Tag Archives: cat care

How I Got My Cat to Use a Toothbrush

When I took Ivy the Wonder Cat to the veterinarian for the very first time, at one year old, she was just a feline teenager and the absolute picture of health. The only thing that was mentioned as a potential issue down the road was her teeth, as tartar was already starting to build up.

Given the back story offered to me by the Ottawa Humane Society, of a life on the cold, wintry streets of Ottawa, fending for herself, eating from garbage cans in a tough neighbourhood, I should not have been surprised that Ivy’s teeth weren’t worthy of a finalist’s spot on America’s Next Top Model.

My vet recommended I put out a bowl of tartar control dry food, something she might eat more consistently than the occasional tartar control cat treat that I might give her. The second alternative was to brush her teeth.

At the time, I was already on the nerve-racking journey of finding the right time and mood where she would allow me to gently trim her nails. Some days, the right mood just wasn’t there, as scratch marks added up like a tote board on a telethon. Getting a toothbrush anywhere near her mouth seemed like an impossible dream.

As I lugged the bag of tartar control food back to my car, I couldn’t help asking myself why it didn’t come in a sample size and where was I going to keep it? Given that Miss Ivy was already revealing signs of a picky palate (though after eating garbage for several months, you’d think that anything from a can or a bag would be a step up) there was a chance that she may not like it.

The first time I put the tartar control food down, I was crushed as she sniffed it, meowed at it, wiped the floor in a stroking motion with her right paw (I still haven’t deciphered that one yet, as she still does it, but in different contexts) and walked away. But I knew I needed to be patient. I left the food out.

A few days later upon returning home from work, as I was serving up her favourite feline version of canned paella, I noticed that the tartar control food was disappearing. Relief! Initially, my parental instincts suggested I should get her to smile to show me her pearly whites to see what kind of difference it was making, but I realized that might be a lot to ask.

Just the same, she continued eating the dry food in waves. Some weeks the bowl would be empty while others, she’d barely touch it. It must have taken six or seven months to finish the bag, but she did, so I bought another one to keep up with our tartar control routine.

Over the next couple of years, Ivy was becoming more comfortable with my gentle attempts to trim her nails, as my intuition improved for finding the right time and technique. As that was happening, I started wondering if she might be comfortable with me approaching her with a toothbrush.

Last December, on a snowy night when there was seemingly nothing on TV, I started watching YouTube videos on how to brush a cat’s teeth. If someone had told me 30 years ago I’d be doing this, I’m not sure what part I would believe the least: watching videos on a “tablet” from the comfort of my couch or watching video clips from complete strangers about brushing a cat’s teeth.

I watched clip after clip of happy people brushing happy cats’ teeth, in complete peace and harmony. They made it look so easy. All I had were visions of a trip to Emergency, and explaining all the scratch marks on my arms.

Then a funny sound came from the Christmas tree… it sounded like a rubbing noise. I got up from my pillow and blanket fort on the couch to see Ivy rubbing the inside of her mouth, back and forth, on the branches of my artificial tree. It was like she was brushing her teeth on the branches!

I could have sworn I heard the angels singing, but it may have been the Hallmark Christmas movie playing on TV. Maybe getting Ivy to use a toothbrush wouldn’t be the struggle I thought it would be. Food for thought.

One day, on my way home from work, I stopped by the pet store and picked up a soft toothbrush and toothpaste made especially for pets.

Just to try it out, I gave the brush a rinse, and then presented it to Ivy to see what she would do. She sniffed it a few times, she looked at it from different angles, she rubbed the outside of her cheek on it to get a feel for it… and then she opened her mouth and started performing the same routine she did on the Christmas tree. She was brushing her teeth herself!

The next day I presented the toothbrush again, and she went a little longer, letting the bristles do their thing. I guess she likes the texture.

Unfortunately, she is not a fan of the toothpaste yet, but that’s OK… one challenge at a time. Maybe it’s just Ivy, but so far, she seems to like brushing without it, so who am I to argue. I just need to keep the brush clean and germ-free.

As we are still in the introductory phase, every couple of days, I present her the toothbrush at playtime, and she seems to engage with it willingly, opening her mouth and rubbing her teeth against it. It may not be the most perfect technique, but she’s using it. I’ll take it. Baby steps…

I’m delighted that she still plays along (most times) when the toothbrush is in front of her. I am hoping that with time, she’ll continue enjoying the toothbrush for the texture, which will allow me to develop skills as a feline dental hygienist.

Who knows, if this keeps up, maybe someday she will be the happy cat in the happy YouTube videos, demonstrating techniques for good dental hygiene!

Did you enjoy this post? If you did, please know that there are plenty more where that came from! If you haven’t already, you can check out the rest of my blog at andrebegin.blog. From there, you can click on the “Follow” button to receive future posts directly in your inbox.
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Sincere thanks for reading!
Have a great day,
André

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My Top 10 Worries Before Becoming a Cat Owner

Now that Miss Ivy has been with me a couple of years, I am amused when I think back to the things I worried about before I got her.
Becoming a first time pet owner was not a decision I took lightly, nor should it be taken lightly. Adopting a pet is a huge responsibility and I wanted to be absolutely certain I was doing the right thing, for her and for me.

As much as I worried (and obsessed) about it, I don’t think I could have imagined just exactly how much I would be getting out of this wonderful experience and how much joy she brought.

I would like to thank the friends and co-workers who took the time to walk me through their pet raising experiences to convince me that taking in a rescue cat was the right thing to do.

Here they are the top 10 things I worried about before I got the cat:

10- Objects not remaining where I left them
When hearing that cats can be pretty good at hiding things, especially items they may consider their favourite toys, I was worried about my belongings moving around the house. Fortunately Ivy lacks the dexterity or strength to move anything, but from time to time, I do see her own toys showing up unexpectedly in other rooms in the house.

A moving pile of laundry (notably a pile of towels) is a pretty common occurrence now. If I didn’t have a cat or a dog in the house, you better believe I would have jumped three feet off the floor at the sight of a pile of laundry walking away from the laundry centre.

9- Missing the litter box
When I moved into this house, the carpeting had a few nasty pet urine stains. On hot humid days, even with the air conditioning going full blast, it was as if those stains came back to life despite several professional cleanings.

Over the years, after spending several thousand dollars replacing the flooring and finally getting rid of that odour, I was very fearful of bringing in a pet. Miss Ivy put my fears to rest. With her litter box scooped every day or two, she always seems pretty content with her restroom facilities. Continue reading

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How My Cat Convinced Me to Get Her a Water Fountain

When the season changes from winter to spring, I find that Ivy the Wonder Cat also seems to go through some changes. After being cooped up in the house with the windows closed for a harsh Canadian winter, those first blasts of fresh air with all of the delightful aromas of spring, seem to get her senses and her excitement levels running high again.

In doing so, she also starts shedding her winter coat and her tastes shift from heartier comfort foods to lighter meals (maybe I’m projecting a little on that last one), but true enough, she starts turning her nose up on some of the heavier pâté style cat foods.

But for the last two springs I also noticed that she seems prone to short periods of kitty constipation. Without going into too many details, when I finally do see the nuggets in the litter box coming at 3 or 4 day intervals, I think that passing those little rocks mustn’t be fun for my feline friend.

Last year, I tried adding pumpkin puree to her food to add a bit more gentle fiber to her meals, but Miss Ivy sees right through my mixing and masking. My little carnivore would rather eat more dry food than eat something from the fruit and vegetable food group.

The issue is that no matter how many times I clean and freshen her food bowl, I never see her drink much water, at least not on my watch. If she eats more dry food, that interval between trips to the litter box could get longer and get me more concerned. Continue reading

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Is My Cat a “Social Eater”?

I was browsing through the Ottawa Humane Society listings one lunch time, checking out the new cohort of cats and dogs looking for new homes. It’s not that I’m looking to add a friend for Ivy, but for entertainment purposes, I enjoy reading the cute biographies and appreciate the effort that goes into writing each one.

In the description of a handsome domestic short haired cat named Bryson, I paused when I read: “I also would love it if you could spend meal times with me in the beginning as I can be a social eater.”

“Social eater”?… is that a thing? Is that what Miss Ivy has been trying to tell me for all these months?

When it comes to her wet food, Ivy always seemed to prefer being served dinner in the basement. I always assumed it is because it is one of the quietest spots in the house. If that’s her preference (and now habit), I’ll happily oblige her.

But in recent months, she introduced a twist in the meal game.

Now, when she’s hungry, she’ll leave whatever room we’re in, approach the staircase, look down, and wait… and wait… and wait… until I get up from what I’m doing, at which time she proceeds to meow to catch my attention.

When I approach her to ask what she would like, she takes off for the basement and looks back. If I’m not following, she meows, increasing the volume gradually like a teenager might do with their sound system.

One day, I gave in and just followed her downstairs. When I arrived, she dove face down into the food bowl, merrily enjoying her meal. Continue reading

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Trimming My Cat’s Nails Without Looking Like I Lost a Fight

As much as I have gushed about all the fun things my cat Ivy has brought into my life, one area that has been a constant learning experience has been the act of trimming her nails.

What is it about my normally cool-as-a-cucumber kitty that the moment I attempt to gently snip 1/16th of an inch off a sharp nail, she can turn on a dime, and a zen moment suddenly becomes a scene from The Exorcist?

Trimming Ivy’s nails has been like a trip to the casino. Most times, I walk away with nothing. On a few occasions, I might get one or two nails done. And on a few rare occasions, I may hit the jackpot and get a whole paw (or even two) done! The trick has been to figure out why I am successful some times and not others, and then to follow the pattern.

It’s pretty easy to check the status of her nails without any intervention on my part. During our daily pets, she lies flat on her blanket and starts moving her little arms back and forth, making that kneading motion with her paws. Her little Wolverine claws pop in and out, giving me a full account of whether her nails are still blunt or if they are sharp or jagged, meaning she is due for a trim.

But if I miss the status check, another sign that a trim is overdue is when she walks around the house, when she doesn’t have her collar on. Usually she can be stealth kitty and sneak up on me at any given moment (which can also be a little creepy, quite frankly). But if I can hear her walking through the kitchen sounding like she is wearing stilettos, those nails are getting long.

The trick is finding the right time to do it. If I say yes to any of the following, chances are, it is not an opportune time: Continue reading

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Top 10 Weird Things the Cat Made Me Do

Ivy_the_catWhen someone adopts a cat, I would imagine that the typical responsibilities that go along with it are pretty evident: dishing out food, washing bowls, playing cat games, keeping the litter box scooped, dealing with an occasional fur ball puddle, and ultimately, offering love, comfort and security.

But I must have missed the fine print on the contract as there are some strange things I found myself doing that were not entirely evident from the start. But when Miss Ivy looks up at me with those big green eyes and lets out a soft meow, it puts a big smile on my face and makes it all worth it.

Here they are, the top 10 weird things that the cat made me do:

10 – Baby proof the house
Since the arrival of Ivy, I don’t recognize myself since I have turned into a bit of a robot, always on auto pilot, perpetually looking to eradicate any potential choking hazard like twist ties, buttons, dimes and elastic bands. Also, I have placed pieces of masking tape on ground level cabinets to prevent Ivy from opening them, especially if they contain anything potentially dangerous. The reality is that despite a curious spirit, she seems to lack a mischievous streak to get into any trouble, and frankly aside from tissue paper and yarn, she doesn’t seem terribly interested in human stuff.

9 – Checking her stools
After the feline parasite incident of last September, whenever I scoop her litter, I do keep an eye open to ensure nothing is moving or looking back at me from the litter box. Along with that, goes an occasional check of her bottom to ensure all is clean there too. There should have been a “claws” in the contract about that part!

8 – Counting cat calories
Much like human food, not all food is equal when it comes to calories. In the first months after her arrival, she was starting to put on a little weight. The vet suggested I limit the amount of wet food I offer her. That was easy enough but a day or two later, she was following me around the house like my shadow and constantly meowing. I had also noticed that she was going through her food rather quickly, including the dry food I was leaving out. This started the process of reading the fine print on cat foot labels. Little did I know that her favourites were actually very low in calories (50-60 calories per serving), while some other commercially available foods can be 100 calories or more per serving. From that point on, I have kept track of which favourites were higher in calories vs lower, and adjusting the portion size accordingly. In the end, by my calculations, she is pretty self-regulating and stays around 180 calories per day, a little less if she’s been sleeping a lot, and a little more if we have played a lot.

7 – Postponing basic human needs when she’s asleep on me
She is just so calm and peaceful when she is taking a nap, it would be such a shame to disturb her. Plus let us not forget the wrath I occasionally incur if I wake her up before she is ready to wake up… Meh, let her sleep. Continue reading

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