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pictures_cats_love.jpgDoubters will say that a cat only shows affection when he's hungry or wants something and that a cat is not truly capable of love. Those people obviously have never felt the love of a cat. I have to admit that food does play a part in it, but it does with people too - you know, the old adage "The way to a man's heart is through his stomach"

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So by feeding and caring properly for your cat you are actually laying the groundwork for love. But how do you know if your cat actually loves you?

Well there have been clinical studies done about how a person's heart rate lowers when they pet their cats and that can lead to a longer, healthier life. And the same studies have been conducted on cats. It turns out that their heart rate lowers when you show affection toward them, which is a sign of bonding, and love. According to these studies, the presence or touch of their human reduces stress.

Just think about when your cat is under stress, what does he do? He may run and hide, until the stress time is over, but then he usually appreciates your love and cuddles after the fact. Some cats run to their owners for safety during the stress time. Like Neo presses himself into me so hard, he'll push me off balance.

And I can remember a story Wendell told me about Maddy- she got tangled up in some netting and she was struggling and meowing - clearly under stress because she couldn't get out. But as soon as she heard Wendell's voice, she stopped struggling and let him gently untangle her.

Now that we know cats can bond with humans and feel love. What signs can you look for in your cat to know if he loves you?

pictures_cats_love_2.jpg1. Contributing to the household - you may not see it that way, but when your cat catches something, a mouse, a bird or even a toy and brings it to you and drops it at your feet, that's a sign of love. He wants to contribute and show that he can provide for you too.

2. Following you around - your cat may act casual about it, you know saunter into the room after you've already been there, or casually look away when you glance back at him. But clearly, your cat is interested in you and wants to be where you are.

3. Getting depressed when you leave - you may not see this, but if someone else is at home when you go, they might see it. Your cat may meow for you, or just go find a quiet spot and sleep until you return. If you have a predictable routine or make a distinct sound when you come home, your cat will be excited to see you. Again he may act casual about it, but trust me, he's excited to see you.

4. Sending you Cat Kisses - when your cat stares at you and then squints or closes his eyes. That is a huge sign of affection - in the cat world, that is the signal to other cats that this cat is not a threat. Your cat is completely vulnerable to you at that time. Send cat kisses back to him.

5. Overt signs of affection - rubbing his head on you, and walking by and tapping you with his tail - nothing a cat does is by accident, so if your cat rubs against you or touches you with his tail, it's love!

6. Lying on his back - exposing the tummy is sure sign that your cat trusts you - if a cat did this in the wild, he'd be lunch. But don't think your cat wants a belly rub - most cats don't want their tummy's rubbed, they might like a gentle stoke from chest to belly, but you have to know your cat and what he wants before you touch an exposed belly.

Just because cats can't kiss you, and hug you and hold your hand doesn't mean they don't love you - if you open up your heart and eyes and really see what your cat is doing, you'll understand that he loves you, he really loves you.

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maddy_scratch_post.jpgAnyone that says that cats aren't complicated or incredibly intelligent probably doesn't know what they are talking about. I learned a valuable lesson from my cat and I'm going to pass it on to you.

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My cat Maddy (pictured) loves to scratch her cardboard disk. For those of you who may not know what that is, I took a picture of Maddy sitting on her scratching disk. Some manufacturers call it a cardboard disk and others may call it a turbo scratching post. Either way, the premise is fairly simple. The toy consists of a replaceable cardboard disk and a ball that rotates around the perimeter of the toy. Some cats like playing with the ball more than they like scratching the post. Generally, Maddy doesn't play with the ball but she does scratch the cardboard several times a day.

About two weeks ago I scolded Maddy for scratching my great room chair. I really found this strange because Maddy rarely scratches the furniture. As a matter of fact, I have to really think hard to remember the last time she's done this. Anyhow, I didn't make to big of a deal of it. Unfortunately, it happened again within two days. At that point, I realized something wasn't right. I was even considering taking her to the vet. Then it hit me, I hadn't replaced the cardboard insert on her toy in months and it was worn out. You can tell it's worn out because the cardboard is all pushed down. The nice think about the circular cardboard disks is that they can be replaced and even flipped so that your cat can make use of both sides before you replace the insert. To me this is great value.

If your normally well behaved cat is scratching your furniture, he's probably doing it for a reason. More than likely, one of the choices that you have deemed acceptable for him to scratch are not working the way they used to. Remember that if you want to protect your furniture, you have to examine your cat's scratching choices frequently. I can't get mad at Maddy for scratching the furniture if I haven't provided the necessary scratching resources for her. While I have various scratching posts in the house, Maddy prefers the cardboard insert by far; I'm assuming it's because of the rough texture of the cardboard. I'll be keeping an eye on that cardboard insert a bit more carefully now.

So if your normally well mannered cat is scratching your favorite chair, examine his scratching post or other scratching choices and make sure they are still functioning for him. Generally, any scratching choice that is worn out won't provide the proper friction that your cat needs to maintain his claws. If your acceptable scratching choices are no longer working, your cat is naturally going to find choices that you may not like.

If you have a related story to share, I'd love to read your comments below.

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I_can_has_treats_please.jpgI took Neo to a horrible vet named Dr. John Mollard at the Richmond Hill Veterinary Clinic in Richmond Hill, Ontario, Canada today. I am almost too ashamed to tell you what I let him do to Neo! But I have to get this off my chest and hope that you will be smarter and more prepared than I was.

Neo had a wonderful vet. As a matter of fact, Dr. Vandenbrink is Maddy's vet also. Maddy (Wendell's cat) had a lot of medical issues when she was a kitten so Wendell found a really gentle, loving vet for her. He made sure that Maddy was in good hands. So when I got Neo, the choice of vets was clear. I kind of forgot that not all vets are as caring as Dr. Vandenbrink.

Here is an example of what he's like. When you go in, he talks throughout the visit, explaining exactly what it is he is doing, what medications he's using, and why he needs to do what he is doing. He also asks lots of questions about food, water, litter box habits. He checks through his fur, feels around on the stomach and internal organs, listens to his heart, lungs and checks ears, eyes, nose and throat. That's all before you get to the real reason for why you are there!

Then he asks for details about the problem. Neo has had teeth pulled, shots and a host of other medical reasons to visit Dr. Vandenbrink and every time, I got a thorough explanation of what he had to do to help Neo, and what my options were in terms of tests and types of medicines, and he'd also let me be involved. Dr. Vandenbrink felt strongly that a cat behaves better for most treatments if his owner is there. So I was used to being in on most medical procedures (not when he was neutered though, because that is surgical)

We'd see Dr. Vandenbrink often. Neo has allergies and gets an inflamed scalp on the back of his right leg and sometimes in his mouth so we'd see Dr. Vandenbrink every 3 months or so for a shot. I saw Dr. Van more than I saw my family!

On_my_shoulder_can't_lift_head.jpgThen, this summer, I get the devastating news that Dr. Vandenbrink is moving his offices further away from my house. That means that Neo would have to endure a 30 minute car ride to see him! So I made a few calls and decided to take him to a new vet. Dr. Mollard, who knew Dr. Vandenbrink and who seemed experienced and caring, just like Dr. Vandenbrink. I even followed Wendell's advice for picking a new vet. But...Well...here's what happened....

About two weeks ago, Neo started peeing on the floor outside his litter box, which is a sure sign that something is not right in his life. Sometimes he is just telling me he is angry he can't go outside, and other times it's a not so subtle reminder that the litter box needs cleaning. But this time, it was persistent, every time he had to pee, it was outside the litter box. I knew that something was up. So I took him to this new vet.

At first, the appointment was going well, Dr. Mollard was feeling around on his belly for sigs of inflammation and did an overall exam. But then he said, he had to get a urine sample. To me that meant, catching some urine as he went pee. For Dr. Mollard it meant sticking a catheter up Neo's penis and extracting urine.

Then without me really knowing what was going on. He took Neo out of the exam room, to another room, way in the back somewhere before I could even ask a question or even really agree to the procedure. So there I was, completely dumbfounded and shocked about the fact that he was gone. I said to the receptionist, "I am not comfortable with this, this is my first visit here and my cat is taken away from me. Why does have to be taken away and why can't I go with him?"

Get this, her reply was, "Owners make the cats feel more stress so the doctor takes them into the back so they'll be more compliant"

Unbelievable! Again, I was shocked and speechless.

To me, her response translates to, "we don't like you to see how we bully your pet while we do a painful procedure without anesthetic."

Then, the next thing I hear is the sound of Neo screaming, no, not howling, not murmurs. not meowing....screaming. I can only imagine the medieval torture he endured in that back room.

A minute or two later, the vet returns and brings a very shaken up Neo back to me. Dr. Mollard has a vial of urine and he shows me the catheter and brags... oh you'll love this too... he said, "Most vets can't insert a catheter without anesthetic." Like that is supposed to impress me. Again, I was too shocked for words. Then he went to go analyze the urine.

Most vets care about inflicting pain on their patients so they give an anesthetic not because they are bad at inserting catheters but because they are humane vets and don't want to hurt their patients. I couldn't believe that he was actually proud of the fact that he didn't use an anesthetic. There is a reason you are supposed to use anesthetic. It hurts!.

If he'd only explained to me what the situation was and what he had to do, I would have asked for the anesthetic. My vet bill was already up to $300.00 for this escapade with the catheter, lab costs, and Neo got his shots too, so if I'd been asked, I wouldn't have started to nickel and dime him now. But he didn't say anything. He just did it like my opinion didn't matter.

So now the vet is gone and Neo is coughing and salivating, like he'd just been choked and he can't stand up. He falls over onto his side on the dirty floor. I pick him up and hold him, but he is too pissed off and in too much pain to accept my attention. I don't blame him, I feel so sorry for him. He'd obviously been held down very roughly, so roughly that he can't stand or breathe properly. I opened the carrier and he went inside and laid down. I stroked his head and talked to him and he just closed his eyes.

pictures_cats_neo_Melanie.jpgWhen the vet came back, I tried to be diplomatic, I tried to listen to what he said, but I have to admit, it was very hard, I had to sit down and be far away from him, because I was feeling like maybe Dr. Mollard would like a catheter without anesthetic ... and I was prepared to do it.

Anyway, I kept my cool and he prescribed some antibiotics, and I paid and left and will never return. I'll tell you more about Neo's urinary tract infection tomorrow. Right now, I just want to go cuddle with him and tell him again how sorry I am for taking him to that barbaric, unsympathetic, crude, pathetic excuse for a veterinarian, Dr. John Mollard at the Richmond Hill Veterinary Clinic in Richmond Hill, Ontario, Canada.

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