Monday, December 12, 2011

Woman Leaves $13 Million to her Black Cat

Our Monday morning just got brighter with this great story.

Little did anyone know that a quiet, humble old woman, Maria Assunta of Italy was worth $13 million and upon her death, she bequeathed her entire worth and estate to her pet cat, Tomasso.


The story gets better. This is no pedigree cat purchased for top dollar. Tommaso is actually a stray, black cat rescued from the streets of  Rome. Tomasso's fortune will be managed by Maria's long-time nurse, Stefania.

Now some might say this is a waste of money. But if you think about it for a moment, the nurse and cat were the two constants in her life providing comfort and love. Neither knew Maria was wealthy. They loved her unconditionally, the greatest gift of all.

Tommaso is now ranked number 3 in the list of wealthy pets. 

Tell us what you think? Would you leave money to your pet? Or donate to animal welfare organization? Or both?
Click on "Comment" below.
 To read the complete story on ABC News, click here!

We love black cats and will be planning our annual Black Cat gala to elevate and spotlight the black cat. Sadly they are the most euthanized pet in the US. But to us, they are special. Black cats are very intelligent and beautiful. Their shiny black coats contrasting their gold or green eyes is mystical, magical and stunning.
We welcome any type of donation to help us overturn misperceptions of black cats and in feeding and caring for these abandoned creatures.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Art Zoo at Art Basel

My favorite artwork, of course

On Saturday I had the opportunity to attend Art Zoo--an Art Basel event that incorporated animal rescue theme, benefitting Paws4You rescue an organization dedicated to saving pets from euthanasia at the overcrowded local shelter. 

All pets were invited to the event, I even kissed a pig! Did I like it? Read on!

Below is Katia. Isn't she stunning? She was dumped on the streets, wandering. Thankfully a guardian angel intercepted and saved her.

Katia is a Borzoi, a Russian wolfhound

Katia with owner, Michelle Headley

Anastasia the Great paints Katia
 Hope Gainer of Hope International was the fabulous organizer of this event and she thought of everything! From the idyllic location at Finnegan's on the River, a spacious outdoor bar along scenic Miami River, animal print attire, to the "artsy pet costume" contest, to the myriad artwork depicting cats and dogs and cheetahs and more. Speaking of cheetahs, Elkie, the model in zebra and cheetah body paint moved with the agility and stealth of a cheetah!  Swimsuit models also accessorized dogs and puppies awaiting adoption. Very Miami chic!

David Nesslein and Annie Davis with Coco & Chanel

Paintings in the Pool

Elkie displays body paint artwork

Elkie escapes the cage to show off beagle for adoption

Love this painting

A jewelry vendor also displayed unique pieces that a portion of sales went to Paws4You rescue. Naturally I did my Christmas shopping right there and treated myself to a special necklace. What a great idea.

I met many adoptable dogs, adult and puppies, small and large, that were distinctly unique!
Ok I didn't really kiss a pig but we did rub noses! Is that a kiss in animal behavior?

This is a nano or micro pig. They weigh up to 35 pounds.
So when my sister said she wanted a nano pig for Christmas I had to claw my way through the crowds surrounding this pig to see what a micro pig looked like.  He's quite chunky, yes he's a pig.  My sister wants a black one. To go with her (rescue) black cat. I love it!

The owner is a married couple with children, and three dogs. It was the father who wanted the pig as a pet for the longest time. The pig is an indoor pet and he uses the dog's wee wee pad. My sister will train her pig to use the litter box.  I wonder which is better. One thing I learned, pigs urinate while they drink water. I wonder if sis knows this. Also, those pads don't hide the odor of feces once they go to relieve themselves that roll around like bowling balls run amok outside the bowling lane. She wishes they trained the pig to use litter box.

Art Zoo was a memorable inaugural event to admire animal themed artwork, help promote adoptable dogs, do some Christmas shopping, and mingle with like-minded animal lovers.

Thinking of getting a purebred dog or cat? Don't buy while shelter pets die. 25% of pets at shelters are purebred!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

The Gift they Never Forget

by Christine Michaels

We live in downtown Miami, a vibrant city brimming with jobs, culture, restaurants, and activity. Many residents enjoy the convenience to walk to/from work, the grocery store and boutique stores, the myriad restaurants, the buzzing Sunday open market, and to concerts and sports events.

One evening I went for a jog on the path less traveled, the side of town you're told not to go after dark--one street over from our new condo. As I slow to a walk,  I take the time to look around.  Do I notice the homeless men and women, sitting, laying, sprawled on the sidewalks? Do I look the other way? Do I notice the homeless men feeding the homeless cats? Yes, take a walk around our condo after sundown, and you will see both the homeless men and homeless cats come out of hiding, one feeding the other. The homeless feeding the voiceless, the helpless. I look up and I see our new, shiny, glistening building contrasting the dark streets. Observing this contrast sends waves of emotions coursing through my body. What is wrong with this picture?

It hits me. My work has only begun. Feeding the Riverfront cats is not enough. My calling is to get to the root of the problem and educate the masses to reverse the trend of homeless animals and the suffering and cruelty.  Stray cats are often misjudged, misperceived, prejudice surrounds them and those of us who feed them. I am proudly a Cat Lady!

This Christmas as you feast at holiday parties and spend on gifts that will be returned or forgotten next year,  will you remember those around you, within feet of your home ? Won't you consider offering a little time or token item (food or cash donation) to a homeless pet that IS eternally grateful and never forgets?  Here are EIGHT simple or low cost ways you can help.

Note: (A number of organizations feed the homeless people daily in downtown). There are no organizations feeding homeless pets, only individual volunteers.

1.) Spay or neuter your own pets. Estimates are that 100,000 dogs and cats are euthanized in shelters in the tri-county area annually, at significant cost to taxpayers. You can do your part to end pet overpopulation with a routine surgery for your dog or cat.  Non-profit, low cost spay and neuter clinics like the ones run by The Cat Network or Planned Pethood actually make fixing your pet more affordable than caring for a litter of puppies or kittens.

2.) Donate needed pet items. Beds, cages, collars, leashes, cat litter, dog and cat toys, treats, food, blankets, sheets and towels all make life easier and nicer for shelter pets especially at the Miami Dade County Shelter. They are overrun this year with homeless pets and are grateful for your donations. Here at Riverfront cats, we need someone to build small cat houses with ceiling, floor and four columns. No side walls as these will be placed in bushes where cats need visibility and various escape routes from predators.

3.) Donate money or gift certificates. Donations of any amount help greatly. Even giving up those large caramel mocha lattes for a week and donating the cash will help to save lives --not to mention calories!. Here at Riverfront cats we gladly accept financial donations (you can use your credit card or PayPal) or gift cards from Publix and PayPal! (The condo association offers no assistance.  All food for cats is provided solely by two volunteers).

4.) Start a "Friends Of" club for downtown Miami homeless pets or any rescue of your choice. There's power in numbers. Your office, church or hobby group can have a yard sale or gather donations of money or needed items to help homeless animals this holiday season.

5.) Don't buy while shelter pets die. Opt to adopt instead of purchasing a pet when you decide to add a four-legged family member to your household. Shelter pets have been pre-checked by a veterinarian, received vaccinations and if they are old enough are spayed/neutered before you bring them home, saving you money and time. Have an affinity for a certain breed? Twenty-five percent of all pets in shelters are purebred dogs or cats!!!  Can't or don't want to adopt but still love pets? Sponsor a dog or cat at your local shelter. At Riverfront cats we have 21 cats--choose one you would like to sponsor.  We promise to send you monthly updates. Romeo actually sits and walks on command. Is Gabriel angelic like his name or mischevious? The vivacious, flirtatious Tabitha is too much woman for the male cats...

6.) Use your online presence to help animals in need. All that time spent on social media can do more than keep you in touch with old and new pals, it can make you a better friend to animals in need. Re-post notices about sweet, friendly indoor cats tragically dumped in the streets awaiting adoption. Or news about cat that was injured from hit and run speed demon driver and needs medical care. It happens in our backyard. Add a banner to your webpage to help publicize your neighborhood cause. Use Twitter to tweet about adoptable the adoptable cats.

7.) Take a walk and be a hero. Volunteer cat feeders help to keep our cats from roaming and searching for food while minimizing their chances of being hit by cars. It also helps to socialize the cats, even the feral ones. Some are converts. Where they once stayed a distance and hissed, now they do a happy dance and rub against you wanting affection.

8.) Volunteer your talent. Everyone, from graphic artists to journalists to stay-at-home moms to carpenters or college students has a talent that can be utilized by Riverfront Cats to help these outdoor animals. If you don't know what you can do, contact us and we let you know! For example, we could certainly use a very simple open-air cat house with roof and floor to hide in the bushes where the cats reside and to protect them from heavy rains. They have to remain hidden from predators (have you seen those giant rats across the street? They're larger than some cats!) and new stray cats that come along. Nothing fancy but if you're good with hammer and nails and some wood--you're a hero!

Friday, November 25, 2011

Turn Tiny Paw Prints into Christmas Cards

Every Christmas I follow a fading tradition of sending a physical card with a handwritten message to friends, family, and colleagues.  This lets the recipient know I took extra time in this increasingly hectic world, to think about that individual person or family. Who doesn't smile or skip a heartbeat when they see a personal greeting card sitting in their mailbox amidst a pile of negativity--bills! It's the first mail piece to be opened, or ripped open. I know I love to receive a greeting card and cherish it by displaying it across my media center.

Since I discovered Tiny Prints earlier this year, I no longer have to expend valuable time and gas money to drive to crowded parking lot of a store and stand elbow to elbow with other customers scanning the dizzying rows of Christmas cards. Tiny Prints is an online card service where you can easily choose from an organized selection of cards and  personalize each individual card including the name of the recipient, the photos, and anything else you choose to have printed on the card.

I now use it for my nonprofit effort in raising awareness about homeless pets, especially cats. For every donation over $20, I customize a card for the donor and Tiny Prints will mail it directly with the stamp. Convenience and customization.

So instead of being a chore, selecting and designing my Christmas cards or any card is so much fun!

So which card did I choose this year? First I always choose the folded card. This way it's easy for the recipient to stand and display the card. Usually this catches the attention of other visitors, family members and guests.  Remember this is also a solicitation card for donations. So the upper, inner flap tells the story of Johnny Walker and thanks the recipient for their past and continued support.

Then as the chairperson for raising awareness of the plight of black cats and dogs (the least adopted and most euthanized in shelters) I am constantly finding ways to overturn misperceptions and elevate the black cat and dog. Last year, right after Christmas, my home still lingered with white poinsettas.  Fortunately a foster cat, Johnny Walker appeared in a perfect pose behind the white poinsettas. With my camera nearby, I tiptoed back to the balcony and captured the ideal photo. So I'll be ordering 50+ and add a written message for that extra personal touch.

Searching through Tiny Print's abundant selection of holiday cards, I found this beautiful card titled "Fancy Snowflake" which balanced the gold and black colors of my photo. Hence the photo above! Remember you can customize the salutation and closing, the greeting and even include other photos and/or messages inside and the back of the card! To complete the presentation, Tiny Prints also offers complimenting address labels and party invitations.

So enjoy this new outlet for ordering and sending Christmas cards or greeting cards, party invitations for any occasion!

Merry Christmas!
Christine for Riverfront Cats

Thursday, November 24, 2011

It's Been a Tough Year...But I'm Thankful

Christine here.
It's a tradition. Every Thanksgiving I sit down and write out what I'm thankful for.
Then I put it down and reread it after feasting on an abundant meal.
Every year when I sit down to write my Thankful heart opens.
This year...has been an especially challenging year for me in many ways.

As someone who looks after homeless, helpless, voiceless animals, several of our dedicated volunteers moved out and two of us carry the load--shopping for cat food and feeding 21 cats daily.  But we gladly carry that cross for the cats are all happy and healthy but...
One of our Riverfront Cats was found dead, electrocuted. Nikki, was a special kitty.
One of my cousins was diagnosed with breast cancer. Thankfully she beat it for now.
And most recently another dear person I knew, died suddenly of a heart attack, at young age of 37.
So this morning when I sat down with my cup of coffee, my tablet and pen I wasn't sure what to expect. I labeled the top...
...and then I just stared blankly at the page.
Eventually, like it had a mind of it's own, my hand made its way to the paper and...
Then I started to write...and write...and write.
The only thing flowing faster than the ink from my pen were my tears of happiness and joy.
As I was writing I realized that I have more love in my heart and more to be thankful for this year than I can ever remember.
After pouring out a record of over 3 handwritten pages...I felt like something was missing.
It didn't take me long to figure out what it was...
So I freshened up my coffee (coffee happened to be on my 2011 Thankful List) bolted like a kitty who's tail had been stepped on to my office a few feet away, Sat down at my trusty computer and I am now sending this note to YOU.
I am so thankful that our paths have crossed. Thankful for your friendship, for your interest and well wishes for me and the Riverfront Cats.  It's a labor of love. The hardest work I ever have done and nonpaying, but it is the most rewarding and uplifting experience. The cats are grateful and they show me!  Without your emails, Facebook comments, your moral support and other kind acts, I don't know if I could make a difference.
Wow! I feel totally complete now! Thank you for listening and letting me share.
Have a Happy Thanksgiving and I pray you find your thankful place no matter what challenges you may have had this year.

Christine Michaels
Now on Facebook

You read all those sad stories about homeless pets but you can't rescue or foster them. You feel frustrated and helpless. But you can make a difference! This Christmas a small donation of $20 or even $10 goes a long way to helping the voiceless and homeless animals. Thank you for giving back.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Another Cat is Electrocuted

I wonder in reading this, if anyone would react? Would anyone really care? Would your heart feel a pinch? Would your eyes get misty? Would you imagine a lifeless body with tips of ears, paws, fried like edges of burnt bread? Would anyone just pull out a credit card and donate the cost of a cocktail? Less than $20 bucks. A Starbucks mocha latte? Less than $10 bucks? The cost of fast food hamburger or milkshake? Less than $5?

I wonder...

It is with great sadness and tears that we report that one of the sweetest, stray, black cats with stunning green eyes, Nikki, was found dead in the substation room of FPL--Florida, Power & Light in downtown Miami last week. She was four years old. Also the mother of Audrey "Tiffany" Hepburn awaiting adoption.

How did this happen? The cats seek refuge in the substation during heavy rains and when the weather starts to cool. Sure enough just when temperatures dipped in the 70's last week, Nikki found warmth in this former haven. This is NOT the first time this has happened. Years ago when another colony of cats resided there, one was electrocuted and FPL hired a trapper to capture the remaining cats which were presumably killed. Little did FPL know it doesn't solve the problem and creates a "vacuum". Hence Nikki quickly made FPL her home at that time. She filled in the empty nest.

When asking the FPL employee how to seal the room to prevent this from happening, his voice stoic and lowered, "I don't think anything can be done".  With binoculars, I viewed this death camp from my balcony. He was right. The structure has gaping open at the corners and bottom. But there is ANOTHER SOLUTION! First spay & neuter. Second, retrain cats to find refuge in roomy cat houses!
Many weeks ago, Christine had sent an email to a PR rep at the main FPL office in Miami asking for their involvement to have cats on their property spayed and neutered. She never received a response. Three emails were sent. Employees end up paying for the spaying/neutering  out of their pocket.

It's now time to escalate this issue and encourage FPL to take an active role in the community to prevent this unnecessary suffering and to stop stray cat population from growing.

FPL borders the Riverfront condos. To prevent the cats from coming in and residing inside the valet car garage where cars zoom in and zip out, we feed them on empty grass strip inbetween Riverfront condos and FPL lot, although the cats climb over and under the fence to go back and forth between the two properties. The cats are fed on the condo side but well secluded. It's actual an ideal place for stray cats--no traffic, people or dogs.

To the left is FPL lot, to the right beyond fence is Riverfront condos.
The columns support the Metrorail. This is secluded area, ideal for stray cats.
But they need a safe, dry shelter!
(Those are two black cats, Sonny and Chaz, and Lion King on right)

It has been very challenging finding a carpenter to build a cat house to say the least. After a few offers and agreed upon price, people never came through even though we offered to pay. The alternative was to buy a dog house, have it modified into a cat house but it was even harder to find someone to modify the cat house and with a truck (long story).  After the tragedy of Nikki, something had to be done. So Christine found this sturdy, large cat house, MADE IN USA, designed with two doors specifically for otudoor cats. The additional deck/porch will serve as feeding station, covered from rain. The price tag is $565 from Yes, in conducting research, the shipping alone is close to $100 because of the weight. But we are DESPERATE.

This is an all Cedar house (no insulation) built in the USA with stainless screws.
The porch/deck was additional but will serve as feeding area when it rains.
The Riverfront cat house will not come with name plate.
  We really need concerned and animal loving residents to step up and to help anyway possible! We could use a reliable handyman to assemble the cat house once we get some donations and order it. If you would like to contribute financially to this effort, you can easily pay with credit card or PayPal by clicking on the Donation button on top right. The cost is pretty steep for an effort primarily funded by two volunteers. But this tragedy required immediate action. But we still need small, wall-less cat houses to be built and placed in bushes for the other locations.  So we still need a reliable handyperson or carpenter!

If you have other ideas, please send us email to

Thank you for reading. Thank you for caring.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

The Chronicles of Zee & Zoey

A book review by Christine Michaels

Announcing...the release of a new book, The Chronicles of Zee & Zoey. I am honored to have had the opportunity to read this book before the official release today and share my review. 

This is the first book written by author, Deborah Barnes. Deb shares a story that is enchanting, engrossing, educational and uplifting. The cover alone and subsequent pages filled with photos and artistic illustrations are stunning. I anxiously await more stories or to follow Zee and Zoey's journey on Facebook and Twitter.

For animal lovers, dog owners and feline philes, read on! This is a personal diary and a romance with lessons in life amplified by two cats, the main characters, Zee & Zoey. The lessons are numerous about responsibility, the fruit of hard labor, love and respect, the bond between human and pet, and how the ordinary is truly extraordinary. Deb writes with a warm, conversational and light-hearted tone it reads like a Disney story.

The book begins with Deb's life as a child and her home full of stray animals and pets. Entering adulthood, that love grows but she also realizes the responsibility in caring for a pet, similar to a child.  This is the first lesson to a reader who is considering a pet--it's a permanent, lifelong commitment. In one chapter, Deb adopts a kitten from a place that looked and smelled like unchanged cat litter--a bad sign. (As a side note, Deb quickly clarifies that having multiple cats does not mean a home should wreak like one. ) As expected, the kitten suffered an infection. But she did not return the kitten like a clothing item that had a tear or stain.

Due to his sickly condition, in retrospect, I could have probably taken him back to his previous home and gotten a refund. But as any parent knows, a child is a child is a child.  You love them as they are, sick or not...The thought of exchanging him was something too cold and callous to even contemplate...

An underlying story but great lesson--dogs and cats can get along.  Deb initially had a parade of dogs and a rabbit followed by a menagerie of cats. And while they may not all have been bosom buddies both canine and feline respected one another and on occasion shared the same bed or sofa.  Imagine a world where humans follow this example. Less conflict, more peace, more happiness.

Oh the adventures of four-legged children that would fill a scrapbook and many journals.  The chapter on Deb's home renovation reads like an action-packed Disney movie.

Speaking of escapades, it is at this point in the book we learn more about the principal character, Zee. What makes this cat so special you ask? Appearance-wise if there is a cat that can make a grand entrance and turn heads, it's a Maine Coon cat with their long luxurious coat like a regal cape. 

The almighty Zee

As a cat caretaker, I'm all too familiar with the range of personalities exhibited by cats. Zee is no exception and also demonstrates his cleverness and intelligence. So much that he was placed in "time out". Yes Zee, like a typical mischevious little boy, intentionally disobeyed and was punished. Shockingly, when Zee was scolded he understood the repercussions that something fascinating occured I don't want to reveal in this review. Read the book! Another sign of the intelligence of cats.

Then the much anticipated introduction of Zoey, a Bengal cat. I recently learned about and was intrigued by this type of cat on the Animal Planet channel. So upon learning that Zoey is the descendant of a wild Asian Leopard Cat with gorgeous leopard markings called "rosettes", I savored every sentence and description as if I were admiring a Picasso masterpiece.  While Zee may win the "beauty" contest, Zoey's sinewy body and fluid motion would certainly qualify her for the Olympics in presentation and athletic ability.

Zoey--just look at those eyes!

Then Zee meets Zoey. Their "love at first sight" rivals that of Romeo & Juliet with an intense passion. It's a whirlwind courtship and mating that is abruptly halted. Now while Deb is an advocate to spay/neuter, Mother Nature pulled rank and before anyone knew, Zoey was pregnant. The ensuing gestation period of three months and delivery of the kittens inspired awe, laughter and tears of joy. It's during this chapter that Deb and Zoey are in constant communication. Now if you have never owned a cat or even a dog, you may consider this odd or another attribute of a "crazy cat lady". My dear reader, this is a fallacy.  Just like long-married couples, the gestures, sounds, meow pitches and body language speak volumes.  Deb Barnes knew her cats well and understood catease and even their specific dialects.   So when Zoey alerts Deb she's about to deliver, like a supportive mother, Deb is by her side every minute ensuring Zoey's bed and surroundings are suitable and comfortable. The birth and growth of the kittens is another series of comical adventures.

Now for my fellow cat rescuers and educators who struggle finding homes for countless, homeless kitties, do not fret. Deb acted responsibly and had  Zee, Zoey and the kittens spayed/neutered. More importantly, she ensured the kittens had a safe, loving, permanent home. Three kittens remain with Deb and one, Zeuss, went to a friend who still cherishes the cat. Zeuss now has a following on Facebook and Twitter.

So how does Deb juggle seven cats?  Let's just say the key is routine. And her home? Immaculate. Unless you see a cat scamper across the floor or climbing or jumping onto the sofa, you would have no idea cats occupied this house and would think they were decor fixtures.  This is the modern cat lady.

Deb in Leopard Cat Glam
 Throughout the book is a recurring theme and the most important lesson of all. It is simple but powerful: Through out life's trials and tribulations especially in this gloomy economy we are easily dragged down, on the verge of plunging into a dark abyss. Deb learns from her cats, creatures who are confined to a finite space and world, that a simple event can be extraordinary. They remind her to take the time and "smell the roses" and life is all the better.

I also know with all certainty that I will continue to learn from my beloved Zee and Zoey who have given me the invaluable gift of teaching me how to re-examine how I perceive the little moments in life.  By sharing my time with them, they have taught me to slow down a bit and to really embrace what I already have in my life--to revel in the everyday ordinary and reinterpret it to make it extraordinary...I am not implying the traditional, over-the-top meaning of the word extraordinary that evokes images of bungee jumping...Just imagine for one brief moment that you are Zee and Zoey and you happen to glance out your dining room window and an unsuspecting squirrel happens to be within your eyeshot. For them, just like that, in  a mere split second, their lives become extraordinary as they immerse themselves in the excietment of that unexpected little change in their otherwise ordinary day.

A true cat person knows this secret. As a caretaker of 21 outdoor cats, some friendly, some feral, I have never been more thankful of my life than when I feed these "houseless" cats. Living outdoors, in extreme heat, sticky humidity, daily summer thunderstorms, mosquitoes and ants, these cats are grateful for a little food, attention and sometimes affection. Every night while making rounds even in the pouring rain, to witness these cats that jump out of hiding and come prancing to greet me is the most uplifting part of my day. To have a book written that so eloquently and precisely explains this concept is a testament to Deb Barnes as a talented author and will do wonders to further raise awareness about the magical essence of cats and their connection with humans.

Speaking of magical, The Chronicles of Zee and Zoey is an ideal read and gift for the Christmas season! This book is a page-turner and a must-read for anyone who claims "I'm not a cat person". With an open mind and heart, you will fall in love!


Sunday, October 30, 2011

Shelter for Lame Ducks

Women like this inspire me! Eunice Siversten is 74 years young and still has energy and fight in her to protect these innocent ducks. Please consider helping! Duck Haven needs funding, a new pickup truck, cages...

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Sarah MacLachlan says...

As an animal lover ( and not just spectator), and advertising professional, this is one of the most effective commercials to raise awareness and funding to help abused and abandoned pets.

Miami, the region, the country,  desperately needs a PSA (Public Service Announcement) similar to this commercial that speaks to the cruelty and suffering of kittens and puppies born from nonspayed and non-neutered cats and dogs. We need to pick up where Bob Barker left off!!!

Please consider a donation for our efforts. Currently we do not have the funds to produce a commercial like this. 100% of donations go directly to the cats. We come across cats with eye infection or missing eye, ears or tail, as a result of predator attacks. Street life is abusive.

Our goal is to produce a PSA similar to this commercial but with the charitable collaboration of creative agencies and media.

Friday, October 7, 2011

"Hit by Car" Trauma (Dogs off Leashes)

As a dog owner living in condo community for past 10 years, we have seen and heard countless stories of dogs that were spooked by a sudden loud noise and ran off never to be found, or knee-jerk reaction to chase a squirrel, or getting hit by a car in the process of any of the above.  IT HAPPENS.  At the Riverfront condos we see many dog owners let their pets off leashes in the dog field. Now this "dog field" is just that --a field bordered by three inroads. There is no fence.  While dogs run and play fetch in the interior closer to one fence, is one thing. But countless pet owners have their dogs off leashes on the edge of the field, inches from the road with speed demons blazing by. Some of us have warned these pet owners that accidents do happen. That anything can startle the dog and cause them to run suddenly--into an oncoming car-- no matter how well trained. 

Most dog owners think their dogs are well trained. Most are delusional or ill informed.  There was already one incident of a dog running away spooked by a noise, only to be found later dead, struck by a car. In another horrific incident, a resident at the Wind had a large dog on a leash. The dog saw one of the neighborhood cats (his name was Mr. Big) in the bushes. These cats do not provoke. The dog snapped and aggressively attacked the cat. Witnesses shared how the owner could not control the dog WHILE on the leash! It weighed more than her! The dog viciously attacked the cat and left it in bloody pieces. Neighbors immediately contacted  the condo manager expressing outrage and insisted the dog wear a muzzle thereon. Residents feared the dog could attack their dog or children or even adults.

The developer promised a "dog park" signifying a fence. This would be the proper action. But nothing has been done. The developer and partner companies have invested millions of dollars in aesthetics to sell condos. Safety is still lagging. Per Florida Law and Condo rules and regulations, dogs must be on a leash. Neither is being enforced. An accident is waiting to happen.

We follow several pet blogs written by highly regarded veterinarians. The following : "Avoiding the Hit by Car Trauma" by Dr. Justine Lee. We encourage all dog owners to read this carefully. You love your dog. Be a responsible pet owner and take your dog  to a dog park with a fence to run freely.

Monday, September 19, 2011

More Cats on FPL Lot

UPDATE September 27, 2011 : Two emails were sent to the PR department and still no response.

Sure enough as I was jogging last week, I noticed a small black cat crossing the street just one block north of my building in an area dotted with homeless people eating or sleeping on the sidewalk. I slowed down to a slow-motion walk to get close to the black kitty. This was not Sonny, or Cher or Nicky, or Scotty. This was a new cat! Oh no! Immediately I turned and asked all the homeless men if they had seen this cat before. Most said no but one man said yes and that he regularly fed the kitty leftovers. Then he continued "there's a mama cat that gave birth to a litter of five kittens but one or two already died". I learned they live in the gated lot of Florida Power & Light.

I will be contacting FPL to alert them and ask for their participation in funding the TNR efforts (Trap, Neuter, Return). Let's hope the decision-makers are open to learning the facts and quickly stop the overpopulation of homeless cats. I'll keep everyone posted!

Wish me luck!

Friday, September 16, 2011

Video: Myths about Feral Cats

UPDATE: A mother and her six kittens were discovered one block away. A homeless man has been feeding them. We need to get them spayed/neutered!  Please donate for this next round!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Are you an Animal Lover or Spectator?

by Christine Michaels

What does it mean to be an "animal lover"? Does it mean feeding a hungry, homeless animal? Does it mean contributing a few dollars to a neighborhood effort to spay/neuter stray cats? Does it mean you would pick up an injured dog on side of road and rush it to nearest animal hospital and spend the thousand dollars if you had the money? Aaah and that is the crux. Often people have the money but would rather spend it on material things. We say we are a nation of animal lovers, yet during a recession people are dumping their animals into streets, an act of cruelty per the law.

More specifically I'm faced with a recurring issue that weighs heavily on my mind and emotional wits. I really need some feedback on this one.

Two coworkers live in same apartment building where they care for an outdoor stray cat. To protect their identities let's call these coworkers Roger and Jane. Both are single, no children, no dependents and are gainfully employed at prestigious advertising firm.  Often when congregating in the kitchen I hear stories of many nights out with friends. Per Roger "I never am home only to sleep at night. If I'm not at work then I'm out with friends" which explains why he does not adopt a homeless pet. Perfectly understandable.

However, Roger and Jane each feed Milo, the apartment's pet. Roger feeds him at night and Jane feeds him in the morning. Now of course I have educated them on the critical need to neuter Milo to reverse epidemic of homeless cats AND to stop animal cruelty.  I have shared personal, DETAILED stories of injuries by kittens and cats. This conversation has endured for well over 7 or 8 months. Roger jotted down name of closeby vet and the hours. I even offered to help with picking up Milo after surgery, etc. To this date, nothing has been done. Roger's refrain, "I'll talk and coordinate with Jane".

What time investment is required? 20 minutes to place Milo in a carrier and drop him off at vet on the way to work. 20 MINUTES! I even loaned them my pet carrier and offered to pick up Milo post surgery and do his post care! Roger is insistent on partnering with Jane. Therein lies the problem. Jane, in our last conversation,  shared she just doesn't want to make the time.  I was shocked! A wave of questions bubbled up to my lips I had to hold back "Then you're not an animal lover, are you?" "Why not be part of the solution instead of the problem?", "Do you not care that half of kittens are born,  die under 8 weeks of age?" This doesn't have to happen if people spay/neuter the animals they feed or care for.

Can Roger and Jane afford the $25? Absolutely!
Do they have the time? Absolutely!
Do they care? I suppose not. But it pains me that someone with the time and means and knowledge does nothing and is now intentionally part of the problem.

Here's where I believe that a full blown regional EDUCATION PSA campaign is necessary. There is a high recall (advertising lingo for "many people remember a particular commercial" ) of the ASPCA commercial with Sara McLoughlin. The story of an abused or abandoned dog, it pulls heartstrings, the tear geyser is gushing, and motivates you to open your wallet and donate. I did. What Miami needs is a brief video following the life and struggle of a mother cat and her kittens, the host of dangers they face.  A picture is worth a thousand words, a video is worth a million.

Do I think Roger and Jane are "animal lovers"? No. Another term is more fitting "Animal Spectators". Spectating from a distance and not wholly investing in their welfare are two different things. Roger and Jane love to watch Milo and feed him but care nothing for his general welfare and that of other cats. Once Jane was worried that Milo had evident injury. Something with his paw, he was limping. I lent her my carrier to take Milo to vet.  She never took him. Sadly I think I'm bordering on generalization in stating that Generation X is a generation of instant gratification. We hear if often and I see it. The "spoon feed me" or "it's not my problem" mentality.  My priest recently preached from the pulpit "Those who have the least, give the most". He's so right.

More recently, our CEO sent an inspiring message in commemoration of 9/11. He reminded us that "Silence is not a legacy" and encouraged us to not let evil prevail and speak out about an injustice. I used this opportunity to appeal to Roger and Jane. Roger came to see me immediately--a ray of hope. Again "I'll speak to Jane and coordinate with her." This was Friday, September 9th. That light of hope has vanished.

Why doesn't Roger just take Milo? Good question. At this point I don't want to ask for fear of nagging. There's that fine line between friendly encouragement and maintaining cordial professional working relationship. Rocking the boat at an employer is never wise.

I decided, I have to let it go. It's not easy, it's torture and instead convert that rage and frustration into pure energy to propel me to reach my dream of an educational campaign. Only then will we reverse this tragedy!

What do you think? Please share your opinion by clicking on "Comment" below.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Help U.S. Soldier bring Companion Dog Home

Amazement and frustration. Those are the sentiments that run deep, collide and lead to this posting. We hope any reader can help.

U.S. Soldiers are caring for stray dogs in battlefield. This is no surprise. For many soldiers it's the only semblance of normalcy or family life because war is anything but a normal and happy routine.

Given the high rate of post-traumatic syndrome that so many soldiers endure upon their return home, bringing the dogs home has shown to be therapeutic. Unfortunately, the military does not officially allow soldiers to "adopt" dogs or pets while serving but those restrictions have been loosely enforced.

The frustration is that the military does not offer any assistance (financial or physical) in bringing the dogs home with the soldier who chooses to adopt the dog after his tour of duty ends. Soldiers have to shoulder the $800 cost for a local courier to take the dog to a shelter and departing city like Kabul. This is a heavy burden on a soldier's military wages. This is the case for Army Sergeant Tim Johannsen who is trying to bring Leonidus, (nicknamed Leo) to his home in Illinois.

Then he must turn to nonprofit organizations like Puppy Rescue Mission that raise funds to help soldiers ship the dogs. It costs $3,500 for kenneling, vaccination and air flight. Anna Marie Connan is the wife of a serviceman who started this nonprofit organization in Colorado.

The dogs can be therapeutic in helping soldiers readjust to civilian life, said Cannan, who started the program after her husband brought a dog home from a deployment in Afghanistan.

She said that if the military made it easier to send dogs home, there would be fewer cases of post-traumatic stress. [Miami Herald]
With the growing number of studies that show the MEDICAL benefits of pet ownership, it is bewildering how factions of society are slow to change rules and laws with regards to pet adoption and ownership in the army and in condo dwellings that prohibit pets. But we are confident the tide is changing as long as we communicate to our legislators that health should always be a priority.

At the very least, shouldn't we do something for these men and women who sacrifice the ultimate price in going to war? They are separated from their families for a total of years, are often emotionally scarred and in need of a support system to reintegrate to family and social life back home. This is not easy. There is nothing easy about war. The scars run deep, often years. A dog, an unconditional friendship is often more therapeutic than a medley of drugs. Please read the entire Miami Article which offers topline results of numerous studies. It's on the second page title:


In the meantime, YOU can help Sgt. Johannsen in bringing Leo to his new home in good ole' USA and not left to die in war torn Afghanistan. His family has created a website to share their story and to collect donations.

Also, there are 20 dogs waiting to be shipped from Iraq and Afghanistan. To donate to this worthy effort, visit

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Audrey "Tiffany" Hepburn

Winner of the nationwide black cat photo contest by Best Friend Animal Society

Magnifique! Introducing the petite, sprightly and sassy Audrey "Tiffany" Hepburn (remember her role in "Breakfast at Tiffany's)?  We should have named her Holly Golightly after her nemesis as she uses her female charm to seduce you into spoon feeding her moist food and whatever she wants.  Tiffany has that exotic  look, like Bast (ancient Egyptian goddess), which explains her divaness. She is the ruler of her kingdom. And to believe she was once living on the streets! Yes Tiffany went from rags to riches!
Click here to see her former environment--a black diamond in the rough. Formerly called Audrey.

Tiffany is a year old but quite small for an adult cat. She has a lot of energy and needs a home where she can freely run and climb and also a playmate (another lively cat) to expend that energy.

She prefers moist food over dry food which is much healthier and may explain why she doesn't get fat like most indoor cats.

For only $75.00 you can adopt a gorgeous black female cat that has been bloodtested, vaccinated, spayed and with a microchip. U.S. Veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan war can adopt this gorgeous pet at no cost! All medical paperwork is available. Also, you will receive a lovely gift basket containing a luxurious pet bed, ceramic pet bowl, several cans of premium moist cat food, bag of dry food, several toys including her favorite ones with cat nip, a book about cats AND a bottle of Coppola wine (red or white). Christopher Coppola and Otto, his black biker cat were the celebrity guests at Black Cat gala and have personally donated the bottles of wine for anyone who adopts a black cat from this website.

We'll also include her sleek, satin white collar with bell and bow.

This photo at top was winning photo for a contest sponsored by Best Friend Animal Society to raise awareness of the beauty, elegance and intelligence of black cats. This was just announced, so if you're interested in meeting and adopting Tiffany, please contact us right away.

Mylee-- blind, deaf & perfect!

Mylee is an 8 year old super sweet cockergirl who needs a foster or permanent home URGENTLY. I took her out of Miami Dade Animal Services from deathrow after securing a committment from a foster home and now the foster home wanted her out after only 3 days for other reasons.

Little did anyone know, Mylee is blind and partially deaf. There are misperceptions about blind animals. Often they are super human with extra sensory abilities that make up for the blindness and can walk on a leash and move around and play like any normal dog. And the joy they bestow is beyond anything of this world.  For more examples of blind animals, read this summary about Homer, a blind cat that saved his owner from an attacker and so much  more!

Please if anybody can help, call me urgently at 786-416-2860. She is spayed, has all shots, hw-negative and has no other diseases and weighs 22 pounds. Just a gentle lovebug who probably never had any luck so far poor baby. Like other pets, knowing she is loved and care for, she lights up and becomes playful and happy and walks very well on a leash. Unlike other dogs, Mylee is an excellent car rider, even long distances no problem. Mylee is Ms. Congeniality and gets along with other dogs and people and cats! So sweet just needs affection. Upon adoption,  food will be provided, also her dog crate.

Thanks so very much for saving a life and making a difference.
Stephanie E.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Cat Man--Keith Phillips

We often hear people say "I'm not a cat person" and then we learn they NEVER had a cat of their own. Their decisions are often based on the cat of a friend, relative, neighbor. Sure some cats are distant (the scaredy cat) or aloof. And some even protective. For some reason the world is amiss that cats come in all shapes, sizes and personalities!  Many cats exhibit  "friendly dog gestures"  and will greet you (expecting a treat), roll on their backs exposing their belly inviting you to scratch their tub of love...Some you have to earn their respect before they welcome you into their inner sanctum. Heard the expression, "Dogs think they're human, Cats think they're God" there's a lot of truth in jest.

Then there is the macho thing. It's bad enough when men say "you'll never see me with a toy dog" yet if a future girlfriend has one, the boyfriends are more invested in the dog than the girl. (Remember the story of Homer, the blind black cat where the guys were still interested in playing with Homer after breaking up with the mother)? But when a guy looks at you like an alien for having 3 or more cats, suddenly having a toy chihuahua is not so foreign to them. And they say women don't know what they want! It really boils down to ignorance, or more diplomatically stated "lack of knowledge". But we think for men it's mostly about insecurity. But that's just our nonexpert opinion.

Well we came across this great story of a converted man, Keith Phillips who never had a cat and now has three cats, works with therapy cat, and helps spreads the message of the need to spay/neuter and educates about stray cats.

Read Keith's story on cat blog "I Have Cat". Our fellow blogger, Tamar, is a single girl living in NYC with two cats and writes an entertaining blog, "I Have Cat" about being single, dating and having two cats (piece of cake in our opinion--try having more than 3! That's complicated). Keith was a guest writer for this enlightening post about men and cats. Click on the link below to read about Catman Keith!

 And men? We bet there's a kitty lover within you.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

I have a dream...Join Me!

by Christine Michaels

I have a dream that one day we will reverse the rate of homeless pets and animals nationwide. In Miami Dade County we are facing an epidemic rate of 400,000 dogs and cats without home, without shelter, trying to survive. If dogs and cats are man's best friend, then why do we discard them like disposable items? A record number of 37,000 unwanted pets were dropped off at the county shelter.  The facility is overwhelmed.

One day I came to a realization, an irony,  and it hit me harder than raining cats and dogs.  THERE IS A SOLUTION! Yes, the solution, the cure exists!!! The problem? There is little to zero awareness.

I think of all the other causes that have high visibility and awareness. Breast cancer is a prime example. October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month and the pink ribbon is nationally and easily recognized. The myriad events from 5K walks, 5K runs, galas...Regular news reports encouraging women to get annual mammograms and conduct self breast examination to prevent the onslaught of cancer.  Yet a billion dollars has poured into cancer research and we still don't have a cure.

Have you ever heard of a crisis lingering where the cure exists? It is the case of homeless animals. Sounds like a tragedy. It is. For me personally, it's pure frustration and is void of all common sense, even humanity.   In South Florida there are a number of veterinarian clinics that offer low cost spaying/neutering to slow down the homeless cat and dog population.  There are even free programs for those that are unemployed or on welfare and want to make a difference.  There is ZERO AWARENESS! Why?  The subject of homeless dogs, especially cats, is plagued with misconceptions. There is so much educating required. But it's possible. A well planned PR/education campaign with both offline and online tactics would have a tremendous impact. 

The best part--
we don't need to spend billions of dollars!!!

With residents, government, media, and ad agencies working together, the impact could be immediate. Imagine that! But our country needs a national spokesperson to rally key players and spark the hearts and minds of American residents. If we are a nation of "animal lovers", then it's time we showed it.

I'm dreaming of the possibilities. The first person that immediately comes to mind is Betty White, an animal advocate. She's more popular than ever and respected by all ages. Does anyone have connections to her, her agent, her PR agent, TV Land? 

I witness so many "soldiers" in the trenches--trapping cats, getting them spayed/neutered, caring for them post surgery, feeding colonies...but it's a vicious cycle that never ends.  TNR (Trap-Neuter-Return) does work to a point. We can not just tackle the surface problem. We HAVE to get to the ROOT OF THE PROBLEM. And that is education.

If you would like to become part of my Think Tank for OPERATION BAST to end homeless animal population, please contact me, Christine Michaels at 

You can live anywhere in the United States. We will leverage technology for conferencing via SKYPE, and phone to communicate and launch our plan! Everyone has something to offer. Whether it's ideas, whether you're good at schmoozing on the phone, a strong copy writer, a strong PR writer, connections with local officials, state government, even the White House. Even better, connections to highly visible celebrities. So many organizations are tackling this on their own. Let's create SYNERGY nationwide and reverse homeless pet population!

I have a dream and I plan to fulfill it, somehow, someway!
Do you dare to do more than dream?

Note: Bast is the name of the ancient Egyptian goddess, a female black cat. She was adored, revered and respected. Black cats are considered good luck in other countries except the US.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Homer's Odyssey--a story about bravery and life lessons

Looking for a light-hearted book with a solid story and life lessons to learn? Well I have just the book recommendation!  Pick up Homer's Odyssey.

Now while this book is about a cat, PLEASE KNOW, this book is really for people who do NOT have cats or say "I'm not a cat person".

On the surface while Homer's Odyssey is a non-stop adventure describing antics of one cool cat, and dispels all the myths about cats but on a deeper level, it speaks to prejudices based on looks and color and disability. Not only are black cats the least adopted and the most euthanized in shelters, this cat was blind and considered a "special needs" cat. 

Immediately the word "disability" and "special needs" conjures up images of additional care, vet costs, obstacles followed by more obstacles.  A slew of more negative stereotypes continue to stream.

Thanks to the author and other high profile celebrities, I have learned they bring greater joy than expected. Children and pets with special needs often have other special gifts and remind us not to take simple routines, little things for granted. A walk in a park, listening to the radio, playing a simple game, a family sitting around the dinner table and sharing their day...How often do we appreciate these acts?

Even more inspiring are the people that accept these "special needs" children and pets. Moreso, they embrace them when most would reject and abort them.  They are all heroes in my opinion.  It's about  facing a difficult situation head on, EMBRACING IT and become stronger and more fulfilled! 

Gwen Cooper, the author, was a single female struggling in her career and also finances.  Already strapped with two cats, she feared a third cat, much less a blind cat, would label her the "crazy cat lady" and dig her deeper into a dark financial hole. But that black cat brought light, laughter and love!

Of course Homer owes his life to a young, altruistic veterinarian, Dr. Patty Khuly, who surgically removed his eyes due to severe infection and turned to her client Gwen Cooper in hopes she would adopt him.  Homer's story is one of a Wonder Cat who is blind but has no fear. Even the guys that Gwen dated and broke up with, returned just to visit Homer, the cat!   He even chased away an intruder in the middle of the night. Homer also teaches Gwen that love is not something you see with your eyes. 

  Unlike most books about pets, I promise you there is no sad ending. Gwen Cooper is a gifted writer and keeps the action flowing and you will laugh all the way through!

Order your COPY NOW! Click the link below to order your copy and a small proceed benefits Riverfront Cats!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

A Lesson for Congress

Congress could learn a lot about bipartisanship from this kitten and pitbull. They can playfight and get along and playfight then sleep together and compromise...In the end they get along. Watch the video! You will love it!

Monday, July 11, 2011

Le Chat Noir featured in Brickell Magazine

Johnny Walker looks up at Christine Michaels during photoshoot

Black cats are once again basking in the spotlight!  Brickell Magazine, a high end magazine focusing on leaders, important trends and success stories for the downtown Miami area, featured a one page article on Le Chat Noir. 

Under the "Entrepreneur" section, the title was "Kitty Care".  The article spoke about the conception and the event called Le Chat Noir, the Cat Network's inaugural Black Cat Gala, to raise awareness about the uniqueness of black cats, reduce their euthanization rate at shelters while increasing their adoption rate.

NOTE: there was a misstatement in the article that I need to correct here.  It was NOT the state of Maryland that mandated not to send black kittens. It was the shelter in Bowie that made the call.  Please know the article was the draft the reporter wrote and I had corrected it but the reporter is no longer with the magazine. I had sent several emails to the reporter and editor with corrections but this was earlier in the year. 

Johnny Walker

There are plenty of black cats for adoption within the Cat Network.  For example, Johnny Walker and Audrey Tiffany Hepburn are a great pair.  Click here to learn about their unique personalities and view more photos of  them! To the future parents of JW and Tiffany, you'll receive a beautiful gift basket with essential food and toys (a $75 value for free) PLUS a bottle of Coppola wine donated by Christopher R. Coppola and Biker Cat!

Le Chat Noir was a beautiful, exciting and memorable event! More importantly it raised awareness, funding and started to overturn long-held myths about black cats and cat women. Black cats are lucky and there are plenty of sexy Cat Ladies in Miami!

Soon we'll begin planning our next event so be on the lookout for that email!
Here's to saving more than 9 lives!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

About Urinary Issues in Cats


We all have our "issues"  and in the case of cats, urinary tract infection or bladder inflamation are common. Recognizing the signs is important to minimize pain, get immediate treatment and return to comfortable routine. Below is an excellent explanation of signs, potential problems and solutions to help your cat.

by Cindy Hewitt

Inappropriate elimination is the leading cause when cats are relinquished to shelters, and urinary issues are one of the most common health problems for which cat guardians seek veterinary assistance.  

Cats naturally seek somewhere to eliminate that will allow them to bury their waste.  When cats don’t use the litterbox, there is usually a reason:

  • For some reason the litterbox is unattractive.
  • There is a medical issue.
  • There is a behavioral issue.

Unattractive litterbox:  Cats can be very particular, and a variety of issues affect their willingness to use a litterbox. 
  • Location:  should be in a quiet, peaceful location away from noise and traffic.
  • Type of box:  some cats are hesitant to use a hooded litterbox; other cats prefer the privacy.
  • Type of litter: 
    • Most cats prefer a small grain litter such as scoopable litter. Dr. Elsey’s Cat Attract Litter is formulated to encourage cats to use the litterbox, and may be helpful in retraining your cat.
    • Scented litters can be very offensive to cats.  Try an unscented plain clay or scoopable litter. 
    • Dust from litter may bother the animal; use a low dust brand.
    • Try different types of litter (scoopable, clay, etc.) in different boxes (open vs. hooded) at the same time, preferably in the same location, to control for all variables. If your cat has a preference for one type of litter, use that litter in different boxes and locations to further understand your cat’s needs.
  • Litter box liners:  some cats dislike liners; when they dig their claws get caught, and they don’t like the feel of the plastic.
  • Number of boxes vs. number of cats:  most animal behaviorists recommend at least one box per cat plus a spare; if there are litterbox problems, they recommend two boxes per cat because some cats won’t urinate and defecate in the same location
  • Frequency of cleaning:  cats don’t want to step into a landmine (theirs or another animal’s).  If the box is dirty, they will seek another location.  Clean boxes at least once daily, more often if possible.  Hint:  make cleaning litterboxes as convenient as possible.  If using flushable litter, place in bathroom near toilet.  Consider having an old-fashioned diaper pail for easy disposal of waste, and containment of odor.  There are automatic boxes that will keep at least one box clean even if you aren't home. 

Medical issues: “Knowledge regarding feline urinary tract issues is evolving in terms of diagnostics, causes and treatments, and this can be both confusing and controversial. The current thinking is that the majority of Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disease (FLUTD) cases has no clear cause and is lumped into idiopathic cystitis or interstitial cystitis (borrowed from human medicine).  Since the exact cause is unknown, the perfect therapy eludes us.  To make matters worse, this syndrome of idiopathic cystitis can produce urinalysis results that sometimes yield either bacteria or crystals, obscuring the true process initially.  This frustrates owners and vets alike.  Often, idiopathic cystitis is finally diagnosed once a trend or repeated pattern is detected” explains Dr. Jim Dugan of Pinecrest Veterinary Hospital.

Cats frequently attempt to get our attention and let us know they are having problems by eliminating outside the litterbox.  When this occurs, cats should be examined by a veterinarian to insure there is no medical basis for the issue. A urinalysis should be performed to determine Ph and specific gravity, and to look for crystals, bacteria and blood in your cat's urine.  If there are no significant findings in the urinalysis, but this is a repeat or chronic issue, a radiograph should be performed. If there are still no findings, an Ultrasound is helpful in more thoroughly visualizing the bladder and bladder wall to evaluate for possible calculi.  If US isn't available, a radiograph with contrast (usually air is used to inflate the bladder) may be useful.

If a cat is going in and out of the litterbox, or appears to be straining but not producing urine, it is CRITICAL to monitor carefully and if the cat cannot urinate, it is a medical EMERGENCY.  A blocked urethra can be fatal and must be treated immediately.  If you are unsure, segregate the cat with a clean litterbox and observe carefully to determine if it is actually urinating.

Some studies have shown that in cats under 10 years of age, the vast majority of urinary tract infections (UTI) have no bacterial component, so treatment with antibiotics may not be necessary.  If there is blood in the urine, most veterinarians prescribe antibiotics to prevent infection.  In addition, studies have shown that most UTIs in young cats clear in 3-5 days, with or without antibiotics, fluid therapy, both or nothing.  Providing COMFORT to the cat by using medication to relieve pain and/or reduce inflammation should be discussed with your veterinarian.

Diet appears to play a role in many cases.  If the cat is producing crystals, modifying the Ph of the urine (with diet or drugs) can help prevent formation and even dissolve some existing crystals.  Fluid intake also makes a difference, as larger fluid intake can help flush out any small crystals that may form.  Providing a fresh flowing fountain, or giving your cat very low-sodium chicken broth (such as Pacific low sodium, free range, organic broth with about 70mg sodium/8 oz) can help increase fluid intake.

Many cats improve if fed a prescription diet such as Hill's Rx CD Multicare, Royal Canin Urinary SO and Purina UR.  If the cat improves on a prescription diet, then dietary modification is probably appropriate.  If the cat improves and is stable on a prescription diet for an extended period of time, but cost is a factor, ask your vet if you can try an over-the-counter (OTC) urinary formula food such as Purina Pro Plan Urinary Formula.  If your vet approves, slowly add in the OTC urinary formula food (no more than 10% at a time) over several weeks, and if the cat does well both from a digestive and urinary perspective, see if you can maintain him on the OTC urinary formula.

Additionally, if the cat has experienced painful elimination (such as with a bladder infection), it may associate this pain with the litterbox and be hesitant to use the box again.  If your cat had an infection which has been successfully treated and is still hesitant to use the box, try a different type of box in a different location in an attempt to break the association.

Cat Professionals, Ltd. has produced a great booklet on FLUTD, which thoroughly outlines the diverse things that can impact your cat.  It is available in print or download formats at

Behavioral problems:  When cats are stressed or unhappy, they may “mark” with urine.  This can be vertical spraying or horizontal urinating.  Behavioral urination is frequently associated with the introduction of additional animal or person (even a new baby) in the household, or some other type of change to the cat’s environment.  Multicat households have a much greater risk that one or more of the cats will urine mark. 

Try to determine the source of stress, and eliminate or minimize causes of stress if possible.  Do not punish a cat for urine marking; this will only encourage the cat to mark when you are not around.  NEVER hit a cat or try to rub its nose in excrement; this type of response only further stresses the animal and makes it afraid of the guardian.

Try to give the animal extra attention and even “private” space if possible; it is not cruel to segregate a cat in an office or bedroom if that is what the cat prefers.  Sometimes environmental enrichment can help reduce stress.  Cats like vertical hideaways, and you can dramatically increase their options by adding cat perches, walkways and tall furniture.  In addition, some cats really enjoy having access to safe, outdoor enclosures.  There are several commercial products available that allow your pet to be outside without the normal risks faced by free-roaming felines.

Thorough cleaning of any surfaces marked with urine is critical to minimize the chance the cat will be drawn back to the same area by residual scent.  First remove as much urine or other organic material as possible using just water; use a steam cleaner/extractor on carpets and upholstery.  Then thoroughly saturate the area to be cleaned with an enzymatic cleaner such as Nature’s Miracle, Urine Off, etc.  The enzymes break down the urine to remove all odor.  Do not use soap or detergent when cleaning, as these will leave residue that will inactivate enzymatic cleaners.  Reapplying the enzymatic cleaner for several days will help minimize the chance that there will be any lingering odor that your cat can detect, even if you can’t.

If urine marking cannot be eliminated, discuss possible segregation, pheromone therapy and/or medication with your veterinarian. Ultimately, if a thorough medical workup has ruled out any physiological cause, and the spraying behavior cannot be controlled, it may be better to allow the cat to go outdoors than to surrender it to a shelter or have it euthanized.  

Conclusion: Recurrent urinary issues are one of the most common health and behavioral problems among cats.  Resolving these issues requires patience, perseverance, a bit of detective work and flexibility on the part of caretakers and veterinarians.   People regularly make significant concessions to address the medical or behavioral issues of family members.  Hopefully more and more pet guardians will make the same commitment to their furchildren.

Thanks to Dr. Jim Dugan of Pinecrest Veterinary Hospital for contributing to this article.