Category Archives: ASPCA

Cat-Safe Plants

By Langley Cornwell

According to the ASPCA’s official database, there are close to 400 plants that are toxic to cats. For pet lovers, that’s a lot of plants to avoid. And what’s especially troublesome is that the list isn’t comprehensive; it’s a compilation of the most common toxic plants. There are more unsafe plants that didn’t make the list. On the flip side, the database names well over 500 plants that are cat-safe.

I point this out because with an internet connection and some awareness, it’s easy to plan a safe garden for your feline friend. Presumably. I have an internet connection and a modicum of awareness, yet our yard is not safe for our cat.

We live in South Carolina, where the sun scorches the earth at least 4 months out of every year. Because of that, gardeners wisely use many drought resistant plants in their yards, including a big offender – sago palms. This plant peppers the landscape of most South Carolina homes, mine included. The previous owners planted one and these palms are not pet-friendly; 1 to 2 seeds can be fatal. 

My dog and my cat love to roll around in the yard and hang out with me while I’m outside gardening. All three of us enjoy that time together. We usually get out there early in the mornings (because of the aforementioned scorching earth), and on the weekends we may spend hours planting, pruning and playing. But I’m always afraid the animals will get into the sago palm. As a responsible pet owner, I plan to replace the plant and I’m researching options to determine what to put in that spot. I want something that is safe, sizeable and evergreen, so I’ll probably go with a Fig-leaf Palm (Fatsia japonica), also known as a Castor oil plant, Formosa rice tree, Glossy-leaved paper plant, or Big-leaf paper plant. 

Read More »

EmailGoogle GmailBlogger PostTwitterFacebookGoogle+Share

Creating a Pet-Safe Garden

By Julia Williams

It’s that time of year again, when warmer temperatures and longer days lure us out of our caves into the fresh air and sunlight. It’s also the time when a gardener’s thoughts turn to creating lush landscapes and veggie patches overflowing with fresh produce. Although the backyard can be a great place to relax and play, it can also be dangerous for our dogs and cats. Creating a pet-safe garden is not an impossible task, however. As responsible pet owners, we just need to take a few precautions to ensure that our outdoor space is safe for our four-legged family members.

Avoid Poisonous Plants

The most obvious way to create a pet-safe garden is to choose the right plants. Not all pet owners realize that a great many garden plants are toxic to dogs and cats, including popular varieties such as azalea, rhododendron, oleander, foxglove, lily of the valley, sago palm, tulip and daffodil. Pets that chew on poisonous plants can experience everything from an upset stomach and diarrhea, to seizures and liver failure.

Before you plant anything new in your garden, it’s a good idea to consult the ASPCA’s comprehensive list of toxic plants. You should also try to avoid trees, shrubs and plants that contribute to allergies. Many of the same plants that cause allergies in humans will affect your pet. Use pollen-free plant species whenever possible, and if you already have a tree or hedge with a high allergy potential, keep it heavily sheared so it will flower less, and don’t plant it directly under a window that you’ll have open in the summer.

Read More »

Henry the “Spirit Healer” Cat Helps People AND Pets

By Julia Williams

Last December I introduced you to a wonderful three-legged feline named Henry. This extraordinary kitty is a different kind of “Therapy Cat” than those who visit nursing homes, hospitals and other facilities, but his healing work is just as important, and has profoundly changed the lives of many.

I’m writing about Henry again today because his messages of hope, tolerance, resilience and love are too important to forget. Henry shares his story so that others can learn new things and overcome their traumas and tragedies; I want to share Henry’s story to help his healing work gain momentum and reach an even larger audience than it already has. (There’s one more exciting reason for this post, but you’ll have to read to the end to find out what it is!!).

Henry reaches out to help people of all ages through his website, Henrysworld.org, through personal correspondence and through his critically acclaimed books. “Henry’s World: a Three-Legged Cat’s View of Human Absurdity” is a heartwarming compilation of short tales by Henry about his life, along with hundreds of emails Henry has received and responded to. “What’s the Matter with Henry? The True Tale of a Three-Legged Cat,” was written for children but inspires young and old alike. A third book “What About Me? I’m Here Too!” addresses the emotional issues experienced by healthy siblings of chronically ill children.

Cathy Conheim, Henry’s Mom and self-described Cat Scribe, says “People speak to animals differently and more openly. Animals are our safe havens, an unending source of unconditional love and acceptance. Whether the animals are real, stuffed, or virtual, they become trusted confidants and helpers.” It’s largely for this reason that Henry has touched so many lives. Over the past six years, Henry has received over 50,000 letters from children – and from adults and critters too!

Henry was named the 2010 ASPCA Cat of the Year and more recently, created the “Ouch! Emotional Bandage” app for the iPhone and iPad. This app lets you personalize a blank bandage with a photo and message, or select one of the pre-made bandages. Then you simply e-mail it to people who care about you, as a way to let them know you are hurting and need some TLC. (Brilliant idea, Henry!).

Henry’s words of wisdom include: You aren’t defined by what happens to you; we don’t get to choose what happens to us in life, but we do get to choose how we respond; play the paw you are dealt and be the best “You” that you can be; remember to connect with those you care about. And the one that might be the most important lesson of all: just because you can’t do everything doesn’t mean you can’t do something.

The healing messages are for people, but all profits from the sales of Henry’s books and other fun stuff on his site goes to help animals, as well as human children. Says Henry, “I try very hard to teach humans better ways to be and raise lots of dollars for animals. Any group anywhere in the world can buy my books at our printing cost for $8, sell them for $20 and keep the money locally for the animals in their area.” Henry’s books are not sold in a bookstore, because then there would be no profit for the animals or the children.

Says Cathy, “If we could inspire enough people to buy just ONE charming book about a rescued cat, this would create a lot of money for the animals! I think it would be a great story of the power of the internet, the power of healing…of animals helping animals. Henry and I don’t care how the money made is used as long as animals or kids benefit. Let’s say someone had a $1000 vet bill; if they sold 83 books they could pay the bill. People sell Girl Scout cookies by the zillion, fat and sugar, the drug of choice for kids. Why not sell something pawsitive and do good things with the money?”

Here are three simple ways you can help spread the word about Henry and his healing messages: 1) buy a book or two for someone you love; 2) tell others to check out Henry’s books and other cool stuff at Henrysworld.org; 3) if you know of a group who might want to buy Henry’s books as a fund-raising tool, please encourage them to get in touch with Henry.

Now for the exciting news – we’re giving away some of Henry’s books and other neat things to three lucky readers!! To participate, simply leave a comment stating that you want to be entered in the giveaway, and include either your email address or a link to your “contact me” info. Sorry, only residents of the U.S. and Canada are eligible to win, and entries must be received by May 6, 2011.

Read more articles by Julia Williams

The personal opinions and/or use of trade, corporate or brand names, is for information and convenience only. Such use does not constitute an endorsement by CANIDAE® All Natural Pet Foods of any product or service. Opinions are those of the individual authors and not necessarily of CANIDAE® All Natural Pet Foods.

“Therapet” Henry Opens Minds and Heals Hearts

By Julia Williams

Today I would like to introduce you to Henry, an extraordinary and inspiring “celebri-cat” who was recently named the ASPCA Cat of the Year for 2010. Henry is a three-legged cat who opens people’s eyes and minds, as well as their hearts. He received this special award because of his transformational work teaching tolerance, resiliency and courage, as well as for his healing work with disabled children, wounded veterans and their families, Hurricane Katrina survivors and Haitian earthquake amputees.

Some might say that Henry’s incredible journey from unassuming stray to remarkable healer was accidental, but I really don’t think it was. I don’t necessarily believe in the saying, “everything has a purpose,” but Henry’s life story seems guided by more than chance.

The stray tabby kitten was discovered at Cathy Conheim’s California home one day, with a severe leg injury. Cathy, despite being a devoted “dog person” who actually disliked cats, not only rushed Henry to her vet, but chose amputation over euthanasia. This conscious choice to save Henry’s life and take him into her home was just the start of the amazing events yet to unfold.

Read More »

What’s Nora the Piano Playing Cat up to Now?


By Julia Williams

Nearly everyone with internet access and a pulse has heard of Nora, the piano playing cat who took YouTube by storm in 2007. Considering that the video has been viewed almost 17 million times to date, I’m guessing most of you have seen it at least once. But did you also know that the piano cat has gone on to become quite the celebrity kitty? It’s true – and Nora’s popularity and busy schedule could rival that of most A-list human stars!

The talented piano cat has come a long way since being rescued from the street and adopted from a shelter by a piano teacher named Betsy Alexander, and her fame is well deserved. If you’ve watched any of the videos of Nora playing the piano (currently, there are four) you have to agree that this cat’s ability to tickle the ivories is impressive. Oh sure, any kitty can walk on a piano and plink out a few notes. Nora, however, sits primly on the piano bench and uses both paws to play. There’s a subtlety to her movements and she appears to be pressing the different keys with total deliberation. The piano cat also does this head roll thing which is remarkably similar to what humans do with their hands to create rolling chords.

In the three years since her YouTube debut, the self-proclaimed “musical diva” has become an internationally known pianist and bona fide media darling. She’s been featured on numerous television shows, including CNN, The Today Show, Animal Planet, Martha Stewart, ABC Early Show, Inside Edition, Jon Stewart, VH1, ABC and NBC News, Conan and Ellen. She’s also been featured on radio shows, online pet magazines and in print (People, Tails Pet Magazine, England’s Pianist magazine). Nora also received a signed photo from Billy Joel inscribed “To the piano cat from the piano man” and a bust of Bach from Martha Stewart.

Not content to rest on her laurels (or I should say, her paws), Nora the piano cat has been busy writing books and creating numerous merchandising opportunities too. Her literary works include a children’s book called My Story: A Picture Book, and Nora The Piano Cat’s Guide To Becoming A Good Musician. There is a DVD titled Nora The Piano Cat: Now with CATcerto for 2010, and a calendar, Nora The Piano Cat With Sound 2010 Wall Calendar. All of these are available on Amazon, and Nora fans can even download an mp3 album with 11 songs, from Litterbox Boogie to All About Me-ow. She also recently finished writing another book that is awaiting publication, titled Nora’s Guide to a Happy Life…or How to Make Every Day a Catnip Day.

The piano cat has her own blog, “Nora’s Mews,” her own website, and she has over 1500 followers on Twitter. There is a neat new IPhone App that provides a direct link to Nora’s blog, her YouTube videos and her Tweets, all from your iPhone or iPod Touch devices. Now you can keep up with all the latest Nora happenings no matter where you are (and I just know you want to, right?). For extreme piano cat fans, there are t-shirts, hoodies, tote bag, mugs, posters, journals, cards, mousepads and more, all featuring adorable images of Nora.

As if the piano cat’s resume wasn’t already longer than most professional musicians twice her age, last year Nora received two prestigious awards. In October, the piano playing tabby received the ASPCA Cat of the Year Award, and in November she received the Westchester Cat Shows Cat of the Year award. She also appeared via a live video feed at “Shelter Aid,” a fundraising event for shelters and rescue groups.

The piano cat has really improved over the years from that first original video, “Nora: Practice Makes Purr-fect” to her most recent performance, “CATcerto – Composed & Conducted by Mindaugas Piecaitis.” Watching this latest video gave me goose bumps, because it certainly sounded like all of Nora’s notes harmonized with the orchestra. It must be all that practicing the piano cat does. In a recent email to me, her caretaker Betsy wrote “Nora continues to play the piano quite a bit. When I was teaching on Saturday, she was with me playing on and off from 10:30 AM until 4:00 PM without any naps.”

It seems, however, that Nora the piano cat may have developed a wee bit of celebrity “catitude” along with her fame. Betsy said “Nora has gotten more possessive of ‘her’ piano and bit me rather hard when I picked her up and moved her from the bench so I could teach an adult student on that piano. Then she sat at the other piano glaring at my student for her entire lesson.”

Nora darling, I think you are a most sublime feline. Perhaps you could come by sometime and teach my three cats how to do something (anything!) besides sleep all day?

Read more articles by Julia Williams

The personal opinions and/or use of trade, corporate or brand names, is for information and convenience only. Such use does not constitute an endorsement by CANIDAE® All Natural Pet Foods of any product or service. Opinions are those of the individual authors and not necessarily of CANIDAE® All Natural Pet Foods.

Chocolate Toxicity in Pets: Symptoms & Precautions


By Linda Cole

Halloween is once again at our doorstep. Trick or treaters will begin tapping on doors to collect the goodies we have to offer. Among the caramel apples, popcorn balls and tasty treats of this spooky holiday will be chocolate candy bars, brownies or other special goodies made with chocolate. We devour tons of chocolate each year, but just a small amount can be deadly for our dogs and cats. Why is chocolate so toxic to pets?

Pets do have a sweet tooth. That’s why outside pets are attracted to spilled antifreeze on someone’s driveway and can become poisoned from licking even a small amount. Pets think they should be able to eat everything we eat. It’s hard to ignore their begging, bright eyes asking for (or demanding) a bite of whatever we are eating. When it comes to chocolate, even one bite can leave them begging for more.

Once pets, especially dogs, have tasted chocolate, they will develop a craving for it. The best thing to do is just not give your pet chocolate, period. Not only is chocolate toxic for pets, it can be fatal if they eat too much, and chocolate poisoning is more common than you may think. The ASPCA Poison Control Center and vets across the country see a spike in calls from worried pet owners during holidays like Halloween, Christmas, Easter, Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day.

It’s important for children to understand that sharing their Halloween chocolate treats with their dog or cat can make the pet extremely sick. A little chocolate won’t hurt most dogs or cats; however, it’s always better to be safe than sorry. Avoid any risk to your pet by not giving them any chocolate to begin with.

The amount of chocolate considered to be too much depends on the health, age, weight and size of your pet. The smaller the animal, the smaller amount of chocolate it takes to poison them. An older pet who is out of shape or has underlying illnesses could be affected by a very small amount of chocolate. It also depends on the type of chocolate; darker chocolate is more deadly. Dogs are more likely to be affected because they seem to be able to search and find chocolate better than cats, but cats can also be poisoned.

Theobromine is a natural stimulate found in the cocoa bean. This is what’s poisonous to pets. It affects the central nervous system and heart muscles, and it also increases urination. Caffeine is also present in chocolate although not in high concentrations like Theobromine.

Chocolate toxicity in pets is a serious health issue. If you suspect your pet may have eaten too much chocolate, call your vet immediately. Symptoms of chocolate toxicity in pets will begin within 12 hours or less and include:

* Being excited, nervous, shaking, hyperactive

* Diarrhea or vomiting

* Drinking a lot of water or increased urination, which is caused by too much Theobromine in their system.

* Muscle spasms or seizures

Most of us have a variety of chocolate in the house for baking purposes or eating. Dry cocoa powder tops the list of chocolate that is most dangerous for our pets, followed by Bakers chocolate (unsweetened), cocoa bean mulch, semisweet chocolate chips, sweet dark chocolate, milk chocolate and white chocolate. When evaluating chocolate toxicity in pets, it’s important to know what type of chocolate was ingested, and how much.

If your Siberian Husky or Lab eats a small chocolate candy bar, they will probably not be affected as long as they are healthy to begin with. A cat or Chihuahua grabbing a chocolate chip that fell on the floor should be fine, but when it comes to chocolate and pets, it best to just say no.

After the kids return home with their bags of Halloween goodies and everything is spread out on the table so you can survey their haul, please remember to make sure Halloween is safe for all members of your family. Chocolate is great in our tummies, but pets are better off with a healthy, chocolate-free snack made just for them.

My cats beg just as much as my dogs do, and it’s hard to deny any of them a small bite of whatever I may be eating. For me, the choice is easy when it comes to chocolate. It’s just not worth the risk. Besides, by not sharing, it leaves more for me!

Read more articles by Linda Cole

Find CANIDAE Retailers Near You!

The personal opinions and/or use of trade, corporate or brand names, is for information and convenience only. Such use does not constitute an endorsement by CANIDAE® All Natural Pet Foods of any product or service. Opinions are those of the individual authors and not necessarily of CANIDAE® All Natural Pet Foods.