Tag Archives: humor

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.
Also, don’t be shy, feel free to tell a friend or to share the link.
Sincere thanks for reading!
Have a great day,
André

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Top 10 Ways I Prepare for a Canadian Winter

With the fall season well underway and the official start to winter just on the horizon, I often feel like a squirrel gathering nuts, which is not too far from the truth, actually.

For those who might not be familiar with Ottawa, winter can offer its share of merciless days in terms of bad weather conditions. As a result, roads and driving conditions can get pretty treacherous.

If we hit a weather pattern of several days of heavy snow or freezing rain (or both), I tend to go out only if I really have to. And on those days when I have to go to work, I stick to the essentials: a commute to the office and back, and that’s it. I won’t do errands on the way home.

It’s just a question of safety… well… that and the fear of getting stuck in a parking lot where a plow hasn’t arrived to remove the snow which continues to pile up.

For that reason, I tend to stock up on certain items to ensure I have a decent supply on hand, and to not stress out if my errand schedule goes topsy-turvy when Mother Nature and Old Man Winter get cranky.

Here they are, my top 10 errands in preparation for winter:

10. Flu shot

Getting a flu shot is not so much a weather dependent preparation, it is just a seasonal one for which I feel a need to make time for it, to avoid the flu, avoid the line-ups and maintain good health through the winter season.

9. Snow tires

Local garages are usually run off their feet at this time of year as many drivers book an appointment to have winter tires installed on their vehicles. Given how bad the weather can get, I couldn’t imagine driving without them anymore.

8. Kitty litter Continue reading

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Jeans and the Generation Gap

A couple of years ago, I wrote about my love-hate relationship with my iron in a tribute to my Dad and his crisp office shirts.

In that same train of thought, when growing up in the 1970’s, while in school in the 1980’s, and when launching my career in the 1990’s, the expectation was to have clean, neat and crisp clothes anytime I set foot outside the house, because “you never get a second chance to make a first impression”. Even if we look back at pictures from that era and question the wisdom of some of our fashion choices, neat and tidy clothing were a common denominator.

My parents’ suit-and-tie generation set the bar pretty high, even for a child. Clothes were meant to be worn gently, and maintained carefully to keep looking new as long as possible. The rotation generally went like this: every September, we got me new school clothes and the previous year’s school clothes (if I hadn’t outgrown them yet) became the “play clothes”, for wearing as soon as I got home from school. When a new batch of school clothes came in, a batch of gently-used play clothes would go to charity.

Along the way, a little nick in clothing meant taking out the needle and thread and try to make an invisible repair to restore it to its original beauty. And if invisible mending wasn’t successful, it went into the donation box.

That’s just the way I was brainwashed… I mean, brought up. It wasn’t just my parents’ generation that instilled this way of thinking, but it was my grandparents’ generation too who declared open war on wrinkles and holes long before I was born. And just think of the staff on Downtown Abbey and how many items they’ve darned and mended through their six seasons.

About 10 years ago, I let myself get talked into buying a distressed pair of brand name jeans with a few strategically-placed pulled threads. I can’t tell you what a struggle it was each time to convince myself to wear them and that I supposedly looked like a cool, edgy, fashion-forward 40 year old. I may have looked it, but I certainly didn’t feel it. Continue reading

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How I Conquered the Most Stubborn Stain in the House

Ever since I moved in to this house, I have been in a never-ending hunt for ways to clean my tub.

If I remember correctly, scrubbing the tub (and the entire main bathroom, for that matter) was one of the first things I did the day I got the keys to the place. That and eradicating a trail of ants from the kitchen counter from a sticky sweet mess left behind, as well as a load of laundry for a proud first-time owner of a laundry centre.

But for some reason, no matter how much I scrubbed with my trusty scouring powder with bleach, there were patches of darker shades of beige throughout that didn’t seem to want to come off. Technically, I knew it was clean, but it looked stained.

I don’t know much about the previous owners and occupants, but for a fifteen-year-old house, there were some signs of premature aging. There were some pieces in the house showing more wear and tear than my first apartment that was twice that age, including chips in the enamel of a sink, knife marks on the kitchen counter and some carpeting that absorbed the fallout of a kitty cat with an unfortunate bladder issue.

In the months that followed, whenever I had a few minutes, I was back at the tub, trying to clean it with the same tenacity as the Coyote trying to catch the Road Runner. I tried every product on the market and had to hold myself back from using anything deliberately abrasive, in my frustration for the stains that would not come out. Continue reading

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Filed under How to, Humour, Misc blogs

Could Robots Replace Writers?

Not too long ago, I was listening to an interesting report on the evolution of artificial intelligence (AI) and the types of jobs that could be replaced by robots. Of course, the occasionally insecure writer in me wondered, could robots replace writers and screw up my retirement plan?

While I am certainly not an expert in the field, nor should this blog post be interpreted as an expert opinion, the Pollyanna in me says if it could happen, we are probably some time away from that.

To me, a good story really boils down to three things: the reader, the writer and the story itself.

For a story to be successful, it needs to engage the reader and resonate on a human level. It needs to connect with readers on an intellectual and on an emotional level. The story needs to stir up feelings in the reader to keep them coming back for more.

To achieve that, the writer needs to tap into their imagination, their emotions, their experience, or all three. Plus, with each writer’s unique point of view in the way that they craft a story, additional layers of interest are created and the writer’s sense of style is stamped on the story, much like a fingerprint.

A good story could be a testimonial of human experience that discusses the strong emotions felt along the way such as the struggle, the pain and the joy. A good story can take us to a world we could only imagine. Good stories can also scare the crap out of us, play with our minds, or inspire us.

To do all of the above requires heart and passion. Continue reading

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Filed under 50+, Humour, Misc blogs, Writing

A Half-Baked Post about the Importance of Halves

Do you remember those childhood days when adding “… and a half” to our age was of critical importance? I was watching a TV show recently where they interviewed a young star who was asked how old he was. When he added “…and a half” it took me back. Waaaay back!

I can’t remember exactly when I started, but I recall adding “… and a half” to my age since the beginning of the school years when fractions were first introduced. “What a great invention!” I thought.

When I place myself back in childhood, I remember always being one of the shortest kids in my group of friends and when grown-ups would be guessing my age, they were always on the younger side.

While I’d like to think I’ve acquired better social skills since then, at the time, I did not hesitate in correcting those crazy grown-ups by telling them exactly how old I was. It seemed like adding “…and a half” proved them even more wrong.

In my 20’s, as my career was just starting, those halves would still show up from time to time in response to how many years I had been in the work force or how many years I lived in that first apartment, but the halves started losing their importance and fading from vocabulary. Continue reading

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Did You Miss Any of These Posts? (Spring 2017)


As we shed our heavy coats from winters that seemingly never end, spring is always a busy time. In case you missed them, here is a recap of my spring blog posts:

207. How the Cat Opened My Heart 20170326
The unexpected surprise of how a rescue #cat melted my heart.

208. My Writer’s Uniform 20170402
The styles that will likely inspire my “writer’s uniform” once I am retired and free from corporate dress codes.

209. Fine Tuning the TV Habit 20170409
How my TV watching habits have been changing without a self-inflicted guilt trip.

210. Top 10 Things I Like to Do on a Long Weekend 20170412
A Top 10 list of my most favourite activities over long weekends.

211. My First Writing Competition 20170417
How my next step into the world of writing drew out some unexpected emotions at the eleventh hour.

212. Did Nature Photography Get Me to Enjoy Winter? 20170423
Did my renewed interest in photography nudge me out of my usual winter cocoon to spend more time outside?

213. The Coin Conundrum 20170430
A humourous post dedicated to the shoppers who need to unload their coins at the cash register and the increasing challenges in finding places to unload coins as we move toward a cashless society.

214. Trimming My Cat’s Nails Without Looking Like I Lost A Fight 20170507
Pet care: how I was able to trim a fidgety cat’s nails

215. How I Became a Fan of the Eurovision Song Contest 20170514
A Canadian’s journey into discovering the annual music competition through the magic of high speed Internet and a faster computer.

216. The Pitfalls of Nature Photography 20170521
The constant need to look up, down, and over one’s shoulder when trying to capture the perfect nature shot.

217. You Know It Was a Good Vacation When… 20170529
A list of the signs indicating it was a good vacation, when you’ve forgotten the intricacies of your day-to-day routine.

218. How the Feline Barricade Saved Me from Myself 20170604
The advantages of getting locked into a couch by a sleeping cat.

219. How I Need the Internet to Go “Off the Grid” 20170611
The irony over my recent discovery of how I need the Internet to disconnect and go off-the-grid.

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.
Also, don’t be shy, feel free to tell a friend or to share the link.
Sincere thanks for reading!
Have a great day,
André

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Filed under Cats, Humour, photography, Top 10, TV