Doggone Orlando

News, views and reviews for Orlando pet parents from the mom of a menagerie of cats, dogs, birds, horses, fish, and guinea pigs who stays just one step ahead of the "Animal Hoarders" TV crew

Black cats and Halloween: A perfect combination

I’ve never subscribed to that silly myth that black cats are unlucky. Heck, my black cat SheiKra is one of the luckiest animals I know. He was tossed out of a car on I-4 in Tampa, and he not only managed to make it to the shoulder, but I somehow managed to catch the mangy little kitten and bring him home to a life of luxury.

SheiKra was my first solid black cat, although I’ve always had a fondness for tuxedos and have owned a few over the years. I guess it was just a matter of time before I welcomed a black cat into my home, since Halloween is my favorite time of the year. I was born in October, so Halloween is the first holiday I ever celebrated, and it came up when I was only a few days old. Add in a family obsessed with horror movies and it’s pretty much inevitable that Halloween became my favorite holiday.

temp5I’m lucky to live in Orlando, as Halloween celebrations start in early September and run all the way to October 31 and sometimes even into the early days of November. This year, Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party starts on September 15, followed on the 18th by Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Studios Florida. The latter runs all the way through November 1 this year.

I cover the theme park Halloween events for my other blog, In the Shadow of the Mouse, and for my Examiner theme parks column, which means that interesting items sometimes show up in my mailbox when the Halloween season rolls around and the holiday events are getting ready to start their run.

This year, I noticed that my cats were attracted to a package that arrived from Universal Orlando Resort. Jack the Clown is the Halloween Horror Nights icon this year, and apparently he doesn’t like intruders. As you can see in the photo, my cat Stitch was quite interesting in my “handy” invitation to the Halloween Horror Nights media event.

temp9Over the years I’ve received a number of interesting Halloween items from Universal and from Busch Gardens Tampa for Howl-O-Scream. They all have their own special shelf in my house, and if you look closely at the bottom shelf, you’ll notice that black cat SheiKra likes hanging down nearby (Farquaad is there, too, even though he’s not the traditional Halloween color).

Speaking of black cats, you’ve probably heard the myth that they’re the least likely to be adopted at shelters. I’m a huge proponent of animal adoption, and all my cats and dog are from shelters or right from the street. I did a little research and discovered that the black cat adoption story is not exactly accurate; rather than black cats being the last to be adopted, they’re the cat color with the highest euthanasia rate, according to Vetstreet. Sadly, this is because they make up the highest number of cats in shelters overall. On the plus side, this means they have high adoption numbers because of their sheer volume, but they still get put down for lack of homes at a high rate.

Whether or not you love Halloween like I do, I recommend considering a black cat the next time you adopt a pet. Of course, a cat of any color will be grateful for a good home. Just be sure to adopt, not shop, no matter what color you choose.

Carnival Cruise Line and Evan Longario team up to help animals

b17Carnival Cruise Line and Tampa Rays third baseman and home run sensation Evan Longario make a great team when it comes to helping homeless pets. The cruise line and Longario are each donating $100 to Pet Pal Animal Shelter whenever Longario knocks another one out of the park in 2015. They’re already handed over a $2,000 check.

Longario also came aboard the Carnival Paradise when it was docked in Tampa on July 30 to read Dr. Seuss’s new book, “What Pet Should I Get,” to a group of eager youngsters, as well as three dogs from the SPCA, who all settled in for story time. The Port of Tampa is the home base for the Paradise, which takes passengers to trips to Cozumel and Cayman.

Here’s Longario reading the book that was found by Theodor Geisel’s widow after being lost among his papers for half a century. It’s a cute story with an interesting twist on the ending:


As you can see in the video, the book talks about getting a pet from a pet store, as was the custom when Dr. Seuss wrote it many decades ago, but we all know now that an animal shelter is the best place to adopt a new friend. Not only do you gain a new family member, but you also save a life when you adopt a cat or dog.

After the reading, Carnival Cruise Line presented the Tampa SPCA with $5,000 to help the group save more pets:


Lots of kids are likely to be inspired to beg Mom or Dad to add a new cat, dog, or other pet to their household. Hopefully that will mean an increased number of adoptions at places like the SPCA and Pet Pal animal shelter, where your new best friend is waiting for you, just like my menagerie of my dog, cats, and even my guinea pigs were waiting for me.

If you’re interested in taking a Carnival Cruise and meeting some Dr. Seuss Characters like the Cat in the Hat, Things 1 and 2, and Sam I Am, check out my experience dining on Green Eggs and Ham on the Paradise in my “In the Shadow of the Mouse” blog:

Aspergers service dog video goes viral as Samson comforts woman

Service dogs help with conditions from blindness to deafness to food allergies to PTSD, and now a viral video shows very dramatically how they’re a vital tool for people with Aspergers:

In the video, Aspergers service dog Samson intervenes when his owner, Danielle Jacobs starts to harm herself during a meltdown. He stops the cycle as she hits herself, then ends up on the floor with her as she cuddles him. Jacobs bravely shared the video to show what the disorder is like and how service dogs help.

It’s all in a day’s work for Samson, but now it’s brought him fame as the latest YouTube viral sensation, with will over 2 million views already. Just another reminder of the healing power of dogs, whether they’re official service animals like Samson, helping with a specific disorder like Aspergers, or just our best friends.

Did you celebrate National Hairball Day? I did with FURminator!

w2Friday, April 24, was National Hairball Day. Rather than wrapping presents or hiding Easter eggs or holding BBQs, it’s a holiday during which cat owners focus on those little gems that our kitty friends love to present us with…usually right where we step out of bed and into the cold, squishy mess. Ugh!

Luckily, there are ways to combat hairballs, so my own celebration consisted of giving my three long-haired kitties a vigorous brushing with my FURminator. The kind folks at FURminator provided me with a model for the hairy kitties and also one for the short-haired cat and dog. I took the cats in the backyard for our celebration because I knew from past experience just how much hair the FURminator would remove (don’t worry, the has a high, escape-proof fence, as my cats are indoor pets with strictly supervised bouts of outdoor visitation). That can cause quite an airborne hair-storm in the house, so it’s much easier to control outside.

The cats all love being groomed with the FURminator. It feels sharp to the touch, but they act like they’re having a spa session. Stitch in particular rubs up against me as soon as he sees me get it out. Given that we live in Florida, where summer has come early, I’m sure his winter coat feels heavy and oppressive. It must be a big relief when I use the FURminator to remove all that excess hair.

w1Farquaad enjoys a good FURminator session, too, although he’s a touchy cat who prefers to have it done in several small sessions. He’s the King of Hairballs in my household, chorking one up with regularity, so it’s always a relief to see the huge ball of fur that comes off him and know that there’s that much less hair to get barfed up on the carpeting. Cats never seem to deposit their hairballs on easy to clean surfaces like tile, do they?

In the photo, you can see Quaad attacking the hairball that I pulled off him in just one very brief session. “Take that, hairball!”

Even though Bolt is a dog, we let him be an honorary National Hairball Day celebrant. His hair is very short, but you realize just how much he sheds when he lies on a white surface and leaves behind a nest of little black hairs. He’s good about having the FURminator used on him, although he doesn’t get into it as much as the cats.

w3Spring (really, summer, given the temperatures, thunderstorms, and humidity) came early to Florida this year. Even if you’re in a part of the country where it took its time arriving, I recommend using a FURminator to help your pet get rid of that heavy winter coat. Then use it regularly for maintenance. If you get into a regular brushing routine, it substantially reduces the number of pet hair tumbleweeds flying around your home.

The fur balls show in the photos with my cats are just a small amount of the overall hair that I pulled off i a typical FURminator session. According to FURminator, cats ingest around 2/3 of the hair they lick when they groom themselves, and if your kitties are anything like mine, they spend a lot of time meticulously preening their coats. That’s a lot of hair waiting to cause problems in their tummies or to come out in a nasty barfed-up mess.

I love the FURminator grooming tools because they reduce shedding by up to 90 percent. You’ll know it’s true if you use one regularly, as you’ll see the different on your clothes and furniture, as well as in the number of hairballs around your house. You can find out more about the complete line of Furminator products for cats and dogs on their official website or share the love for this handy product at the website.

You might even find some use for all that pet hair that you mange to strip off your hairy cats. Check out what the Frugal Crafter does with the bounty harvested from cats:

Temptations Snacky Mouse Entices Cats to Work for Their Treats

1fI’ve written before about my cats’ love of Temptations treats. Even the dog horns in when he hears me crinkling the bag. Problem is, most of the time they just gather round, snarf down the treats, then go off to wash or collapse in the sun like typical lazy felines. Wouldn’t it be nice if their treats gave them a bit of a physical and mental workout, too?

Enter the Snacky Mouse, a brand-new toy from Temptations.The kind folks at Mars sent me one for my cat brood to try out, and it was an instant hit. Of course, they’re used to getting goodies to review in the mail, so they were all over it even before I opened the box. SheiKra and Farquaad both moved in to help me remove the wrapping and get to the goodies nestled inside.

1dAnd what have we here? “Yay!” says SheiKra, “More of my favorite treats!” Along with those, I found a Snacky Mouse, a cute little wobbly treat dispenser that entices cats to box with the mouse in order to get a yummy reward. It didn’t take my cats very long to figure out how it worked. I had stuffed the little mouse to the brim, so they knew he had goodies inside. It only took a few whacks to dislodge a tasty Temptations treat, and soon they realized that smacking the poor little mouse around yielded a reward.

SheiKra and Farquaad both picked up on the idea immediately, but Quaad outweighs SheiKra by close to ten pounds, so he soon took over the Snack Mouse and hoarded it all to himself. I slipped SheiKra some treats off to the side while Quaad abused the poor plastic critter to release the bounty within.

The Snacky Mouse is much like a Weeble; it wobbles but it won’t fall down. It’s built to be sturdy and solid and hold up to plenty of feline abuse. If you work all day and have indoor cats who’d like a little enrichment, it’s the perfect toy to keep them busy. They won’t get bored with it, since they earn rewards, and you can rotate the Temptations flavors if they start getting tired of one.

My cats are big fans of pretty much every Temptations flavor I’ve ever tried on them, so I don’t think boredom will ever be a problem. If you’d like a smile for the day, check out this Temptations video featuring boxing kitties.

1eFarquaad won’t wear boxing gloves, but as you can see, he’s still pretty skilled at taking down his Snacky Mouse.

If you think your kitties would like this toy, look for it in major stores that carry the Temptations treat line.

Global Pet Expo in 2015 is in full swing: Just a few things I saw on the floor

Global Pet Expo is in full swing at the Orange County Convention Center, and I spent the day busily looking at new and exciting products and collecting samples for Doggone Orlando reviews. Here are some of the interesting items I saw throughout the day before my feet finally went into full-throttle rebellion mode:

The day started with a media breakfast sponsored by Merrick, purveyors of healthy pet foods and treats. Bolt is absolutely crazy about their dental treats. Here’s a little array of their foods:


Lots of samples and literature to gather in the press room. With Bolt, I can always use some extra poopy bags and an easy way to carry them:


First stop on the Expo floor was Urine Off. They have great urine-fighting products, and even more importantly for Expo attendees, they give away these rolling boxes. It’s a perfect way to carry literature and samples without destroying your shoulder:


I was pleased to see Jones Natural Chews. Their variety bag is a staple in our house. Bolt loves everything in it (and of course he loves to chew the stinky hooves when he’s sitting right next to me on the couch):


Of course, I can’t leave out my cats. They’re crazy about these Bench & Field Holistic Natural Feline Treats:


Pet Greens are the best! You’ve likely seen the grass and catnip at the checkout counter of your favorite pet store. My cats adore the grass, and my guinea pigs love it too:


What? Nine squeakers?! Sounds like doggy toy heaven for Bolt!


I totally can’t wait to try to SwiPets glove on all the pet hair that takes over my house each shedding season. The fingers should be perfect for getting hair out of the cat tree baskets:


Gonna test out Forever Furless too. Demo was very impressive:


At lunchtime I learned about the latest wearable tech coming from Motorola. I already love their cameras, which I use to spy on my pets in the house. How about a camera, microphone, and GPS tracking all rolled into one handy collar device?


I love Pet Head dog products and was thrilled to discover that they have a complete line for cats, too:


Cool! Solvit has chair seat protectors. I love their whole couch protectors, and these look like they’d be perfect for my recliners:


Pet Links products are paradise for kitties:


Warm and cool Pet Therapeutics pet mats (the cooling mat looks perfect for patio time in Florida):


Yeowww is certified cat crack! Mewsette already tried to steal my samples:


I got more Merrick goodies for Bolt:


I suspect he’s going to love the Stewart freeze-dried treats, too:


Pork Chomps are a healthier alternative to rawhide:


The cats are going to love this stew from Hartz:


Bolt loves Indigo dental chews:


Lindy gourmet dog treats are made by homeless youth:


I was fascinated by this Purina Pro Plan food that’s formulated to help improve older dogs’ brain function:


That pretty much just scratches the surface of the rows upon rows of pet products presented at Global. Watch for reviews of many of these products in my upcoming posts, and look for them at your local and national pet stores.

12 of my favorite products from past Global Pet Expo years

I love learning about fun and useful new pet products at Global Pet Expo each year. I used to write about them for, and now I get to do it right here at Doggone Orlando. I can’t wait to explore lots of new finds this year, but meanwhile, here are a few of my favorite past discoveries that I still use today:

Scratch Lounge Cat Scratcher: My cats love scratching cardboard, but it’s hard to find a scratcher that stands up to their vicious abuse. Last year I discovered the Scratch Lounge Cat Scratcher, which is not only long-lasting despite being shredded regularly by four cats but which also lives up to the Lounge part of its name. All of my cats fight to be the one to hang out on the Scratch Lounge.


Pet Head Shampoo: Bolt’s a dirty little dog who loves to roll in the stinkiest stuff possible. I learned about Pet Head at Global in 2014 and am in love with the wonderful scents of their products, not to mention how clean they get my messy little guy.


World’s Best Cat Litter: I’d been toying with trying out natural litters a few years back when I finally took the plunge after learning more about World’s Best at Global. It’s now a staple in two out of my four litter boxes (with multiple cats, I keep the options open by using a couple of different types just in case they get fussy). It’s odor-fighting capacity is amazing.


Alzoo Litter Deodorizer: Speaking of fighting litter odors, sometimes your cat litter needs just a bit of extra help. That’s where the lovely scents of Alzoo Litter Deodorizer come in. Just sprinkle in a little whenever you top out the litter and you’ll have a fresh fragrance.


Adams Yard Spray: Living in Florida, I’m in a year ’round battle against fleas. I live close enough to the woods for ticks to be a problem as well. Adams makes spot-on flea control, but I love to beef that up with the yard spray I learned about last year. The way my corner lot is situated means that I have a variety of dogs coming onto my property with owners who might not be as diligent as I am with their personal pest protection. Adams takes care of that and also fights the ticks from the wooded area just across from us so I don’t have to worry about Bolt.


Quaker Dog Toys: Bolt’s a terrier mix with the mouth of a pitbull. That means Quaker dog toys are the perfect fit for him. He tears most toys to shreds within weeks, and sometimes days, but his Quaker playthings outlast everything else. I love seeing their new styles at Global every year.


Zero Odor Products: I love the whole Zero Odor product line, which is always on display at Global. Their pet stain remover works miracles in a household with a dog and four cats, and as the name implies, their line is great for eliminating stinky accidents.


Critter Zone Air Purifier: I have two guinea pigs and a bird all living together in a dedicated pet room. Add a litter box and you have lots of stink potential. I discovered Critter Zone at Global a couple of years ago, and I was amazed at how a little plug-in device can make the air so much fresher. It’s a pet room staple.


Kurgo Light-Up Dog Vest: I always hit the Kurgo exhibit to see the outdoor products, but the one item that’s a must-have in my house is the Kurgo Light-Up Dog Vest. I often walk Bolt after dark, and being in a busy suburban area means encountering drivers who don’t always obey stop signs or otherwise pay attention, especially to be black dog. This little vest ensures that we’re seen.


Solvit Sta-Put Furniture Cover: Having recently moved into a new house with new furniture, I love the Solvit couch cover  more than I ever did when I first encountered the Solvit booth at Global. My cats and dog all love the couch, and this cover ensures that it’s safe from fur, drool, and assorted other critter debris.


Cat Dancer Cat Toy: I’d seen the Cat Dancer in pet stores before trying it out after Global a few years back. It seemed too simple to actually attract cats like the promo materials said, but I have to admit, it works like a charm! My cats like a variety of toys, but this is the one they always go back to. The company has come out with a few other toys over the years, but this one is the go-to in my house when I want the cats to get some exercise.


Yeowww Catnip Toys: My cats are all addicted to catnip, but they’re fussy about toys. Some make them act like crack addicts, while others get a “meh” reaction. I picked up a sample Yeowww toy a couple of years back at Global and they fought over it like wild tigers. It remains one of their all-time favorite catnip toy brands.


Stay tuned to learn about all my new favorites as I peruse Global Pet Expo 2015!

What is Global Pet Expo? Only the biggest event in the pet industry!

o50One of the best things about being a pet writer and living in Orlando is getting to attend Global Pet Expo each year. Writing about dogs, cats, birds, guinea pigs, and other critters and living near one of the hottest convention destinations makes it the perfect storm for me. Global Pet Expo comes to the Orange County Convention Center every spring, and I’m always at the trade show scoping out the latest and greatest products for pet parents and their furry and feathered friends.

So what exactly is Global Pet Expo? Here are some stats:

  • Global Pet Expo, is presented by the American Pet Products Association (APPA) and Pet Industry Distributors Association (PIDA). It’s the pet industry’s largest annual trade show, and it features all of the newest, most innovative pet products.
  • In 2014, Global  featured 985 exhibitors, 2,896 booths and more than 3,000 new product launches. While I cover the show from a media perspective, it’s a mecca for industry buyers, 5,597 of whom attended last year.
  • Global Pet Expo attracts all the big names in the pet industry, but it’s open to smaller companies, too. However, it’s not open to the general public.
  • More than 900 companies flock to Global to showcase their wares for every type of animal, from cats and dogs to small pets to birds, reptiles, and horses. Everything is spread out in over 13 football fields of space. There will be around 3,000 product launches and 150 companies exhibiting for the first time.
  • Global Pet Expo is ranked one of the top 100 trade shows in the nation by Trade Show Executive Magazine. In recent years, it has added special sections like the International Pavilion, Natural Pet,” “Boutique, Everything Aquatic, and What’s New! areas.
  • Companies compete for coveted “Best in Show” awards each year.

Stepping on the trade floor of Global is like entering an endless paradise for pet lovers. There’s every kind of toy, treat, pet food, grooming product, and anything else you could ever imagine. Watch Doggone Orlando for continuing coverage of the show from March 4 to 6, 2015

Temptations Cat Treats are my kitty clan’s favorite (and dog tries to horn in too)

o41The classic movie “Ghostbusters” predicts that one of the signs of the apocalypse is cats and dogs living together. If my house is anything to judge by, we’re not in any trouble just yet. I have one dog and four cats, and while one of the cats is Bolt’s buddy and one is a frenemy, the other two think dogs are well below their dignity and resist any and all attempts at friendship.

Enter Temptations cat treats, which were already a staple in our household by the time Mars Petcare reached out to offer me samples of two flavors. My cats all love what we laughingly refer to as “disco treats” because of the picture on the cover.

The kitty foursome actually like pretty much every variety, but those ’70s-inspired Mix-Ups are a long-time favorite. Check out the package at right to see why (you’ve gotta love that chicken’s rainbox afro wig). I used to buy a different brand of catnip-flavored treats until they were discontinued, so I was thrilled when Temptations filled the voice.

So how about throwing some chicken and tuna varieties into the mix? I originally agreed to try the treats as part of the #PackAttack campaign, which revolves around just how much some cats love their Temptations. I dare you to watch this video and not smile:

But in my house, “pack attack” took on new meaning. Normally, Farquaad and SheiKra scatter when Bolt bounds over with his exuberant doggy self, hoping to play with them. However, it turned out that my multi-species pack was all about attacking together when they caught a whiff of the Temptations.

I was feeding some to Farquaad and SheiKra in the bedroom when Bolt came rushing in to see about all the excitement. Rather than run, the cats just stared at him belligerently. They weren’t about to move when Temptations cat treats were at stake. This turned out to be a big asset, since I’m always looking for ways to have them interact peacefully together. It turns out that all I have to do is shake a bag of Temptations and the feline and canine pack comes running. Bolt and the kitties will all sit nicely right next to each other to enjoy their treats.

o40Bolt is a Jack Russell and rat terrier mix, as I discovered when I had him DNA tested by Wisdom Panel. He’s cat friendly, but full of boundless energy and ruled by an instinct to chase and play. The cats are viewing him as harmless now that they see he loves the treats as much as he does (although poor dog doesn’t realize he gets a much smaller portion than the cats since they are, after all, cat treats).

As you can see in the photo at left, there’s no love lost between Farquaad and Bolt, but they’ll grudgingly pose together when a pack of Temptations is at stake.

I keep a big supply of Temptations of various flavors in my house, not just because my cats love them (which they do) but because they’re the perfect “pack treat.” Your own “pack attack” might involve kitty wrapper destruction, but among my menagerie Temptations are just another conduit moving us closer to the day when that Ghostbusters quote finally comes true.

Have your own #PackAttack story to share? Share it with other cat lovers via Twitter and Facebook!

Up & Under Doggy Steps review: Give your pup a boost

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Bolt is a small dog, but he has amazing jumping power. His terrier blood means that he acts like he had springs in his paws. He’s able to leap onto the bed, couch, and other furniture without a second thought.

Some small dogs aren’t quite that agile, and some dogs have trouble jumping due to medical problems or age. Luckily there’s a solution for those poor pups: Up & Under Doggy Steps, a little set of stairs that you can set up where your dog needs it most.

Up & Under Doggy Steps are an As Seen on TV product made by Telebrands. I know that infomercial claims are sometimes exaggerated, but I’ve had good luck with many As Seen on TV products, and I was hoping that these steps would be no exception. I knew that Bolt wouldn’t need them, but my nieghbor’s Basset, Miranda, can’t jump onto the couch and most definitely can’t make it all the way up to the top of the tall bed. She wants to sleep with her human “pack” at night, which means lots of whimpering until someone hoists her up. Not pleasant to be woken up in the middle of the night, and not too good on the back!

I gave the Up & Under Doggy Steps to my neighbor, and she immediately liked the fact that they’re a self-contained unit, with no assembly required. They’re nice and sturdy, which makes them suitable for larger dogs like Miranda as well as smaller pups. Now the trick was getting the dog to use them!

m1At first, Miranda wanted nothing to do with the steps. We all tried to show her the idea, but she just wasn’t getting it. Thankfully, like most dogs, she’s ruled by her stomach. Treats taught her that the stairs were actually an attractive thing, and with a little practice she was soon able to negotiate them and figured out their purpose. Being like a real-life Slinky Dog, she sometimes needs a little assistance, but the Up & Under Doggy Steps have been a real lifesaver…or should I say back saver…for her humans.

You can order the steps at the official website or find them in certain stores that carry As Seen on TV merchandise. If your dog’s desire to be up on the furniture is impeded by size, health, or another factor, these stairs will open up a whole new world of getting up there at will.

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