Allison's Book Bag

Posts Tagged ‘reviews of books for young people

I believe no one should be labeled as ‘crazy’ for loving a pet.—David Williams, MIC

Men with Cats: Intimate Portraits of Feline Friendship is a fun collection of photos and stories by David Williams that breaks the stereotype that only crazy ladies care for cats. Williams himself is a freelance photographer who lives in New York with his wife and their two cats. Men With Cats: Intimate Portraits of Feline Friendship was recognized as a New York Times Best seller shortly after its release in 2016.

Each two-page spread of this 140-page delightful photo book consists of a professional photo, identification of the male cat owner and his cat companion(s), and a quote that highlights the feline friendship. How each met differs: A mother cat followed Louis home; A burned cat slated for euthanasia was rescued by Al; Cats abandoned at an auto shop catch Alex’s attention. How the bond developed is unique: Brent loves how his cat jumps on his chest, kneads his paws in his beard, and licks his face; Reuben appreciates how relaxed his cat is and tries to emulate that lifestyle; Dennis admires the array of sounds his cat will use to communicate, with his favorite being a chirrup that acknowledges his presence. The way the men describe the friendship devotion varies: Benn refers to his relationship with his cat at being like an old married couple; Brian jokes that his cat is a dog except evil instead; Dustin shares that when he and his cat make eye contact there is a deep inner connection.

Photo books are not my typical fare. I’m more of an information sort of reader. One of my favorite parts of Men with Cats: Intimate Portraits of Feline Friendship is the section labeled “What is the hardest part of cat ownership?” I wanted to see several other spreads like this. But I must admit that a couple rereads of Men with Cats: Intimate Portraits of Feline Friendship revealed more than I expected about living with cats.

Williams started this photography project back in 2009 not only to shuns stereotypes, but also to celebrate feline friendship. In his preface, he expressed the hope that his book would inspire readers to rescue and adopt pets or donate time and resources to animal welfare groups. Men with Cats: Intimate Portraits of Feline Friendship certainly increased my appreciation for the quirky and intense bonds that can exist between men and their cats.

A good owner is just anyone that shows love and compassion towards their pet — whether it be a cat, dog, or rabbit.—David Williams, Refinery 29

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Rainy started her week with a visit from two of our friends. In the middle of the week, we worked on established routines. She finished her week with a trip to a major pet store.

Two weekends ago, friends from out of town came by for a visit. We invited them to visit our critters before going out to eat. The critters include our 13-year-old toy poodle, our reclusive tortie that we adopted from Tia’s Place at Hearts United for Animals, a former feral cat, and our irrepressible Rainy that we adopted as a stray kitten. Our poodle was all kisses, while our tortie wanted to sniff faces, and our feral observed from the safety of the living room cat tower. As for Rainy, she displayed a cautious curiosity. Proud pet mom that I am, I wanted to demonstrate what our cats can do. We ran through a few obedience commands (sit, stay, twirl), and I also pulled out the agility jumps. Then I handed treats to our friends, who took turns getting our cats to perform. The cats were naturally nervous, but also complied with requests.

During the week, after breakfast, Rainy and I kept up our grooming and obedience routines. I brought lots of cat snacks, so that she would associate grooming with good stuff. At the same time, I didn’t just hand out snacks but instead made her work for rewards. After I cleaned her ears, which get dirtier than that of our other pets, I asked her to “Hi-Five”. Then I brushed her, even though she barely sheds, and ask her to stand and twirl (dance). I finished up by cleaning her teeth, and asking her to do her favorite trick: roll over. All done, I put a treat in my mouth, tell her “Kiss!” and let her take it from me.

Establishing a routine hasn’t been easy. I was initially reluctant to add regular training to my schedule because of the time commitment and because I thought it’d be a chore. I finally just decided to start. I picked to work with Rainy on training near mealtimes prior to my getting absorbed in other activities. Then I simply stuck to our schedule until it became routine.

At the end of the week, my husband and I took Rainy with us to run some errands. This is a new experience for me. I’ve taken dogs on errands before, but never cats. Rainy and Andy wait in the car while I make a couple of deliveries. At Petco, it’s a different story. Rainy can come with us. We loaded her into the pet stroller. Rainy sat up, alert to passing cars. When we got inside, we filled our shopping cart with treats, food, and litter, Rainy relaxed for a ride in the stroller. As we shopped, I heard the occasional “Aw” from fellow shoppers. In the checkout line, the customer behind us, and I shared how our two cats like it for walks and about where we purchased it.

Back at the car, I spoiled Rainy with lots of treats. When we return home, she flops onto the living room floor for a stretch and snooze.  Adventure is exhausting!

Reprinted with permission from Lincoln Animal Ambassadors Pet Talk. This article is original in content and not to be reproduced without permission. Copyright 2017.

If you like cats, romances, and mysteries, check out Mayhem and Mystery at the Kitty Kastle by Malynda McCarrick. The downside is the writing could use some editing and polish. The upside is a portion of the proceeds from the purchase of this short fun read goes to support Midwest cat shelters.

Too many strange things were happening at the Kitty Kastle for anyone to dismiss them as just anyone’s imagination. First, there were the unexplainable noises such as that of footsteps when there’s no one else around. Then there was the lack of noise. On the fourth floor, especially in an old house, one should the wind or the rain but instead the build is sound proof. Third, there are walls that are located where they shouldn’t be and a foundation that doesn’t line up with the rest of the building. Finally, there are the gifts that mysteriously appear. The mystery is my favorite part.

One black cat knew that something was afoot and kept trying to provide clues to Jay Carpenter, the man hired to bring the shelter up to code. He’s also a growing source of comfort to Miranda, the owner of Kitty Kastle. She’s recovering from a messy divorce, but apparently can’t resist a hunk in a toolbelt. Jay turns out to strong in build and gentle in character. Soon, the two are dreaming up a multitude of ideas for how the building could be renovated. Moreover, because Jay knows the shelter couldn’t cover the cost of major repairs, Jay has volunteered to help for free. Just as important, a dog lover at heart, Jay is slowly being converted to a cat lover. The romance is unrealistic but does make for a light-hearted read, which we all need at times.

Finally, there are the cats of Kitty Kastle. They live in a dream shelter. Each floor has varying levels of padded condos. In addition, the walls have ledges and cubby holes in which the cats can play and hide. On the first floor is a central playroom, filled with climbing structures and tunnels for the cats to explore. There’s also a large kitchen with multiple refrigerator for the specialty foods and various medicines the cats would need. Finally, the owner lives on the premises and so she is available 24/7 to check on the feline residents. The shelter’s inhabitants serve as a pleasant backdrop and the mystery wouldn’t have been resolved without Minx.

Author Malynda McCarrick is Midwestern country girl who grew up with a love for books. She’s also an avid animal lover. One day, the arrangement of vendors at a cat show put her and The Cat House (a no-kill cat shelter) next to one another. Afternoon conversations between the two led to McCarrick taking an interest in The Cat House and eventually self-publishing a cat cozy dedicated to its hard-working volunteers. Run-on sentences, missed punctuation, and some stereotype characters diminished some of my enjoyment of Mayhem and Mystery at the Kitty Kastle. Otherwise, McCarricks’ novel served as an evening of escapism.

The month of July was a full one for Rainy. We practiced a few items on the Canine Good Citizenship test. In doing so, we revisited clicker training, visited a friend, and toured a store. Oh, and we played on an agility jungle gym.

Why is Rainy working on the Canine Good Citizenship test when she isn’t a dog? Because prospective therapy dogs must pass it, but there is no such test yet for felines. What type of items are on the test? The first five items test a dog’s ability to politely and calmly meet strangers, while the last five cover obedience commands and the dog’s ability to handle distractions and separation. I figure that Rainy is learning how to handle the first five through her supervised visits; the others I want to focus on practicing at home.

One of the basic obedience commands tested in the CGC test is, “Come.” Rainy has been struggling with the command, so this week I decided to revisit clicker training as a way of teaching recall. For clicker training, one uses a small metal noisemaker to mark desirable behavior, and then rewards with a reinforcement such as a treat. When watching online clicker training videos, I realized the importance of marking the tiniest sign of obedience. I used to reward Rainy only if she fully obeyed the command. Now the instant that Rainy head towards me, I click and reward. Rainy doesn’t always make it to me or take a straight path, but the point of clicker training is to shape a behavior. The more I clicked and rewarded each time she obeyed, the more improvement I saw. (You can read a longer version of how to teach “come” on page 16 of Lincoln Kids.)

Another item on the CGC test is a demonstration of the pet’s ability to ignore noisy distractions. I enlisted my husband to help with this one. I called the cat trio into the kitchen, rewarded them for coming, and then asked them to sit. When they started to sit, Andy dropped an object on the floor. He started with a quieter item and proceeded to louder ones: first a cardboard tube, then a pill bottle, then a spoon. Despite a history of noise aversion, Rainy wasn’t fazed by any of these distractions. Next time, we’ll practice with louder noises.

As I noted, the first five items test an animal’s ability to meet strangers. This week, I accepted an invitation to take Rainy to visit a friend. When I opened the door of Rainy’s carrier, she didn’t want to come out. To help relax her, I offered her goat cheese from my hand. She ate it. To encourage her to come out of her carrier, I sprinkled a trail of cheese leading away from the carrier. She didn’t take the bait. I placed a blanket on the floor, added some cheese, and then simply lifted Rainy out of the carrier. She didn’t protest, but instead ate the cheese and sat next to me. Next, I moved the blanket closer to my friend and added more cheese. Rainy ate the cheese and sniffed my friend. I gave my friend some cheese and Rainy accepted cheese from her hand. Finally, I put the blanket on my friend’s lap and placed Rainy onto it. Rainy laid down and allowed my friend to pet her. When Rainy got down, she took time to explore, but eventually retreated under the bed. Visit over!

At the online International Cat-Assisted Therapy group, some owners of therapy cats shared that they had started their training by going to indoor places. When I told this to Andy, he suggested we visit Sit Stay, a small pet store. While my husband searched for just the right dog treat, I pushed our pet stroller up and down the aisles. Unlike one of our cats who hisses when I take her places in the stroller, Rainy sat upright and peered at the sights. The store clerk was impressed! So was I! After Andy bought a bag of fishy pet treats, I unzipped the stroller. Rainy peeked out and let the store clerk pet her. Another success!

For a long time, Andy and I have talked about having a pet enrichment day, on which we would rearrange our living room to give our pets a new environment to explore. This week we did this, and in doing so treated our dog and cats to an agility jungle gym. Our other two cats weren’t too sure about the new arrangement; Rainy took it all in stride. She jumped onto the boards placed on chairs, raced through tunnels, and climbed onto the heights of the cat tower. At one point, I followed her into the bigger tunnel. When she turned around and saw me following, she flopped down as if to ask, “What are you doing, Mom?” Then she leaped to her paws and zoomed about the tunnel as if to say, “Some fun, eh?!” The other two cats finally decided to in on of the action. Our pet enrichment afternoon was a blast!

Most nights, Rainy joins me in bed at night. She curls up under my arm and then snuggles with me until morning. Our life is full and my girl is happy!

Reprinted with permission from Lincoln Animal Ambassadors Pet Talk. This article is original in content and not to be reproduced without permission. Copyright 2017.

In December 2013, my husband and I adopted a one-year-old tortoiseshell from Hearts United for Animals. Cinder has taught us so much about cats that it seemed proper for her to have her own advice column.

QUESTION: What can I do to help my cat recover from surgery?

Recap of my previous two columns: A few days after I got adopted, I stopped feeling so good. The vet told my owners that I might have an allergy to dental plaque. Because plaque is full of bacteria, and because my immune system was overreacting to those bacteria, the vet prescribed yucky-tasting antibiotics to kill the bacteria. Unfortunately, the medication didn’t work, and the next step was surgery by a dental specialist.

On with the story: Waking up from surgery was not a pleasant experience. I was still in pain. Worse, I discovered that all my teeth except the two lower canines had been removed. The specialist told my owners that the rest of my teeth had been too damaged to save. Just as bad, my head was now trapped in a hard-plastic cone-shaped prison! The specialist advised my owners that I needed the cone to keep me from pawing at the stitches in my gums. I disagreed with him; if they would just remove the cone I knew that I’d be the perfect patient.

When my owners got me home, they brought me to a closed room and tucked me into my bed but didn’t remove the cone. I made clear how upset I felt by yowling at them. They left the room and closed the door, which made my spirits sink further. What if my owners didn’t like me without teeth? What if they didn’t want to take care of me anymore?

I tried to walk to the door, so I could scratch at it and get them to return. But my cone made it impossible to see or move far, and I kept stumbling over my paws. Finally, I gave up and whimpered. That’s when Allison came back. She picked me up and held me in her lap. I wanted to just lay there and fall asleep, but I hurt too much to sleep. The only thing that felt good was her staying with me, stroking me, and loving me.

Eventually I must have fallen asleep despite the pain, because when I opened my eyes again the sun had gone down. Andy was in the room now too. He put some food and water in front of me. I tried to reach the bowls, but the carpet kept catching on the cone, and so I yowled again. This time they listened to me. They removed the cone. Oh, the relief! Instantly I opened my mouth to eat. Oh, the pain! I pawed at my mouth. I couldn’t help myself.

My owners put the cone back. I felt ashamed to have let them down, and crawled off my pet mom’s lap. But there was nowhere to hide. Every time I took a step, I stumbled over my paws. I trembled. My pet mom reached for me, but I retreated. I wanted to be left alone. She lay next to me, but my pet dad left. I waited and waited for her to leave too. When I woke up the next time, the sun was up again, and my pet dad had a package in his hand. He had brought a softer recovery collar to make me feel more comfortable.

Some cats are masters at hiding pain; that night I was not. Here’s a checklist for helping cats recover from surgery.

DO

  • Confine them to a small area on the floor where they will be safe.
  • Limit their activity so that they can more quickly recuperate.
  • Provide them with undisturbed time for a few days so they can recover in peace.
  • Give them soft blankets to help them feel comfortable and reassured.
  • Ensure they have easy access to a litter box, food, and water.
  • Think about switching from traditional litter to shredded paper to avoid an infection.
  • Check for signs that something is wrong: smell around the stitches and look for discoloring that doesn’t disappear in twenty-four hours, behavior changes, and ongoing pain

DO NOT

  • Allow them outside until they have fully recovered.
  • Let them lick or otherwise touch the stitches.
  • Give too much water or water. Overdoing it may cause nausea.

My recovery took almost two weeks but, thanks to my dad buying me a better recovery collar, I could more easily walk about and eat during those two weeks. I’ll have a new adventure to share in my next advice column!

Reprinted with permission from Lincoln Animal Ambassadors Pet Talk. This article is original in content and not to be reproduced without permission. Copyright 2017.


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Fall 2017: Focus on Cats!

All things cats ahead! I will post roundups of cat training books, cat Trap-Neuter-Release books, cat coloring books, and cat cozies. For all other animal lovers, I will also post roundups of dog cozies and zoo books.

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