Organic veggies for Guinea pig and rabbit clients

Due to popular interest, Cats and Hamsters is now pleased to offer rabbit and Guinea pig pet sitting and boarding clients a new daily fresh produce option – Cats and Hamsters’s Special Selection!

This new option will include a species-appropriate vegetable and fruit selection comprising a special selection of:

  • organic produce
  • produce grown by myself from seed in my community garden plot
  • produce from the public markets

I am excited to share that this summer I am trying a local organic farm share, La ferme coop Aux Champs qui Chantent, and will include produce from that share in the daily Special Selection. La ferme coop Aux Champs qui Chantent is a local, organic, worker-owned, worked-run cooperative. Their pick up locations include the Plateau and Petite Patrie. Their philosophy includes offering good, healthy food and making it accessible. So uncollected shares are donated to community organizations and they offer “Solidarity Baskets,” where a weekly basket can be subsidized via donation and members can request a basket at a reduced rate to match economic need.

The original daily fresh produce service for Guinea pig and rabbit clients is still available, and may or may not include some of the same items in the Special Selection.

Clients who prefer to specify a specific list of vegetables and fruit for their Guinea pigs and rabbits can choose the concierge service.

Trim your cat’s nails or get someone else to do it for you

I saw this great TikTok about overgrown cat nails and what that means for the cat:

I have posted a number of Facebook Lives and YouTube videos about how to trim cat claws.

Some cat owners think their indoor-only cat can maintain their claws solely via scratching posts, but I’ve repeatedly found this to be ineffective. Cats might be able to sharpen their claws on a scratching surface, but not all cats are able to do this, and the resulting claws end up needle-sharp! If a cat’s nails becomes overgrown, it will continue to grow into a circle until it embeds itself into the cat’s paw pad, which is painful and can lead to infection, as is shown in the TikTok above.

If you are uncomfortable trimming your cat’s nails, then have someone else else do it. Veterinarian clinics, pet stores, pet sitters, groomers, etc. will often offer pet nail trimming. Mobile groomers and pet sitters can come to your home so the cat doesn’t have to go anywhere. I offer this service on its own and I also include it without extra charge when I am cat sitting, because it helps everyone when cat nails are trimmed! If the cat gets very stressed, fearful, aggressive for nail trimming, veterinarians can sedate them for the nail trimming.

Small pet nail trimmers are best for cats and can be very inexpensive, like the model the vet is using in this TikTok. Like nail clippers, nail trimmers need to be sharp in order to cut the nail cleanly, so they will need to be replaced every so often depending on use. Maybe every other year for one cat.

Don’t worry about getting all of the claws at once – it’s perfectly fine to trim a couple and take a break. And giving lots of treats throughout can help to make it a positive experience for everyone!

Fear Free Certified Professional

When Montreal schools were ordered to close in response to the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, and we were urged to practice social distancing and basically sequester ourselves in our homes in order to flatten the curve of the disease’s spread, I got a bit stressed out and well, made the bad decision to head over to Costco to get milk (needless to say, 3.5 hours later, I emerged from Costco without milk). As everyone’s travel plans were canceled, my schedule suddenly cleared and I had no furry clients to visit and pamper. I coped by hyper-focusing on doing something I’d been meaning to do for years: Fear Free certification.

FF Corporate Logo

Fear Free is a new initiative sweeping veterinary medicine designed to ease the stress, fear, and anxiety so many pets experience while at the veterinarian. There are currently no specific programs for pet sitters, so I completed the modules designed for veterinary staff, which had a lot of useful information and ideas that are applicable to professional pet sitting and pet ownership.

Pet Sitters World 2019 with Dr Marty Becker Fear Free

Dr. Marty Becker posed for a picture with me after his session on Fear Free at the 2019 Pet Sitters World Educational Conference and Expo in Winston-Salem, NC, USA.

Developed by “America’s Veterinarian,” Dr. Marty Becker, the Fear FreeSM initiative aims to “take the ‘pet’ out of ‘petrified’” and get pets back for veterinary visits by promoting considerate approach and gentle control techniques used in calming environments. Utilization of Fear Free methods and protocols leads to reduction or removal of anxiety triggers, which creates an experience that is rewarding and safer for all involved including pets, their owners, and veterinary health care teams. Learn more at

To become certified, veterinarians and veterinary staff are required to complete a comprehensive, 8-part educational course and exam. They also have to take continuing education to remain certified.

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Mighty hamster survives great fall

I really don’t post a lot on social media – don’t get used to it!
Last week, I found that my hamster, Maximus Decimus Meridius, had somehow moved the metal lid on his aquarium aside and had escaped. He either fell straight down to the hardwood floor from four book shelves up, or gradually fell from shelf to printer to floor. I found him nesting under the couch, nibbling on a pile of cracker crumbs he had accumulated. After a prolonged chase back and forth, and some hiding under a pile of stuffed animals, I got him. And he screamed like he hadn’t screamed since I had first gotten him, untamed, from the pet store.
Was he in pain? Did he have internal injuries? Was he ok, but just overexcited and scared from his adventure? His ears were perked up and he seemed ok – eating, drinking, running around, etc.. I still wanted confirmation that everything was ok. I called the exotic animal veterinarian I’ve gone to for years, the Montreal Bird and Exotic Vet in NDG. It was Tuesday in the late afternoon and they were booked until Thursday late morning; I didn’t want to wait that long. They recommended I try a 24-hour clinic in Laval, but that seemed far away for me. I posted on a local mommy board, and got a recommendation to a nearby clinic, Anima Plus in Mile End, that handled exotics like hamsters, and was able to take him in on Wednesday afternoon.
If he were visibly suffering, I would have taken him to a 24-hour clinic, either the one in Laval or the one I’ve used for cats in Lachine. But since Maximus seemed otherwise ok, I was ok with waiting a day, wanting him to be seen by a local exotic animal specialist I could easily go to again the the future.
And he passed his physical exam! He kept trying to climb out of his carrying cage, off the table, off the scale. His ears were perky. He still made that screaming sound, and another sound that sounded kind of like chirping, but the vet said everything else seemed ok, and that he was probably mad at being examined. He cleaned himself immediately after we touched him, which apparently is a good sign. We decided not to give him pain medication, because it had been a couple of days since his fall and he seemed like he was functioning normally. She said hamsters are masters at masking illness and injury, and are also very good at dangling from their feet to soften landings. The vet tech gave me a handout on foods to feed and not feet rabbits and guinea pigs. Even though grapes and nuts were on the “do not feed” list… I still gave Maximus both in the exam room. I mean, if he survived a great ordeal and if he had a short time to live, I wanted him to enjoy every little morsel life had to offer him before he went to that big hamster wheel in the sky.
I was happy that he passed his exam, and seemed ok. The service and care at the clinic were great – and it turns out that I had encountered the vet before in our other lives as mommies, so that was fun. The office called to follow up a few days later, and I was pleased to tell them that everything seemed fine with my mighty mite, warrior hamster extraordinaire. I’m glad I found this nearby clinic and this exotic animal vet. And I’ve since put a heavy book on top of the cage – move that, little guy!

In which I go on and on about my hamster

That’s right – he gets his own post.

When Vladimir, my little Russian dwarf, went to the big hamster wheel in the sky, I scoured Craigslist and Kijiji for available hamsters to fill the little hamster-sized hole in my heart. Alas, none could be found. I think I might have even emailed the SPCA, and the ones there were waitlisted. So I reluctantly turned to pet shops.I’m not a fan of getting hamsters from pet shops, as the pet shop-bought ones I’ve had in the past have all been either aggressive or sickly. Or both. My longest-lived, healthiest, and most tame hamsters have all come from online ads posted by people who deliberately bred their hamsters and raised the baby hamsters until I came to get one. Plus, they’re often free online. Two of them came from families who were using the breeding project as a way of teaching their children about pet care and commerce (those hamsters were both free). At pet shops, you often see the rodents neurotically trying to dig their way out of glass aquariums. Over and over. All day. It makes my heart sink a little.

At one pet shop, they had a clear sexing problem because there were actually not just one, but two mommy hamsters with litters and as I looked down into the bin, I saw the daddy and mommy making the next brood (in case you’re unfamiliar with hamsters, females become fertile right after giving birth, which is why males stick around to help out). So it was a no to that pet shop. I considered trying out rats, as I hear they are quite affectionate, but I was warned they have a lot of health problems and plus the ones I saw in the pet shop were not tame at all. I think they were probably used as feeder rats. This was the same pet shop that had the breeding hamsters.

Fortunately, my search ended at a nice pet shop in the Rockland Mall. Or, Rockland Centre (because Canadians seem to like to call everything a centre). There was a docile young Chinese hamster, but the poor thing just trembled and trembled. And then there was a big whitish-grey Syrian hamster that screamed and flailed around on his back when picked up. Of course, I had to have that one. I saw it as a challenge that he wasn’t tame. He didn’t bite; he was just terrified. And I was on maternity leave, so I figured I had the time and patience to work with him. The sales clerk tried to gently steer me in another direction, but that white warrior hamster was mine. I took him home.

Fortunately for this story, my mighty mite settled in after just a day or two. The first day, I left him alone. When I got close to the cage – a glass aquarium with a metal wire mesh lid to deter felines – he would rear up on his hind legs and flail his tiny paws in the air. Like he was challenging me to battle, shaking a fist, and totally standing his ground. So I dubbed him Maximus Decimus Meridius, after Gladiator. Maximus is so courageous. And even-tempered – to this date, he’s never bitten me. After the first couple days of screaming – the likes of which I have never before heard from a hamster – and flailing when approached, he calmed down and was relaxed being handled. By relaxed, I mean not trying to sprint out of my hands. I regularly drop him treats like unsalted peanuts, unsalted stove-popped popcorn, hunks of celery or carrot, or the occasional raisin. My husband, who only interacts with hamsters when I place them on his shirt as he’s working on his laptop, is even able to hand feed him treats, as well. He no longer screams or flails and is calm being carried around for short periods of time.

I’ve never seen his colouring before in a Syrian hamster. He’s a light grayish white with a few little darker gray hairs. Very handsome.

Just joined Pet Sitters International, a professional pet sitter’s association!

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I’ve been spelling it petsitter. Looks like I was wrong?

In which I go on and on about my other cat

I’m convinced that Olaf is at least part Norwegian Forest Cat. He’s got that triangular-shaped head, common markings, went from being a lanky shorthair to being a burly longhair, and carries his fluffy tail high up in the air like a banner proclaiming “I will pillage your village.” He’s very athletic and can leap nearly five feet onto the top of a small bookshelf in a single bound. At one point he enjoyed diving off of a ceiling-high hutch onto the nearby bed, causing the hutch to shake, but fortunately he’s stopped doing that now.

He’s very much a cat, but has some doglike behaviours. He used to determinedly lick our faces and arms, which hurt since his tongue is very rough. Now he just occasionally licks our hands. When the mood strikes him, he will play fetch and retrieve toys over and over again until he gets tired and pants. Particularly if they are circular, like hair elastics. He greets you at the door with an excited meow and tail waving, often jumping up on you. Somehow that’s acceptable for cats, but not for dogs. He will greet visitors with an excited meow and tail waving and jump up on them, too. He likes being picked up and carried around. His adorable fluffy face and cheeky charm means that almost every visitor in our home has sneaked him food. He used to put his paws on the table when we ate, always searching for a weak spot to strike, but I don’t feed my cats from the table so he stopped. Now he’ll just lounge on the table alongside the food like Jabba the Hutt. If you pet him long enough he will drool.

When we lived in our previous apartment, he’d race out the door as soon as you opened it, and you’d have to chase him back and forth in the hallways. He liked crouching behind a support beam, and then dashing back to the door, only to dart back out when you got too close. My husband and I both admitted that we would hurry back home from work in anticipation of seeing him. He doesn’t do the chasing game in our current place. Maybe he’s too old and dignified now.

His SPCA papers said he was about 3-4 years old, but I think he was younger when we adopted him. He was long and lanky, shorthaired with a magnificent fluffy tail. Then he kept getting bigger and bigger and fluffier until he became the 13 lb. longhaired beast that he is now. He ate twice as much and twice as fast without putting on fat. His paws were big for his size then, and he had a puppy’s clumsiness – lots of running around and trying to jump onto chairs and tables…only to misjudge and fail. He had so much energy. He is still energetic, but not as go-go-go as he was four years ago.

He has such an outgoing personality that I tried leash-training him several times to take him out for walks. As soon as I put the harness on him, his ears would go back, and he’d crawl around under tables and chairs, getting the leash caught and tangled. The harness wasn’t a total waste – my daughter sometimes puts her Pete the Cat doll in it for…walks.

I also considered trying to enter him into a cat show under the house cat category. He’s so beautiful. Then I had my baby and I abandoned that idea. I cannot fathom the grooming needed to make him show-ready, and also devoting an entire day to a cat show instead of doing other fun things at home like laundry and cleaning up play dough.

He’s gentle and doesn’t use his claws when playing with people.

If he gets something particularly yummy – turkey skin, liver – he will growl and drag it under the table or to a private corner to feast in private. Mighty hunter. Actually, our old place didn’t have window screens, and he caught butterflies and ate one before I could save it. I can set him after big spiders; the little ones he ignores. But he’s too much of a housecat to eat a chunk of meat or whole chicken liver without it being chopped up first.

Olaf is the dominant cat. When he came home, it looked like he was trying to befriend Ethel, but she just hissed at him and ran away. He wasn’t neutered until we got him, so perhaps he was trying to be more than just friends. Anyway, when his overtures went unrequited his put his mighty paw down and established himself as the alpha cat. Ethel is not allowed to even touch the scratching post. About once a month Olaf will chase Ethel around and reaffirm that he is supreme cat. If I interrupt, he meows piteously like he’s the one who’s been beat up. He also sometimes tries to mount Ethel, even though they’ve both been sterilized. She puts up with it for the most part. I’m considering getting a hormone spray to make her smell male to protect her from unwanted advances. She’s an elderly cat and too old for that kind of harassment. No means no!

Unlike Ethel, it was impossible to get Olaf to stop jumping up on the counters and tables. I’d say no. I’d move him to the floor every time. I got frustrated. I gave up. Cats are now allowed on the counters and tables. You can tell he hears you saying “no!” but he chooses to ignore you. When he does something he shouldn’t, like drink my daughter’s milk when she’s not paying attention, you can’t get him to stop unless you physically pick him up and move him away. And he’ll just keep coming back for more. You’ve got to admire that kind of determination. I was so sure that my baby’s first words would be “Olaf, no!”.

I think our move and subsequent baby did a lot to traumatize Olaf out of his energetic youth. Since she came back from the hospital, Olaf has been afraid of my daughter. So far, he’s hidden from all babies and toddlers. Now that she’s a toddler and can chase him, I guess the avoidance is totally warranted. Ethel isn’t quite as fast, unfortunately.