Tag Archives: Pet

Our Heated Pet Mat Returns


I first reviewed the Art of Paws Heated Pet Mat in February 2018. You can read that review here. Since then it has been chiefly used without the heating element. That changed when we spent some time in West Virginia. You can see that story here. Since we returned to Florida the heating element has been packed away and the mat was on one of the cat perches.

I brought in a pile of laundry on Saturday and put it on the bed to fold. Floki immediately made a nest in the laundry and decided to take a nap at that very moment. My wife said he likes the heat and I should plug the heated mat in for them. Since Saturday was a bit chilly, 68 for a high, I thought that was a good idea.

As soon as I plugged it in Chris was on top of it.

Rose thought it should be on the sofa so she moved it.

Soon Frankie was lying next to it. It seemed like he wanted to feel the heat but he did not want to get too close to Chris. It didn’t work. I found Chris with his head on Frankie’s butt. As soon I got my phone to take the picture, he sat up.

After a while, Chris got up to inspect his food bowls and Floki took his spot.

As I write this on Sunday evening Chris is sleeping on the mat. The last time I looked Floki was on it.

Does anyone else have a heated mat or pet bed? Is it popular?

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Photo Friday: 1976


When my Mom came to visit she brought a treasure trove of old photographs. I have been scanning them but I left my good scanner in Florida and even with the good scanner it is time consuming. With my current scanner I have to be very selective about which pictures I choose to scan. I chose this picture because I have very fond memories of our dog, Tascha, and I have very few photos of her. This brings back good memories.

This is a photo of Tascha, Me, and my brother Matt, taken in May, 1976. My dad brought Tascha home in April after she was found wandering near a home of one of his friends. She was the best dog I ever had and passed away in April of 1985, almost exactly ten years after we got her.

National Adopt a Shelter Pet Day


Today is National Adopt a Shelter Pet Day.

During this difficult time people have stepped up and have been fostering or adopting pets at a much higher level than I anticipated, but there are still many pets stuck at shelters.

Volunteer duties have been suspended at the SPCA where I volunteer, but they are still open with paid staff and the shelter is taking reservations for people who want to adopt.

I hope to see an empty shelter when I am able to return.

That probably won’t happen but hopefully the pets at the shelter will be kept to a minimum.

That could happen. I am sometimes almost embarrassed to be human because of all the stupid, mean things that people do but during a time of crisis people tend to put the humane in humanity.

Flash Alternative for Pet Photography


One of my most used Christmas presents this year is a Viltrox LED Light Panel. I picked it out after my wife said that my stepson was looking for something to buy for me. I am very hard to buy for because I don’t need much and if I do find something that I want it is too expensive for me or anyone else. So you can imagine how hard it was to come up with a good suggestion. I was very happy that it actually was a good suggestion because this light has proved to be quite useful.

I typically hate using a flash for photographing our cats, or anything else. About the only thing a flash is good for, in my opinion, is in photographing receipts. I hate the harsh shadows it creates and you just can’t avoid those laser eyes.

This light panel is not better than natural light but it does improve on the flash that comes on your camera in five significant ways.

  1. It has a much larger surface area than a flash so it does not produce the single direction light that causes harsh shadows. Of course, it is not as diffused as the large studio lights in a portrait studio but it is much more portable and less expensive.
  2. The color temperature can be changed to match the lighting conditions. If you are outdoors and need a fill light, you can set it to a higher color temperature to match the natural light. If you are indoors and want the warmer light that you get from incandescent bulbs or candle, you can turn down the color temperature to a warmer level.
  3. The brightness level can be set between 20% and 100% intensity. Sometimes I just need a little fill light and I don’t want my subjects to squint when I take their photo so I turn the level down to 40% or less.
  4. The light does not need to be attached to the camera so you can get extra light from whatever angle you need it to come from.
  5. By being constantly on, it gives the eyes a chance to dilate, thus reducing red eye or “laser eyes.”

I took the two photos below with the light attached to my camera. The first one of Chris sleeping on the sofa is a good example of how the light does not produce harsh shadows. I wish I had taken another photo using the camera’s flash but I did not think of it at the time.

This photo of Chris does have some obvious shadows, which were unavoidable given the content, but I have shot photos like this using a flash and they are almost always unusable. Pay no attention to Chris’s eye boogers. That has always been a constant problem with his eyes.

What do you think? Do you have any other lighting tips you would like to share?

One Small Poop for Cat, One Giant Leap for Cat Health


Recently I recieved microbiome test kits for pets from a company called NonNomNow. The test kits are called “Insights” and I got them at no cost to me in exchange for an honest review. You can read about why I think testing the microbiome is important on my previous post about this product here.

The kits arrived about ten days ago but it took that long for me to actually witness a cat pooping. Finally, this morning I saw Chris in the box. I wanted to retrieve his poop before he buried it but I was two seconds too slow.

The kit comes with two swabs and two vials. I was momentarily confused by that but then I assumed there were extras in case of mistakes. After reading the directions I saw that this was the case. The kit also comes with a small resealable bag to put the sample in and a pre-labeled return envelope. It also comes with a card that has the registration number on it and a place to write your pet’s name in case you have more than one pet like I do.

Once you have acquired the poop, the next step is to insert the cotton swab into it and rotate. If needed you can use it as a scoop to get about a pea-size piece.

Then place the tip of the swab in the vial, which contains a small amount of liquid, and then push down on the top of the swab. This will eject the tip.

The next step is to screw on the lid and shake. Then put the vial in the enclosed resealable bag.

At this point the directions say to apply the barcode sticker to the bag but the sticker came pre-applied. This concerned me a little but I assumed the directions were written at a time when the label came separate. The next step is to place the bag in the supplied envelope and seal it.

Finally, go to the website listed on your card to register your test kit.

Once registered the only thing left to do is drop off your test kit at the post office and wait for the results, which should take two to five weeks. When the results come back I will share them with you as well as my thoughts about it.

What do you think? Is this something you would be willing to try?

Remembering Tasha on World Pet Memorial Day


Today is World Pet Memorial Day. It is a holiday supposedly created by the American Veterinary Medical Association but it is very difficult to find any mention of it on their website. It is also strange that an American organization would create a world event. Just as strange is the fact that the “National” Pet Memorial Day, in September, was created by the “International” Association of Pet Cemeteries and Crematories.

Regardless of who started it, I thought it would be a good time to talk about my dog Tasha. This does not diminish the memory of all the other pets we have lost but since I have not written much about Tasha on this blog I figured you might want to read more about her.

I believe it was April, 1976. I was twelve years old when my dad brought home a full grown female Doberman Pincher. Her name was “Natasha” but I don’t know who gave her that name considering where she came from.

The story I remember was that Tasha was a stray that was wondering around the neighborhood of a friend of my dad. Apparently, the two of them caught her and my dad brought her home. She had her tail docked and her ears cropped (although one ear flopped over a bit) so she must have belonged to someone. If someone dumped her it would be surprising.

Tasha the doberman
Tasha 1976

She took to me right away. Back then I would watch television while lying on the floor. I don’t know why I wouldn’t have preferred the sofa. Perhaps the uncarpeted floor was cooler or perhaps other family members had taken the prime viewing locations. Whatever the reason, I would lie there and Tasha would lie next to me with her head on my pillow.

My memory is a little foggy so I don’t remember if this happened once or if it was a regular occurrence but one day Tasha started with her head on a little corner of my pillow. She then gradually took over more and more of that pillow. When I tried to retrieve some of that precious real estate I got growled at. I then got up and left her with the pillow.

Dobermans had a bad reputation back then. I heard they were used as guard dogs and many owners would beat them as puppies to deliberately make them more aggressive. Of course, they were bred to be personal protection dogs so they needed to be aggressive but also obedient. A trained Doberman would never attack without command.

I have read that today’s Dobermans are bred to be less aggressive and more of a companion dog but Tasha was already a great companion dog. I will admit, though that she did have some aggressive tendencies.

Shortly after we got Tasha one of my dad’s friends, Jack, came to the house for a visit. Jack was older than my dad and a bit of a hillbilly even though we lived in northern Illinois. He thought he would have a little fun with Tasha and started to pretend to harass me. He would slowly reach out his hand like he was going to grab me. While he was doing that Tasha was growling at him but he continued because that’s what Illinois hillbillies do. After about 30 seconds of warnings Tasha lunged forward and bit Jack in the hand. She didn’t hurt him badly but she did draw blood and put an end to his game.

When we got Tasha she wasn’t fixed and my parents didn’t get her fixed right away. That was a mistake because she loved to go outside and run and would sometimes escape, run around the neighborhood, and then slink back home an hour later. On one of those outings she got pregnant.

My younger brother and I shared a room. We had bunk beds and Tasha decided to give birth under the bed. I think we were away at school at the time. When we found her there it was a huge pain because we had to take the bed apart to get to her.

By then we had moved to a bigger house and had a partially finished basement that we used as a TV room. We put some blankets down and moved the puppies there. There were seven puppies if my memory is correct. One of the puppies had deformed front legs and I worred it wouldn’t make it. Tascha accepted the new location for a short time but wasn’t exactly happy with it.

My parents both worked and us kids went to school so Tasha was alone for a good part of the day. The first day we were gone after the puppies were born, Tasha decided that she wasn’t happy with the location we chose for her so she moved all her puppies to the sofa. When we got home we discovered that two puppies had fallen between the cushions and suffocated, including the one with the bad legs. It was very sad.

That evening, determined to keep her off the sofa, we layed three or four kitchen chairs on it. It didn’t work. She somehow managed to get herself and her puppies on the sofa between the chairs. We lost another puppy that day. I don’t remember what we did then but she was not able to get on the sofa after that.

One day a friend of my brother came through the basement door from the garage quite quickly which startled Tasha and she jumped up and bit him in the arm. Even though she drew blood it wasn’t an attack. It was more like a stern warning to stay away.

When the pups were old enough, my parents put an ad in the paper for free Doberman mix puppies but they didn’t tell me they did that. I came home from school and the phone was ringing off the hook. Dad’s friend, Jack, took one of the puppies and the other three were gone that evening. It seems people were interested in Dobermans and didn’t care that they were half-breeds.

Tasha also had a weird habit of suddenly getting agitated every once in awhile when people she didn’t know very well left the house. Occasionally, she would even nip them a bit. I was surprised to hear Richard Pryor talk about that in one of his skits. He said Dobermans will let you in the house with no problem. They’ll even show you where all the valuables are, but when you try to leave they turn into the Exorcist. “You can’t leave yet! I want to play!”

When my sister moved out, my brother took her room and I no longer had to sleep at the top of the bunk bed. Tasha then slept in my bed every night. That lasted until I was seventeen and bought a waterbed which was way more common back then. Tasha did not like getting on the waterbed and ended up sleeping on the floor. I felt bad about that but I didn’t anticipate that being a problem when I bought it.

Tasha loved food and would eat just about anything. The only requirement was that she had to see me eating it first. I could offer her a grape and she would refuse it but once I started eating them grapes suddenly became a great treat.

Doberman Tasha

She also developed many styles of begging. If the puppy dog eyes didn’t work she would extend her paw. Surely shaking deserved a treat. If that didn’t work she would rest her head on my knee and give me the saddest look she could muster. Her go to was the drool. Whenever everything else failed she could count on the drool to get her food. It was pretty gross trying to eat while watching drool come out of her mouth so I always gave in and gave her something. I also always saved a little food on my plate and brought it up to the kitchen to leave for her. She knew whenever I was done eating and got up she was going to get something and got very excited.

She followed from the front when she thought she was going to get food. I would stand up and start for the stairs and Tasha would race up the stairs and wait for me at the top. This was something my dad once used to tease her. He got up with his plate of food and as soon as Tasha ran up the stairs, dad would sit down and wait. After about 30 seconds Tasha would come back down to see what was happening and the trick would start again. By the fourth time I had to yell at my dad like he was being a misbehaving child.

Tasha passed in April 1986, almost exactly ten years after we got her. Yes, I was a 22 year old still living with my parents at the time. I had plans on moving out but I feared what Tasha would think of me for leaving her behind. I was pretty sure I would not be able to take her with me.

She seemed perfectly healthy but one day she suddenly started foaming at the mouth. I thought she got into the cabinet and ate the laundry soap or something. When I let her outside she crawled under the deck and I had a hard time getting her out. She then hid somewhere in the house although I don’t remember where.

My parents brought her to the vet and left her there overnight. That night they got a phone call from the vet’s office saying that she didn’t make it. It was very heartbreaking. Apparently, she had stomach cancer. I can only hope it wasn’t because of all the food I was giving her. I was not the most healthy eater back then.

I moved out shortly after Tasha died and never had a dog again. The one exception was a Dalmatian named Ernie that we had for about a month. I was living with my now ex-wife. I believe it was around 1992. She brought Ernie home because a coworker had a husband that would abuse him. Unfortunately, my ex-wife was too much of a clean freak and after a week relegated Ernie to living outside. I felt bad for Ernie and soon found him a home with a co-worker of mine.

It wasn’t until I met my current wife in 1999 that I would have a pet again. This time it was a cat that eventually turn into two cats then three then four then six. Well, I think you know the rest of the story.

Cat Television


Of all our cats, Floki is the most interested in television. Often, when Rose and I are watching tv, Floki will watch too. Recently, I was watching a Youtube video about cat products that really peaked Floki’s interest.

cat tv

Since I was already watching Youtube I decided to do a search for “videos for cats” and played one of the videos that came up. Floki was interested but he didn’t go crazy. I think he was smart enough to know it wasn’t real.

Do you have a pet that likes television?

Chia Cat Grass Planter Review


For Christmas, the cats’ Aunt Felice got them a Chia Cat Grass Planter. A great present because they all like grass and Chris loves it. Whenever Chris gets outside, the first thing he does is eat some grass.

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It comes with everything you need: a bowl with a cat on it, potting soil, seeds and instructions.

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I followed the instructions and put most of the “growing mix” in the bowl, leaving two tablespoons out for later.

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I then added the grass seeds.

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Next I covered the seeds with the remaining dirt. By then I had the attention of all the cats.

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The instructions said to cover it loosely with plastic wrap so I did that and put it on the counter for a few days. I then put a little water in it and placed it outside where it could get some sun without someone eating it.
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I think I watered it once more while it was outside but I pretty much forgot about it until the other day when I brought it inside. I also discovered that I was wrong about someone not eating it. It looks like one of the many rabbits in our neighborhood had a taste.20160117_Cats_3551I barely had time to photograph it before Chris discovered it.

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That sparked Frankie’s interest and soon they were both munching on the grass. Puck, unfortunately, was napping somewhere and missed  everything.
20160117_Cats_355420160117_Cats_3556It wasn’t very long before they mowed the grass down and moved on. 
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The next day, I brought it back outside to let it grow again.

I started this post with the intention of reviewing this product but I think the cats did that for me. I will say that this is a little more expensive than the ones in the cheap plastic containers but I found it as low as $9.76 on Amazon. I like it because it is heavier and doesn’t move around too much when the cats try to eat the grass. I may decide to buy one or two more so I can rotate them in and out of the house.

What do you think? Are your cats grass eaters?

Puck’s Self-Imposed Exile


Puck has always been more timid than Chris or Frankie. Actually, every cat is more timid than Chris but what I am trying to say is that Puck can be a bit of a scardy-cat. He is not as timid as Flash, the brother of Tigger who passed a few months after we adopted Chris, but he does tend to run away from strangers while Chris, and sometimes Frankie, will go towards them.

My stepson, Nick, came to visit for a week over the Christmas holiday and Puck refused to come out of our bedroom while he was in the house. We had to put a litter box in our room along with food and water because we were worried he would not eat or drink or that he would do his business on our bedroom floor.

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Unfortunately, Rose has a nose like a bloodhound and refused to sleep with the litter box in our room so I had to keep moving it back and forth everyday.

I felt bad for Puck because his entire day was spent on our bed or under it. Sometimes Chris would come in to keep him company.

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After Nick left, it was such a relief to see Puck out and about and enjoying life again. The strange thing is, Rose’s dad and his wife came for a couple of days at Thanksgiving and Puck came out to visit with them. Also, my best friend, Rick, came here on New Year’s Eve and Puck not only came out while he was here, he actually got on Rick’s chair with him, and he has never seen Rick before.

Clearly, there was something about Nick that made Puck nervous. Perhaps Nick teased him last year when he was here. I don’t know. Does anyone else have a pet that is nervous around a particular person?

Do We Need a Day to Love Our Pets?


Yesterday was “National Love Your Pet Day.” When I heard about it, I couldn’t help but think that it is pointless to reserve a day for loving your pets. If you have pets, you should love them every day or you shouldn’t have them. How long do you think you would have a wife or husband if you reserved one day a year to love them. I know that sometimes I tend to over-analyze things. What do you think about this?

our cat Frankie and me.

Frankie and me.