Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Pet Sitters

I have a neighbor and a friend who regularly take care of Toby when my boyfriend and I are out of town. Both have declined money in the past so for one I make pie or cookies (I make a killer blueberry pie) and for Christmas we're giving him a gift certificate to the restaurant where we know he often eats lunch. We didn't stalk him, it's the restaurant where my boyfriend works. We decided it would be too creepy to make it for exactly the cost of his usual lunch.

For the other, we load up the fridge with specialty beer and he drinks a bottle each time he visits Toby while playing with him and providing company for the cat. For Christmas he's getting an awesome specialty beer mug for his personal bar.

I used to pet sit for a friend of my sisters and she paid me in gift cards to my favorite pet shop and complete set of LSAT books when my boyfriend was getting ready to take the test.

Now that it's the holidays and many people are getting ready to travel, I'm wondering if non-money is actually common or if I just hang out with a group of people more inclined to barter/trade than to pay. Any thoughts?

Friday, December 17, 2010

Best part of working at home

The heat is broken at my office today so I'm working from home. I was just starting to get annoyed with an excel sheet (I love the program, but often have to check formatting formulas) when I heard a commotion to my left.

I turned and there was Toby.

Ignore the mass of gray fur that collected along the baseboard. I swear, I vacuum. That's just his favorite spot to roll and rub off his shedding fur.

Hope your Friday is just as full of joy as a cat in a bag playing with his favorite rattle ball.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

First Ever Film By Cats

Departing from the holiday theme, I know I'm late on this, but I finally saw the Purina "Cat Diaries" today and it melted my heart with happiness.

We're still in the midst of a nasty cold snap in DC right now, but this warmed my heart.

Don't forget, with the cold snap, make sure to call your local animal control if you see a pet left in the cold. WHS listed a warning last night. Be careful out there! Also, if there's ice near you, remember to clean your dog's paws off when you come in--various de-icers can be uncomfortable or even poisonous for dogs so make sure you're the one cleaning it off and not your dog's tongue!

Stay warm!!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Leaping Bunny Reminder!

Don't forget that many animal lovers, even those who aren't vegetarian, avoid products that have been tested on animals. That's not a major issue with books, but if you're trying to pamper the hands of an animal-loving teacher with superb lotion or give a relaxing spa set to your stressed out wife, make sure to check Leaping Bunny to see if the manufacturer tests their products on animals.

Leaping Bunny admits that not every cruelty-free product is in their database, but it's fairly extensive. Another option is to browse manufacturer websites. Many companies have pages of information on their alternative testing methods. Make sure you're not fooled by green washing though. Many products that appear green (Herbal Essences, I'm looking at you!) aren't actually green or cruelty free.

That hand lotion would also be appreciated by many shelter workers. It's good practice to wash one's hands or disinfect between animals and that can dry out skin fast. I'll give a recommendation to The Body Shop's Hemp Hand Protector. It has a bit of an odd scent, but it feels amazing. Also, for your information, check out The Body Shop's statement against animal testing.  I will freely admit a soft spot for this company. They were the first store I shopped at where I didn't feel the need to check the ingredients of every product but could actually still afford a lot of the products!

Monday, December 13, 2010

Three Gift Ideas for Animal Lovers (and an Eggnog Complaint)

I brought my first eggnog of the season home a week or so ago and have had the devil of a time keeping glasses of it away from Toby.. I keep turning my back for a second only to find his entire head in my empty glass, frantically licking up the remains of the eggnog. He is on a small laxative at the moment so I'm not going to fret too much over him getting a few occasional licks, but it's worse than whipped cream (another favorite) to keep him out of it. Was curious if anyone else had that problem or if Toby is just extra special and full of holiday mischief. I promise, it's nonalcoholic (Organic Valley Eggnog actually--insanely delicious).  If he was fine after diving headfirst into an empty mocha frappe (I swear, I just turned to say hello to my boyfriend before finding that Toby had knocked off the lid and stuck his face in), I trust Toby will be fine with a few licks of eggnog.

1. For Your Favorite Pet Parent: Interactive Toys
Kongs, Fling-ama-string, Batting Practice mouse, Treat Puzzle Boxes
I love my catnip mice (and so does Toby) and we love our Zig-n-Zag ball so those are fine gifts, but being able to turn on the Fling-ama-string while I'm eating (anything other than eggnog) so Toby is distracted is amazing. I love turning it on when Toby feels playful but I have a migraine, or I'm cooking, or doing yoga (please say your cats also love to be affectionate when you're trying to hold a plank pose, please?), or anything where I want Toby distracted. My brother gave me one for my birthday (from the ASPCA so bonus points of awesomeness!) and it's the coolest toy ever. It does require batteries and I do prefer to be present while he's using it, even if I'm not actively watching (I do watch often though, he's adorable with the pouncing). The company does suggest supervision in case of anything getting tangled or loose but we haven't had any major issues with it other than forgetting to change the batteries once.

I also love the Batting Practice Mouse my brother gave me (also from the ASPCA). It's a little squishy mouse that makes an electronic squeak when batted. The mouse hangs on elastic and string from a plastic "branch" that sits over the top of a door. The branch is easily detachable from the door so I can hide the mouse if Toby is playing at 3am. The branch can be knocked off or the mouse knocked into an unreachable position (mine is near some shelves so the mouse gets stuck sometimes) but the actual playing does not require supervision. Before Thanksgiving I took the mouse down for a week or so then put it up as we were leaving. Our cat sitter found the mouse happily played with every day he came. I felt better about Toby being occupied while we were gone.

Kongs and Puzzle Treat boxes
Kongs are the traditional cone shaped rubber toys into which a person places peanut butter, kibble, and anything else you want your dog to slowly eat. The dog then licks into the kong and works to get the food out. This keeps the dog happy and can be used for peace during mealtime (if you can't tell, I'm a huge fan of distraction) and to keep a dog occupied and entertained while his parent is out of the home.
There are also puzzle treat boxes for dogs where the dog needs to figure out a puzzle in order to get the treat. I've seen some people fill the boxes with the dog's kibble breakfast as a way to make the meal last and also as a way to entertain the dog without feeding too many treats.
I use a food ball for Toby that operates on a similar principle. His portion of dry food (that which isn't used as sprinkles on his wet food--my boyfriend spoils my cat) is put in a ball that Toby then knocks around. As Toby bats the ball, kibble falls out and he's able to eat. It makes meals last longer and keeps him occupied.

Most pet parents worry about their pets being bored, if you can help soothe your friend's mind about that, it's a wonderful gift. Plus, a lot of the toys are really entertaining to see being used. I keep trying to get video of Toby using my birthday gifts but he stops playing when he sees the cameraphone.

2. The Animal Lover Without a Pet--Sponsor a Pet!
Do Not Give a Pet!!!
Pets are personal and should never be given as gifts. Even people who love animals can have valid reasons for not wanting a pet at this point in their lives.
A better alternative? Sponsor a pet at their local shelter and give a small stuffed animal who looks similar. Depending on your shelter and personal budget, you might need to go in on the sponsorship with a friend, but it's an amazing gift.

3. The Animal Lover Who Also Loves Books--Pet Themed Books
If your friend is cool with used books (my family and friends usually indicate a preference for them) this can be a really inexpensive gift that's still a lot of fun. If new books are preferred, Borders offers a lot of email discounts (ranging from 20-33-40% off) that can be printed off and brought in for browsing.
Head to the section with your friend's favorite genre and find several books where an animal seems important or is on the cover. This post shows four of my favorite romance books featuring animals (and one of my favorite mysteries as well). If you want other genre suggestions, just leave a note in the comments. If I can't provide an answer (or the other commenters don't!). The only genre I really avoid is suspense but I have family members who love it and will provide suggestions if need be. I just finished Mercedes Lackey's The Serpent's Shadow and was reminded of how well she uses animals. The 'pets' in that books are integral to the plot and the book is a great choice for fantasy fans who also enjoy historical fiction.

Any other types of animal-loving friends about whom you're stuck for gift ideas? Just let me know. I love gift finding.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

All Healthy!

Finally went in for a full day of work on Friday. So grateful that my company allows us to work remotely. I was all set to go in tomorrow afternoon, but then Toby had a tablespoon or so of blood in his litter box. I freaked, called the vet for advice, and she said that she wanted to see him that afternoon.

Thankfully, he's healthy. She checked his glands while I experienced the oddness of having someone tell me to stand on the other side of the room because they don't want Toby associating me with that experience, and everything seemed fine. She gave me a preliminary diagnosis that he just has a sensitive colon and the extra treats I'd been giving him while I was sick (I had to bribe him to ignore the menthol smell somehow!) had just upset his system. She suggested a small amount of a gentle laxative and said she'd call with the lab results of the sample I'd brought in.

She called today to say the sample was clean!!!

Toby has been adorable destructive last night and this evening and everything seems good.  so I am incredibly relieved.

After looking over my budget for this month and the bill for the vet services--it's a darn good thing he's adorable. Signed over half my restaurant budget into the Pets column today. *sigh* the things we do for our loved ones.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Slight Delay

The rest of the guide will be posted once I recover from a nasty cold and trust myself to write coherent sentences.

Many apologies.