Tag Archives: pets

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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Filed under Cats, How to, Humour

Keeping the Christmas Tree Vertical (in the Presence of a Curious Cat)

The first Christmas after Ivy the Wonder Cat joined me, the same jitters that I felt before her adoption were back with a vengeance. This time, I was worried about how she would behave around the artificial Christmas tree.

Five months into our relationship, I already knew she was a good little kitty who didn’t have any predispositions to destructive behaviour. Nonetheless, she still had a strong curious streak which could make the tradition of keeping a Christmas tree upright a challenge. I had heard enough horror stories and seen enough videos to know just exactly what cats are capable of, in the presence of a bright, shiny “play structure” in the middle of the living room.

I turned to my panel of experts at the office who all offered fabulous, practical tips to keeping the tree and the cat safe (thanks again, everyone!) Plus, with experience, I added a few of my own ideas upon realizing that my cat was not only smart but fearless when it came to climbing the tree.

Here are some of the strategies I use to keep my Christmas tree vertical throughout the holiday season:

– For the first Christmas with Ivy, I kept my most cherished (and breakable) ornaments in a box, safely tucked away until I knew how she would behave. This took some of the fear and apprehension out of the experience.

– When I install the tree lights, I try to avoid the branches at the very bottom, within the reach of her paws. By avoiding those branches, not only is it safer for Ivy and the tree, I find that at human eye-level, the overall appearance of the tree is enhanced given the greater concentration of lights higher up. Continue reading

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Filed under Cats, Christmas

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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Filed under Cats, Humour, Top 10

Ten Things to Do With the Extra Hour

If I had to pick a favourite between the “Spring Forward” and “Fall Back” time change, the winner has to be “Fall Back”. Not only do we regain the hour that we lost in the spring, but in the days that follow, in feeling sleepier at bedtime and falling asleep faster, it seems to make for a more restful night’s sleep.

The downside is that we are thrown back into darkness earlier in the afternoon. Losing that hour of natural light late in the day seems to make those winter months feel like they drag on and on, thus invoking the urge to curl up on the couch with a pillow, a blanket and the remote… or is that just me?

But on the upside, that extra hour holds so many possibilities for things to do. Here are ten ideas:

10. Catch up on the things that weren’t completed when the hour was taken away last spring

In our time-starved, busy lives, it can be pretty amazing how much we can miss that hour in the spring. At a time when we are itching to shed our winter parkas and fling the windows wide open to welcome the new season with open arms, deducting an hour from the spring cleaning, gardening or outdoor sports training agenda seems counterintuitive when there is so much to do.

9. Adjusting the clocks

Thankfully, many of the clocks in the house take care of themselves now and reset automatically. But for the ones that are not connected to computers and that need a little manual intervention (and sometimes require a refresher from its user manual), it seems that a good 15 minutes can be gobbled up just on clock detail.

8. Debating the merits of the time change

Between the recent reports on regions looking to remain on Standard Time year-round, to the articles weighing the pros and cons or speculating on the actual savings of Daylight Savings Time, a reader could easily use up that extra hour just reading up on the extra hour. Continue reading

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Filed under Humour, Misc blogs, Top 10

Would I Volunteer When I Retire?

Ever since I turned 50, not a day passes that I don’t consider what I might want to do in retirement.

It is kind of funny because for the first half of my career, it was all about mentally preparing for the next work assignment and the next career step, hoping to strike to right balance between something I can be good at, something lucrative and sustainable, and something that will keep me happy.

At this stage in life, the hunt is still on, but not so much about the next career step as it is for activities I may be interested in pursuing in my next chapter.

Of course, there is no rush. As I suggested in my post about my retirement “gap year”, sleeping, recharging my batteries and writing for the fun of it will be my top activities in that first year. But at the same time, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with taking note of the activities that make me happy and which hold particular meaning to me.

Volunteering is one of those activities.

Much like with one’s career, I think it is very important to pitch in not only where the need exists but also to volunteer for causes that are close to one’s heart. In doing so, the time spent volunteering should be more fun and energizing rather than draining.

This is what I tried to explain to my dad many moons ago, when he objected to my volunteering just as I was launching my career. In retrospect, I certainly understand his point of view in that it was important to focus my full energy to my burgeoning career. But early on, there were days that I felt that my job was not tapping into my full potential, especially from a creative perspective.
That is why I was looking for other outlets. Continue reading

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Filed under 50+, Cats, Inspiring

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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Filed under 50+, Humour, Inspiring

10 More Things about the Cat That Make Me Laugh

ivyatplayLast year, I dedicated a post to the Top 10 Things about the Cat That Make Me Laugh. A year later, she remains a boundless source of comic relief and a welcome diversion from the preoccupations of adulthood.

Here they are: Ten More Things about the Cat That Make Me Laugh

20- The cat who cried wolf

After almost two years, I am getting pretty good at understanding the subtle inflections of her meows and what they mean. If she meows repeatedly and succeeds in walking me to where she might have a concern (who is training who?), I am usually able to figure out and address the situation. But if I have ruled out issues relating to food, water, litter, sleep, play or her nemesis is at the back window, what else is there? I am convinced that she has learned the art of “crying wolf” just to get some extra attention and getting me to step away from what I am doing. Not so surprisingly, it works.

19- Finding myself trying to explain the story of the cat who cried wolf… to a cat

When I stop myself and realize that I am explaining the story of the cat who cried wolf, I snap myself back into reality upon realizing that I am trying to negotiate with a cat. We all know who wins anyway, right?

18-Galloping during game time

The pure joy she expresses when we start playtime is unmistakable. Her usually gentle, soft footsteps are replaced by the cadence of a prize racehorse, as she gallops around the house running after balls, chasing a piece of yarn or the ever popular laser pointer. I never knew that cats could run quite like that. I don’t get how we never had a series about a bionic cat because I think we have our star right here.

I also discovered that her galloping around the house can also be a sign that #2 is coming soon. I am not sure of the connection, but it seems like more than a coincidence now. Continue reading

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Filed under Cats, Humour, Top 10