Mindful Monday—Adopt a Cat Month

010June is a busy month for pets. This is “Adopt a Cat Month,” and there’s still time to rescue a cat or two. Just visit your local animal shelter and I’m sure you’ll meet a cat or kitten face-to-face who would love to climb into your carrier and accompany you home. It’s gotta beat living in a cage, spending every night alone, being passed up by every visitor to the shelter.

Or maybe you’ve seen a stray in the neighborhood or near where you work or you know of a litter of kittens some kids down the street are trying to find homes for. Consider inviting one (or two) into your home. You know you’ll be rewarded many times over for your generosity.

We all have stories of chance meetings with cats who turned out to be the love of our lives, right? Or are these truly chance meetings? Sometimes it seems that the cat has a plan and knows when and how to put it into motion in order to land the human she wants.

Have you ever felt that way? That your cat chose you instead of the other way around?

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Frivolous Friday—Cats At Work

 

MullicanFamilyJuly2009 005According to some sites, this is “Take Your Cat to Work Day.” Can you just imagine the chaos and distractions in a busy workplace should several employees bring their cats?

Some of us work with cats in the office day in and day out. In fact, it seems that most writers have cats. I wonder if it’s because of their calming effect, or their inspirational qualities, or because they’re easier to have around than a rambunctious dog that needs walking, letting out, and constant reinforcement and attention—(well, some do, anyway). And dogs tend to bark at the most inopportune times—when you’re being interviewed on the phone or conducting an interview, for example.

So will you take your cat to work today? If you do, I’d love to hear about the experience. If you can only imagine what your work space would look like with your cat there, I’d love to hear about that, too

Our cats actually work here. Max was our best paper weight ever (and I emphasize “weight”). He entertained himself by trying to make a basket with my favorite pen. If I couldn’t find it, I knew where to look—in my waste basket. He practiced a lot and got very good at it.

Lily brings me my slippers when it gets cold (or in the heat of the summer—it doesn’t matter), and she is my designated lap-warmer on chilly mornings. She also strives to keep flying insects from invading my space and does her best to corral any stray paperclips.

Sophie used to retrieve faxes that came through. She is also our primary paper shredder.

And all of the cats provide a calming atmosphere in this home and in my office which I appreciate more than they will ever know. However, they can also cause my blood pressure to rise, when they step on my keyboard or chase a toy amongst the wires behind the computer and disconnect something. And I’ve had to have cat hair cleaned out of the computer more than once.

Oh well, I guess with any employee, you have to take the bad along with the good. And with cats, I’ve found, the good way outweighs the bad.

 

 

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Bring Your Best Game Thursday—Preparing Pets for Disaster

 

IMG_0583Did you know that June is National Pet Preparedness Month? And there’s a reason for this—June marks the start of hurricane season in the Atlantic. Those of you who typically experience hurricanes probably have a plan for your family. Don’t forget to make a plan for those members of your household who can’t do it for themselves.

If your cats are like ours, they know how to find their safe-zone when they feel threatened. This may not actually be the best place for them to wait out a hurricane, however (or other potential disasters such as flood, earthquake, tornado, fire). So it’s important that you know where your cats’ favorite hiding places are so you can retrieve them in case you know of a safer place for them or in case you need to evacuate.

We don’t experience hurricanes in California. But when something frightens our cats, suchAlyzayBirthday3 078 as a worker on the premises making unusual noises with their tools, the garbage truck driving past, or someone coming to the door, for example, they know where to go in order to feel safe. For Sophie, it’s behind a desk in the back of the house and Lily crawls under the covers in my bed. It works for her.

Here’s a good site to study in case you’re apt to experience a hurricane. Your pet will thank you.

http://www.nbcmiami.com/news/local/How-to-Prepare-Your-Pets-for-a-Hurricane-Including-Pet-Friendly-Shelters-208530941.html

 

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Wild (and Sometimes Crazy) Wednesday—What Goes Into the Production of a Book Part 2

lilywritingIMG_1705How do I approach my stories? Sometimes I have a basic idea of the story I want to tell—maybe I’ve chosen the setting or the characters who will be involved and a basic plot. But for the most part, I simply sit down and start writing. I like to begin with a stunning event—something that will get the reader’s attention and, hopefully, make him or her want to keep reading and find out what it was the cats saw outside the window that frightened them so badly, why Savannah had such a crazy nightmare, how in the world it happened that the cat was floating around the lake on top of a dead body, who was causing havoc in the neighborhood, etc.

From there I just write, making up the story as I go along. Sometimes it feels as though the

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story is driving me instead of the other way around. I often tell people I want to get back to my writing and find out what happens next. Most often, I truly don’t know where the story will take me.

I finish my stories maybe fifty times. I haven’t actually counted how many times I re-read and rewrite and edit and proof…Then there’s the fact-checking—to identify the tool they used to crack open the old freezer, to locate the correct term for an item or procedure, to make sure I’ve accurately represented a period in history or a famous person, etc. I have to make certain the time-line is correct. If I say in the story that something happened a week later, it had better be a week to the day. And I need to make corrections in cases where, for example, Michael mentions his conversation with Luke in chapter three, but he didn’t actually meet Luke until chapter 5. If Aunt Margaret doesn’t learn of Savannah’s near accident in chapter four, she’d better not be talking about it in chapter 2.

It is around this time that I contact my cover designer with the title of the book and the premise, with some ideas for a design. She takes it from there.

Once I’m satisfied with the flow and order of the story, I edit for word choices, overused phrases, etc. And I spend time gussying up some of the dialogue, narration, and description.

smokeycat-eye-025After editing the manuscript another 5 to 25 times, I turn it over to my first-response readers. I take their comments into consideration and edit the manuscript another 2 to 10 times before sending it to my proofreader/editor. Once I get it back from her, I make the changes she suggests and go back to editing the entire manuscript as many times as it takes for me to feel that it is complete.

Then it goes to the person who does the formatting for Kindle—quite a process I haven’t learned to do and don’t want to. I have more stories to write, after all. I give her the cover at this time and a description of the story. One to three weeks later, the Kindle version of the book is available at amazon.com.

We prepare the book for print here in-house. To date, we have 15 of the books in print form and are striving to catch up so that we’re producing the Kindle version alongside the print version. Our goal is to accomplish that this year.

In the Klepto Cat Mystery factory, we average a book every 2 months and have since the first one, Catnapped, came out in June of 2013. That’s over five books per year.

People ask how is it I’m so prolific. When do I find time to do so much writing? Well, even after 43 years of writing for publication, I still haven’t tired of the process. The truth is, all I want to do is write and I indulge myself as often as possible—which is generally every single day of the week for at least eight hours and frequently more.

Do I see an end to the Klepto Cat Mystery series? No. But I have toyed with the idea of writing an unrelated novel. No immediate plans, yet. I suspect that I won’t let my mind and heart stray from this series until after we’ve produced book 20.

 

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Newsday Tuesday—What Goes Into the Production of a Book?

Lily recommends Catnapped

Lily recommends Catnapped

This is a question I’m often asked when I’m out and about sharing my expertise on authorship or simply chatting with a friend or colleague over designer coffee. If it’s something you’ve wondered about, stay tuned.

All authors don’t operate the same—so all I can share is my experience—how I do it. Today, unlike when I started in this business in 1973, there are scads of options for authors. Writing a books is much easier than it used to be because of technology and the support for authors is amazing—some of it amazingly great and others, virtual scams. It used to be that a writer wrote because he or she was passionate about the process or because they had something to say or a story rolling around inside that wanted out. Now, people become authors for a whole variety of reasons—to prove something to themselves or someone else, to make a point or a statement, to promote their business or a point of view, to jump on what they think is a lucrative bandwagon, because it is just easy to do and seems like the thing to do.

I write from passion. I tell people that I can’t not write. I loved the process so much that I figured out how to make a living at it. I wrote my first book because of my passion for writing as well as my passion for horses in 1978. It was such a labor of love that I did most of the writing by hand from bed where I was recovering from a back injury. Once I was able, I typed it up on a manual typewriter and presented the manuscript to A. S. Barnes, a New York Publisher and they published Hints For the Backyard Rider in both hardback and paperback (the only choices at the time—there was no such thing as an ebook).

Fast forward to the computer age. By 2012, I had published over 40 books. All nonfiction—give-me-the-facts-type books on all sorts of topics from horse care to presenting a Hawaiian luau to youth mentoring to authorship and book promotion. In 2012, I decided to start writing fiction and it’s the fiction books I want to talk about, which I will do tomorrow.

In the meantime, check out my author page at Amazon.com http://amazon.com/author/patriciafry

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Mindful Monday—What’s Happening in the Klepto Cat Mystery Factory?

Cover 1-1 copyToday is my birthday, so I’m going to indulge myself. For a couple of years now, I’ve brought you some interesting, amazing, fascinating, thought-provoking stories and facts featuring cats. And I’ve enjoyed sharing some of my cat photos and those of others.

I started this blog in order to promote my cat-related books—first, Catscapades, True Cat Tales and now the Klepto Cat Mysteries. It’s one of the things you do as an author—establish a blog in order to get exposure for your books. It’s called promotion. Authors also set up a facebook account (facebook.com/KleptoCatMysteries), a website (http://www.matilijapress.com), we sell books through amazon.com (http://amzn.to/1kAI8I2), go out and speak to our potential readers (I’ll be speaking at the big Cat Writers Association/Blog Paws Conference this weekend in Arizona), among other things.

So what’s happening in the Klepto Cat Mystery Factory? I just published Book 18, Cats inCatsInCahoots-cover-web Cahoots. In the meantime, the 17th book in the series, A MEOWvelous Witness continues to earn 5-star reviews. All 18 Klepto Cat Mysteries are formatted for your Kindle and sell for $2.99.

We now have 15 of the Klepto Cat Mystery books in print. The most recent is Claws for a Cause. This story takes you to Hawaii and back, involves wolf sightings, panicked ranchers, and a young pregnant girl who’s about to make a life-and-death mistake.

Where can you get these books? If you’re in Ojai, they’re available at Book Ends, on El Roblar and Pueblo and Made in Ojai (Matilija Street near Montgomery). Or at amazon.com here: http://amzn.to/1kAI8I2

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Frivolous Friday—Cozy Cats

 

lilylaundryIMG_1994We all know that cats are the epitome of creature comforts. More than any other animal, they know how to find their comfort zone and they will indulge in it wholly and completely every chance they get, whether it is a cozy lap, a place in front of a glowing fire, on your angora sweater, or curled up with laundry fresh out of the dryer.

We see pictures and videos of cats in strange gorgebirdbathplaces on the Internet. Here are a few sites showing cats in strange places. Beware, you will crack a smile upon seeing these cats: http://www.babble.com/pets/cats-in-weird-places

https://www.buzzfeed.com/melismashable/10-cats-in-strange-places?utm_term=.lcawrrGreK#.hn4bQQrQxV

http://www.thecatsite.com/g/a/112832/cats-in-strange-places

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Thoughts for Thursday—Is it Training or Conditioning?

smokey-004That was an interesting series of articles we ran this week on how Bobbi Florio Graham trains her cats. One has to wonder, is it training or conditioning and what is the difference? It seems that animals become conditioned to perform certain behaviors by repetition and triggers. For example, my mother’s cat, Smokey, knows when it’s bedtime or suppertime, based on what’s on TV. He’ll enter the room about suppertime or bedtime and look at the TV. Depending on what he sees or hears on the screen, he’ll either lay down and wait or urge my mother to go to the kitchen and feed him or nudge her to go to bed.

Likewise, Lily, our tabby, comes into the living room about half hour before her suppertime and lays at my feet. If I get up, she trots alongside my ankle as if she were a dog heeling and accompany me into the kitchen. If I’m not going to the kitchen, she tries to herd me in that direction.

Lily has an unexplained condition that causes twitching episodes. When she starts it, I hold my hand out and say, “Want scratchies? Want Mama to scratch you?” And she rushes to me, lays flat on the floor, and I scratch her back until she feels better. It’s pretty much a ritual around here…as is our bedtime routine. Lily leads the way now, instead of following, through the kitchen where we turn off lights and close blinds, then into the service porch where we lock the back door, then the bathroom, and bedroom. Before lights out, she checks her bowl of kibbles and lets me know if it’s low. How? By standing next to the bowl and staring at me—sometimes mewing.

oaktreealylily-007I’ve always thought that my cats trained me to adhere to their routine, preferences in food, sleeping places, etc., but Bobbi has given me a new perspective on my relationship and role with my cats. I realize they do understand the words we use regularly with them and certainly the gestures such as, “treat!” along with a stroll into the kitchen where the treats are kept. They also seem to understand, “supper,” and “bed.” I think our tortie, Sophie is confused, though. When she claws on a piece of furniture, I say a sharp, “No,” and she may or may not pay attention before I head in her direction to make her stop. But when she scratches on the cat tree and I tell her in my sweetest voice, “Good girl, Sophie. That’s a good girl,” she often stops the scratching and runs away. That one, I haven’t figured out.

As you may know, I believe that cats can tune into our thoughts. Why else do they run and hide when you’ve scheduled a veterinarian appointment—and this is without the sound or sight of a carrier?

Just last night, I opened the freezer door where I keep catnip, along with ice cubes and a lilycatnipIMG_2008lot of frozen food. I open that door at least once every few days. So why is it when I open it with the thought, “I think I’ll give the cats some catnip,” why do the cats become excited and dance around my feet? Sometimes they rush in from another room. How do they know?

I’d love to hear about some of your training or conditioning successes with your cats.

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Wild and Sometimes Crazy Wednesday—Training Your Cat (Part 3)

pennyholdpawWe introduced Bobbi Florio Graham Monday in Part 1 of this series. To remind you, Barbara (Bobbi) Florio Graham won the $1,000 Sticky Paws award for best article on training at the Cat Writers’ Association annual conference in 2002.

Over the last two days, she shared some basics about training and introduced us to her original cat, Simon Teakettle and the two cats who followed him. Today, she’ll focus on her current cat, who is in training as we speak.

Training Q.T. Penny was a bit more difficult because she was a year old when I adopted her. But I continued to use the same commands that brought results with my previous cats. These include “Come here,” “Sit,” “Stay,” and “No!”

When I pick up a kitten to do something pleasant, to pet, brush, or even to move gently off my lap so I can get up, I use my left hand under her belly, with my right hand petting her.

Penny didn’t like to be picked up, and it took a full year of my gentle persuasion to get her to understand that nothing bad was going to happen. Now, she permits me to do everything, including to brush her teeth!

She considers her toothbrush a toy. She also likes to have me trim her claws. That came about because she seemed interested when I used my nail clippers. I began to use them to clip her claws when she was on my lap, and I gradually introduced the cat clippers. At the beginning, I could only clip one or two claws at a time, but now we do both front paws in one sitting.

Penny has a large and growing vocabulary. Teaching words is a matter of consistency. Use the same words, in short phrases, repeat frequently, and use hand or body signals to reinforce the message.

In addition to the basic commands, I’ve taught Penny words she associates with pleasant activities. She understands “Lap,” and comes immediately when I say “Brush” or “Treat.”

She understands “ball” and “toy” although I’m not sure she knows which is which! But she definitely knows “Mouse.” If I ask her where her mouse is, she goes to find it. And I’m not sure if it’s her instinct or my command that has her respond to “Catch” when I toss her a toy. But I praise that anyway.

One of the newer phrases Penny has leaned is “Excuse me.” When I say this, she jumps off my lap, knowing I want to get up.

I’m always shocked to hear from friends whose cats wake them up at ungodly hours, wanting to be fed. Why would you allow that?

My solution is to feed Penny only twice a day, late in the morning, and just before I have my evening meal. If I’m going out for dinner, I either feed her before I leave, or make sure her dishes of dry food are full.

The key to sleeping as late as you want is to ensure the cat has dry food to eat whenever she wishes. I feed two high-quality dry foods, one with large pieces to help with dental care, and the other a grain-free weight-management formula.

Since I used the latter as substitute treats when I first began to train her, this food is associated with pleasure as well as sustenance.

Every cat I’ve had understood and adapted to my daily habits. Usually, when I wake up, Penny is beside me, and begins to beg me to pet her when she senses I’m awake.

Similarly, cats know the signals that indicate bedtime preparation. Include the cat in these as much as possible, using the word “Bed” if you allow the cat to sleep with you.

Penny has just started to do what Terzo used to do: jump on the bed and wait for me when she realizes I’m heading in that direction.

If the cat is supposed to sleep in another location, put her there, pet and praise her, using the word “Bed.”

Don’t underestimate your cat’s vocabulary. It takes patience to teach them, but it’s not only rewarding, it’s fun to see how much they can learn.

Barbara Florio Graham is an author and publishing consultant whose business is named after The Cat Who Owns the Company. Her website: http://simonteakettle.com contains Simon Teakettle’s blog, fan club, and a great deal of information about cats (as well as many other subjects).

 

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Newsday Tuesday—Training Your Cat Part 2

Penny lap bestWe introduced Bobbi Florio Graham yesterday in Part 1 of this series. She mentioned her current cat, Penny. QT Penny (Quattro Teakettle) is her fourth cat since she adopted Simon Teakettle, the owner of her company, in 1972. As she says, “I added Q.T. for Quattro Teakettle, in honor of Terzo, who was Simon Teakettle III. But I realized it could also mean “Cutie” and I often call her Cutie Pie as well as Cutie Penny.”

And Penny is a cutie—that’s her in the photo.
To remind you, Barbara (Bobbi) Florio Graham won the $1,000 Sticky Paws award for best article on training at the Cat Writers’ Association annual conference in 2002. Here’s Bobbi’s blog post:

Every cat is different, and training methods have to be adapted to that animal’s individual personality.

I adopted the first Simon Teakettle when he was 18 months old. It was clear he’d been hit by a rolled-up newspaper, perhaps when he tried to dash through the door, because he was startled any time he heard the rustling of any paper.

I didn’t have that problem with the second or third Simon Teakettles, whom I raised from kittens, but Simon II (Tiki) was a part-Siamese feral, who presented distinct challenges.

I’ve never encountered a cat so smart! I had to buy him new toys and invent new games just to keep him occupied, as he was easily bored.

Simon III (Terzo) was the opposite. A black and white sweetheart, he was placid and cuddly, eager to please and willing to learn.

He’s the cat featured in the video which has received much praise from animal behaviorists. It’s at: http://lnkd.in/fKsbhH

I found Q.T. Penny at a local shelter in February of 2015. She was a year old, had been a stray, and was still pretty skittish when I brought her home. But she already knew her name, and began to come when I called her within the first few days.

It’s confusing to change the name of an older cat. I added Q.T. (for Quattro Teakettle) and she now responds to both “Q.T.” and “Penny.”

I start with “Come here,” and only call Penny when she will receive a reward for obeying.

It helps when you call the cat when you have full dish in your hand! I began by calling Penny to her tray when I fed her, and gradually began to insist that she sit by her tray in order for me to put the food dish down.

Now when she wants her wet food, all I have to do is say “Sit by your tray,” and she goes there, sits, and waits for me to bring the dish to her.

I always begin training using dry cat food, and only move to treats much later, when I start to teach special behaviors. I believe strongly in positive reinforcement, and my experience has been that cats react to praise and petting.

There are a couple of important things to remember. Always use the cat’s name when you praise him or her, and never when scolding. I always reinforce good behavior with “Good girl.” For any behavior I want to discourage, I employ a very loud and sharp “No!” accompanied by a loud noise, usually clapping my hands.

It’s important for every pet new to the household to learn “Sit” and “Stay,” and cats should be leash-trained, even if you never plan to let them go outside. It’s a matter of safety, in case you ever have to leave quickly without time to put the cat into a carrier.

In Part Three, I’ll discuss other commands, and the importance of consistency.

Barbara Florio Graham is an author and publishing consultant whose business is named after The Cat Who Owns the Company. Her website: http://SimonTeakettle.com contains Simon Teakettle’s blog, fan club, and a great deal of information about cats (as well as many other subjects). Here’s the link to the training article: http://SimonTeakettle.com/training.htm To learn the interesting story about how Simon Teakettle got his name, go to http://SimonTeakettle.com/simont.htm

 

 

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