Monday, January 31, 2011

remembering

Whenever I leave town and board the cats for some reason I fear they will forget me or forget all their interesting rituals, but they never do! Somehow Willow remembers that if she asks cutely for a few extra nuggets in the mornings she will get them. She also remembers all the rituals involved in getting her tummy rubbed. Nahum remembers that we both like to snuggle together at 4am. Theo remembers to ask politely for porch time in the mornings and to snuggle in my lap while I enjoy my morning coffee. Rose remembers where all the toys are kept.

I don't know how feline memory works. They seem to be able to remember quite a few things. I wonder how long they remember specific things. If we were separated a few months would they still remember all these things? I hope I never get to personally learn the answer to that question.

Their ability to remember so well makes it even more amazing to me that they can live so contently in the moment. Although maybe that's more about inability to dread the future than remember the past. I am thankful they remember all the wonderful little things that make each of them extra delightful!

Sunday, January 30, 2011

kitty withdrawal

It's good to be back home! Thankfully, a quick weekend trip to Ohio and back has safely concluded.

It's hard to believe I went more than 36 hours without seeing any cats! I thought maybe people in Ohio didn't have cats, but then in the evening before departing, a stray cat showed up outside the hotel room. I thought maybe it wanted to come back with us, but my wife says that wasn't the case. So, hopefully it finds a warm safe spot to call home.

A ginger cat would've been a great addition to our collection.

sweet cream

Saturday, January 29, 2011

playing bubbles

I pulled out the catnip bubbles recently to see if the cats might have any more interest than the first time. This was the first time Rose got to experience them. The reception was similar to the first time, mild interest.






Friday, January 28, 2011

fun friday feline factoid - DNA testing

Through DNA testing, one can determine the breed heritage of a particular dog. I was hoping the same kind of testing might be available for cats, but apparently no such luck. Maybe one day such a test will exist, until then I will have to continue guessing about the breed makeup of my cats. 

Feline DNA testing does exist to screen for various genetic disease, determine parentage, positive identification and various traits. There are quite a few companies and organizations that provide this service, here are a few:
And in case you want to do some fascinating and heavy reading on the feline genome, you can find the full text article here: Initial sequence and comparative analysis of the cat genome.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

quiet

I have been dreading this moment now for several days. This morning, my dread turned to anxiety.

A death in the family requires a quick trip back east to visit family, which means the kitties get to spend a few nights in the kitty jail (boarded at the vet's office). It was my task tonight to transport the kitties to the vet's office. Wanting to spend every last minute possible with the kitties, I asked what the latest time possible would be for me to bring them over. As it always does, the time eventually came.

Rose was the one I was most concerned about. She hates being handled and is lightening fast. I was able to snatch her up when she was distracted playing feather toy. She protested fiercely by trying to wiggle free. I felt horrible about freaking her out, but I had little choice. I put Theo in the portable pokey with Rose, figuring he might help her remain calm. It seemed to work, by the time I got to the vet's office both cats seemed relatively calm. Willow and Nahum posed no challenge as they were easygoing about the whole thing.

Laser beam-eyed Nahum waits patiently in my lap to be handed over to the vet staff. 

Now that the cats are all gone, the house is eerily quiet. It feels sadly empty and void of life. I know it will only be a short time away from the kitties, but I miss them!

pictures






Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

new visitor

There is a new kitty in the neighborhood. I first started noticing it now for about five or six weeks. I don't know if it has a home or not. I wish there was an easy way to tell. If anyone has any tips or pointers on distinguishing a stray cat from an outside house cat I would appreciate hearing them. 

This new visitor, is solid black with a little patch of white on the chest. It has no collar and appears to have a patch of fur missing on it's right rear flank. I have not been able to get close enough to it to do any sort of inspection. It comes by to visit regardless of the weather; cold, rain or dry. It likes to carry on conversations with Theo through the screen door. 

Nahum and Theo having a chat with the new visitor. Theo in particular seems to be the one most interested in this kitty.

If you look close, you can kind of see the patch of missing fur, near the top of the tail.


It doesn't seem to keen on me. Every time I talk to it from the porch it decides to move on.

A little while later it returned and roamed around the side yard.

We certainly don't need any more cats, but the idea of a stray cat suffering in the cold and rain makes me sick. After reading about building a feeding station or shelter for an outdoor kitty over at The Very Best Cats, I have considered building one but I fear the family of raccoons that lives in the neighbor's tree would use them.

For now, I suppose I will keep an eye out for this visitor and try to ingratiate myself to it with some kitty food. Maybe in time it will let me get closer and then I can better assess it's situation.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Warriors - Thoughts on Grieving

Some thoughts on grieving from Warriors: Bluestar's Prophecy. This post contains spoilers, so if you haven't read this book and plan to, you may want to wait to read this post.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

cat book movement

I have written many times about the skewed ratio between cat books and dog books on bookstore shelves (see November 11, 2010 post 'bias'). Finally, another astute cat person has noticed and spoken up.

In the February 2011 edition of Cat Fancy magazine, Steve Dale wrote an nice article on Gwen Cooper's book Homer's Odyssey. He starts by writing about the struggle Gwen had in finding a publisher interested in a book about cats, he writes:
"It's as if agents think that people who have cats don't read," Cooper says.

It's true - walk into a bookstore and check out the pet books. Even though there are more pet cats than dogs (by about 20 percent), around 70 percent of the pet books are about dogs, with maybe 10 percent about miscellaneous pets, ranging from ferrets to parrots. Cat titles come in at around 20 percent, if even that. These are not scientific numbers, but in my experience of writing and broadcasting about pets, I know publishers have this "thing" against publishing books about cats. A few years ago, an acquisitions editor actually told me, "We're more likely to publish a book about hamsters" (Cat Fancy, February 2011, page 28).
Thank you Steve for validating my point. Maybe this is the start of a movement and one day we will see more quality cat books.

Friday, January 21, 2011

death, loss and grieving as depicted in Warriors

A few observations on death, loss and grieving as depicted in the Warriors book series.
  • There is an unpredictable nature to death. There may be instances where death is predictable (old age, bad cases of greencough, etc.) but there are many instances when death comes unexpectedly (in battle, thunderpath accidents, eaten by a fox, etc.)  Living each day brings the risk of death.
  • There is an element of powerlessness with death. Medicine cats have extraordinary wisdom in treating ailments, but their power is limited. They seem to know and accept the limits of their power. After doing all they can to treat an injured cat, they say, "her fate now rests in the paws of StarClan."
  • There is a theology of death which includes an afterlife. StarClan is the clan of all clan ancestors. They can be seen in the silverpelt (night sky). StarClan communicates with clan cats, in particular with clan leaders and medicine cats. They appear in dreams and visions to provide prophecy, guidance and comfort. Leaders and the medicine cat go to the Moonstone to commune and share dreams with StarClan. 
  • There are specific rituals and ceremonies associated with death. The body of the deceased cat is brought to the center of the camp where it is cleaned and positioned as if resting. Clan-mates come and say their goodbyes. Cats who had a significant relationship with the deceased (mate, kin, or close friend) will stand vigil by the body of the deceased. In the new day, the body is then buried and the grieving continues.
  • Each cat experiences the death of a clan-mate in their unique way. Every cat had a unique relationship with the deceased. The cat's mother, father, kits, mentor, and friends all grieve in their unique ways.
  • Grieving is communal, it does not occur in isolation. When a cat dies the clan grieves. Sometimes even cats from a different clan may grieve upon hearing of the death.
  • The life of the deceased are remembered in story and legend. Among the clan, the stories of the deceased are shared. At the monthly Gathering of all the clans, the leaders announce to everyone the deaths of their clan cats.
  • Life goes on for the grieving cats. Daily mundane tasks don't stop, hunting must occur so the clan can eat, borders must be patrolled so the clan remains safe. Life goes on and grieving must occur in the midst of life's duties. Sometimes the immediate kin of the deceased will get a short break from routine duties but they are expected to quickly resume providing for the clan in short order.
  • Death is certain. There is no escaping death. Even clan leaders who get an extended life will eventually exhaust their nine lives and die. There is no cheating death.
As I wrote out this list I found myself reacting differently to each item. Some of the items I am ok with and others are very disturbing to me. The idea of being so powerless over such a significant thing in life freaks me out. 

I am sure this is not an exhaustive list of the characteristics of death, loss and grieving as shown in the Warriors series. If readers are familiar with these books, I would be curious to hear from you if you picked up on other themes related to these subjects that I missed.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

anger

What is an appropriate expression of anger when dealing with inappropriate cat behaviors? I have read many places that cat's don't learn by having their noses rubbed in their messes. They need positive reinforcement. I'm all good with that and all but I am left wondering what do I do with my anger?

I came home after work to find this:
The large plastic container that we use to hold all the cat treats was on the floor along with the shredded remnants of four treat bags. No sign of any treats remained. Theo had cleaned us out of treats.

I was not happy, in fact I was quite angry. Theo had consumed a significant quantity of treats. That's not acceptable. Yelling or scolding him is ineffective as he is not going to connect the human's sudden crazy and scary behaviors with his actions from hours before. How do I teach him that such behavior is unacceptable and even dangerous?

A few hours into the evening, I realized that a good portion of my anger was really about feeling powerless to stop Theo from hurting himself. He goes on these seek-out-food-at-any-cost-missions and one day he is going to eat a large enough quantity of something poisonous that he will seriously hurt himself or even kill himself. We keep all the cat food and treats secured in latching plastic bins and containers. One by one he is figuring out how to open the latches or break into the containers.

Human food is also never left out, even if it is sealed in a package. I am starting to fear for the pantry shelves. I often find the bottom kitchen cabinets slightly ajar, after Theo has gone exploring. I have seen evidence that he has opened the upper kitchen cabinets and started to explore. It seems only a matter of time before he discovers the available options in the pantry or figures out how to open the refrigerator and gorges himself. Worrying about these things makes me feel paranoid, but with his non-stop, over- the-top behaviors, it does really feel like just a matter of time.

Knowing what my vet was going to say, I asked her if there was any way to reset the part in his brain that makes him think he needs to seek out food. The answer was no, stray house cats who grow up without knowing where their next meal is going to come from pretty much always remain driven by seeking out food. I usually hope my vet is right on most things, but on this issue, I hope she is wrong! Maybe in time Theo will learn to relax about food.

Meanwhile, on my list of things to do is to install magnetic catches on all the kitchen cabinets and figure out a way to secure the fridge. And I am still searching for constructive ways to let go of all this anger. Interestingly enough, Theo seemed to sense my anger, as he uncharacteristically avoided me all night.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

new toy

The other day Laura and I were at, Next to Nature, one of the best cat stores around. (They have the most horrid website ever, but their store is great!). We stopped in to restock on Wildside Salmon (freeze dried salmon treats) which our cats love!

One of the things I really like about this store is that they have a very nice selection of cat toys. It seems to me that most pet stores stock the same boring cat toys, but Next to Nature has the usual stuff and a lot more.

They had a nice looking catnip fish toy (made my The Mouse Factory) that we thought would be great for Rose. So we got it along with a bunch of fresh sparkle balls for Willow.

Rose barely got to sniff the fish before Theo took it over! Theo goes crazy over this fish toy.

 Theo loves to lick the fish until it is good and soggy and then he rubs it against his face. He does this over and over. Good times!



Theo can be rough on toys. This fish toy would not have lasted a day in our house had I not taken it away. He very methodically works on shredding such toys. He uses his amazing strength to hold the fish with his paws while he uses his teeth to rip and shred. So now Theo gets supervised when he plays with the fish.

one lonely magazine

I was at a Borders Books recently and decided to check out their selection of animal related magazines. Here is what I found:

Dog magazines: 9
Bird magazines: 4
Fish magazines: 3
Horses magazines: 2
Cat magazines: 1

I am having a really hard time believing that more people are going to buy a magazine to read about fish than about cats. And four magazines about birds?! The one cat magazine present in this display is not really even a monthly magazine but rather an annual publication. What's the deal?!

The one well known cat magazine available, Cat Fancy, is either sold out or this store doesn't carry it. My guess is they don't carry it since Dog Fancy is also missing. And, I am sorry to say this, but Cat Fancy is a sad excuse for a magazine. The content is very general and watered down. To see what a quality pet magazine can be, take a look at Modern Dog or Bark. Imagine Modern Cat or Meow.

I suppose I shouldn't really be complaining. After all rodent lovers, ferret lovers and snake lovers get nothing. At least there is something available for cat enthusiasts.

If three magazines for fish and four magazines for birds can make a go of it, surely the market can support several quality cat magazines. I think instead of continuing to complain about this discrimination, I need to get busy and start up a new cat magazine.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Warriors - Bluestar's Prophecy

Warriors Super Edition: Bluestar's Prophecy
This review of Warriors: Bluestar's Prophecy by Erin Hunter, contains spoilers. If you have not read this book yet and plan to do so, you may want to stop reading here and come back after you have completed the book.





Monday, January 17, 2011

windoor progress

Rose has been trying to figure out the windoor. She watches Theo pass through the doorway and she is eager to figure out how he does it. 

Rose is studying the flap, trying to figure out her options.


She starts to feel around the door with her paw but in the end she was not able to figure out the secret just yet.


Willow has no interest in figuring out the windoor, she is content with having her servants open the flap when she wants to go out.

Nahum and Rose taking advantage of the open windoor flap.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

mourning K.C.

My fellow cat blogger at The Very Best Cats, posted today that her beloved K.C. had unexpectedly passed away after 15 wonderful years.

K.C. is remembered in her post, My Baby K.C. on her guardian's blog. Even though I never met K.C., she sounded like a great family companion and she will be deeply missed by her immediate family and her greater internet family. May she now rest and hunt forever with her ancestors in StarClan.

There has been too much feline death lately in the families of the blogs I follow. Verty died on Christmas, then Peep diagnosed with a short time to live and now K.C. Enough death I say, enough!

new sparkle strands toy

With the featherless sparkle strands toy being Nahum's favorite toy in the world, we go through them rather quickly. It has been quite helpful to be able to build my own. With the existing sparkle toy was in fairly sad shape, it was time for a rebuild. So, I locked myself in a room away from the cats and went to work. A few minutes later, Nahum had a new toy to enjoy. When he saw the new toy his eyes got big and he start jumping around eager to play.

Stalking the hidden sparkle strands is great fun.


Playing sparkle strands takes intense concentration


Once captured, he loves parading around with his prize.


Back to hiding the toy under the Kickeroo.


After awhile, it is time to rest and watch Rose play.



Rose also loves the sparkle strands toy, 
although so far I haven't found a toy she doesn't love.


Focus.


Stalking.


Pouncing.


Leaping.

kitty cuddles

A few of the kitty cuddles that took place over this past week.


photo courtesy of Laura


Saturday, January 15, 2011