Sunday, February 28, 2010

home depot

Theo had his first outing into Home Depot today.

On the way home from the cat store, we needed to stop to get some things for the house. I always see people bringing their dogs in and around the store, so I figured I could bring my cat.

The "no pets" sign on the door stopped us at first, but the friendly associate at the door invited us to bring him in. So, in we went.

Theo sure got a lot of attention. Most everyone wanted to put their hands on him. Little kids exclaimed, "look mom, a kitty!" Some employees mentioned they had never seen a cat in Home Depot before. One associate even showed us pictures of her cats from her cell phone. When we arrived at the registers, several cashiers fought to get us in their lane so they could visit with Theo. He was quite the celebrity!

Through it all, Theo did fine. He doesn't seem to mind being the center of the world. I think he would have enjoyed having more time to explore everything at his pace. Eventually, the sound of a nearby saw started to make him nervous, so it was time to go.

Theo likes his adventures.

Monday, February 22, 2010


One of the delightful things about Max was his love of being close. He was a true lap-kitty, and I loved every minute of it.

Today was a first. Nahum usually prefers hanging out on the floor rather than on the furniture with the humans. On two occasions today, when I was working at the table, Nahum hopped right into my lap, curled up and took a snooze. It was as if he did this all the time.

Then tonight, as I was sitting on the couch watching Doctor Who, Nahum hopped up and stretched out on my lap. He is now fast asleep and I'm loving every minute of it!

I am sure hoping this is a new regular thing.

Friday, February 19, 2010

week in pictures

Willow demonstrates the upside-down kitty pose.

Willow and Nahum take turns in the box.

Theo hanging with the husky.

Theo sneaking some under the table snuggles.

Sleepy Willow.

kitty speak

Since I grew up as a dog person, I had a good understanding of dog speak, but since having cats, I have had a lot of learning to do. Kitty speak is quite different than dog speak.

To assist my faithful readers who may not understand kitty speak, I have compiled a brief glossary of the language, as spoken in our house. Please note: some of the specific word meanings may reflect the local dialect and thus may not apply outside the immediate household region.

cannonball kitty - a kitty pose which involves the cat becoming as tight of a ball as possible, generally employed when being held, purr factory will be offline.

cheek scratchies - a form of loves involving scratching only the fur on a cheek, when engaged properly the cat will respond by gently leaning their head into the scratch, exhibiting scrunchy face, and their purr factory will be operating at full capacity.

chin scratchies - a form of loves involving scratching only the fur under the chin, when engaged properly the cat will exhibit scrunchy face and their purr factory will be operating at half to full capacity.

concrete kitty - cat becomes instantly heavy and solid, usually a tactic to resist being moved, purr factory will be offline.

dinners - food, usually consisting of dry nuggets.

getting their crazies on - when the cat enters an altered state, involving quick bursts of running around the house, pouncing all over the furniture as if attacking imaginary prey and a wild mix of loud sounds.

good asking - a statement of praise spoken after the cat clearly and kindly states their desire. (i.e. cat will sit by door or ring bell on door to request porchtime or cat will drag favorite toy over to human to request  making the toy move.)

hairball goop - the nasty goopy paste stuff the cats get to prevent hairballs.

kitty chiropractic - a kitty pose that involves a full stretch of the back, in the ancient day this term referred to a specific set of procedures that were used to realign the cat's back, now the term is used loosely whenever the cat gets a human induced back stretch or odd twist.

kitty putty - when the cat becomes relaxed to the point of becoming a puddle of purring fur, usually as a result of receiving an overload of loves, purr factory will be operating at full capacity.

kitty spot - an intentionally created cozy spot for a cat to enjoy, often made of blankets, pillows, special rug, cat bed, or some combination of these. (i.e. ottoman placed in front of the fire with a cat bed on top.)

litternose - when the cat comes from the litter box and has litter stuck to their nose, the result of getting their moist nose too close to the litter when sniffing.

loves - petting, fondling, kissing, rubbing, chin scratchies, cheek scratchies, tummy rubs, etc.

nuggets - specific type of dinners, the dry kibble food that the cats can't get enough of.

porchtime - time where the cats can freely hangout on the enclosed porches, auxiliary activities include  moth hunting and bird watching.

purr factory - the source of the cat's purr sound, accompanied by a gentle vibration. The traditional usage of the term requires a modifying clause that indicates the level of purr production. (i.e. Willow's purr factory is fully online.)

roasted Willow - a condition that occurs when Willow sleeps too close to the stove and is warm to the touch.

sausage kitty - a kitty pose consisting of a stretched out, elongated cat usually located between two objects.

scrunchy face - a response to certain types of loves, when the cat tightens their cheek muscles, making all the whiskers point forward, usually occurs in response to chin and cheek scratchies.

sheet tunnel - the creation of a temporary kitty fort under the sheets using pillows or other assorted items, blanket tunnel variation also common.

special rugs - small floor rugs placed in various locations that attract lounging cats.

special string - Nahum's favorite boot-lace, which he carries everywhere.

spot stealing - when a cat immediately claims your spot on the couch after you get up for a second, usually involves the cat giving a look of "this spot was available so it's mine now."

tummy rubs - a type of loves that involves the cat requesting for their tummy to be rubbed. Use of specifier is needed if special condition exists: upside-down tummy rubs (cat is fully upside-down and requesting tummy rubs) or stolen tummy rubs (cat is not requesting tummy rubs but tummy rubs are taken anyway).

upside-down kitty - a kitty pose involving a sleeping cat that is completely upside-down with all four paws in the air. The perfected upside-down kitty pose requires having all four paws curled.

Willow-monster -  a specific term used to describe Willow when she has her crazies on, Sweet Willow becomes wild kitty as she runs around and plays hard.

Willow-paw - a form of physical resistance, utilized immediately upon the cat being picked up. The classic form consists of a rigid front leg placed firm against the human's chest in conjunction with a constant pushing-away force.  This form is also usually accompanied by a defiant facial expression and a rigid tail.

yardtime - time for a cat to explore and play in the yard, usually involves eating grass, rolling in gravel, exploration, and lots of sniffing.

yummy flakes - dried bonito fish flakes, a favorite of all the cats.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

difference between dogs and cats

I received this in an email several years ago from an old friend in Vermont and it still makes me laugh every time I think of it.


8:00 am - Dog food! My favorite thing!

9:30 am - A car ride! My favorite thing!

9:40 am - A walk in the park! My favorite thing!

10:30 am - Got rubbed and petted! My favorite thing!

12:00 PM - Lunch! My favorite thing!

1:00 PM - Played in the yard! My favorite thing!

3:00 PM - Wagged my tail! My favorite thing!

5:00 PM - Milk bones! My favorite thing!

7:00 PM - Got to play ball! My favorite thing!

8:00 PM - Wow! Watched TV with the people! My favorite thing!

11:00 PM - Sleeping on the bed! My favorite thing!


Day 983 of my captivity. My captors continue to taunt me with bizarre
little dangling objects. They dine lavishly on fresh meat, while the
other inmates and I are fed some sort of hard, dry nuggets. Although
I make my contempt for the rations perfectly clear, I nevertheless
must eat something in order to keep up my strength. The only thing
that keeps me going is my dream of escape.

Day 984 of my captivity. In an attempt to disgust them, I once again
vomit on the carpet.

Day 985 of my captivity. Today I decapitated a mouse and dropped its
headless body at their feet. I had hoped this would strike fear into
their hearts, since it clearly demonstrates what I am capable of.
However, they merely made condescending comments about what a 'good
little hunter' I am. Fools!

Day 986 of my captivity. There was some sort of assembly of their
accomplices tonight. I was placed in solitary confinement for the
duration of the event. I could hear the noises and smell the food. I
overheard that my confinement was due to the power of 'allergies.' I
must learn what this means, and how to use it to my advantage.

Day 987 of my captivity. Today I was almost successful in an attempt
to assassinate one of my tormentors by weaving around his feet as he
was walking. I must try this again tomorrow -- but at the top of the
stairs. I am convinced that the other prisoners here are flunkies and
snitches. The dog receives special privileges. He is regularly
released and seems to be more than willing to return. He is obviously


We are on week three of Theo having diarrhea. Thankfully, he hasn't been showing any other signs of problems. His appetite is strong, he has been drinking lots of water to make up what gets passed, and he is as energetic as ever. And I am very grateful that he faithfully uses his litter box!

After many trips to the vet it seems like we have made little progress in figuring out what is going on. One test was positive for giardia while subsequent tests have been negative and other parasite tests have come back negative. We are now trying the more sensitive tests which take 12 days to get results.

Meanwhile we recently switched medications from Metronidazole to an antibiotic (Clavamox) as we wait for test results.

One of the television shows I enjoy is "All Creatures Great and Small," an old British show featuring adaptions of James Herriot's writings. In the show, I have noticed that James often gives his patients generic "tablets" in hopes that they will help. It seems no patient leaves the office without getting these tablets. I have wondered if the tablets are more for the human's needs than the animal's. Maybe the tablets provide the human a sense of hope - hope that the competent, knowledgeable vet has dispensed a viable solution for the animal's ailment. I can't help but wonder if Clavamox is the modern-day equivalent of James' tablets.

Along with his medication, Theo also gets a special low-allergen, extremely expensive food. And, for the sake of convenience, we have decided to give all the cats the special food. This saves us from having to hover over Theo as he eats to prevent him from stealing food he isn't suppose to be eating. If he continues to need the special food we will need to work out a long term plan for the cats to eat separate because of the prohibitive nature of the food ($50 for 10 pounds).

Besides the messy factor of Theo's condition, which certainly has its very unpleasant moments, I am really bummed that Theo will probably miss some Pet Partners/Animal Assisted Therapy Skills class while his condition continues. I will ask the vet for a ruling on the matter in our next conversation.

round two

3:23am - Willow does it again. The sound of a cat bounding down the stairs wakes me up.  No chance to return to sleep due to Theo's insistent climbing all over me.

night play

I was awakened at 3:23am to the sound of a cat playing fervently somewhere downstairs. I immediately figured it was Theo having a good time with his favorite toy. A quick cat-head check on the bed revealed that Willow was missing.

Shortly after this realization, I heard the signature sound of Willow's play, the sound of her rattly mouse being batted down the stairs with her in hot pursuit. She loves to chase her mouse down the stairs only to run it right back to the top for another round. This repeats over and over again with lots of excited yowling and yelping.

After an hour of listening to her non-stop play, I was hoping she might tire and settle, so I could go back to sleep. It occurred to me in that moment, that it had been quite awhile since I have heard Willow have so much fun. She used to play this was often, but since we brought Theo into the home both Willow and Nahum have been a lot more reserved in their play. I hope this morning is a sign of what is to come.

Monday, February 15, 2010

party litmus

You know it's a good party when someone wears the lampshade on their head!

Friday, February 12, 2010

a week of cats

Scenes around the house from the past week:

Nahum enjoying some roughage.

Nahum and Willow sharing the watering hole.

Theo finding another use for his Kickeroo.

Willow enjoying her perch.

Action shot: Theo watching bird on string.

Action shot: Theo attacking bird on string.

Action shot: Theo clinging to post.


A good friend, Lisa, recently chastised me because I saw catnip bubbles in the cat-store but didn't purchase them. So, on the next visit to the store, the catnip bubbles came home with me.

Lisa promised that the cats would love the bubbles, that they would experience hours of amazing fun and silliness. Lisa promised that I would see flying cats snatching bubbles out of the air.

Reality looked a little different than Lisa's vision, as the cats were a little more inhibited in their expressions of overwhelming delight.

Willow sniffing a bubble. She went on to cautiously pop a few with her nose.

Nahum enjoyed popping the bubbles with his paw.

Willow investigates and pops another bubble while Nahum works hard to contain his enthusiasm.

After reporting to Lisa the disappointing results of the bubble play session, she offered to have her dog's best dog-friend teach the cats how to freely express their inner-bubble-passion. Now that could be exciting!

Tuesday, February 9, 2010


In class this morning Theo seemed more comfortable than before. I wasn't sure that could be possible because he was so easy going from the start!

He meowed a lot less. He wanted to explore the space and even played with his toys for a bit. Eventually he sprawled on the floor and rolled over - all this with the big dogs nearby. These are all things that a sacred cat would not be doing.

Theo did just fine in all the practice exercises today. He draws many compliments on his gentle, easy going nature, which is fun to hear. I feel like the proud papa, like I had anything to do with Theo's sweet disposition! He came this way, but I suppose the world doesn't need to know that!


Today I received some disappointing news at class. The Delta Society requires the handler to have known their potential therapy animal for at least 6 months before completing the evaluation to become registered. This means I will need to wait until June to complete the registration process.

It is not the end of the world but it is disappointing to wait more, I feel like I have been waiting years already!

I understand Delta's requirement, it makes perfect sense. The Delta Society lists three requirements for a good therapy animal. The animal must be reliable, predictable and controllable. Being able to predict an animal's behavior in diverse conditions is only going to happen after spending lots of time together. I have only known Theo now for about 5 weeks, which is not nearly long enough to know how he will respond to most situations. I can guess that he would meet any situation with his gentle easy going nature but time is needed to know for sure.

So, I will finish the class at the end of March and then get three months to continually practice everything before the big test. Then I hope we both pass!

Sunday, February 7, 2010


Some people come wired with strong amount of willpower. I am not one of those people, thus I am subject to making emotional in the moment decisions rather than sticking to the plan.

Willow seems to know this about me and she frequently tries to exploit this weakness. The cats each get one third of a cup of dry nuggets twice a day. Nahum and Theo wolf them all down with great gusto. Willow likes to take her time and spread her meal out over several hours. She makes frequent trips to her bowl gobbling down a few nuggets each time. Sadly, her style of eating is not very compatible with Nahum and Theo, who will gladly eat all her nuggets in her absence.

A few hours after her nuggets have been depleted, she starts working me over. She lays by her bowl and makes herself look as though she is about to expire - a horrible fate that could easily be avoided if only I would give her a few nuggets. So, I admit, sometimes I sneak her just a few nuggets to get her through another couple of hours.

Trouble is, she is kind of pudgy. Some of that may be do to the medication she has to take for her asthma. Yet, it could also have something to do with all the extra bits of nuggets she often gets.

How do I resist giving her something she so desperately wants? Cognitively, I know she doesn't need them and my giving them to her actually hurts her and yet, her expression of dire misery so often yields nuggets.

As a kitty parent, Willow needs me to be strong in my ability to resist her manipulative ways. This is my challenge - to love well by being willing to disappoint and trusting that it is for the greater good. Willow gives me many opportunities to practice strengthening my willpower.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

pet partners class no. 2

Monday was session two of class. Nahum got an excused absence and stayed home, I don't think he is completely over the traumatic experience of the previous week. However Theo was up for the challenge.

We started the class by practicing how to communicate a polite yet firm boundary to keep an approaching person with an animal from having contact with your animal. The exercise requires being attune to and controlling your animal at all times, engaging the approaching person and animal and paying attention to the surroundings. Thats a lot to do while politely telling someone 'no, I do not want your animal interacting with my therapy cat.'

The reason for the boundary is twofold, the therapy animal is working not playing and second, you don't want to take the risk that the animal's owner may not be able to control their animal or their animal becoming aggressive. Best to just avoid such contact.

Theo had no problem with this. Even though a stranger with a dog approached fairly closely he remained completely calm and slightly curious.

The second part of class was to introduce your animal to various pieces of medical equipment to see how they would respond. A wheelchair and walker were maneuvered near all the animals. Some of the dogs were slightly stressed while Theo was unimpressed.

The third segment was to calm your animal as it hears a loud startling sound. The instructor would drop a large book on the floor, which made a loud sound. Again some dogs got sacred. Theo remained quite calm, looking back to see where the noise came from while enjoying the closeness of being held.

So far Theo's easygoing nature is making the class exercises seem simple.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

rescue dream

A childhood dream has come true! I remember as a little boy my mom and I would dream together about having the resources to be able to rescue every unwanted dog we found and provide it food, water, shelter, medical care and unlimited love.

This dream fit comfortably in my animal-orientated-compassionate heart and was intensified by some animal related trauma.

A horrific scene from childhood remains burned in my mind. I couldn't have been older than about ten. I was riding in the car with my mom as we travelled the highway at about 60 mph. A short distance in front of us we saw a mother duck leading her family of ducklings into traffic. Time slowed as we watched the ducks get slaughtered one by one under the wheels of passing traffic. Feathers spread across the lanes. My heart wrenched in pain as I felt the overwhelming feeling of my powerlessness, there was nothing I could do to prevent what was transpiring. My mom and I vowed to somehow attempt to rescue the animal if we ever had the opportunity again.

One day back when I lived in Vermont, I was heading to an early breakfast meeting when I found a loose dog wandering dangerously in the traffic lanes of the interstate. I could not just leave it to a horrible fate, so I pulled over and somehow managed to get it out of traffic without getting either of us killed. I shared some of my pancakes with the hungry and very friendly dog and then brought it to the local vet. I later learned they euthanized it due to its age and condition. I was devastated.

A few years ago, while working in my yard I discovered a seriously wounded cat hiding in the bushes. Unsure what to do, I allerted the staff at the nearby veterinarian office (which is adjacent to our house.) Several staff members came immediately over and retrieved the cat. I learned later the cat was injuried beyond repair and was suffering greatly, so they did the humane thing and ended it's pain.

December 31st, 2009 was the day my dream came true. An abandoned house-cat had appeared on my in-laws doorstep a few days earlier, hungry and freezing. We learned it had first appeared several weeks prior. After checking into the nearly nonexistant animal control resources in rural Indiana we decided the best option for the little guy was to take him home with us. So we flew him home with us with the intent of either giving him a home with food and all the love he could want or finding him a good home. This lovey, sweet guy soon became known as Theo, which is of Greek origin and means "a gift of God".

I had been desiring a lap cat and a candidate for a therapy cat for a long time and Theo is both of these. Theo and I are currently working toward becoming a registered Pet Partner team through the Delta Society.

It may have taken 30 years, but my dream has come true, I have directly made a difference in the life of a suffering animal and in doing so have received a great gift.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010


Nahum loves his green leafy veg! We first noticed this when we brought home celery from the grocery. We found him chowing on the little celery leaves that were sticking out of the bag. After the next shopping trip he poked his way through the bags and found a supply of lettuce leaves. Yum!

Recently Laura had a fresh bunch of basil rehabing in a glass of water on the kitchen counter overnight. In the morning we found a lone stalk of basil on the floor with the leaves munched off. The mysterious greens thief struck again!

We have since stored the basil in the microwave but the few times it was accidentally left out we found evidence of nibbling on the leaves.

In an attempt to discover the guilty party, I placed the basil on the floor. Willow and Theo gave it a cursory sniff then moved on. Nahum was transfixed and quickly shifted into graze mode!

Salads beware!