Monday, March 19, 2018

full integration happens

Last week I was in Tennessee working and enjoying the spring-like weather! The sun and coating of snow was beautiful.

Now that I live in New Hampshire, I can use the nearby municipal airport that is like 10-minutes from my apartment. Getting out of this very small airport didn't go so well due to the ice but I was able to return there. It involved getting on this tiny little prop plane in Boston! There are 8 passenger seats total.

I sat behind the empty co-pilot seat, so I had a great view of the pilot as she worked the controls. The plane was pretty bouncy in the air currents, it felt like we were floating above the earth. I usually would have been terrified, but this time it was actually very fun! I was grateful for my prescription motion sick medicine, because without it, it would have been very bad experience! It was actually so much fun, part of me thought it might be fun someday to learn how to fly.

There is an interesting little placard just to the left of her hand, which states, 
"Warning, To continue flight with an in-operative engine..."

With my ongoing work in Tennessee, I'll have many more opportunities to fly in the tiny plane! Fun times! When I returned home last Friday, it was time to start working on Pierre's integration into the kitty population.

He was the last one to be set free into the general population. He was ready to explore and right from the start, he did marvelous, just like his papa. Go Pierre!

He's super chill about the other cats, but he's wary when the humans are near. I love seeing him explore the space, he walks around with his tail straight up in the air, talking up a storm. He's quite the talker!

Pierre the explorer!

Theo's not thrilled about another cat to contend with in such a tiny space. Six cats is a lot in a 600 sqft apartment! We have two cat trees to help provide more vertical space.

When the sun is shining through the window, Oliver likes warming his belly!

Oliver seems to be feeling much better now.

I wonder how long it will take before it seems normal to see Oliver inside. It still catches me by surprise each time I see him. He's so relaxed and easy going, he loves inside kitty life! I learned something new about him today. When he has to hork, he runs up to a litter box, stands just outside the entrance to the box, hangs his head inside and horks into the litter box! What a very well behaved kitty! I keep finding new ways to adore him more.

Marvin continues to be unhappy and pee everywhere even though we have Feliway all over and give him Rescue Remedy. We've had to start confining him to a cage to keep him from peeing on everything. Laura recently took him to the vet to explore medication options (e.g. Prozac). While at the vet, we discovered some other health problems he's starting to have as a result from his daily steroid treatment for his asthma. So, we are going to cut the steroid back and hope it helps without causing him to many asthma attacks.

It's fun to see Nahum and Theo playing again. They don't have much space to run around here, but they do still have each other.

Rose continues to hide and act traumatized. I think Pierre, a true former feral, might be tamer than poor Rose. She comes out at night when the humans are dormant and does her cat thing. I built her a more comfy place to hide out in the closet, which she took right to.

Lasers to maximum power! Stay away evil human!!!

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

dreams come true

As you know, back at the old house I would bring Oliver inside for supervised inside kitty time. He loved being inside. He would often look over at the big cat tree longingly and sometimes tried to explore it, but I would never let him because of his bad habits. The other day, I witnessed him getting to freely explore the same cat tree, now located in our apartment.

He seemed overjoyed to hangout on the tree - seeing him do so brought me to tears. For years, I dreamt of having Oliver be an inside cat but felt overwhelmed by that prospect because it just felt impossible. 

Seeing him enjoy the inside kitty life makes my heart glow with joy.

I'm currently traveling away from home for work and Laura's taking care of the kitty crew. She reports Oliver's been under the weather lately, so she took him to the vet, who diagnosed him with a sinus infection. He's now on some meds but is not wanting to eat - so please purr and pray for him. It's hard to be away from my sick baby. I wish I could snuggle him in my lap and give him some healing cuddles, but that'll have to wait until Friday, when I get back home. Laura reported that he's finally eating this morning and seems more himself - yea! 

Laura reports that Rose has been exploring the world and settling in. Yah!!

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

moving with cats - part 7

We continue to unpack and settle in to our little apartment.

We're on the second floor.
Our trailer of possessions arrived at our storage place on Tuesday. Laura had the brilliant idea to hire some movers to do the unloading! The trailer had to be parked quite a distance away from the storage unit, so having the help made it go much quicker and was much kinder to our tired bodies. Thankfully, there was very little damage to our stuff.

We were eager to get the trailer unloaded on Tuesday, ahead of the big winter storm forecast for Wednesday and Thursday (1-2 feet of snow was predicted!) I'm so grateful this huge task is complete. Now it's a series of little tasks, like getting internet service, securing an office for my work, moving stuff around, etc. I'm really feeling we are over the stressful hump, the rest is settling in and establishing routines.

This will be the last installment in the moving with cats series. I thought I might go back and highlight some of the little things that really made this move go smooth for the cats and thus the humans.

Having a sturdy platform in the back of the van allowed space for the wire cages on the top and lots of space for storage down below. I measured the height of the cages and made the platform so there was just enough space for the cages to slide in.

I attached D-rings to the top of the platform using bulk D-rings and stainless steel plumbers strapping screwed to the platform to hold them in place. It allowed me to add D-rings wherever I wanted to attach and organize things.

I particularly wanted to secure all the wire cages to the platform so they wouldn't slide around. I used a combination of bungee cords, velcro straps, and zip ties to keep the cages from moving. When I arranged the wire crates, I removed some of the panels so they would fit together better. I then used zip ties to secure the cages together, so it was tight fit and cat's couldn't escape.

I also used a wood square and rectangle (that I had built a long time ago for a different purpose) as supports for the small carriers in the living space cage. They were sized and positioned so the cats could access the space underneath them and were the exact size for tightly holding the carrier to the roof of the wire cage. I used zip ties to be sure the carriers were secure to the wire cage and not going to move around.

Pierre enjoying his safe spot
I wanted small carriers in there, particularly to provide Pierre a safe, dark place to retreat to if he felt scared. I've never handled him, nor do I think he would take well to being picked up. Training him to use the carrier as a safe place makes it super easy when it comes time to move a feral or semi-feral cat from such a large enclosure. When a feral gets scared, they look for the smallest, darkest, safest looking hidey spot to retreat into, so providing him a small carrier as such a spot works perfectly. To move him, all I have to do is uncover the litter box side of the cage, which scares him, he retreats to the safety of the carrier which is on the opposite side of the cage setup, I undo the velcro strap that is securing the carrier door open, close that carrier door and he's secure and ready to be moved.

The addition of the curtain helped reduce anxiety, because it gave the cats the option to retreat behind it and not be seen by the humans. I used little metal binder clips to hold them to the top of the cage. I was really glad I thought of this as I think it made a big difference giving the cats power to regulate their exposure.

I bought a pair of these Midwest Stainless Steel bowls that attach to the side of the wire crates. They attach with two wingnuts, so they don't move around. I wanted something that wouldn't tip over and they couldn't knock over. I used them for water in each crate with a wash cloth underneath for any that might slash out when underway. I didn't keep them very full when we were moving, but I did want them to always have access to water.

We kept all the kitty meds in a small little plastic container. It made it easy to find and bring in hotels when needed. It also allowed us to always know where Marvin's inhaler was in case we needed it in an emergency.  We also organized the other cat stuff, one box for litter box related stuff, another box for food and bowls, and many boxes of towels and fleece. We brought way too many towels and fleece blankets that we didn't end up using. We didn't know if the cats would get car sick or would soil their bedding, so we wanted to be prepared. Amazingly, the cats never did either, so we had plenty of clean bedding when we arrived! Our vet had given us a supply of Acepromazine (sedative) that we dosed in pill pockets as needed.

The cats usually use a large covered litter boxes. We had one with us, but it was too big and bulky for daily use on the trip. We used covered because sometimes Nahum gets elevator butt when peeing and it makes a mess or Theo will spray in the litter box. Our solution was to use blue painter's tape to tape up a pee pad to the wall surrounding the litter box. We used towels underneath to catch the stray litter. The wire cage in the car that housed Nahum's and Theo's litter box also got completely walled in with pee pads, just in case. We brought out little bucket for collecting the used litter - I wanted to toss the bags of litter in the outside hotel trash, I didn't want to leave clues that there were more than two cats in the room.

The little brush and dust pan came in quite handy to clean up litter out of cages, the floor, or just about anywhere. I grabbed this for the car last minute and was very grateful to have it.

I used a small power inverter that plugs into the car's cigarette lighter and an extension cord, which allowed us to use low watt heating pads and a Feliway diffuser. We experienced very cold temperatures on our trip (coldest was 10 deg F). For the super cold nights where we didn't have electricity available to plug in the heating pads, I got up several times in the night and went down to start the car and run the heat for awhile. I also covered the back crates with many fleece blankets as insulation. 

We brought six litter boxes on the voyage. Three were always available in the minivan and one we brought in to the hotel or friend's room.  The other two were different sizes that were just in case. We also had two soft sided Portable Pet Homes that fold down into a small flat bag. One was used for Marvin, it fit perfectly under the platform at front, so we could access it between the seats. He had a small litter box, bowl of food, and heating pad in there too. We had two soft sided Sturdibag Extra Large flexible pet carriers. I love Sturdibag products, those who frequent cat shows will be familiar with their stuff. We used these carriers to shuttle cats into hotels. We also had three rigid carriers on board and one soft sided one in Rose's crate. I wanted to be sure we had enough carriers for each car just in case something horrible happened - thankfully, no such thing happened. We also had a smaller wire crate, again just in case and two very large crates that we would be using for acclimation. I wasn't sure how the cats would ride and I wanted options in case I had to separate them out. We also took so much stuff, because we needed to have everything to help acclimate the cats to the new space for when we arrived as we were told it could be several weeks before we got access to our possessions that were coming via freight hauler.

My goal was to have the cats be as comfortable as possible. I wanted them to always have access to a litter box, water, and food (Pierre, Oliver, and Marvin). I didn't think they would use the litter box when we were moving, but they all did. It was great to be able to stop in for lunch somewhere and know the cats had everything they needed to be okay. Having their needs taken care of like that really allowed me to relax and enjoy the trip more.

I also wanted to be able to access the cats in their wire cages with all the vehicle doors closed. I never wanted to encounter the possibility of a cat getting lost because it darted out of an open cage and door. I was able to access the cats from the front living space cage from the front seats and I used the large wooden fork I built to keep the cats from accessing the litter box crate when I was servicing it through the back door. It wasn't easy using the fork with the cages covered and in time as I watched how the cats huddled toward the front of the cage, I stopped using it for sake of expediency. Theo was the exception, if he was in the cage and I opened the back, he would meet me at the back to see what I was up to.

I've been thinking about what I might do differently if I had the opportunity to do another long distance move with cats. The only thing I can think of is maybe to set everything up and do some test drives locally to see how the cats do. If they do well, then less contingent-based stuff would be needed. Amazingly enough, there was never a moment when I thought, "if only we had brought..." I felt like we had everything we needed to make it a success and it was a huge success! That's all I can think of right now regarding the particulars. If you have questions about anything, feel free to ask in the comments and I'll do my best to answer them.

Meanwhile, as we settle into the apartment, the cats are also settling in nicely. Although Marvin continues being a monster, but that's a story for another time.

No one would ever suspect there's a Theo hiding behind the sheet that is acting as a curtain!
I'm still not used to seeing Oliver mixed in the general cat population. Every time I see him hanging out somewhere, I notice him, and my heart melts. I've always had the sense he wanted to be an inside kitty and now he's getting his chance and he's loving it. He's been a perfect gentleman. Back when he used to patrol his yard, he was very dominate, but inside with the other cats he's gentle and passive.

Oliver and Marvin cuddling with Laura last night
Inside kitty just chillin like inside kitties do! Go Oliver!!

Saturday, March 3, 2018

moving with cats - part 6

Staying in hotels did the cats a world of good. Theo, Nahum, and Marvin really needed space to stretch their legs and do cat stuff and hotels gave them that luxury. It also gave opportunity for Marvin to bond with Theo and Nahum on neutral turf. We stayed at La Quinta hotels, which are mostly pay friendly. I believe they limit the number of pets to 2 per room, but none of the hotel people ever asked quantity. We were extra careful with cleaning up the litter and such so that there was little trace that cats were there. It worked out great, and I was worried about how cats and hotels would work!

We left Danbury, CT Friday morning in a mix of snow and rain. After some challenges with our minivan's defrost not working, we figured out a work-around and kept going. Thankfully, because we had pushed on the night before, we were right on the edge of the snow/rain border of the crazy big winter storm. So, it only took a few minutes to get out of the snow and we spent the day driving in rain. Avoiding the snow felt like a huge blessing.

Nahum and the rest of the cats were all konked out all day. The different sedative we gave Nahum really worked, he slept well.

At last - Vermont! Home!!

Our apartment is in New Hampshire, but we are considering it temporary, while we find the perfect house to buy in Vermont. Lebanon, NH is right across the river from White River Junction, Vermont.

The fourwhitepaws-minivan did a fantastic job transporting us and the kitties across the country. We had some problems with the heating system, the heat didn't work in the back and the defrost in the front died on us, but otherwise it was spacious enough to pack the cats, our stuff and a million cat-blankets and towels!

Vermont welcome center
After a brief stop in Brattleboro, Vermont to have lunch at one of our favorite places, the Brattleboro Food Coop, we eventually made it to Lebanon, New Hampshire, where our apartment is. When we arrived there was a small package from Amazon waiting for us in the mailbox. 

Our new landlord had sent us a housewarming gift of catnip mice for our cats! How awesome is that! One for each cat. It's awesome to have a cat-loving landlord. I was scared that we wouldn't find an apartment that would allow us to have our six cats and God delivered an apartment that happily welcomes cats! What a huge blessing.

After moving the stuff from the minivan into the apartment, we setup some space for cats and moved them in as well. Oliver and Pierre got a large wire crate setup for them to acclimate to the space. Rose also got a similar setup.

Marvin, Theo, and Nahum went to work immediately checking out the space. We tried to limit them to one bedroom, but in only a few minutes they were ready to map out the rest of the space. I think the fact that they had a different hotel or room to stay in each night over the past week helped them become more comfortable in new spaces. They adapted quickly and settled right in. I am pleased beyond measure that Marvin has integrated so easily into the general cat population, what a huge gift. It only took a few nights of working things out back in Denver and they are peacefully co-existing now.

Marvs scavenging for lost food nuggets
We are learning a new side of Marvin, with the run of all the space and being with the other cats, he's like a different Marvin! He's very rambunctious, and quite the little devil. He's all over the place, running, leaping, exploring, getting into all sorts of trouble. It's fun to see him being more like a cat than what he had opportunity for back at the house, where he was limited to only the upstairs rooms.

I am very pleased with how Oliver is doing. He's so chill about the new space. I thought he might be anxious to be in a new space that recently housed four cats, but he's not at all. He came out of his cage, explored the room and then parked in my lap for a snooze.

A few hours later, Oliver met Marvin for the first time.

Marvin wasn't so sure about Oliver but Oliver did fantastic. He allowed Marvin to sniff him and Oliver was very well behaved. Shortly after this picture was taken, Marvin wasn't so well behaved and tried to spray Oliver's litter box. Marvin! 

A few hours later and Oliver was checking out our new air mattress! Our belongings don't arrive until Tuesday, and after one night sleeping on the floor without cushion, we realized we are way too old for that! So, we bought an air mattress - which the cats are enjoying too! Meanwhile, Nahum has been extra sleepy, but sneezing less and appears to be getting better. He's not much for receiving his medications, he's been so healthy all these years, these are the first meds he's ever had to get.

Theo has been konked out today. All the stress of moving and travel is catching up to him. He enjoyed being out of the car and stationary where he could relax and sleep.  Oliver really took to the bed too. I love that he's super-chill.

I love, love, love that Marvin seems to have accepted Oliver at least for this moment. Maybe this is first step toward having a fully integrated kitty household! I never dreamed of such a possibility but that would be so fantastic. I've been keeping a close eye on Oliver and he's been very well behaved. While Oliver's been hanging out in our bedroom, I heard Pierre come out of his crate and explore his bedroom - he even meowed a bit. Of course none of the other cats have met Pierre yet, but I don't anticipate that being a problem, Pierre is pretty easy going with other cats.

More exploring and settling in to come in the days ahead!

I'm amazed by how everything has gone so far. As a person prone to worry, my biggest fear about moving was how the cats would do. I had a ton of fear about them being freaked out but that never happened. Rose was scared, but she's always scared, even in our house, if she saw you looking at her, she would cower. Everything so far has worked out so much better than I could have ever imaged. We felt invited by God to love on my parents who live nearby in New Hampshire, and with so much uncertainty about the process and destination, it was a big leap of faith to move into the unknown. So far it's been one blessing after another - I'm feeling very grateful!

Friday, March 2, 2018

moving with cats - part 5

Thursday was a long day! We awoke in Columbus, Ohio and drove 600 miles (965 km) to Danbury, Connecticut trying to stay ahead of the big winter storm. We got a late start though due to a side trip to the vet.

The day started with taking Nahum to the vet. His sneezing kept going, diarrhea was getting worse, and he was open mouth breathing in the car, a sign of stress. I was able to schedule an appointment at a nearby Banfield (located in Petsmart). They confirmed the stress was causing him to develop an upper respiratory infection, so we started an antibiotic and something for his colitis. We also changed up his sedative medication.

We took him back to the car and he immediately ran to the litter box with diarrhea. He has very long furs, so you can imagine the mess. Trying to attend to that mess in the car was not much fun! Poor guy. The new sedative medication seemed to work, he was out for most of the day. I think the other meds are working too, I'm glad we stopped and got ahead of the URI instead of waiting for it to worsen.

We kept hearing about a big winter storm that was coming the the northeast and we wanted to avoid the heavy snows, so we pushed on to try to get away from most of it. We drove through pouring rain all day, it was stressful driving, but not as bad as snow and ice. The kitties slept through it all.

Marvin found himself a new favorite place to spend the journey. He's selected the passenger floor space. He curls up into the tiniest little ball and zonks. I think he likes the heater blowing warm air on him. It's sad though, I've really liked having a lap kitty!

We got into the hotel late. The kitties enjoyed exploring the space as they have grown accustom to doing. Marvin has been doing great being part of the general population. That is very awesome.

The map says we are only about 3 hours away from our new home. The weather might stretch that out (forecast is for mix of rain and snow and high winds). The end of the trip is near! It's gone very smooth and I'm ready to start settling into the new apartment. I'm eager to get Oliver, Pierre, and Rose out of their cages, where they've lived for the past week.

There has been a lot of little things that have really added up to help make this a positive experience. I'll try to highlight some of those things in the next post.

Thursday, March 1, 2018

moving with cats - part 4

We stayed Tuesday night at a friend's house in St. Louis. One of them is highly allergic to cats, so the kitties had to spend the night in the minivan, which was parked in their garage. I left Marvin free to roam the car. He enjoyed exploring all of it, somehow making his way all over. In the morning, I found him curled up on the driver's seat, fast asleep. I did my morning routine - emptying the litter boxes and feeding breakfast, after I left the rear hatch open for packing. When I came back in a few minutes to pack some stuff, I didn't see Marvin in the front, I figured he was exploring the minivan again. When I turned to go back into the house, there he was sauntering around the garage exploring it! He was so chill. Apparently he made his way to the back and out. I'm glad I saw him, yikes!

Oliver and Pierre being silly as we motor along.

We stopped near Indianapolis to visit my 89 year old aunt. She took us to a local tavern that she frequents for a delicious dinner. It's been so lovely to visit dear friends and family along the way. It seems they all live close to I-70, which is quite handy! 

Wednesday night, we are back in a hotel, this time near Columbus, Ohio. 

We tape up a pee pad behind the litter box because Nahum sometimes gets elevator butt when he's peeing. He's so easily distracted, I think he just starts thinking about something else and next thing you know he's peeing on the wall. At home Theo sprays in the litter box, he's not done it in the hotel yet, but we would rather be safe than sorry. The towels are for their tracking litter. The other hotels we stayed in had a hard floor under the litter box so we could just sweep up the litter, but this one has carpet, so the towels will make clean up easier.

It's been lovely to see the cats explore the hotel rooms. They take right to mapping it all out on the floor and then move to the vertical exploring. 

On the voyage today Nahum started sneezing quite frequently. Sneezing fits where he sneezes five or six times in a row. I'm guessing the stress is bringing up upper respiratory issues. In the hotel tonight he's only sneezed a few times. We might need stop at a vet on the way, for now we'll keep an eye on him.

konked out on the bed

The forecast for late Thursday into Friday is not looking so good. Lots of rain that will turn to snow late on Thursday night. So, we'll get as far as we can before it turns ugly and then call it a night. Hopefully we'll get into our new home sometime on Saturday. Meanwhile, we've been scouting for a storage unit in our desired area that has space for ABF to park their 28' trailer for us to unload. So far, we've not had much luck, which is causing some stress. I found one place that has a big enough parking lot, but no available storage units. And then there are places with units that don't have places to park such a large trailer. How are we suppose to unload our stuff if there is no place to park it?! I called the local ABF terminal in Vermont to see if they had any suggestions and the guy who answered the phone happened to be a very good friend from when we lived in Vermont before! Such a small world! It was fun to catch up and it helped ease the stress about figuring out the storage place dilemma. Hopefully we figure something out tomorrow so ABF will know where to deliver our stuff.