Monday, August 30, 2010

cat door (windoor)

The creation of the windoor (removable cat door being installed in the window) has increased in priority on the household to-do list, due to the recent cold weather. The existing strategy involved leaving the window open which was letting in too much cold air. The prototype of the windoor has been manufactured and is now in the trial phase. So far, the results are mixed.

Theo has figured out how to use it fairly quickly, although he still has to think about it each time. Nahum and Willow are still perplexed. 

After only a few hours of use, a few potential problems have been noted. Willow likes to park in front of the door, blocking passage to the other cats. There also have been some difficulties due to one cat wanting to enter while another wants to exit. A possible solution is to build a second cat door right next to this one into the same window frame.

I did a little online search and ran across this one that looks really nice, although it would not solve the aforementioned possible problems.

Ideal Sash Window Pet Door Cat Flap White - Flap size 6-1/4

The $120 price tag of this nice aluminum version inspires me want to continue the development of the current prototype. I found the cat door part at Goodwill for $3.99 and the other materials are existing from the 'shop'. If I can find another cat door, I could easily make a duel door version.

Friday, August 27, 2010

friday fun feline factoid - hearing

Max taught me a lot about cats. Prior to him my experience was limited to occasionally interacting with Lucy and Elmo, two cats that belonged to friends Tom and Sarah. As I read cat books today, I'm still fascinated at the amazingness of cats. So, I thought it might be fun to start a new weekly series of interesting feline facts.


Cats can hear a whole range of sounds that we humans cannot. They can hear sounds up to around 60 kilohertz while human range peaks at about 20 kilohertz. A dog's range peaks at 45 kilohertz. This explains how cats can hear high pitched mouse sounds while we hear nothing.

Max used to make what I called 'silent meows', where he opened his mouth like he did when he meowed but no noise came out - well, no noise that I could hear. Cats have the option to communicate in a frequency range we can't naturally detect and yet they often choose to use a range we can hear, how kind of them!

It's weird to think that my cats could be carrying on a conversation between themselves right in front of me with sounds only they can hear. If that's possible, maybe it's possible too that they can see things that are beyond my scope of vision. Maybe Nahum really is seeing ghosties when he gazes up and around in the air like he is intently watching invisible objects move about.

(information gleaned from The Body Language and Emotion of Cats
by Myrna M. Milani, DVM and Louisiana State University School of Veterinary Medicine, Deafness in Dogs & Cats website.)

Thursday, August 26, 2010

no recycle

Apparently Nahum was not ready to let this box go just yet.

Recycle? There are still more good plays left in box.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

handy home veterinary reference

This is a must have reference book for any cat owner!

I have the older edition (as shown), Cat Owner's Home Veterinary Handbook,which was published in 1995. There is a revised version from 2007, Cat Owner's Home Veterinary Handbook, Fully Revised and Updated,which I hope to get my hands on soon.
Being hypersensitive to my cats' health, I would often run my cat over to the vet at the first sign of something odd. In hopes of reducing vet bills and laughter from my vet, I have sought out a book of this type. I wanted a simple yet comprehensive reference text that will provide a greater understanding of feline medical issues.

The vast majority of books seem to focus on both cats and dogs. The other challenge is finding a book that provides just the right amount of information - some were too general and lacked enough detail while others were too detailed and required a doctorate in veterinary medicine to understand the medical-speak. I found this 419 page book to be just right, it provides detail written for the layman and lots of pictures (200+). Each medical issue contains a helpful description, possible causes and treatment options.

I agree completely with this blurb from the dust jacket, especially the bit about being able to better communicate with your vet about what is going on: "Clearly written, step-by-step directions give you vital information at your fingertips: when you can treat your cat yourself and how to communicate signs and symptoms so that your veterinarian can give your pet the best care possible."

The thing that really sold me on this book was the Index of Signs and Symptoms which is easy to find on the inside of the front cover and the first page. This list makes it really easy to look up the concerning symptom and read all the possibilities.

My biggest complaint about the book is that it lacks information on specific medications. Each time my vet prescribes a medication, I like to do some research on the medication to better understand what it does, side effects and possible dangers. It would be great if this information was included in the revised version!

There is also a version of this book for dogs by the same authors. Dog owners may want to check it out, and you can let me know if it is worthwhile. Dog Owner's Home Veterinary Handbook

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

kitty mouse convention

The mice gathered to devise their plan.

day daze

This is one day, a Monday, a full day, a scary day, a productive day, a day of play and one that is thankfully near it's end.

Morning began with the completion of painting the front of the house, followed by learning that Laura's commuter bus has been in an accident on the interstate. She was shaken up and feeling sore and achy in the same spots that had only recently healed from her previous car accidents, some four and five years earlier.

Afternoon was filled with a visit to the urgent care clinic, filling prescriptions and procuring ice packs. Work then called, but before I could leave for the office, Nahum proclaimed his need for attention as he plopped in my lap and instantly became a puddle of kitty-putty. Work was delayed.

With evening came the ending of work to the cheerful sound of the anonymous street corner piano player as the moon rose from behind the mountains. Finally, home and then dinner, followed by delightful play. Nahum's need for play would be put off no more, feather toy and Nahum would at last fly!

Days like these make me even more grateful for Nahum's playfulness. The perfect way to end this overly-full day involves waving the feather toy in the air and laughing as Nahum gives chase. Stress is eased, a new day is on the other side of the darkness, and I feel almost ready.

Monday, August 23, 2010

beautiftul danger

Willow enjoying a sniff of a hydrangea flower. Moments after taking the picture I consulted the list of plants toxic to cats, which we keep handy, and found hydrangea on the list - yikes!

Sunday, August 22, 2010

building a feather toy

After a time of planning, I finally had gathered all the necessary ingredients to build a feather toy for Nahum. I also secluded myself to a distant room while Nahum was sleeping in hopes of working without his assistance.

The basic parts needed to build the feather toy are: feathers, floral tape, a flexible wand, a glue gun with glue and a small rubber band. Finding quality fake feathers of the right type has not been easy. I am using ones from Michaels for the time being while I continue to search for the perfect feather. The ones I am using are too small and too bushy - ideal feathers would be a bit longer and more featherly than fuzzy. I also have concerns about the dyes used in these cheap feathers and if they are safe for cats. I wondered about using real bird feathers. Obviously, there is a lot more research on this issue needing to be done. 

I wasn't able to hide for long! Nahum was curious where I went and what I was up to and sought me out. As soon as he saw the feathers and silver shiny things his eyes grew big and he wanted to help!

Here is the final product. 

To create the toy, simply wrap the rubber band around the end of the wand so it is tight. The rubber band serves to hold the materials in place before the glue is applied. Start placing the feathers by sliding the stem under the rubber band. Continue to add feathers and shape as desired. Then add the shiny silver pieces. For the shiny strands, I used a metallic gift bag shred, which after a little trimming is the perfect size. Once everything is arranged the way you want it, secure everything in place with the hot glue gun. Once the glue cools and hardens, wrap the connection of the feathers and the wand with the floral tape which should cover up all the glue. Now you're ready to play!

A tip to make things easier: find a place to work where your cats can't get to you! Creating a feather toy and holding off a cat at the same time makes a simple project a lot more challenging!

The final phase of production requires product testing.

The finished product was approved by Nahum and now he has a new feather toy at a fraction of the cost of the ones they sell in the cat store.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

lazy cat days of summer

We had a recent hot spell. A hot spell in the northwest is 90's and no humidity. I realize people living in truly hot climates will laugh at that definition of a hot spell! But summers here are typically mid 70's with cool nights. We get the 3-4 days of 90's a summer and that's it.

The cats don't complain about the weather, they seem to prefer the cool over the hot, especially Nahum with his heavy fur coat. While enduring the recent hot temperatures they stretched out, lazed about and generally were disinterested in anything except sleep.

Friday, August 20, 2010


Max used to sleep upside-down all the time. It's fun to see Nahum trying it out.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

a thief in the night

Dinner time is always a bit crazy with the cats. They all approach food differently. Nahum dutifully eats his nuggets then moves on to his bath. Theo inhales his nuggets as fast as possible so he can steal another cats nuggets by shoving them aside and chowing down. I don't think he even chews the nuggets. Willow likes to take her time and enjoy her dinner over the course of hours. She scoops up a mouthful of nuggets from the bowl, drops them on the floor and then eats them one by one. After only a few minutes, she takes a break only to return in an hour or so for another round. Obviously, Willow's approach to eating dinner is not compatible with Theo's. Without human intervention, Theo would eat all of Willow's nuggets leaving her hungry.

The intervention usually takes the form of picking up Willow's bowl of uneaten nuggets and securing it somewhere. Then later, giving her access to it again while blocking a determined Theo back from snatching her food.

Last night as I was preparing for bed, I had an idea. I would bring up the remainder of Willow's nuggets to bed and give them to her when she came up to sleep (she is usually the first cat to settle in for the night on the bed). Seemed like a good plan. I knew I would have to keep the food out of Theo's senses. I tucked the nuggets in a folded handkerchief and placed it under my pillow. Then I laid my head onthe pillow. I figured I wouldn't be hiding the food for long since Willow typically comes to bed shortly after me.

Willow never came up. And I fell asleep.

Through the course of the night I woke-up  twice from the sound of a distant train horn that sure sounded like it was next door. Each time I noticed there were no cats on the bed (they have taken to sleeping on the secured porch). When I awoke in the morning, I found the handkerchief lying near the end of the bed with only a crumb of a nugget remaining.

Somehow, Theo sniffed out the nuggets, extracted them from under my pillow (and my head!) without waking me and without leaving any nuggets behind. That boy will go to any length to get food!

Sunday, August 15, 2010

unintended consequence

The beefed up screened door seems to be doing the trick - keeping the cats safe and secure. However, a unforeseen consequence has come to my attention.

Now, I realize most people would probably see this consequence as a positive thing. The screen door now closes tight against the frame which leaves less of a gap around the door for moths to get in. Less bugs are getting in and that is putting a damper on the nightly moth hunt.

My mind is already at work trying to think of some possible solutions. I may replace the screen on the side windows with the wire mesh material I used on the bottom of the screen door. It has larger openings which should allow more moths to enter and would be stronger than the existing screen which would be helpful in keeping any crazy leaping cats (Theo!) contained.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

behold the power of the Willow

I have always found it difficult to resist Willow's charms, which she frequently uses to her advantage anytime she wants a little extra dinner. She has a way of looking at you that is a perfect mix of sad and endearing. When she senses her irresistible appearance alone is not enough, she steps up her campaign with a few rubs of her head against your ankles while her purr motor revs loudly. If all that doesn't avail her,  she brings out the big gun - she looks right at you, with those sad yet endearing eyes, and makes her little "murp" sound.

Many months ago Laura commented, "You just can't say 'no' to Willow, you just need to resist." Laura has never had a problem saying no to the cats. She seems to do this with ease, like they don't hold power over her. I'm often amazed at her strength. It's as if she conceals a stash of kryptonite.

The cats got an early breakfast this morning and by the time I came down, they were asking for second breakfast. Willow was sitting in her spot, giving me those looks, so I inquired with Laura about the size of their breakfast and the possibility of a small second breakfast. She very sheepishly said, "they've already had a second breakfast. Willow was doing her thing and I just had to." At last, the mighty fortress has fallen - Willow now has complete power over both of her humans.

litter test - follow-up

The litter test was scrapped. Theo was eating too much of the corn litter! I figured once the corn litter was used it might curb his desire for it, but that was not the case. So, I resorted to mixing the corn with the clay which solved the problem. Hopefully, as we slowly adjust the ratio of clay to corn litter, he will associate it with doing his business rather than having a snack.

Meanwhile, the wheatgrass pellets were continually passed over. Although eventually, Theo became curious and tried them. Like the cats, I can't say I am impressed with the wheatgrass. I suppose it did the job, but it will be used up fast because rather than scooping out just the waste, you have to scoop out the waste and all the litter-pellets surrounding it. And, the when wet, the pellets seem to turn to powder, making it very difficult to scoop out. I can't say I am necessarily disappointed that it will go fast - perhaps not quite fast enough.

too much cute?

Is it possible for a kitty to be too cute?!

Thursday, August 12, 2010


It has been a while since I have done any house improvements to better the cats. Top on the list was to secure the front screen door. There were two goals in mind for this project.

Goal #1: Safety

There have been a pair of raccoons roaming around our yard of late, even in broad daylight, and I want to make sure they stay separate from our cats. The presence of the raccoons has even temporarily suspended kitty tent-time as I am not interested in having the cats tangle with some nasty raccoons, no thanks!

The main section of screen on the door had been pushed out almost completely by a zealous Theo. To protect the screen and prevent the cats from going through the screen, I installed a large metal grate-screen thing. It is beefy, but gets the job done. I was reluctant to cover the small bottom section of the door, because I didn't want to totally impede the cats view. They love to lay in front of the door and watch the world through that little section of screen.

After the installation of the metal grate-screen thing, it didn't take long for Theo to push out the small bottom section of screen. This was a significant problem because, even though the open section was too small for them to escape, it allowed direct contact with other cats or the evil raccoons. So, I replaced the flimsy screen with a small piece of sturdy metal welded wire fencing, which provides a nice relatively unobstructed view but keeps them safe.

Goal #2: Security

The cats love hanging out on the enclosed front porch. The existing latch on the door was a hook-eye latch that worked fine for keeping the wind from opening the door, but I didn't feel I could leave the cats on the porch overnight or if we went to the store. It was easy to open the latch from the outside so we wanted something a little more secure, ideally something that could only be opened from the inside. The solution was to install two small barrel bolt latches. Now the door is relatively secure and the cats won't be able to escape.

And fear not, the screen door is slated to be painted a better color in the next month or so! The remaining project is the removable cat door for the window. Right now, we leave the window to the front porch open and they can freely come and go. That doesn't work so well in the winter. Of course the winter doesn't stop the cats from wanting porch-time but our heating bill sure takes a hit. So, a removable cat door is being designed for the window. However, before I expend too much energy on this endeavor, a temporary setup will be created to test the cats' ability to utilize a cat door. Once this test is satisfactorily completed fabrication will commence. The other advantage of the removable cat door is it will make the house more secure than just leaving a window wide open.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

making toys

The other day an idea came to me. One of Nahum's favorite toys is the feather toy - which is a bunch of feathers and sparkly mylar strips at the end of a 29 inch long plastic wand. He goes bananas when it moves. When I stop playing and walk away he will drag it over to me, look up me and make his version of a meow. And of course it is impossible to ignore such a display of cuteness, so he usually gets what he wants and the feather's again move to his delight.

Now the problem. Those feather wands are not cheap at $6-$7 a piece and with the amount of play he demands, they don't last long. It doesn't take long for the feathers to get broken off and the mylar strips get ripped off from his exuberant play. Then he is left with a wand with a few feather stubs and a mylar strip or two - pretty lame. We currently have two feather toys in circulation and they are both in sad shape.

My brilliant idea came to me out of the blue - why not buy the materials and make my own feather toys?!  So, to Michaels (craft store) I went to buy the feathers, mylar strips and tape. All for less than $7! I can reuse the wands after they lose their feathers. With the amount of materials I purchased I will be able to make quite a few toys. The only other ingredient I need is glue and I figured the glue gun would work perfectly.

Do you think I can find the glue gun?! Since the weekend I have been scouring the house and garage for it and it is no-where to be found. I came across the power-cord and the extra glue sticks, but the gun has disappeared. Now I am getting desperate, how much longer can Nahum hold out playing with feather stubs on a stick? Do I break down and buy another glue gun or experiment with other glues? Do I buy another pre-made feather toy to give me more time to find the glue gun? Tomorrow is make-it or break-it day - the decision will be made one way or the other - Nahum can suffer no more!

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

melted heart

The most amazing thing happened last night.

Nahum is usually one who never gets on the couch when it is occupied by humans. If it's vacant he may hop up and take a snooze but that's a rare sight.

I was watching the exciting season finale of Doctor Who and in the midst of the non-stop action, Nahum hopped up on the couch, settled right next to me, put his head in my lap and started his nap. My heart instantly melted into a puddle - he's never done anything like this before! The whole world fell away in that moment and I soaked it up.

The last time I had the opportunity to enjoy such first-quality kitty snuggles was with Max. Back in the day I used to get such snuggles daily and they never grew old.

Maybe this is a sign of what is to come, I can only hope!