Monday, May 28, 2012

Thursday, May 24, 2012

sad sads

Parker (photo courtesy of Perfectly Parker)
I'm sad. This morning, sweet Parker of Perfectly Parker crossed the bridge after a long battle with cancer. I fell in love with this little beautiful, sweet girl sometime right before she was diagnosed with cancer. My heart hurts for her humans as I remember more than I desire to, the gut wrenching taste of pain that follows death.

It seems like there have been a number of kitties from various blogs that have recently died. My heart is filled with a mix of intense sorrow and soft gratitude. Sorrow for all the hurting peoples who are acutely grieving the loss of their sweet kitties, I grieve with you and gratitude for each moment I have with my cats now. I know these moments will not last forever, and I cherish each and every one.

I have known for a long time that keeping plants alive is not my gift. Long ago, several spider plants suffered long, grueling deaths to teach me this truth. Recently, some dear friends gifted me with three catnip plant starts that they bought at a fundraiser with my kitties in mind. So sweet of them to think of the kitties. Over the years, I have fantasized many times of growing some fresh nip for the cats. Just imagine, an abundant source of fresh nip whenever it is desired, how perfect would that be?!

When I took possession of the starts, I immediately feared for their lives. How on earth could I care for such delicate little plant starts. They looked so innocent, so filled with potential.

The first night, I left them in the garage. I figured that would be a safe temporary spot while I devised a plan. I started the ponder where I might put them. A quick Altavista search provided me information about ideal growing conditions. Do I plant them in pots so I could move them around the house or out in the yard where they can thrive in the sun and rain.

Keeping them in the house would be tricky as Nahum can't resist leafy green things, especially nip! It's hard to imagine catnip plants in the house lasting more than an hour. So, I started to plan possible outside locations.

After the nip plants spent a few days in the garage, as I pondered locations, I figured I had better get them out into the daylight before they died before even seeing the light of day. So, I gathered some pots, the bag of potting soil and the nip starts onto the outside work table. Before I got any further I thought I had better run inside and do a little more research on the sun requirements.

Several days later, I remembered I had left those starts in their fragile little plastic tray on the work table. I figured the rain we had might have done them some good, I imagined they would be even more vibrant than last I had seen them. As, I was now ready to relocate them into their new homes, I went out to the table - they were gone.

I looked down, and there was the flimsy plastic tray, upside down on the the earth. I attempted to gather what was left of the little plant carcasses and soil, which wasn't much, and placed it back in the little tray. The young plants looked ravaged, like a nip-starved feral cat attempted to squeeze every drop of precious mind-altering substance from their tender leaves. It wasn't pretty.

May 22, 2012
I held onto a glimmer of hope, as I noticed some roots and main plant stalks remained. Maybe somehow I could nurse them back to life.  Maybe. Somehow. Not gonna happen.

36 hours later, hope was but a distant memory.

May 23, 2012.
There was nothing left. A flimsy plastic tray with potting soil. Bits of a few stalks. So much for my dreams of having a successful nip-grow. Next time, I need to secure my growing operation in a feral-proof greenhouse.

I'm curious to hear from others how you go about growing fresh nip and keep it away from the cats so it can grow?

On a happier note, Laura has taken some amazing photos of the kitties - but she won't let me publish the pictures, can you believe it?! But you can still delight in them as she has posted a few of them on her blog, GraceNotes.

There's Rose and there's Buddy.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

more backporch cat watching

I love watching cats do their cat thing. Thankfully, I don't have a fast internet connection at work, otherwise, I would be watching my cats all day long and not get any work done!

Here are some snaps from the back porch feral cam of Oliver and his family having a good time.

One of the kitties is enjoying Oliver's new bed (upper right)

Oliver, keeping a watchful eye on the backyard

Oliver and MK, enjoying a friendly tussle

Left to right: unnamed sibling, Oliver and MK (in the bed)

I'm trying to figure out how I can live stream the back porch feral cam to the blog - stay tuned for that. Meanwhile, if you are wanting to watch some amazingly cute kittens, tune into John Bartlett's live Kitten Cam. He's a local guy who fosters kittens for Purrfect Pals. There are plenty of videos of the kittens playing and being cute, if you happen to tune in while they are sleeping.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

new bed and toys

For someone with no training in how to sew, I'm quite surprised at how much I enjoy it. It's tons of fun and a great way to play.

I recently finished up Oliver's new fleece bed. My goal was to make a fleece bed that would fit the loft space I built for him and it would have a sleeve on the bottom where I could slide the heating pad into it. I even put a thick canvas material on the bottom so it would be a bit more rugged.

Here is the final result:

The toys in the bed are the two that I made for the feral cats. They are similar to the ones I made for the indoor cats in that they are made of denim and have catnip inside!

Now that everything is complete, the next step is product testing.

The new bed is a success! Although, the final product came out larger than I had planned for, so it tends to ooze over the edge of the loft when Oliver stretches out. I'm still working on what modifications I can make to remedy this situation.

The new toys have also been a big hit. Every morning they are in different locations around the back porch, which tells me they got some good play. They are also now look well used! I'm glad they like their new toys, it was lots of fun making them with them in mind.

Friday, May 18, 2012

pet insurance

Being that I work as a health care provider in private practice in the United States, I have had more than my fair share of dealing with powerful insurance companies. The experience has been an extremely frustrating exercise in dealing with organizations which have fairly free reign to abuse both their powerless customers and their contracted providers. I could write pages and pages detailing these abuses but that's not what this post is about.

Instead of complaining about the evils of insurance companies, I'm going to sing some praise for one insurance company in particular. The catch is, you and I can't be insured by this company.

All of my cats are insured by Petplan USA. I made the decision to insure them chiefly based on my anxiety-driven, hypochondriac nature. When I notice something is off about a cat, I take them to the vet to get checked over. This means I have gotten to know the vet staff quite well as I see them often. Having insurance also protects me from having to make a heart wrenching life or death choice based solely on financials. My brother recently lost one of his dogs after being faced with an emergency situation that required him to make a choice of either shelling out significant money for a slight chance at saving his dog's life or helping her cross the bridge. I can't imagine having to make such a choice.

There are quite a few insurance companies that offer pet insurance. Before choosing which company to go with, I did a little research. A few of the things I liked about Petplan is that they cover hereditary and congenital conditions as well as chronic problems for the life of the animal. They also cover alternative and holistic therapies.

Like any insurance company, they do not cover pre-existing conditions, so it's important to sign up right away before anything develops. I learned this the hard way with Theo. I procrastinated signing him up thinking I would save a little money as he seemed quite healthy at the time. Then all of a sudden he was having problems and was diagnosed with his hyperthyroidism, which is now a pre-existing condition. Dang! Had I not delayed, this lifelong disease would have been forever covered for him.

Routine and preventative care is also not covered. Things like annual exams and vaccinations are not covered expenses. Of course, if an illness is discovered, then the visit becomes eligible based on that diagnosis.

When you sign up for Petplan insurance you get several options to choose from, each options makes a difference in the premium. The first choice is the yearly cap ($20,000, $12,000 or $8,000). The second choice is deductible ($50, $100 or $200), which is per-condition per year. Third is reimbursement amount (80%, 90% or 100%). Reimbursement for a veterinary specialist is always 80%.

Buddy is covered at $12,000, a $50 deductible and 100% reimbursement all for an annual premium of $475. The premium is so high because he's a senior kitty, the other cats are quite a bit cheaper. Buddy has had many trips to the vet in the 11 months we have had him. You might remember that Buddy was not wanting to eat for quite some time. The result was some expensive dental work.

Here's Buddy's medical history for the time he has been with us:

July 9, he goes to the vet and is diagnosed with Polydipsia after undergoing some diagnostic work. The charge: $340.95. I was reimbursed $290.95 (the charge minus the $50 deductible).

January 2 & 3, Buddy goes to the vet because he's not eating. He's diagnosed with Anorexia and he undergoes a bunch of diagnostic work. The charge: $410.42. I was reimbursed $360.42 (the charge minus the $50 deductible).

March 31, he goes to the vet and is diagnosed with Periodontal Disease. The charge: $165.40. I was reimbursed $115.40 (the charge minus the $50 deductible).

April 9, Buddy goes back to the vet for extensive dental surgery for his Periodontal Disease. The charge: $638.95. Since I had already paid my deductible for this condition, I was reimbursed the full $638.95.

To summarize, Buddy's total vet bills for the past 11 months: $1,555.72 which after reimbursement of $1,405.72, only cost me $150.00. Now, factor in the $474 annual premium, $475 + %150 = $625. So, including the annual premium, I've still paid less than half of what it would have cost me without the insurance and I get the peace of mind knowing I can afford to do all sorts of expensive diagnostic work and treatment options because it will only cost my $50 deductible.

Of course an insurance company couldn't stay in business if they routinely paid out more than they take in through their premiums. Nahum has been insured for most of the three years I have had him and he's rarely at the vet due to his excellent health. So, I pay his $233 annual premium and rarely file a claim on his policy. I personally, find that paying these yearly premiums greatly reduces my fear about being able to provide for their medical needs in a time of need. I also view it as amortizing their medical costs over the life of the animal rather than trying to suddenly absorb a crazy expensive vet bill.

Another amazing thing about Petplan is that they are actually pleasant to work with. I can't believe I am actually saying that about an insurance company! Also, claim processing is surprisingly quite speedy. More often than not, I get the reimbursement check in my hands before I get my credit card bill with the vet's charges on it.

I've been trying to come up with some negatives to balance my review, but I'm really struggling to find any. The only thing I think to complain about is that the process of filing a claim can be a bit of a hassle, but I'm guessing this is true of any pet insurance. To submit a claim, you have to print off an official claim form, complete the basic information and then give it to the vet office to complete the technical part. Once that's done it gets faxed off to Petplan. I always get an email letting me know the claim was received and is in review and then a week or so later the reimbursement check shows up in the mail.

After complaining to Laura about my own health insurance plan the other day, I realized that my cats have much better health insurance coverage than us humans! What's up with that?! Why can't there be options like Petplan for humans?!

I should disclose that Petplan has not provided me any compensation of any kind to provide this review. This review is purely based on my personal experience to date as a paying customer of Petplan USA. If I experience negatives in the future, I will be sure to write about those experiences at that time.

I would love to hear other's peoples experiences with pet insurance. Has it paid off well for you? Have you had any bad experiences with your pet insurance?

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

three years!!

It's Willow's and Nahum's Gotcha Day!!!! Three years ago today, these two beautiful kitties came into my life. I can't believe it's been three years already, where does the time go?!

Come celebrate with us!!

 Willow and Nahum, available for adoption.     May 16, 2009
They looked so young and little back then! I don't know their exact ages, I believe the rescue people estimated about a year old, but I'm wondering if they were really younger than that.

  Nahum was so small and light colored.     June 3, 2009

Early lap snuggles.                   May 18, 2009
Nahum, flashing the neighbors!      May 20, 2009

Willow was so little!              May 19, 2009

 They spent a lot of time on that front porch shelf.   June 10, 2012

May 20, 2009

June 4, 2009

 Willow's practicing her flirting.         June 4, 2009

Willow and Nahum have each matured over the years. Although some things haven't changed. Nahum still loves his favorite string above all else.

May 15, 2012

May 15, 2012

May 15, 2012 

April 28, 2012

April 28, 2012
 Willow has only gotten cuter over the years!

May 15, 2012

May 15, 2012

May 15, 2012

May 15, 2012
Two delightful kitties who have brought me lots and lots of laughs, snuggles and joy. I'm so very thankful they entered my life three years ago today.