Tag Archive | pets

How I made a cat bed from a vintage suitcase

Several years ago I inherited a couple of ugly old school suitcases from my grandmother’s estate. Personally, I loved them and knew I would find a use for them. Initially I built a stand and used them as a nightstand / storage unit, but then I saw some posts about using them to make cat furniture. Well that settled that.

I first set the suitcase on the floor to see if the cats would actually use the bed. As you can see from the picture below, Freddie in particular loved it.


I thought it looked a bit plain just sitting on the floor and I was nervous that they would knock the ugly stick over and decapitate themselves like my hamster did when I was a kid (side note, don’t use a brick to keep your hamster’s cage cover on), so I headed to the hardware store to find some legs. Turns out legs are expensive so I picked the cheapest of the ones I liked (4 for around $12 total) and spray painted them with some metallic paint I had laying around.

I first tried to just attach them to the suitcase by drilling four holes in the bottom and sticking them in, but this resulted in no stability – the suitcase just collapsed to the floor. I had to wait until the weekend when I would see my dad, so I could steal, I mean borrow and never give back, a few pieces of wood and a saw. Okay, okay, I admit it. As usual, when my dad knew I was doing a project that involved sawing, he stepped in and helped me out…..okay okay, he did it for me….but I stood there and watched!

My idea was to cut four pieces of wood and place them inside of the suitcase to stabilize the material. My dad, the genius handyman that he is, pointed out without nuts, it would still wobble. Off to the hardware store we went. With the proper tools, the rest of the project went pretty quickly. He even cut another piece of wood to lay on top of the four stabilizers so that the cats would have a flatter surface to lay on in case they pushed the pillow out of the way. Yay Daddy!

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To ensure the lid didn’t decapitate the cats, we wedged a few pieces of wood in the hollow space between the top and the bottom pieces.

The final step in this process was to enlarge the pillow I was planning on using. I cut open the back of the pillow and sewed on a piece of old t-shirt. This way the top shows the pretty satin blue colored fabric, but the entire suitcase and edges would be comfy.

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The final bed looks pretty cute, if I say so myself! However, I have only seen a cat jump onto it to take some of the catnip I sprinkled on it. I guess they prefer low-key designs instead of the fancy stuff.:(

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PS My parents’ dog, Jack, liked the bed just fine, so maybe I should give it to him for Christmas!

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Microchips – may be the only way to find your lost pet!

Recently, I started volunteering at my local animal shelter. I have learned many things – like how much work goes into caring for these animals. Their cages are constantly cleaned, they are walked at least three times per day, fed twice a day, medicine given, vet visits, socialization, etc. I also learned that they don’t do anything to help you find your lost animal.

In my mind, I envisioned that if a shelter receives an animal that was found as a stray, it would post it up on its website, send out a notice to local vets, and post on a lost pet page. They do none of this! Instead, they hold your animal for 7 days and then release it to be adopted.

I asked how a person is supposed to find their pet as I didn’t even know this shelter existed up until a few weeks ago. I was told that when you lose your pet, you should go to the police station and tell them about your pet, and they should give you the information of the shelter that should have picked it up if it was found on the street. Now I find this to be ridiculous. What if your pet wandered over to the other town? What if it was picked up by someone in a car and driven to their local shelter?

There has to be a better way. I realize everyone is overwhelmed but at my orientation, there were two other people who offered to do office work for the shelter. Couldn’t these people take on the task of getting the word out there that an animal was picked up?

I am going to try to get this process improved at my shelter, but if it’s not happening there, I’m guessing that it is not happening at many other shelters around the country.

The bottom line is get your pet microchipped! It may be the only way to get your pet returned to you if it goes missing 😦

stray bar microchip

Animal Shelters – Easy ways to make them better

I searched for months to adopt my dog. I saw dog after dog at foster houses and was rejected from all of them for nonsense reasons like I was single, I worked a full-time job, I live in an apartment, I didn’t have a backyard. I wasn’t looking to adopt a huge dog. I wanted a medium to small dog that would have room to run in an apartment. The whole process was long and frustrating. I spent many nights upset over all the time I wasted trying to get people to give me a dog. I was a great candidate with years of dog and cat experience, came with great references, had a good job, owned an apartment in the city and a house in the country…..but that wasn’t good enough. This experience got me thinking about how some shelters are run. Obviously, many of them are overcrowded so fostering is great, and I understand that you get attached to the pet in your care; however, sometimes you have to let them go to their new furever home. The goal of shelters should be to get pets into good homes – not necessarily the absolutely perfect home. Here are some ideas I had that I think would help get more animals adopted. First it’s all about how the animals are presented. Do they have a good name? A great photo?  If not, start there.

  • If you don’t have a great photographer on staff or as a volunteer, post an ad on Craigslist for an amateur photographer looking to get their name out there. Have them photograph your animals. Reward them with credit for the photos and be a great reference for them.
  • Set up a small area with a nice backdrop to be your permanent photo area. Animals do not look their best in cages. Take the extra minute to photograph them elsewhere. Perhaps have them sit on a chair. Get on their level. I am not a photographer so I don’t have lots of tips for this but there are many sites out there that do. Check out this site for a good start.
  • Make sure your listings on Petfinder are awesome…… Use photoshop if you have to
    A hat softens the look of a dog that might not have the happiest expression in a pic

    A hat softens the look of a dog that might not have the happiest expression in a pic

    (or another less complicated program) and throw a hat or caption on a picture – especially if you don’t have a great picture of the animal. Don’t have time for this? Recruit an intern who can work on this task from home.

  • On that same thought, use that intern to spice up your listings. Make them funny and interesting. You have to get the viewer to connect with this animal and all you have is a picture and words. Take the extra time to post something fantastic. You can always recycle verbiage from animals that have already been adopted to save time.
    • Organize! Use your computer. Print as much information about the animal as possible on an index card size paper and attach it to their cage. This way potential adopters will know as much as possible about the animals they are viewing. You can cheaply add and replace information by attaching paper to the cage via a clothespin. Use a border and a nice font. Include language that will connect the animal to your potential adopter instead of just bullet points. Something like  “Hi, My name is Misty. I love other cats and dogs but little children scare me. I’m 8 years old and love to be tickled under the chin. I’d love to become part of your family.” Include a great photo of the animal in case they are hiding in the back of the cage.


  • Make it easier for people to volunteer at your shelter. I tried to volunteer at several shelters and had to jump through hoops just to get a response. I never felt like they wanted or needed my help even though their website asked for volunteers. In the end, I chose to volunteer elsewhere where I felt appreciated.
  • Shelter hours – Hours that people can visit pets after work and on the weekend are a must!  Having hoards of people come into your shelter during the couple of hours you are open on a Saturday is just not a great way to get your animals in front of people. I realize that shelters are often short-staffed, but getting people in is how animals get adopted! Make it convenient. Animals will be less stressed when viewed by fewer people at one time as well.
    • Ask your local high schools if they have home economics classes. Perhaps they can sew pet beds for you

      made out of things they already own, or if there is a woodshop class, they can construct some that are even fancier – perhaps for sale at your shelter or for auction at an adoption event. See some options here and here and here!

  • Dog toys are also an option for group projects. If you can’t get local schools on board, perhaps schedule a night out at a bar or restaurant. Have tools and supplies on hand and ask participants to bring supplies as well – old shirts, tennis balls, etc. Here are some ideas for homemade toys. Some of those toys are easy enough for elementary schools to create. Projects are great ways to keep kids occupied on rainy days – instead of just plopping them in front of a television.
  • Make an Amazon wish list to allow people to buy specific items for your shelter. Keep active on social media. Show both success stories and animals still in need of homes. It’s amazing how people will pull together to get your animals adopted; it just has to be easy for them to do so.

Sorry this list was so long. I feel like I have a million more ideas, but I’ll write them up another time. If you have any ideas of your own or thoughts about mine, please leave a note in the comments section. I would love to be able to help shelters in any way I can. dont shop adopt

Feline Hyperthyroidism – Simon’s story

He loved holding the remote!

He loved holding the remote!

One day I realized I had a really skinny cat. I’m not sure when Simon went from being a huge fat cat to a skinny cat, but one day he wasn’t my big lump of fur anymore. My feline friend was 15 years old so I knew that medical issues may arise, but I had no idea what a diagnosis of hyperthyroidism would entail.

Cats can live great lives if hyperthyroidism is caught early and is treated properly. For Simon, my vet and I chose to administer Methimazole via a gel rubbed on his ears twice a day. Administering meds this way is a much easier method than trying to give a cat a pill. Unfortunately, when I moved to another state and had to switch vets, the new vet had no idea that Methimazole was available in a twist-a-dose gel format. I had to keep getting the meds from my old vet in another state until my new vet was able to research and obtain the product. I also had trouble finding a place to buy it online. On a search today, I found this site which may help you in your search.

I was given great instructions on how to apply the gel to Simon’s ears, but if you were not or are just curious, check out this forumThey give a detailed and accurate explanation along with video on how it all works.

Anyway, the meds kept Simon happy and healthy for a few years. He gained back several pounds to be at a healthy weight. He was active and playful. However, meds are not a cure. As time went on, his health began to deteriorate once again. Trips to the vet now included rehydration via IV fluid. My only option at that point was to begin rehydration administration at home via subcutaneous injection. Fortunately, Simon was a very mellow cat so he tolerated this well. I, on the other hand, was a nervous wreck. I cried and at first it was very difficult for me. The first few times, my boyfriend helped me hold Simon steady which was a huge relief. After a few times though, I got the hang of it and was able to do it all on my own.

Watching YouTube videos like this one really helped. I can’t tell you how many videos I watched. I also read a lot about the various size of needles which affects the pain of injection and flow speed (the smaller the needle, the less pain, but longer to get the fluid in). It’s good to find a happy medium. Sites like this one will help you determine what size needle is best for you and your cat. You will most likely need to buy them with a prescription from your vet from the internet as many vets do not carry the smaller needles.  You can also purchase the fluid (I used Lactated Ringers Solution) from the Internet. Also, check Craigslist.org in your area for people selling excess product. After a cat passes away, many people are generous with their remaining product and will either give it away or sell it for a low price; that’s how I got my first batch of product. Personally, I ended up donating mine to a shelter when it was no longer needed.

For Simon and me, the easiest way to administer the fluid was to sit together in the corner of the couch. I hung the fluid bag on a hanger and attached that hanger to a standing lamp next to the couch. (I actually left it there all the time for ease of set up). Sometimes I would warm the bag of fluid in a large bowl of hot water first. I would have a bag of treats next to us, a bowl of milk or sometimes I would feed him breakfast or dinner while we fluid-ed. One of the most important things for me to do was to use a permanent marker on the bag and mark where the fluid dosages should be. This made it much easier to know when we were done.

The needle stays in on its own if the cat remains fairly still

The needle stays in on its own if the cat remains fairly still. Here he is eating treats.

You can see the yellow edge of the needle resting on his side here

You can see the yellow edge of the needle resting on his side here

He's obv not too bothered by it. Stayed busy watching TV :)

He’s obv not too bothered by it….must have been distracted flipping thru TV channels  🙂

Another issue that Simon ran into because of his dehydration was constipation. For this, my vet suggested Lactulose. It is given in a liquid form (but now seems to have a powder form as well). It is reasonably priced and comes in regular and flavored. Another option is to add pure pumpkin puree to your cat’s diet. Simon didn’t care for the pumpkin, and I tried administering it to him via a large syringe but it was more trouble than it was worth. Doing these things to keep your cat alive is only a good idea if your cat is going to be happy. Torturing him with too many meds and things he hated wasn’t an option for me.

Ultimately, Sub-Q fluids helped extend Simon’s life another few happy months. Don’t be afraid to try it. Your vet should help you try it the first couple of times. Also, having a friend help for the first week or so will be a huge relief to you – even if they just are there to provide moral support.

Good luck and best wishes in your kitty’s journey.

Sleeping wrapped up on my leg. His love never stopped.

Sleeping wrapped up on my leg. His love never stopped. I’m sure he knew I was only trying to help.

Feline Vestibular Disease – stroke-like symptoms

My cat, Simon, had a lot of health issues toward the end of his life. One of them was that he developed feline vestibular disease around age 14. This issue made him act as though he either had a stroke, an ear infection, a balance issue or was just completely uncoordinated. His symptoms started with walking into walls – with the side of his body – like he would fall over into them. He would cry and wail and be completely unresponsive when I would call him or try to comfort him. He would also cock his head to the side and walk in circles.

At first, I suspected a stroke, but he recovered from the episode within a few hours so the vet ruled that out. It is expensive to try to diagnose a stroke and there isn’t much that can be done about it, so I chose not to pursue that line of testing. Simon did not have an ear infection and blood work was good so by process of elimination, the vet gave the diagnosis of vestibular disease. Unfortunately, these episodes would happen every once in a while, but knowing that the condition had a name and it was not life threatening was a huge relief. It seems that this disease may run in the DNA of Siamese cats and I always suspected Simon was part Siamese.

It seems that vestibular disease is not a diagnosis that first comes to mind for many vets. If your cat is experiencing these symptoms, you may want to mention this disease as a possible cause.


Random Pet Tip – Cat Puke

If you own a cat, you probably have come home to find puke on the bed. This obviously is never a fun thing to have to deal with. Having to strip all of your sheets down to the mattress and put new ones on is never ideal when you just want to fall into bed and go to sleep. Well, I have found a solution for this! Just put a plastic drop cloth on top of your sheets. Because I know how much my cats like to sleep on my bed, I put another sheet on top of the plastic that they can lay on. This way, my cats are happy and I am happy that when they puke on the bed, I only have to clean one sheet and I get to go to sleep at a normal hour. Having an extra sheet and plastic on the bed also enables you to sleep without being covered in fur. 🙂

Cheesy Cat si3756d