Monday, February 28, 2011

paper ball fun

I recently discovered that Nahum loves playing with a crumpled up piece of newspaper as a ball to play with. 

Batting it around.

Nahum loves to carry around his toys!

Nahum even plays fetch with the paper ball. I toss it across the house, he runs after it, fetches it and brings it back by way of going through the kitty tunnel! So fun!

Long ago he used to play a lot with crinkly-balls, but then he all of a sudden stopped and hasn't gone back. In fact, when he stopped with the crinkly-balls he pretty much stopped playing on his own - everything had to be interactive toys. It's great now that he has reconnected with the art of solo-play. Hopefully he sticks with it!

Sunday, February 27, 2011

picture parade

Recent scenes around the home.

Nahum and Theo both getting lap snuggles. Nahum takes the lap, Theo takes the chest and arm, leaving me with one hand to type.

Willow found herself a cozy spot on the scarf and winter hat.

Theo dreaming about being an outside kitty again.

Nahum melting in front of the fire.

Rose holding her tail down while napping.

Willow posing for the camera.

Rose wanting to get on with her nap.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

false alarm

I awoke early this morning to the piercing sounds of the smoke detectors screaming. Bleary eyed, I jumped out of bed, my nose busily sniffing for any hints of smoke, as I sought to silence the electronic beasts. The cats who moments earlier were peacefully asleep on the bed quickly scattered in panic.

After silencing the alarms, I went downstairs to look for smoke, there was none, but I did find Theo, stretching and waking so peacefully as he does. He wasn't phased in the slightest by the alarms or the ensuing human and feline panic but rather he seemed slightly puzzled that a human would be up at that hour. Nothing seems to panic that boy!

Thankfully, it was a false alarm. I do not know what triggered the alarm but it was the second time in 6 months. I'l' need to devote some time troubleshooting the problem.

When returning to bed, Laura pointed out that if there had been a fire we would never have been able to get all the cats out. That statement stung my heart, because I knew it was true. Immediately my fear began to take hold and started imaging all sorts of terrible outcomes.

I live in an 100 year old house that would burn up in short order. Time would be extremely limited, and how do you find four terrified cats who are hunkered down all the while trying to stay alive and not panic? If you happen to find one how do you hold onto it while looking for others? What a horrible scene. Losing the house to a fire would suck but losing the cats would be horrible. The house is replaceable the cats are not.

Later this morning, Laura said, "we need a plan and we need to practice it." I agree, we need to spend some time creating a specific plan and we need to practice it many times. I can't imagine in a real fire there is much time but I also can't imagine not trying to save my precious kitties.

I will start by searching out on the internet, hoping to learn from what others have done. Do you have a plan of how to save your cats in case of a fire? If so I would love to hear about it. I have seen the "In case of fire rescue my..." window signs or the pet alert signs by PetPlan, which might be a good start but there needs to be a comprehensive plan.

Friday, February 25, 2011

cat in a tree rescue

I hope I never need to solicit the services of Dan Kraus, but I sleep better knowing he is out there.

Dan, a certified arborist and professional tree climber, has a soft spot for rescuing cats that are stuck in trees, even if that requires climbing 80 feet of tree with just rope. Since starting his Dan's Cat in a Tree Rescue Service, he has traveled all around the Pacific Northwest rescuing more than 750 cats.

On his website, Cat in a tree rescue, he has posted numerous stories with pictures of cats being rescued. I love these rescue stories, here is a sample:


Jasmin was Sarah’s cat.  She went up a tree on Friday and could not get down.  They tried everything but all Jasmin would do is cry for help.  Sarah was worried sick, Jasmin was only six months old and would usually sleep with Sarah at night. That night neither of them got much sleep.
The next day was Sarah’s birthday, she was five.  Everyone came over for a big birthday party in the back yard.  The party was not going so well because Jasmin's meows were crying out and Sarah could think of nothing but her cat.
I don’t know how they finally got my number but after I got Jasmin down I was the hero of the party and got some birthday cake with a glass of milk.
Dan is my hero. I love that he is out there doing this needed service for good people. I also appreciate that he created his website with lots of helpful information, including a directory of professionals around the world who will assist if you find yourself needing someone to rescue your cat from a tree. The Arboreal Cat Rescuers Guide is also not to be missed.

Thanks Dan for doing what you do.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

the deal

Couples fight about many things, one frequent category is division of labor. Long ago Laura and I struck a deal pertaining to caring for the cats. I would be responsible for what comes out the back end of the cat and she would handle what comes out the front.

I get to empty the litter box twice daily, and take care of the monthly deep cleaning of the litter boxes.

She gets to clean up the hairballs and other items that randomly come out the front end. The other day Rose got sick. As Laura was cleaning it up she noticed something weird about the vomit - it was unusual. There was something long and stringy in it. We both immediately thought of worms. Further investigation revealed Rose had apparently eaten 6-10 inches of the multi-colored fleece string wand toy. Thankfully she got sick.

Rose playing with the multi-colored fleece string wand toy

None of the other cats have ever chewed through a toy and eaten a big chunk of it, so we never thought it would be a problem to leave the fleece toy down. Now, the fleece string wand toy has a home inaccessible to the kitties. I am so grateful she barfed it up and she didn't need to be cut open for the third time in as many months.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

more simple games

There are some games are too basic to have come from Playtime for Cats. But just because they are simple doesn't mean they aren't loads of fun!

One that I like to play with the cats involves hiding the shiny-strand-wand toy under a towel or blanket, although it could really be any wand toy (feather-wand and fuzzy-tail-wand toy also works great.) Nahum in particular loves this game, but in this instance Rose and Theo took over while Nahum was playing.

Slight movements of the toy under the towel get the cats all excited.
They must imagine it's a mouse under there as they pounce and try to get at it.

Endless fun!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Rose playing

I always enjoy watching Rose play with her sparkle ball.

I especially love watching her carry it around! Too cute!

The post-sparkle ball rest.

Monday, February 21, 2011

simples games

I absolutely love playing with the cats, it is often one of the highlights of my day. I am quite bummed when time doesn't allow for play. And I'm sure Nahum and Rose are even more bummed than me!

As I have written about before, I am quite dissatisfied with the selection of cat toys at most pet stores. Dogs gets all sorts of interesting toys but cats get the same boring stuff. I also find it difficult to shell out a large amount of money for something that either breaks right away or becomes boring quickly.

Playtime for Cats: Activities and Games for FelinesI am always looking for new ideas for simple toys I can create for the cats. So, when I ran across Playtime for Cats: Activities and Games for Felines by Helena Dbalý and Stefanie Sigl at the library, I eagerly snatched it up. I am only a little ways into the book and so far it's great!

One of the ideas presented early on in the book involves taking a cardboard tube from a toilet paper roll putting treats in the middle and plugging both ends with crumpled up newspaper. The idea is that the cat has to figure out how to get the treats out of the tube. You are suppose to start by making it easy by leaving the newspaper barely in the ends, then as they get the idea you stuff it further in the tube making it more difficult.

I decided to give it a go and it was an immediate success!

Nahum was the first to give it a try

As you can see, the newspaper is barely in the end, making it easy.

Nahum gets his prize (which for him is more about 
the scrunched up paper than the treats!)

Theo decides to give it a go.
I made several so the cats wouldn't have to share.

As expected, Theo breaks into it fairly easily.

He then goes right for the second one.

Rose takes a look but decides it looks too much like work.

Nahum is still interested.

Theo again gets his prize.

The result of this new game was an immediate success. It cost nothing to create and Nahum and Theo enjoyed it quite a bit. Rather than using treats I used what we call "anytime treats" which are a different kibble than their regular food, that way its new and fun for them and less fattening than real treats. I will add this toy to my creative stock and create one every so often for them to play with.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Rose news

Over the past few days there has been a noticeable reduction in Rose's level of skittishness. She even chose to park near me a few times and didn't startle every time I moved. Several times she has let Laura and I pet her without bolting. This is very exciting news. I hate seeing her so terrified of her humans and I hope she continues to grow trust that her humans will always do what's best for her.

Secondly, I witnessed Rose eating some of Nahum's lettuce!

Whenever we have salads, Nahum comes running. I have heard from other cat owners that their cat comes running at the sounds of opening a tuna can. Nahum knows the sound of the plastic bag the lettuce comes in and comes running! He can barely contain himself. Not being able to wait a second longer, he may even jump on the counter trying to get at it. It is rare for him to break the rules and set paw on the counter.

This time, Rose decided to eat a little greens. She didn't chow it down like Nahum but she certainly ate a few leafs! Willow is not quite as passionate about lettuce as Nahum but she does enjoy it. Theo won't touch the stuff - he looks at Nahum and Willow like they are crazy for eating rabbit food!

Saturday, February 19, 2011

a taste for pine needles

Earlier this week I posted about Theo's eating disorder, I would be amiss not to also mention Willow's eating disorder. Her problem is much less annoying than Theo's but it can still be problematic.

Willow has a very polite way of asking for extra food (Laura calls it begging - I call it politely asking). She basically turns on her charms and starts being super-lovey. She will rub her self against your ankle repeatedly, give lots of gentle head butts, and allow all sorts of petting and groping. She typically doesn't care much for attention and generally shies away - but not when she wants a little extra nuggets!

When all of her lobbying for extra nuggets doesn't payoff and she is left without, she decides she had better take matters into her own paws and she heads to the back porch to start feasting on pine needles.

She has become very adept at hunting them.

Once captured she then feasts. I have never tried to eat a pine needle, so I can't speak to her taste in snack foods, but I am not thrilled with her choice. I am guessing this was a survival trick she learned when she was a stray and living on the street, fighting to survive. She may have learned that intense hunger pains can be made to go away if you eat enough pine needles.

What's the result of her desire for pine needles? So far, not much except it makes her poops very easy to identify! The needles seem to pass right through her unchanged from their original state. A little while back, I grew concerned when I noticed something about her backside didn't quite look right. I took a closer look and found she had a pine needle sticking out her butt! Then I wondered what to do. Do you try to pull it out?!

I try to keep the back porch swept clean of pine needles, but that is not an easy thing to do!

Friday, February 18, 2011

Rose and Nahum

Rose and Nahum are nearly inseparable. I always come home to find them snuggling together. Today, Rose was keeping her butt warm against Nahum's fluffy tummy!

fun friday feline factoid - superfecundation

Kittens from one litter may have more than one father. This is because breeding stimulates ovulation and cats can mate several times per day.

This phenomena is called superfecundation, which is the fertilization of multiple ova from the same cycle by sperm from different acts of sexual intercourse.

Today's challenge is to work the word superfecundation into a casual conversation. Good luck!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Max memory

Here is a short video of Max receiving and giving some loves. I love his little white chin and his long soft fur. He was such an amazing cat in so many ways. He would stare into my eyes for long periods of time, it was as if he could see into my soul. It was intimately delightful.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

mindful eating

Theo has an eating disorder. He eats his food at lightening speed and then tries to steal the other cat's food. I have been looking for ways to slow him down. Right now I am left to patrol dinner and banish him to the porch after he is done eating but before he pushes another cat away from their bowl.

A friend, whose dog eats to fast, introduced me to slow-feed bowls. There are several on the market.
Brake-Fast Dog Food Bowls - Small Red Skid Stop Slow Feed Bowl - Medium (Color May Vary) 
Durapet Slow Feed Bowls - Small 7 1/2"
Most of the bowls are geared for dogs, so they are way too big. I did find a smaller cat-sized one, but it is made of plastic and I don't like to feed the cats out of plastic. Durapet makes nice stainless steel bowls but their small bowl is massive for a cat (7.5 inches!). I think a bowl like this could work if it were cat sized and ceramic or stainless steel. Durapet, how about making a cat-sized slow feed bowl? Please!

Somewhere along the line, I read or was told to try adding marbles or a ping pong ball to the bowl. Marbles scared me, as I had visions of Theo choking on one as he inhales his nuggets. I didn't have a ping pong ball to try, but I did have an old foosball leftover from the college days. It's about the same size as a ping pong ball only a lot heavier. So, I thought I would give it a try.

The result? It had no effect whatsoever. Didn't slow him down a bit. I am still wondering about maybe trying two ping pong balls, because they are lighter maybe they will move around more. But even if they moved around more, I don't think it would phase him or slow him down. The foosball didn't really move until he pushed it out of the way to get to the food it was covering. 

Has anyone had success in slowing down a cat's rate of consumption?

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

cure for the Mondays

I may have stumbled on a cure for a bad case of the Mondays.

The blahs of my dreary Monday were cured by Nahum's generous offer of mid-day lap snuggles. It seemed to do the trick!

Nahum has all of a sudden taken to napping in my lap. It started sometime last week and I am loving it! I may have a champion lap snuggler in the making! Maybe with lots of practice he will rise to prize winning status, as Max did.

Monday, February 14, 2011


Sometimes the reality that cats are not fluent in English really gets to me. It's not that I want them to be fully fluent but I want them to fully understand three words, one little phrase, "I love you."

I tell them these words often and they don't respond. I might as well be saying "the moon is made of cheese." The words themselves may not mean much to the cats, but I believe they know love by actions and the tone of words and sounds. I don't really know it works that way for sure, but I do believe it.

I wonder if cats even have the ability to feel love like humans. Do they even have that area of their brain like humans, that allows for the feelings of love? I don't know, but based on anecdotal evidence they certainly understand affection and being close. But is affectionate the same as love? Love is so complex.

Without empirical evidence to back me up, I am left with faith alone. I hope they have the capacity to fully know they are loved and valued. And even if they don't understand my spoken words, I am going to keep telling them anyways. I might even reinforce my words with the occasional extra treat just in case!

Sunday, February 13, 2011


I am happy to announce that the blog is expanding! The new page buttons, located under the blog title, are now live. Each cat has their own page, complete with bio and a photo gallery. I have also compiled a glossary of technical terms used on the blog.

Also know that I have been pondering a complete remodel of the blog, perhaps using a different template. No final decisions have been made yet, but someday when you visit things may look very different here at fourwhitepaws.

Rose likes poetry

Saturday, February 12, 2011

natural order of death

The other day I was watched a National Geographic video, Stress - Portrait of a Killer. An educational video about the impact of stress on the body.

In the video there was this short clip of a lion chasing a baby zebra, and it stirred something in me. (Thankfully, the video ends before you see the lion devouring the baby zebra.) It is natural for predators to hunt their prey, this is essential for survival. But something about watching it happen was disturbing.

When I first watched the video, I was first drawn to the zebra running along side the lion and I asked myself, why is that zebra running with the lion rather than running away? Then it dawned on me that that zebra was the mother of the little zebra being chased. Instantly my heart sank - how terrible! The mother was powerless to stop the lion but she was certainly not going to abandon her little one in its time of need. It looks like she is screaming as she is running. What was it like for her to watch her precious little one get eaten by the lion?

I watched the video from my anthropomorphized zebra's perspective. What about the lion's perspective? If the lion became vegetarian and the video was of it starving to death while zebras milled about my heart would also hurt. Perhaps suffering, death, and sorrow are inseparably linked.

Watching the lion run is impressive, it is so fluid in it's movements. The video is slowed down, which gives the impression the lion is moving rather effortlessly. At one point the lion causally looks over at the mother-zebra as if it's wondering why it is running with it. 

I understand that predators need to hunt and eat their prey, this is the basis for life in the natural world. Outside cats do this all the time with birds and mice. To me, seeing the mother-zebra's pain adds another dimension to the predator-prey relationship, more is at stake than life and death. The sorrowful mother-zebra must go on with her life, how does she adjust? Does she grieve?

When a kitty or human is absence from the house for a few days the remaining cats act a little different. They seem to wait with anticipation for the absence one to return. They know part of the family is absent, so why wouldn't this be true for the zebra as well?

This video also makes me wonder about the snuggly cute little predator in my lap. He's so sweet and yet he would have no problem hunting down a baby bird or mouse. He would love to. It's hard for my brain to accept that my cats are both cute, lovey, snuggly and vicious predators. If given the chance, they wouldn't hesitate to butcher a little bird in front of it's helpless mother. I am thankful they don't decide to come after me!

I can feel a little better by considering that mice don't seem to be pack animals like zebras, so maybe the momma mouse is not attached like the zebra? I don't know if that is true, but it sounds like a nice rationalization and it makes me feel better.

In general there is something about death being an important part of the circle of life that is bothersome. I can't escape that fact and maybe one day I will be better at accepting it and appreciating it. Today, I do know that the look on the mother-zebra's face is haunting.

(Video is copyright National Geographic Society)

Friday, February 11, 2011

Week in pictures

Theo enjoying the view from the upstairs window

Nahum looking beautiful

Willow and Rose tussling

Unhappy Willow

Perfect posture Theo

Rose hiding from camera

Nahum enjoying the front porch perch