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REVIEW and GIVEAWAY: Shop Cats of New York

 

You might notice them sitting in a window watching the world go by, or nestled comfortably, napping on a self next to merchandise that’s on sale. These are the cats who make their home inside the shops of New York City, but what is their life really like?

 

Book cover

That question, posed by author Tamar Arslanian, was the inspiration for her book, Shop Cats of New York. In this 176 pg, eye-poppingly colorful book, Arslanian focused her efforts on 40 beloved, cherished shop cats. These feisty felines are well cared for, some even getting fan mail from the shop’s patrons. None are mistreated or left to live on scraps. Tamar makes a fine distinction between “Bodega cats” (small markets that dot the New York cityscape, where cats are often in poor condition and mistreated) to “shop cats” where the cat’s home, from a loving-care standpoint, is the same as yours or mine.

 

Shop Cats of New York is my favorite kind of book—lots of full-page, heartwarming images paired beautifully with charming stories about each featured cat. Arslanian is a heck of a writer, one who may be best known for her blog: IHaveCat.com - “Single in the City with Cat(s)." Tamar looks for the quirky, the adorable, the sometimes heartbreaking in each cat’s tale, but doesn’t overdo it by being too cutesy or overly maudlin.

 

Cshop cats

The book would fall flat without cat photographer extraordinaire, Andrew Martilla’s images. As someone who’s taken thousands of photos of her own cats, I can sincerely appreciate the level of skill it takes to go beyond the cliché posed kitty portrait. Martilla instinctively grabs the decisive moment, where placement, lighting and expression capture the essence of each cat’s personality. Martilla admits he only had 30 minutes or so to photograph each cat; hardly time to focus the camera while his subjects were moving around, unwilling sit still for more than a second. The shops were open during photography so he had the extra challenge: how to side-step customers and balance being unobtrusive with making images.

SCONY sample image 4  Bobo

There’s one image in particular photo that really stands out. It’s a portrait of a big orange tabby named Lionel, who lives in a hobby shop. On first glance, you don’t even see Lionel amidst the clutter of the shop’s counter, but once you find him, you’re caught in his steady gaze. There’s a quality, that doesn’t depend on photoshop tricks or a studio lighting set up that reminds me of a Bernice Abbott image. There’s an honesty and simplicity in capturing this moment that’s very appealing. (You can see what I mean and meet Lionel on page 134.)

Shop Cats of New York is a hefty, gorgeously printed book by Harper Design. It’s a page-turner that’s guaranteed to delight cat-lovers of any age, and one of the best books about cats I’ve ever had the pleasure of reading.

Until recently, Shop Cats was sold out, but thankfully the publisher has more in stock. You can grab a copy HERE before they sell out again.

Tamar Signs
©2017 Robin AF Olson. Signing away! This could be yours!

If you’d like to win a Free AUTOGRAPHED copy of SCNY, simply leave a comment here on why you’d like to win. Most amusing comment, as judged by me, by Friday, January 13 (which would have been my daddy’s 87th birthday) 2017 at 11:11 AM EST will win.

Tamar and Andrew Signing R Olson copy
©2017 Robin AF Olson. Ms. Arslanian and Mr. Martilla.

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Bonus Bit

 

I had the pleasure of attending a book signing of SCofNY at MEOW Parlour, a cat café, some of whose cats are featured in the book. The café is clean and charmingly laid out, with doting caretakers and a few adoptable, adorable cats in residence. Two of the rescue-cats are siblings named Fanny and Nicky, who have CH (cerebellar hypoplasia). They also have a variety of cat-themed merchandise that was hard to resist (I didn’t. I got a really cute patch for my jacket.).

 

MEOW Parlour partners with KittyKind a terrific New York City based cat rescue. Their collaboration has helped find homes for over 100 cats to date.

CH Kitty Napping R Olson copy
©2017 Robin AF Olson. Nicky napping.

Tamar and Kitten R Olson copy
©2017 Robin AF Olson. Tamar has Cat!

FTC Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from the publisher. Receiving the complimentary copy did not influence my review.

Product Review: PetBit. Never Get Bitten or Scratched Again!

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this product free. I was not required to write a positive review and, in fact, I didn't. The opinions I have expressed are my own, as well as my evil twin's. I am disclosing this somewhat in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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How many times have you been innocently petting your cat when, WHAM!, you get bitten? What if there was a way to stop that from happening? Conversely, if you have a cat who can't be petted enough and you have a competitive streak, what if you could track every pet you take and measure your prowess against other cat-petters?

 

 

Now you have the one-stop-cat-petting-tracker-solution that also protects your fingers, hands and other parts of your body in one easy-to-wear device called the petbit™.

 

PetBit Logo copy

The petbit uses hyper-sense technology™ to read, not only the speed of your hand moving back and forth during a petting session, but the pressure and location of the petting in relation to your cat's body and position. Why this is important is simply put: if you understand where, how often and how hard your cat LIKES to be petted, then you'll reduce the risk of being bitten as well as enhance the cat guardian to cat bond.

Petbit pink copy

 

Who wouldn't want a road map into their own cat's psyche without having to watch out for their tail to flick back and forth or pay attention to their ears "T" or "airplane" as a warning. Why bother even thinking about where your cat might like to be touched when with the glow of the display and color indicator, you can look at your wrist and get all the answers you need...once you've memorized the simple to follow Guide (see below)

 

What You Can Learn About Your Cat

Harder-how hard or softly does your cat want to be stroked? As you increase the pressure, the LED colored readouts on your petbit indicate that you may be reaching a point of too hard. That's when (advanced models only) the all red LED lights come on indicating a BITE WARNING® just milliseconds before kitty is going to sink their teeth into you giving you time to dump kitty onto the floor and run for cover.

Scale copy

Faster-some cats love a slow, soothing pace to being petted and some prefer a rapid ripple along their back. Watch your petbit turn greener as you step up the pace. Go too far and that's when (advanced models only) the all red BITE WARNING® lights up. Quick, move out of the way or else!

Harder b 475

Not There-There-Pet your cat's belly? Yes or no? What about the base of their tail or their paws? petbit steers you in the right direction-the lighter the purple tone, the closer you are to the right location. Ignore the purple getting darker and you know what happens next. With hyper-sense technology you should never have to worry you're touching your cat in the wrong place.

Not there there B 475

Pet Count Community Building-I've always wondered how many times I've petted my cats. Now, not only do I have a global count of pets per hour, day and week, but I can join the petbit community where I can share my latest petting tallies! Now I can show my friends what a great cat mama I am! The only problem I see is that you need to purchase a separate petbit for each of your cats (which is why you can now get them engraved with your cat's name) AND you have to remember to change the petbit when you begin petting another cat. ANOTHER AND...of course pet your cat too many times and you know what happens on advanced models, only.

Wallace Biting 475

I would say that petting, location, hardness or speed are well and fine, but if this only had one feature, I'd want to upgrade to get the Bite Warning™ indicator on my petbit. Honestly, if I knew that once I saw the red lights flash on and off that my cat was going to bite me maybe I could have avoided going to the ER and getting a big shot of antibiotics in my behind. There's a disclaimer in the 401 page owner's manual, that due to a cat's ability to react far faster than a human or the petbit can detect, that petbit international cannot guarantee you'd be any better off using common sense and paying attention to your cat's state of mind than you would be waiting for the red LED lights on the device to appear.

Scratch warning r olson 475

 

But heck, it's a really sweet design and light on the wrist. It comes in designer colors AND there's a new model coming out soon that has Scratch Sense™! Considering the number of scars all over my arms and hands, I'll be first in line to get one and I hope you'll join me!

 

Scratch warning pet bit b 400

How do you get a petbit?

Sadly, as this was going to press, the company went bankrupt and sold all their technology to an S&M retailer who changed the product's name to: PetMyBits™ (think "50 Shades of Gray"). I guess you could do a web search to order one. I hear they're shipping in brown paper wrapped packages with no return address on the box. I'm not sure you'd want to sign up for the Pet Count Community they've created, but heck, to each their own.

 

You'd be a Fool not to get one right now.

Tortitude: The BIG Book of Cats with a BIG Attitude Review and Giveaway

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Passion Fruit Press. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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Years ago, when I first started Kitten Associates, some of my colleagues jokingly warned me about rescuing Tortoiseshell cats. I couldn’t imagine why, having never lived with one, but that soon changed. As fate would have it, my first litter of foster kittens included a “tortie.”

She was named Cinnaminnie and boy was she a pip! It is said that torties have big personalities, which can sometimes translate into being high-strung and more sensitive to their surroundings. A recent study done by UC Davis suggests there is scientific evidence to prove torties and their 3-colored, calico cousins can be “challenging” to live with.

The one thing they don’t mention is how devoted these cats can be to one person in their human family. I wonder if torties live big and love big, too?

Tortitude FC

Exploring that proposition is Ingrid King, author of the multi-award-winning blog, The Conscious Cat. In her latest book, Tortitude, the BIG Book of Cats with a BIG Attitude, King explores the mystique of these confetti-colored creatures. King is a long time tortie-devotee, stemming from her first tortie, Virginia, over a decade ago, to her girls Allegra and Ruby, who share their home with her today.

 

Tortitude is a love story, as told by King and championed in the forward by Catification expert, Kate Benjamin. In addition to their personal tortie-tales are fun facts about tortie-DNA and tortie-folklore. What makes up the majority of the book are carefully curated images of torties paired with charming quotes about cats.

[Full disclosure, three of my own photos are in the book. One is below.]

 

Periwinkle
“Excerpted from: Tortitude: The BIG Book About Cats With a BIG Attitude by Ingrid King ©2015, used with permission.”

 

Ingrid King clearly adores torties (there are no crazy cats here) and to anyone else who also shares her passion, this is THE book to choose if you want to celebrate the wonder of these multi-colored marvels. The only thing lacking is I wish there were even more photos (can’t get enough) and a picky request that I wish the paper was glossy, to bring out the full glory of the images. But even with that minor issue it’s clear that if you love these sassy beauties, you’ll love this book.

 

I had a chance to ask Ms. King a few questions about her passion and her dreams for Tortitude.

CICH: What was it about Tortoiseshell cats that won you over or was it just fate that you would meet and fall in love with one?

IK: Torties just sort of grew on me. My first encounters with tortoiseshell cats were in a veterinary clinic setting. During my training, I was often warned to approach these cats with a healthy dose of caution, so it's actually kind of surprising to me how much I came to love these cats. But it wasn’t until I met Virginia, my office cat at the animal hospital I managed, that I totally fell in love with these special cats.

CICH: What are your top 5 favorite things about torties that you think makes them stand apart from other breeds or coat color of cats?

IK: I love cats of every breed and color, but there's just something about torties... I love everything about them! I love the uniqueness of their fur and coat pattern. I love their strong personalities. Maybe it’s because I can identify with their strong sense of independence. Maybe it’s because they seem to live by their own rules. Whatever it is, I’m a tortie lover for life.

Tortitude interior Gigi quote
“Excerpted from: Tortitude: The BIG Book About Cats With a BIG Attitude by Ingrid King ©2015, used with permission.”

CICH: Do you imagine you’ll ever open your home to a non-tortie?

IK: When I was looking for a companion for Allegra after Amber passed away, I wasn't specifically looking for another tortie, but I just kept being drawn to them, and when I met Ruby, I knew that we were going to be a two-tortie houshold. It's hard for me to imagine not sharing my life with a tortie, but you just never know with these things, do you?

CICH: Do you feel that having two torties is two-times the trouble?

IK: At times, it's tortitude squared, but it's also two-times the love!

CICH: What was the inspiration for your book beyond your love for multi-colored cats? Were there any myths you wanted to dispel?

IK: The book was inspired primarily by my love for torties, but I also wanted to show that even though all torties have tortitude, they're also all individuals. I'm all about learning from our cats, and I think torties teach us that you should never judge anyone or anything based on appearance alone.

CICH: If you had to do it all over again is there anything you’d change about your book?

IK: I wish I could have included more photos. I received almost 1,000 photos from my followers, and it was really hard to narrow it down to only the ones used in the book. Of course, it also meant that for about two months, I had the best job in the world: I got to sort through hundreds of photos of torties!

CICH: If there’s one thing you could tell my readers about torties what would you want them to know?

IK: Life will never be boring when you share it with a tortie.

CICH: Any plans for a sequel?

IK: You never know...

CICH: I’m starting to ask this of all my interviewees: What is your favorite cat body part?

IK: How could I possibly answer that! I love everything about cats - I think they're the most beautiful creatures on the planet. But if I absolutely had to pick one body part, I'd have to say the eyes, because, as cliched as it sounds, they're the window to a cat's soul.

Tortitude interior Jackson quote
“Excerpted from: Tortitude: The BIG Book About Cats With a BIG Attitude by Ingrid King ©2015, used with permission.”

Tortitude, the BIG book of Cats with a BIG Attitude is available NOW on Amazon (and can be pre-ordered from all other online retailers and will be available in stores after February 5th). Ms. King will donate $1 for every copy ordered before February 5 to the Jackson Galaxy Foundation to help at-risk cats.

 

If you'd like to WIN a copy of Tortitude, the BIG book of Cats with a BIG Attitude simply leave a comment here about something that shows your cat has tortitude (even if it's not exactly a tortie). Enter by 1/29/16 at 11:11PM EST. Winner, as chosen by me, will get one copy of the book. Entrant's mailing address must be in the United States for a chance to win. One comment PER person, please. Comments are moderated to prevent SPAM so it may take a few hours for your entry to appear.

 

PRODUCT REVIEW and GIVEAWAY: ZEN CLIPPER®

One of the things about sharing your life with cats means having to deal with their claws—claws that catch in the loop of your favorite sweater leaving a big hole or turn the side of your sofa into mince meat. Declawing your cat is inhumane and cruel and certainly NEVER a solution for dealing with your cat's claws-but even in a home full of cardboard and sisal cat scratchers, most cat parents are left with having to trim their cat’s claws from time to time.

Keeping claws trimmed is particularly important with older cats because their claws can grow faster and thicker, eventually curling under the toe and possibly embedding itself INTO the paw pad. This actually happened to my dear cat Gracie many years ago (You can read her story HERE) and after that nightmare we began checking her claws once a month and kept them trimmed. I discovered that ONE of her toes would grow a curiously thick, longer claw so being mindful of your cats claws is important.

ZC logo 475

As someone with lousy close-up vision, I am not a fan of doing claw trims. I fear cutting into the “quick” which is where the blood supply of each cat’s claw ends. If you cut it, the cat’s claw will bleed and, of course, it’s painful for your cat. If you’re really awkward, you can do more than harm the claw you could even clip the tip of the toe depending on the type of trimmer you’re using.

The other day the folks at Zen Clipper® contacted me about writing a review of their new nail trimmer. I didn’t think much of it at the time, but agreed to have them send me a product to try out. I couldn’t imagine it being any different than the drawer full of other clippers I had.

I was so wrong.

As a graphic designer, I enjoyed the bright colors and stylish design of the medium-sized clipper. Once I removed the clipper from the backer card, I noticed that unlike scissor-type clippers, these clippers cannot be opened very far apart due to a small spring that confines the movement of the clippers. What the spring does is causes the clipper to immediately go into an open position right after you close and release. This is a clever design feature because it gets the clipper ready to go faster than if you had to re-open a scissor-type trimmer after clipping a claw. It seems minor, but it ended up being an important factor.

In truth, I usually hold the cat needing the claw trim and Sam does the work. I had a bad scare with a kitten (she’s fine now) and since then I haven’t wanted to try trimming claws.

Laundry helper
©2015 Robin AF Olson. Woody "helping" with the laundry before we did his claw trim.

Since I promised to give it a try, I decided to test our foster cat, Woody. He was sitting on my lap, relaxed. I gently held his paw. All I had to do was line up the conical hole between the blades with a claw. I read on the package that you have to be careful the first few times you use it to make sure the claws don’t go too far into the opening. If they do go too far it means you need to exchange your Zen Clipper for a smaller size (Zen Clipper will exchange your clipper with no charge to you if you bring it back to the store where you originally purchased it). The claw easily slipped into the hole, not too far. I pressed the Zen Clipper closed and released. It made NO SOUND. Woody didn’t seem to even FEEL IT. His claw didn’t get crushed as it does with some types of trimmers. It was neatly trimmed back.

Niky claw trim r olson b 475
©2015 Robin AF Olson. Nicky.

I tried another claw and another. Eventually, I didn’t have to look too carefully since the hole would only line up with a claw and I was trimming off the tips. I trimmed one paw in a few seconds, tops, then did the other paw while Woody sat there purring away.

Energized by how effortless it was to use, I looked around for another cat who I could try it on. Freya was nearby so I did her claws, too. She fussed a bit, but again because she did not hear that telltale “Click” after each claw was cut and because the blades make a clean cut, she didn’t act as though she was uncomfortable.

 

I never thought I would be so blown away by product that I also never thought could be improved upon. The Zen Clipper out-performed my expectations and gave me confidence I’d lost long ago. I actually find trimming most of my cat’s claws a fun task since I don’t have to feel scared I’m going to hurt them in the process and I can get the job done quickly.

 

Niky claw trim r olson 475
©2015 Robin AF Olson. Nicky getting a claw trim.

Now, does this product calm a cat who hates getting their claws trimmed? No, but I believe that between the quiet operation and what it does for the cat-parent’s confidence might also make those tough-to-trim cat claws a thing of the past if you take it very slowly and only aim to trim a claw or two at a time.

All Clippers with text 475

The Zen Clipper comes in Small, Medium and Large. Medium is a good size for most cats. Older cats with thicker claws would need a Large and kittens and some reptiles and birds, too, would benefit from a Small size.

 

Thanks to Zen Clipper, I have a Medium-sized Zen Clipper (a $23.95 retail value) to give away to TWO lucky readers! All you have to do is leave a comment here on why you hate trimming your cat’s claws and I’ll chose the best two comments to win! Deadline is Monday, October 12, 2015 at 12:12 PM EST. Only ONE COMMENT per person. Multiple entries will be disqualified.

 

You can learn more about Zen Clippers on their web site http://www.zenclipper.com/ or find them on Facebook.

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After careful consideration, from time to time I write product reviews. If you see it here, it's because, at LEAST I think it's worth you knowing about even if I have an issue with it and, at BEST, I think it's amazing and we should all have one, two or more of whatever it is I'm reviewing. I get NO reimbursement for writing these reviews, though to write a review I am supplied with the item and I may be provided with an administration fee, as I was in this case. This review is MY OPINION, ONLY. The result you experience using this product may differ.

Exclusive Interview, Review & Giveaway. Texts From Mittens

Imagine what your life would be like if your cat not only had his own phone, but was able to send you text messages from it. What do you think he might say? Would you enjoy the conversation or realize you've created a monster?

This was the impetus for cat-writer & humorist Angie Bailey's sophomore book, Texts from Mittens.

TFM is a full-color, beautifully bound hardcover with page after page of screen shots of text message conversations between Mittens, a slightly neurotic, cat-liver-treat-obsessed, dog-hating, cat and his human-Mom, named, well, Mom.

Text from mittens 3D 350

There's an additional cast of characters ranging from under-sexed and over-boozed-up neighbor, Drunk Patty; to Phil, the annoying-dog, to Stumpy, Mitty's BFF (Best Feline Friend) and lastly, Grandma who always serves up the best goodies while Mom is away.

 

I wasn't sure what to expect when I began reading TFM, but it was quickly apparent that I was in for a treat. Texts From Mittens is engaging, with a light-hearted tone that made me laugh out loud. Mittens has a big personality and his relationship with Mom feels all too familiar-that is IF I could talk to my own cats.

 

TFM is a quick read, but I discovered I was wishing for more as I came to the last page. Bailey takes us on a journey that is thoroughly enjoying and entertaining and I would heartily recommend this book to readers of any age.

Text mittens pg1 350

 

I had a chance to sit down with Angie Bailey and Mittens to ask them about their book. Here's what they had to say:

 

CICH: What inspired you to write your first Texts From Mittens post?

AB: I've always loved thinking about cats doing human things. In my first book, whiskerslist: the kitty classifieds, cats used a craigslist-type site to find dates, sell their stuff and join clubs. My imagination is more than a little vivid, and the idea of kitties sitting at a laptop, wheeling and dealing completely cracked me up. That led into Texts from Mittens. I tested it on Catster.com, and it became a bi-weekly column.

CICH: If someone developed an app so cats could text their guardians would you buy it for your cats?

AB: Yes, but it'd be silenced a lot of the time. I feel like Cosmo would be relentless with the texts.

CICH: How many cats do you currently share your life with? What are their names and tell us a little bit about each one.

AB: I share my life with three cats.

Saffy is nearly 14 years old and is a totally laid-back Daddy lover. She gives him the ol' goo-goo eyes -- it's adorable. Also, she has about three good teeth and floofy gray fur.

Cosmo is my 13-year-old tuxie man. He follows me everywhere and would love nothing more than my carrying him around in a Snugli baby carrier.

Phoebe is nearly 10 years old and is the queen of the castle. She's barely seven pounds, but has more attitude and sass than the other two cats put together.

CICH: Mittens has been a wildly successful character. What’s next for Mitty?

AB: Right now he's focusing on the book launch and making sure I give him enough publicity -- he's so demanding. He's still posting texts every day and hanging out with his girlfriend Fiona and best friend Stumpy. He's like me to produce little stuffed Mittens toys. We probably will, but not right now. He also has a lot of Judge Judy to catch up with on the DVR.

CICH: Are Mom and Drunk Patty ever going on a double date?

AB: Maybe. Drunk Patty dates Rusty, a competitive eater, and Mom just can't seem to find the right guy. Mittens hijacks her dating site and tries to help, but he only pushes prospective dates further away. One day she'll find the perfect guy, and hopefully Mittens will approve.

CICH: How’s Phil doing?

AB: Phil is doing great! He's 13 years old and is enjoying a life of retirement. Mittens wishes he'd retire to Florida.

CICH: Who’s one of your favorite Cat Bloggers? :-D

AB: Um ... there's this weird one named Robin. I think her blog's called Covered in Bat Hair or something. I hear she's kind of a nut, but I'd probably like her.

Text mittens pg20 350

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And our Exclusive Interview with Mittens

CICH: What’s your take on being an indoor-only cat? Do you feel your principals are being violated?

MITTY: Have you seen the evil squirrels and chipmunks that lurk outdoors? My only violation is getting breathed on by Drunk Patty.

CICH: You seem to have a lot of emergencies. Have you considered getting one of those pendants that allow you to get help with the push of a button?

MITTY: Is there such a thing?? Are you offering to send me one? #yesplease

CICH: Do you hope your Mom finds you a new Dad some day?

MITTY: Only if it doesn't take away from Mittens time. I would look past some of his imperfections if he were heir to a liver treat company.

CICH: Where’s the most exotic place you’ve ever barfed?

MITTY: On Mom's World Market receipt. Then she wasn't able to return that Moroccan pillow sham. Too bad because it was ugly.

CICH: How do you feel about Judge Judy’s contract being renewed until 2020?

MITTY: It's just wrong. It should have been extended until 2021. She was ripped off.

Text from mittens 3D 350

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Texts From Mittens hits bookstores starting March 31, 2015 (but you can order it NOW) for $10.14 (hardcover) and $6.64 (Kindle) via this LINK on Amazon.com

 

If you can't get enough Mitty, you can follow his exploits below.

Texts From Mittens Web Site

TFM on Facebook

TFM on Twitter

 

BOOK GIVEAWAY

 

If you'd like to win your very own copy of Texts From Mittens simply leave a comment below (ONLY ONE COMMENT PER PERSON). Your comment should be a message you think your cat would text you. Funniest entry (as chosen by me) wins! There will be only ONE book given away so make it your most clever and crazy message ever. Winner must be a resident of the United States of America due to insane costs of shipping oversees. DEADLINE: APRIL 3, 2015 (my birthday) 2:22 PM EST.

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PRODUCT REVIEW: GLITTER CAT LITTER

I don’t know about you, but I’m hooked on all those gold hunting shows on TV, like “Ice Cold Gold,” “Bering Sea Gold,” “Gold Rush,” even non-gold, treasure hunting shows like “Prospectors” and “Gem Hunt.” If I didn’t have preternaturally pale skin that keeps me indoors or an aversion to getting dirty, I’d be out there with the rest of the hunters trying to strike it rich.

One of the benefits of writing a cat-blog is that I get notified of new cat-centric products before they hit the marketplace. It’s a lot of fun, but not very lucrative—that is, until now.

There’s a new cat litter about to hit store shelves and I could just KICK MYSELF for not coming up with the idea first. It’s the only litter I’ve EVER used that makes me look forward to scooping the litter pan every day-heck many TIMES a day!

GLITTER BOX Robin Olson CiCH.jpg

 

It’s called Glitter®

 

Glitter is the brain child of Ima and Walter Jester, a cat-loving mom of 6 cats and her husband, who retired from a major corporation where he was Director of Development of brand of cat litter (I’m not allowed to say which one, other than it rhymes with Hidey Hat). Walter, happy to be away from the clumping game, planned on spending his “golden years” (pardon the pun) as a gold prospector in the famous Klondike region of Alaska, which is famous are for producing gold.

Shortly after the Jesters moved to Alaska, Ima suffered a near fatal wolverine attack (She tells me this never would have happened if she’d only had a lanyard for her eyeglasses! She then would have had her glasses and been able to distinguish the beast from her beloved cat, Orlando, but she'd left her glasses by a cup of tea on the kitchen table when she heard a ruckus outside.). Her buttocks and back legs were so badly injured it made it painful for her to squat down and scoop her cat’s 6 litter pans. The job fell into the capable hands of her husband, but after 36 years of testing, smelling and re-engineering cat litter he was loathe to touch the stuff ever again.

Gold litter pan copy.jpg

But the couple loved their cats and in that devotion was also the solution. Ima played a prank on Walter. She snatched a small gold nugget from her husband’s stash and dropped it into the cat litter bag and shook up the contents. The market value on it was almost $500.00 so she knew it was a big risk if it would be lost.

 

The following day, Walter refreshed the litter pans with new litter after he begrudgingly scooped each soiled pan. The cats immediately used the pans, as they so often do and of course big boy Orlando, as he so often does, dropped a big “Stink Bomb” into the pan Walter had just cleaned. Vexxed, Walter knelt down to scoop the pan again. As he lifted the feces, something caught his eye. Could it be? No. There was NO WAY it could be a gold nugget..in the dirty litter next to the feces? Walter jumped up to call his wife, breathless with excitement about his discovery.

 

Turd in pan.jpg

Ima, who had been quietly observing pretended to be shocked. Her prank was a success, but how could she afford to keep the prank going?

Unable to keep a straight face, Ima finally admitted what she did. Walter was angry at first, but then she noticed a particular gleam in his eye—a twinkle of mischief laced with discovery. She asked him what was going on and he replied, “You know honey, that was the best prank ever, because now I think you’ve just figured out a way to make us millionaires!”

 

What Walter had realized in that moment was that everyone needed a reason to scoop the litter pan, so why not make it EXCITING? What if you knew that one day you’d scoop the pan and you’d actually find a treasure instead of a turd? Something priceless instead of piss? An idea was born.

 

Of course it would be easy to place a nugget or two into boxess of litter, BUT the costs would be outrageous. Being a prospector, Walter knew that to keep costs down he could add gold dust to the litter, which would not only make it tougher to rip open a box and steal directly, but it would also make it more FUN to get the gold out of the box. Being familiar with marketing also meant that Walter could create what are called “line extensions”…meaning more products that could be purchased in addition to the litter so the company would make even MORE PROFITS!

Walter contacted his old employer and asked for a meeting. Let’s just say it must have gone well because Glitter was born.

 

Here’s how Glitter™ works

 

Glitter is infused with minute particles of gold. Each box can contain between one (troy) ounce to only a trace of gold, depending on the box and your own luck, so there’s a bit of gambling involved in this purchase, too. The boxes are only sold at fine jewelers and are only in a 7 lb size so if you have a multiple cat household as I do, you'll have to get a lot of boxes. The cost, I hope you’re sitting down, is $174.99 a box, BUT you COULD make up to the market rate of gold, which last checked was $1285.00 per oz.

 

But how do you get the gold out of the litter?

 

If you watched any of those gold hunting TV shows then you know the answer-you have to get a Litter-Sluice™. Just like prospecting gold in Alaska, you have to run the litter through a sluice, which by definition is an artificial channel for conducting water, often fitted with a gate (sluice gate) at the upper end for regulating the flow. The water flows over the litter and the heavier particles settle into a mesh which is later panned to uncover any gold particles or nuggets.

 

What’s cool is that the litter doesn’t clump very well so it doesn’t choke up the sluice AND once it’s already wet with cat urine, it falls completely apart, so really you’re only washing wet litter and feces and hoping the gold dust separates out from the granules.

 

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Unfortunately, I was not able to get a Litter-Sluice™ due to low supply so I can only show what a gold mining sluice looks like. For my review that meant I had to pan each litter pan full of waste, which I have to say was a bit messier than I would have liked, especially if there was a lot of feces in the pan, but the excitement about finding gold kept me motivated.

Glitter has an earthy scent and is chunkier than the cats might like. Some of the cats wouldn’t use it, but it was so much fun to hunt for the gold, I didn’t care. I even ended up panning a few boxes that I didn’t let the cats use! I never thought I’d get gold fever from litter, but by God I did.

 

Glitter is truly amazing. I love to hunt for “color” in the pan each morning, though most of the time the only color I see is brown.

It makes scooping litter a financial risk, but it’s not without reward. Supposedly every 1 millionth box will have at least 1 or 2 pea-sized or bigger nuggets, along with the gold dust, so I have been investing in boxes of Glitter and have a nice stockpile going. I can’t pay my bills but the hope is that I will luck out and find gold in them thar boxes and be able to retire to the life of leisure I am so accustomed to.

 

Due to the cost of this litter I am unable to do a giveaway! Sorry! If you’d like to know more about where you can get Glitter™ and enjoy 24K fun scooping your litter pan or how you get a coupon to save $2.00 on a box of Glitter simply visit: www.areyoukiddingme_aprilfools.com

The Itty Bitty Kitty Committee: Book Review, Interview & Giveaway

Author Laurie Cinotto’s book, “The Itty Bitty Kitty Committee,” based on her award-winning blog of the same name, is not only a colorful pictorial history sharing oodles of adorable images of the many kittens she’s fostered, but it’s also a guide to help young readers (ages Grade 3 to Grade 6) learn how to care for their own cats.

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IBKC is beautifully laid out. As a Graphic Designer, I especially appreciate the lovely typography and design of the book. It’s an easy read for an adult, as would be expected, but I still found myself getting carried away as each story reminded me of many of the cats I've fostered over the years. It's impossible to read this book without having a smile on your face.

There are also special sections highlighting different aspects of kitten care, without going into too much detail for a child to absorb. The photos are real show-stoppers, making it difficult to choose a favorite—probably like picking a favorite kitten from a litter, you just can’t do it.

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I shared an advance copy of the book with Hanna, an 8-yr old whose family had just adopted their first cats from my rescue, Kitten Associates. Although she was a bit too young to understand the information completely, she was delighted and giggled at some of the photos. Her father helped her go through the book and was thrilled to have something on hand that he could refer to to help Hanna understand the basics of kitten care. He mentioned he planned on reading the book to Hanna as part of their bedtime ritual and that she would be taking it to “sharing day” at school.

Based on Hanna’s reaction to IBKC it was clear that shelters and rescues could also benefit from selling copies of this book to new adopters with young kids.

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I had the good fortune to be able to ask Ms. Cinotto a few questions about her book and about life as a foster mom:

CiCH: What was your inspiration to begin fostering kittens and did you foster for more than one place before you found a good fit?

LC: We moved into a new neighborhood and met our neighbors, Kim and Sarah, who were fostering our now permanent resident cat, Charlene Butterbean. Prior to that, I didn’t even know that foster programs for animals existed. We got see a few litters come and go at their house, and eventually we decided to try our hand at it too.

CICH: What do you tell people who ask you: "how you can let those foster kittens go? Doesn't it break your heart? Do you want to keep them all?"

LC: It is hard to say goodbye, but that’s just part of the process. It has gotten a little bit easier over the years, but still, it’s never easy and sometimes there are tears.

We’ve been lucky to find some really amazing families to adopt our kittens, and knowing the kittens are going to be loved and well cared for by these fine folks, makes it all bearable.

There are been a few extra-special ones that we could have easily kept, but we just can’t do that. We need to keep our cat population at a reasonable number if we want to continue to foster.

CICH: I see it says your book is for middle grade readers. Would you also suggest it for younger kids or adults? If so, why? Why did you choose this level of reader? Was that on purpose?

LC: I think it’s appropriate for kitten lovers of all ages! I’ve shared it with adults and young children too, and they all seem to enjoy it. It’s packed with lots of photos of adorable kittens, which works for any age group!

I had many conversations with my editor about what this book could be. We knew it would be for kids – Roaring Brook Press publishes children’s books – but it took some time before the full idea took shape. Once it did, we decided on what the age of the audience should be and tailored the content for that.

CICH: Do you mostly take on whatever fosters your shelter gives you or do you find kittens who need help?

LC: Once our kittens leave our nest, I’ll let the shelter know that we’re ready to receive more, and they let us know who is available. Sometimes we get kittens that need a little more help than others – they have medical issues, or need help transitioning from bottle to solid food. Sometimes they need help with socialization.. Sometimes they just need a little bit of time to get bigger.

We’re happy to take on whatever or whomever they send our way. Each batch is different when they arrive, but all leave happy, healthy, social and trusting.

CICH: Do you often face having to medicate sick or injured cats? Were any of them remarkable in how much care they needed? Perhaps more so than you could include in a book for kids? Can you give an example of one or two of those kitties?

LC: With each litter, there’s usually a medical issue or two to deal with. We’ve seen a lot of diarrhea, vomiting, fleas, ear mites and upper-respiratory infections. We’ve had to give many rounds of antibiotics and lots of sub q fluids over the years.

The transition from wherever they were before, to the shelter, and then to our home can be stressful on their little bodies. We are fortunate to have great vet staff at our shelter to guide us through any issues we have.

The biggest challenge we have ever faced was with the last litter we fostered. One of the kittens, Filbert, came to us with the Panleukopenia virus, which sadly took his life. It’s a highly contagious, so after his passing, we were quite worried it would take his sisters down too. They survived, thank goodness, but later we discovered that his sister Wylla had a condition called Megaesophagus. With this condition, she didn’t have the muscle tone in her esophagus to push food into her stomach, and she regurgitated nearly everything she ate. It took many trips to the vet to diagnose her condition, and a lot of work to learn to manage it.

Eventually, we decided we would keep her. After all we went through with Wylla, we just couldn’t say goodbye.

CICH: How did you get your book idea sold? Did the publishers come to you or did you have an agent?

LC: My editor had been following the blog, and when I mentioned on Twitter that I had dreams of publishing a book, she contacted me.

CICH: What is the one thing you hope results from kids reading your book?

LC: I hope it makes them happy. This parade of kittens that has passed through our home has brought a tremendous amount of joy into our lives. I want others to experience that same joy.

I also hope they’ll take a way some good practical information and become responsible and respectful pet owners.

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If you’d like to win a copy of The Itty Bitty Kitty Committee simply leave a comment in this post to enter and make sure you LIKE our Facebook Page

ONE entry will be CHOSEN AT RANDOM to WIN. You may only leave ONE comment for ONE CHANCE to win per person. This Giveaway ends Wednesday, MARCH 26, 2014 at 11:11 PM EST and is open to residents of the USA, only (sorry guys!). Rules, quantities and whatever else I forgot are subject to change without notice. WINNER will be notified via email. If you do not respond within 48hrs another winner will be chosen.

UPDATE: Due to the great response to this post I will be awarding a book to TWO LUCKY WINNERS-NOT ONE!

The Itty Bitty Kitty Committee is available for purchase for $12.99 (list price) for a softcover version or less for Kindle and other e-readers at Amazon and other outlets.

The David of Air Naturalizing Takes on the Goliath of Stank. CritterZone Review & Giveaway.

I learned about CritterZone, the air naturalizer about a year ago. I’d heard good things about it and wanted to give it a try. Frankly, I was sure it wouldn’t work. It’s TINY! Who can believe a little doohickey like that could clean the smell out of a small space, let alone a room? With much trepidation I took on the task of testing out two units because baby, I have a lot of foul odor issues in my house and one wouldn’t cover it.

REVIEW: A Street Cat Named Bob

In any big city as you walk down the street, you might come across a street performer playing music with an open guitar case next to him displaying a small collection of spare change scattered inside it. You might walk hurriedly past the person, feeling uncomfortable to connect with a stranger, or, if the music is just right, you may become his audience, if only for a few moments. Before you part, you fish out a few coins or notes to offer him for his time, leaving it behind in the case.

James Bowen’s International Bestseller; “A Street Cat Named Bob & How He Saved My Life” chronicles his life and the divine meeting of the self-described recovering heroin addict and “busker” (in the USA we would call him a street performer) and a very special orange tabby cat he later named, Bob.

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You can’t read a book about someone else’s life without comparing it to your own. In reading Bowen’s words, I was caught up in challenges of his life lived on the streets, to transitional housing in London, which allowed him to continue treatment for his addiction. Where one night his fate would be forever changed by meeting an injured Tom cat who was sitting outside the door of an apartment in his building. In the same way the busy London crowds might ignore a busker, Bowen could have chosen to walk past the cat and not get involved.

In fact, during Bowen’s first weeks with Bob, he often gave the cat chances to leave since Bowen could barely afford to feed himself, let alone provide vet care for an injured cat. Where this story takes a surprising turn is that regardless of how much Bowen protests or questions what he's doing with this cat, the cat, however has clearly made up his mind about what he wants. This cat is like no other. Instead of being fearful, he saunters along with Bowen down crowded streets, even following Bowen onto a bus. He keeps Bowen company as Bowen plays guitar in a public garden, hoping to earn enough money to get to the next day. With his new furry partner at his side, crowds begin to form around the curious duo and the contents of the guitar case show surprising results .

 

The lesson that was clear to me is that in getting involved with Bob, Bowen’s life opened up in ways he NEVER could have imagined. What’s true for his relationship with his cat is also true in our daily lives. It’s a reminder that we need to stay open to each other whether it be a stray cat in your yard, a stranger on the street or your neighbor. We need to be willing to take a chance and get involved-to be of assistance to each other without a thought about “what’s in it for me?”

 

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Photo courtesy of James Bowen & Street Cat Bob's Facebook Page

A Street Cat Named Bob is a quick read, especially if you speed-read the scary parts where a few worriesome things happens to Bob and Bowen (I won’t spoil it here) and you can’t stand waiting to get to the part where you hope they’re okay again. I found myself rooting for the two of them to see what was becoming clear-that they belonged together.

While the prose is a bit awkward and those of us in the USA might need to translate some of the terms (like moggie=cat), it’s an honest telling of the story. Bowen, himself, is not from a polished private school background built around decades of studying literature. I wouldn't believe the story if it was better written and it would have lost some of its charm. His voice rings clear, even though he did have some help from writer Garry Jenkins to structure the tale just right.

I had the opportunity to ask James a few questions about how he’s doing now and how he feels about his book becoming an International Bestseller and this is what he had to say:____

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Photo courtesy of James Bowen & Street Cat Bob's Facebook Page

Nothing…I tried in vain to get answers to a handful of questions. I spoke with Mr. Bowen's Publicist via email a number of times. After two months I've given up that any of my questions will ever be answered. Though I'm definitely not thrilled to share this news with you, it does not diminish what I think about Mr. Bowen's book.

Considering we're about to hit a holiday here in the USA where we should remember to be thankful, A Street Cat Named Bob is the sort of story that reminds us to be grateful for what we have when so many aren't as fortunate. As for Mr. Bowen, his life is changing in ways he never could have imagined and with Bob by his side the future is looking bright.

A Streetcat Named Bob is available for purchase HERE.

UPDATE: LEAVE A COMMENT TO WIN YOUR VERY OWN COPY OF  A Street
Cat Named Bob! Winner chosen at random 11/27/13 at 6PM EST. USA Residents only.

Lil Bub's Lil Book Review

What is it about a cat that would make you drive over 200 miles just so you could be in her company for a few minutes? Yesterday afternoon, I couldn't begin to answer that question. I'd been going through a wave of very deep depression and felt pretty much hopeless. Mentally, I felt impaired from feeling like a failure. While I was surfing around online, I read that the feline-phenom, Lil Bub and her “Dude” Mike Bridavsky were going to be attending a book signing for Bub's first book; Lil Bub's Lil Book. The Extraordinary Life of the Most Amazing Cat on the Planet. It meant a long drive to New Jersey later that day. I was tired of feeling lousy, so I decided I had to make the trip. Maybe getting away from home would help soothe my tangled nerves?

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson.

As many of your know, Bub was rescued after she was born outside, the runt of the litter, to a feral mama. Bub had many severe physical deformities including dwarfism (she only weighs four pounds), a shortened lower jaw that leaves her tongue hanging out and her teeth never erupted (which ends up being a blessing since those teeth surely would have caused her a lot of mouth pain). Bub wasn't expected to live beyond a few months, but when her daddy, Mike Bridavsky met her, it was "lub" at first sight and perhaps, in that moment that bond gave Bub the will to survive.

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Grateful that my tongue doesn't stick out all the time like Bub's does because this is something that maybe should not be seen on the internet. Oops.

Bridavsky was at a low point in his life when he met Bub. Inasmuch as he saved her life, she's now saving his. She's become an internet sensation and media darling, with millions of fans. She stars in an internet talk show called Lil Bub's Big Show. The episodes are set to air every Tuesday on Vice Media and the first episode has already aired. It features Whoopi Goldberg, but the star of the show is the script Bridavsky wrote. It's clear he has a talent for giving Bub a voice that is both endearing and completely charming without being overly saccharine. Bub's interview with Ms. Goldberg will leave you glowing with joy.

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Bub and “Dude,” Mike Bridavsky.

Bub's been very busy. She has her own movie titled “Lil Bub & Friendz”. It's available to view in four parts on Vice. Part one (all I've seen so far) is a documentary on Bub's life, but also includes an interesting discussion on just why cats are such a huge part of the internet. Some clips include interviews with the likes of Ben Huh, creator of I canhascheezburger, NYAN Cat, Keyboard Cat, Grumpy Cat and more. It's very well done and I admit, the scenes with Bub really tugged at my heartstrings. What IS IT ABOUT THIS CAT that's so appealing beyond the realm of normal?

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Stubby legs with extra white toes, Bub may be the most curiously constructed cat ever.

My intentions were to buy Bub's book, get it signed, say hello, go home. On a lark, I worked up the nerve to ask for Press access to Bub, hoping that coveredincathair.com would be enough credentials to get me in the door. The owner of Book-Ends, where the signing was held, took my business card and disappeared into a back room. Thirty seconds later he came out and held up his hand, spreading his fingers apart. “Five minutes. You have five minutes.”

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Buy a Bunch of Bub's Books.

“Right now?!”

I was ushered into a small office behind the front desk with no time to clear my mind, prepare some questions, focus my camera. It wouldn't have mattered how prepared I was because as I turned the corner, my mind went blank. Before me was Bub sitting on a knitted mat on a folding table, with her “Dude,” Mike by her side. It caught me off guard and I felt a lump of emotion rise in my throat. Was I going to burst into tears? Why did I feel like I was meeting a major rock star or the President? It was a CAT! How many cats have I met in my days? Probably thousands by now. Yet meeting Bub was transformative.

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Thank you for giving my blog your paw of approval, Bub.

I said hello to Mike, not wanting to be completely rude, but later I realized I forgot to say my name! I told him I wrote a blog about cats. I gave him my card and he put it right next to Bub, thinking I could take a photo of her with my card. Oh dear…then I realized that of course everyone would want to hitch their trailer to this rising star. Mike was dutifully doing what was expected, except that I didn't have any interest in plugging my own work when I was trying to be respectful of his situation. This was his cat, her success. I was just documenting my visit so I moved the card out of the way.

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. BUB!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I thought about this a lot last night while I was struggling to fall asleep. Bub is providing her Dude with a living. I'm sure advertisers are knocking at the door. Fans are lining up around the block. Everyone wants something from both of them, but it's Bridavsky's job to find a balance between leveraging the spotlight on Bub without it causing her harm. I got the sense that if he could be doing anything it would be to get away from all these crowds and be back home with Bub. I didn't get the sense that Bridavsky's ego was involved, nor did I get the sense he's out to make a buck off his curious cat. There's still an honesty there. He has to make a living, everyone does, and he's surrounded himself with a team of friends, not internet marketing geniuses, to create the Bub dynasty. There aren't handlers and crowds of publicists. It's still Mike and Bub sitting very quietly in an office, having a chat with a strange lady with crazy hair who seems to have forgotten how to use her camera and speak the English language.

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. My anointment into the Bub clan.

I was cautious about approaching Bub and immediately whispered when I addressed her Dude, Mike. He told me it was okay to speak at a normal volume, but that she didn't like the noise level in crowds. I still kept my tone soft and I got down so I could be at eye level with Bub. I asked if I could touch her and Mike said it was okay. I offered my hand to sniff, which she did, but she didn't react like other cats. I couldn't tell if she was giving me the okay or not so I gave her a gentle pet, then as I do with my own cats, I tipped my head to her so she could sniff me better. As she sniffed me I could hear her raspy breathing. It felt like I was being blessed by a scared creature. I struggled with wanting to pet her, but not bother her, out of respect for her well being. She must be handled so much that I just couldn't treat her like that. I knew there were a lot of people waiting to see her at the signing and I felt my cat-rescuer code calling me to to protect her more than I wanted something for myself.

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Lub Bub!

I took as many photos as I could, then forgot my camera in the office. I left Mike and Bub feeling completely transformed, but frustrated that I didn't get to ask half the questions I'd wanted to and wishing it could have lasted a few minutes longer. I was energized, vibrating. Why was I so happy?

I sat down with my friend, Irene to look at Bub's book. It's a colorful, whimsical, wondrous piece of art containing hundreds of color photos of Bub with a tapestry of words that weaves a magical tale of Bub's past. In it she declares that she's actually not from planet Earth, but from another planet far away. Bub crash landed here when she was looking for fishes, but now that she's met “Dude” she's here to stay. Bub is featured in imaginative sets, much like her TV Show and Film, but because this book is something you can hold in your hands and hold dear to your heart, it makes it more precious. Captured on film are the many faces of Bub. In some of the photos she's featured in hokey sets with mutant-sized props. I loved it. It left me wanting more. I couldn't stop thinking about this tiny creature on the glossy pages, with her owly eyes and tongue hanging out. She doesn't do amazing tricks. In fact, walking around is difficult for her, but lately she has gotten a bit stronger. It almost doesn't matter what sets she's in, because Bub is cuter than cute and becomes more irresistible with each turn of the page. She shares her book with some friends like Colonel Meow, but what stands out are the words. There's a tenderness and affection in the story that Bridavsky penned. I'm sure not only would adults love this book, but every kid, too. Bub's magical powers effect us all and I could read this book over and over and always reach the end with a smile on my face and a warm puddle in my heart.

 


©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Bub's arrival!

 

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Mike is constantly checking on Bub to make sure she's comfortable-a true doting dad.

It would be easy to take a lot of cute photos of Bub and leave it at that, but this book has soul and is filled with love, which is expressed throughout as well as in some of the images of fan art the book also includes.

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. I'm sure there are a lot of ladies looking at this cute gu,y who loves his cat, who are writing marriage proposals as we speak.

 

The title of this book suggests that Bub is the most amazing cat on the planet and even though I think my own cats should give her a run for the money, they can't. Bub is in a class all by herself. She truly does rank as being quite extraordinary and truly amazing. Being in her presence is a gift I will always cherish.

 

Bub and her Dude are a talented team, but they don't flaunt it. There's a great sense of generosity that goes hand in hand with their fame. They use their super-powers for good by reminding their fans to adopt from shelters, and more importantly, to not overlook special needs cats. And as someone who runs a cat rescue, part of whose mission is to encourage spay/neuter legislation, Bub is there, encouraging everyone to make sure their own cats are taken care of, too.

 

In Bridavsky's own words, Good job, Bub. Good job.

 

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. I lub Bub.

 

Lil Bub's Lil Book is available TODAY via her web site or the following resellers: amazon.com barnes&noble, indie bound and more.

 

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