you can tell when your cat is sick. Does he urinate regularly so you can keep an eye on the amount he produces? You can do this by watching him or better yet by judging the size of the clump (if you use clumping litter). For male cats, especially, get an idea how often he urinates so that you’ll know if he is having trouble producing urine. Males can develop plugged urethras very quickly and a plugged male cat is an emergency.

These are just a few things to watch for in your normal healthy cat so that you’ll know when she/he is sick or stressed. Take any change in normal behavior seriously and take action when necessary.