Tag Archives: love

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 Lifelong Envy of Artists and Their Sketch Pads

Regular readers of my blog might remember a couple of posts in which I talk about how other artists inspire me as a writer, even when their works of art come from other creative disciplines.

Musicians who can pick up an instrument, anytime, anywhere, and start playing beautiful music are mind-blowing to me. I am also in awe of singers who can not only carry a tune, but bring such depth and complexity to a song by smartly using their “instrument”. It is also a joy to behold when an actor can take a script and breathe such life into a role that I am able to completely suspend judgement and believe in a fictional character.

I especially envy visual artists who can take a pencil and a sheet of paper and produce picture-perfect images worthy of a gallery showing.

In high school, while certain teachers droned on in that Charlie Brown teacher’s voice, I remember looking over at my artist friends during class, pencils blazing over whatever piece of paper (or flat surface) was at their disposal. Blank pages were magically transformed into masterpieces with images of eyes, faces or pets from different angles, and all from the perspective of their mind’s eye.

There was seemingly no struggle to their process. They did not stare at a blank page, think hard about it, draw, erase, draw, erase and start over. It just seemed to flow out of them like they were on auto-pilot. They made it look effortless. Continue reading

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What Surprises Me Most After Four Years as a Blogger

Last year, I posted a blog entitled “The Ups and Downs of Blogging Statistics” in which I admitted to checking out my blog statistics and keeping an eye on trends, but not obsessing about them, given that this was “rehearsal” time for me.

Blogging was a building block for me to refine my writing creative skills in preparation for my aspirations as a creative writer. My blogging was for the fun of it, and you were more than welcome to join me along the way.

But four years into the blogging journey, there is one aspect that often surprises me: the posts that keep getting viewed weeks, months or even years after I have originally posted them, and getting fairly consistent views over the long term.

As a blogger, I don’t sit down and think to myself, “This post will get a thousand views”, it doesn’t work that way. And even after posting the link on Google, Twitter, Facebook, Flipboard and sometimes Pinterest, we are sometimes at the mercy of the algorithms for how much prominence (and page views) a post might get.

I have read a good number of articles on blog promotion, and I have definitely taken experts’ advice to try to maximize clicks whether through a well-chosen title, a sharp picture to accompany it, adherence to a consistent posting schedule, as well as seeking lessons learned by the most viewed posts. Continue reading

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Inspired by the Creativity of Others

A few days ago, I attended a concert at the National Arts Centre, here in Ottawa, to see The Tenors perform with the National Arts Centre Orchestra conducted by Jack Everly.

Much like all of the Pops series concerts I have seen in recent years, the concert brought me on a roller coaster of emotions, between goose bump moments of arias and their triumphant crescendos and moments where I felt a tad verklempt, hearing favourite songs performed live in brilliant new arrangements.

Throughout great performances like that, I can’t help but ask myself, “How do they do it?” How much of it is natural aptitude and how much is hard work? How many thousands of hours each performer put into their craft over the years, to become one with their instruments and to make it look so easy? How hard did each one have to work to achieve this level of proficiency, to produce such beauty that can elicit such strong emotions from spectators?

This inner monologue replays in my head again and again whenever I feel deeply inspired, whether it’s at a concert, in a museum, in a theatre, reading a book or watching a great movie. It’s like a vortex of creativity, swirling around, reaching out and stirring up my own artistic momentum to keep doing what I love doing, keep practicing, work hard and don’t let go.

I sometimes pause and wonder if I will ever get to the same degree of skillfulness and versatility in writing as someone who can pick up an instrument and play a song, just like that. Then I think to myself that I have been known to pull a rabbit or two out of a hat on a few occasions.

Whether it’s a blog post that I was able to commit to paper in one sitting in under two hours (it doesn’t happen often, but it does), a blog post that successfully reached out and really struck a chord with readers, or writing a piece at work that was exactly what was requested, offering the right words at the right time, and being able to do so under crazy time constraints. I reassure myself that I am on my way. Continue reading

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How the Feline Barricade Saved Me from Myself

Shortly after the arrival of Ivy the Wonder Cat, when she started dropping her guard with me, it was a wonderful thing.

Those first few times that I was quietly watching TV only to find Ivy inconspicuously walking into my lap, plopping herself down and making herself comfortable, were heartwarming moments.

When trust and comfort conspired to become her naptime, I knew that I had succeeded in creating the right environment, that she was comfortable with me, and that we had truly bonded.

The only pitfall of that was getting locked into a couch or armchair and not being able to get up. I hated the risk of disturbing her peaceful sleep.

Fortunately, I caught on early and made sure that if I was sitting down with plans to watch TV for a while, to make sure I had gone to the bathroom first, had a beverage next to me, my remotes by my side and a pen and note paper, in case moments of creative inspiration should happen to strike me during my immobilization. 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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How the Cat Opened My Heart

I think it would be fair to say that I have always been a sensitive guy. Some might even say that is a bit of an understatement given that I have been known to cry at previews at the movies. It might be a bit inconvenient and a tad embarrassing, but I am quite comfortable being the guy for whom sympathy, empathy, compassion and joy run close to the surface.

To me, feelings remind us that we have blood coursing through our veins and that we are part of the human experience. It’s a wonderful thing.

But is it possible to become even more sensitive than that? You bet! And I have the cat to thank.

When I was planning and preparing for the adoption of my cat Ivy, almost two years ago, no one mentioned the many ways a pet can alter one’s range of emotions. What an unexpected epiphany!

I have accepted the fact that when she is waiting for me at the door when I get home from work, it’s likely not because she missed me, it is because it is feeding time. No delusions there.

But after she has filled her belly with her favourite catch of the day and starts following me around as I prepare dinner, that’s when I start sensing that she missed me. And of course, the feeling is mutual.

On a cognitive level, I have always understood the attachment between pets and their owners. Now, as a new pet owner, I also understand it with every fibre of my being.

It’s not like my heart needed much melting to begin with, but with Miss Ivy, it melts a little more each day with everything she “says” and does. She is a ten pound bundle of cuteness. Continue reading

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