Thursday, September 30, 2010

better pictures

Exciting news! We recently invested in a new camera. This means that the quality of the pictures in this blog are about to improve significantly!

Wednesday, September 29, 2010


So, to put my mind to rest, I asked my vet today about the possibility of Rose being infected with FPV. She said the signs of an infected cat are obvious, and since Rose shows none of the symptoms, all is well. I also learned that she had received the FPV vaccine last time she was in.

Yahoo! I will sleep better tonight.

heart wrenching tragedy

Yesterday, when I read the headline from the local paper, Virus Forces Everett Shelter to Euthanize 81 Cats, my heart hurt.

The article states that the shelter staff believe a stray kitten that was brought to the shelter on Sept 20th had died overnight and tested positive for Feline Panleukopenia Virus (FPV), a highly contagious and usually lethal virus. After a second kitten died in the same circumstances, the decision was made to euthanize all the cats to eliminate the possibility of further spread of the virus.

Sometimes referred to as Feline Distemper, FPV virus is just plain nasty. It usually kills the infected cat within two weeks or it could be a matter of days. Mortality in kittens infected with FPV is 90%.

After reading the article in the paper, and imaging all those wonderful cats having to be put down, my heart hurt for those helpless kitties. Then I thought of the veterinary staff of the shelter, and how horrible it had to be for them to make the decision to euthanize all the cats. My next thought was of Rose and how, if we had decided to take her to the shelter as planned, she would now be dead. Thankfully that did not happen.

Then finally, being the natural worrier that I am, I began to worry. Not knowing any history about Rose, I feared, what if she was in the same litter as the infected kitten and thus is infected herself and potentially infected our other cats. The chances of this are slim, but it is within the realm of possibility. Needless to say, I was alarmed and concerned.

When I got home from work, I read up on the virus, and found that signs of infection become visible within 11 days. It has been 11 days since I have known Rose and she has not shown any signs of problems. My anxiety lessened a bit. But rather than take my chances, I still plan to call the vet tomorrow and discuss the matter in detail.

For more info on FPV, check out these resources:

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

blog challenges

Blogging while spending time with Rose is quite the challenge. For some reason, she insists on walking over the keyboard every few minutes. She just can't resist!

Hopefully, this will be one of the things she out grows.


Rose, sporting her training harness, has a good time with the scratching post.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Pacific Northwest Outlaws

I recently went to my third cat show this year. I am not sure at what point I become a regular or groupie. I did recognize some of the handlers from previous shows. The Pacific Northwest Outlaws hosted the 3rd annual Kitties Sweeter Than Wine Cat Show in Tukwila, WA.

At the previous show I had attended in Bellevue, I had heard about this show someone had said it was a bigger show. It seemed smaller to me but I have no data to substantiate that feeling.

According to The International Cat Association (TICA) website, there are currently 55 cat breeds recognized for championship competition. Sometime I would like to go to a show where all the breeds are showing. It seems at each show only a small selection of breeds are represented.

Seeing all the cats, the handlers, the vendors and the loads of cat paraphernalia is a good time! Or maybe it's the being around cat people who are crazier than myself that helps me feel at ease with who I am becoming! Most likely, I will keep checking out the shows.

Friday, September 24, 2010

fun friday feline factoid - teeth

Kittens are born without teeth. The 26 starter (deciduous or milk) teeth emerge between 6-7 weeks of age.

Kittens start to loose their starter teeth around 3 months of age and the permanent ones are usually fully developed between 6-7 months of age.

Adults cats have 30 permanent teeth.

Theo has 29 permanent teeth.

Information from: Advanced Animal Dentistry

Thursday, September 23, 2010

early trauma

I Just Got a Kitten. What Do I Do?: How to Buy, Train, Understand, and Enjoy Your KittenNot knowing anything about kittens, I thought it might be helpful to read some books to learn what I'm in for. So, I headed to the library and found, I Just Got a Kitten. What Do I Do?: How to Buy, Train, Understand, and Enjoy Your Kitten by Mordecai Siegal. Review in a nutshell: the book is interesting but lacking. Many of the questions I have about kittens remain unanswered. Topics are briefly touched on and I am left wanting much more.

For some reason authors of cat books feel the need to fill their books with mostly general information, even when they are suppose to be about a specific topic, like this one. Some general information would be fine, but when the majority of the book is general, it's annoying! I could go on about this, but I will save that for another post.

In the midst of the general stuff I did find some interesting tidbits.

The start of chapter one was of particular interest, especially with regard to my work as a mental health counselor. I have recently been learning a new treatment modality which takes into consideration early trauma factors such as the conditions present around pre-birth, birth and immediately afterwards. The author touches on this topic in relation to kittens.

"As a kitten grows into an adult, some aspects of its disposition actually depend on its very first moments of birth. It is easy to understand how inherited behavior and breed characteristics combined to create that kitten in your arms. What is seldom considered is how an easy or difficult birth and first hours of life can impact your kitten's capacity for survival, which includes seeking warmth, food and safety. It helps a great deal to understand the implications of those first few hours of life and longer. Understanding will help you cope with "cat problems" with patience, kindness, and effectiveness. A kitten that was born easily and with no complications, that was never bullied by its littermates when seeking its mother's warmth and milk is certain to have a sweeter, more delightful personality. If the opposite is the case, the kitten may grow into a shy, timid, fearful, or even aggressive cat."

The author goes on to describe in detail the feline birthing process, both with and without complications. He concludes with, "If a kitten's first moments of life involve a struggle to breathe or some other physical trauma, the stage could be set for a less-than-desirable adult temperament. A kitten that is among the last to be born and is prevented from getting to the mother by the others in the litter, even for a short time, or cannot find its way may become a shy, timid, or aggressive cat" (pg 7-11).

The author doesn't provide any references, so I don't know if his thoughts are based on research or purely conjecture. But the idea is intriguing. Early trauma sets the kitten up for a more challenging life. Could the same be true for humans? I think the research is starting to indicate that this is true.

I really like his statement about putting into perspective the cat's current behavior problems in light of past trauma. In other words, approach the challenging cat with compassion, kindness and understanding rather than anger and contempt. I believe the same approach works well with humans as well.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010


Selecting a name for a cat is quite the challenge. I can't imagine how parents select a name for their human child.

We didn't name Max, he came to us pre-named. His name fit him very well, he was very much a Max.

Willow was also pre-named. The rescue organization that saved her, named her very appropriately.

The same rescue group who named Willow also named her brother. But we didn't think their selection fit his personality. So, we pondered for a few days before landing on Nahum. A solid, hefty name for a solid, hefty cat.

It took us some time to name Theo. But now that we have had time to fully test out his name, I would say his name fits him well.

After browsing through many names and looking up their meanings, we have settled on a name for our new little kitty friend. Henceforth, she shall be known as Rose.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010


Even though we have chosen to take in the little kitten, I remain uncertain if it is the right choice.

I like her.

I have been wanting a kitten.

Her personality seems wonderful.

The addition of Theo was a positive for all of us. It's hard to think of life without him.

Four cats just sounds like a lot! Is it too many? Will Nahum's, Willow's and Theo's quality of life suffer because there will be another cat vying for attention? Will it be too big of a drain on our finances? Will people think we are crazy for having four cats? Will she get along well with the other cats? Will there be problems having two females?

I keep telling myself that if problems arise, we can always adopt her out to a good home, although, I imagine that is way easier said than done.

I did tell Laura that four is the limit, any future rescue's will need to go to the shelter, although I added one small caveat: we may need to reconsider if we run across a longhaired black and white with a white chin!

Monday, September 20, 2010


It appears as though our family has unexpectedly grown once again! We have both fallen for our new little kitten friend. She is very lovey and playful. She likes rolling over to have her tummy rubbed, having her head rubbed and bopping her little nose against a human nose! Those are all great features!

At 2.2 pounds, she seems tiny. Before the kitten came on the scene Willow looked small, but now, after spending time with the kitten, Willow looks like a big cat and Nahum looks giant! That's weird!

The vet treated her for her bugs, but recommended for us to quarantine her from the other cats for two weeks in case she has an upper respiratory infection. So, we made her a cozy spot up in the office room - which also served as Theo's quarantine room. We brought up some toys for her to play with and she has been having a ball playing like crazy. She seems fairly at ease, which has been great.

9/18/10 4:07pm

"Negative. She's getting some pills and shots now. She's got fleas, ear mites, and round worms [and cutes]. She may have more stuff but we have to wait for the fecal test results to come back before we know for sure."

- text message from Laura

Sunday, September 19, 2010


Do what you need to do to capture the moth.

9/18/2010 3:44pm

"Testing for leukemia now. If negative, I'm buying the kitten package. She got me good."

-text message from Laura.

Saturday, September 18, 2010


The look of desire.

the next day

The new little kitty ate all her food and drank her water. In the morning, she was still huddled in her small box. She was more amenable to being petted. She hung out in my lap for a bit and after some time she began to softly purr.

I don't have any previous experience with kittens, so I can't compare this little one to others. She seems small, soft, boney and scared. I was pleased she let me love on her, she even turned her head for better cheek-scratchies! She almost rolled over for tummy rubs!

Now comes wrestling with the choice of what to do with her, that's the part that makes me uneasy. If she is healthy I am sure she would get adopted from the shelter. Although, since I haven't ever had a kitten, I would enjoy having the experience and I can see Willow taking her in and being a good mother to her.

Friday, September 17, 2010

the lodger

Update on the rescue.

I happen to notice the guy who owned the SUV stop and take off the note from the windshield of his truck. He was very helpful in assisting me in capturing the little girl. She eluded us for some time, crawling on top of the transmission but eventually we were able to poke her with a stick to get her to move back toward the engine compartment. She promptly disappeared in the radiator fan shroud.

Then another good samaritan who was wandering by joined in the assist and he was able to pick her up when she edged out just a little. He dropped her in the box I was holding and I carried her over to the vet.

One of the staff members recognized the kitten. Apparently a woman had found the stray kitten near her house, brought it to the vet to be scanned for a microchip. It had no chip so she planned to keep it overnight and bring it to the animal shelter in the morning. While carrying it back to her car it escaped from her arms and ran off. She wasn't able to find it again.

The vet usually takes in stray animals and holds them until the shelter can pick them up when they open again. However, they were not able to take this little girl tonight because they are housing a cat with a highly contagious upper respiratory infection. So, we get to give the little girl a place to stay overnight until the shelter opens in the morning or maybe we have a new member of the household!!

New kitty's temporary home.


Yesterday I started to hear odd sounds outside, coming from somewhere in front of our house. It was either a weird bird or a little animal.

Today, I learned it is a little tiny kitten that is hiding up in the engine compartment of a large SUV parked in front of the house. I have no idea whose SUV it is. The few neighbors I have seen also don't know. I have been trying to lure it out enough so I can grab it.

I tried tuna and it snarfed a bunch up, but when I tried to grab it, it got away. The little guy is now even more scared and tucked itself up further.

My plan is to give it a little time to settle and then try again. With some luck I will be able to snatch it and bring it next door to the vet.

Meanwhile, while I wait, I need to get my other work done, but it is hard for me to settle know this little guy is so miserable.

hairball goop

Max always hated getting his hairball goop. Being a longhaired cat he needed to have it regularily but he refused to eat it. I bought every flavor and brand hoping to find the one he would eat, but that never happened.

I had heard that if you dab some on their paw they will lick it off. That seemed simple enough so I tried it. He grumped at me and bolted away. He rubbed his paw all over the furniture and carpet but never licked it off! After the huge mess that was made all over the house, it was clear that he won that battle.

Willow and Theo are happy to eat the goop, but they don't really need it, being shorthaired. Nahum, mister fuzzball, is another story, and of course like Max, he wouldn't touch the stuff. Then one day I had a stroke of genius, why not occasionally mix in some of the goopy stuff into the wet food that he loves? Soon after doing this he started taking the hairball goop straight up! Yahoo! Now I just need to remember to give it too him before the hairball comes up!

Friday fun feline factoid - TNR

TNR is an acronym, which means Trap, Neuter and Return.

TNR is an approach to assisting and managing feral cats. It started in Europe over 30 years ago and has been becoming more of an accepted practice in the United States over the past few decades.

The approach consists of trapping feral cats, bringing them to a clinic to be neutered and vaccinated and then returning them to their original outdoor home to live out their lives. The goal is to reduce the growing population of feral cats and reduce the stresses associated with mating and pregnancy.

Modern Cat website has been featuring articles all week about TNR including an interview with Becky Robinson, President and Co-founder of Alley Cat Allies, an advocacy organization dedicated to the protection and humane treatment of cats.

Thursday, September 16, 2010


 Willow enjoying her soft fleece blanket.

Brings new meaning to "Roasted Willow"

Wednesday, September 15, 2010


Giving a cat a pill is no fun.

I learned how to pill with Max. He used to get giant pills that were suppose to help with his kidney failure. The giant pills he needed were very difficult to give which led to a very unpleasant experience.

Theo and Willow get two pills a day. Thankfully, their pills are smaller than Max's were which makes things easier. I am very thankful that Laura has mastered the skill of pilling the cats, and she graciously takes care of this daily task.

Pill Pockets are treats with a little hole in them so that you can hide a small pill in them. They don't work for large pills or for really nasty tasting pills. Unlike dogs, the cats chew up their food, so whatever pill is in the pill pocket will get chewed up and thus they will taste it. I use them sparingly because I fear someday they will start refusing them. They are kind of gummy, and recently Willow started to resist eating them, I think she got it stuck in the roof of her mouth!

Willow gets two different pills. Rather than force two pills down her throat, we prepare her pills in advance and use empty size 3 gel-caps. Both pills fit in the small gel-cap. The benefits are many: one pill versus two, she doesn't have to taste the pills and gel-caps go down easier than a cut pill, especially if it takes several attempts and the pill gets wet.

These two options have made a necessary difficult task just a bit easier.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

flower snack

I knew Nahum loves lettuce, but I wasn't sure about flowers. Now I know, flowers are like lettuce, super-yummies-must-have!!

Laura had brought home some colorful gerber daisies which Nahum immediately had to check out and then eat. With lettuce and other leafy things, he gets like Theo does with food, all hyperfixated and there is no distracting him.

After making sure they are safe for cats, I sacrificed a daisy thinking he might not like the taste and would give it this passion. It didn't work, he plucked all the pedals off and ate them up. Then he wanted more! So much for that theory.

Bummer, another item to add to the list of fun things we can't have because of the cats: candles, plants, and flowers.

office help

Generous Theo, helping with the office work.

Monday, September 13, 2010

lessons learned

My friend, Lisa, recently gave me a bunch of fun little cat books. One of them was this little gem, All I Need to Know I Learned From My Cat (And Then Some): Double-Platinum Collector's Edition by Suzy Becker.

This books is awesome! It starts with a hilarious quiz to determine if you are a cat person. I wish I could include some of the frames from the quiz because it nails the characteristics of the crazy cat person. The book is a collection of simple cat sketches and tidbits of wisdom that Suzy Becker had learned from her cat, Binky. lets you see a few of the pages from inside the book from an earlier edition, which can be found at this link: All I Need to Know I Learned from My Cat

As I read it I realized there have been many lessons my cats have taught me. Here are a few:
  • always be curious
  • don't be afraid to take risks
  • don't be afraid to ask for what you want
  • play like no one's watching
  • new perspectives can be helpful
  • never underestimate the power of a snuggle
  • delegate the hard work to others
  • never pass up a cozy spot
  • never pee or poop near your food
  • purr more than you hiss
  • be able to entertain yourself
  • take pride in your work
  • discover the fun within every box
  • baths are more fun when taken with others
  • it's ok to get your crazies on
  • always explore
  • stay warm
  • you need not always be consistent
  • routines can be advantageous
  • always choose your battles carefully
  • don't be afraid to push the boundaries
  • there's nothing wrong with cleaning out your friend's ear
  • indulge yourself with treats
  • you can never get too many treats 
  • you get more loves when you bathe daily
  • a treat chaser always makes the medicine go down better
  • always insist on fresh water
  • live free of shame
  • be generous with your love
  • leap high to reach your goals
  • be festideous when using the bathroom
  • a little brushing can do wonders for one's appearance
  • clearly communicate your displeasure
  • cute can come at any size
  • don't be afraid to play in the night
  • it's ok to be goofy
  • know when to not take yourself too seriously
  • persistence often pays off
  • don't be afraid to fully use your senses
  • know your space well
  • don't hold back from putting your unique mark on your space
  • at times it can be advantageous to let others believe they are really in control
  • adding a little drama to a routine action makes life more interesting
  • make time to play everyday

And the list could go on...

Sunday, September 12, 2010

air quality improvement projects

I have made several recent changes in the house with hopes of helping Willow breathe easier this winter.

Phase one:

The first change was the ventilated litter boxes. This project is still in the design stages. The prototype was installed for only about 15 hours before it was suspended due to an unignorable complaint received (Willow peed on the rug in front of the sink). Perhaps it was too much change at once or the rickety nature of the prototype setup - regardless, her grievance was noted and action was taken.

I was generally pleased with the data gained from the prototype. The permanent installation is currently being planned and parts gathered. Rather than build a large enclosure, I found a jumbo enclosed litter box from Petco that will be outfitted with a ventilation system. That purchase will save a lot of time and work.

Phase two:

The second change is now complete with the installation of two Blueair Air Purifiers, one on each floor. The hope is that these purifiers will filter out the dust and other airborne particulate matter resulting in better breathing for everyone, but especially my asthmatic Willow.

Laura was concerned about them being too loud, but on the low setting, they are barely detectable. The first night of them being in place, Laura noted feeling less congested. So, hopefully, Willow is experiencing  some of the same benefits. Time will tell.

more feather toys

The second feather toy has now been created. After sequestering myself to a secret location, I stealthily fabricated the irrestible toy for Nahum. This time, I added more of the shiny strands, knowing that he loves those things.

Before the glue gun was even hot, Nahum had found me and seemed to know exactly what I was up to. He tried everything to enter, even trying to squeeze himself under the door. All his efforts attracted the other cats and when I was done I had a full kitty audience eager to see what was going on.

feather toy #2
I still would like to find some better suited feathers, but I haven't invested the hours scouring the interwebs for them yet. Another task waiting on the to-do list.

Friday, September 10, 2010

traveling Theo

I took Theo on the road yesterday. We went into Seattle to visit my friend Lisa and her Chocolate Lab, Gromit. It was the first road trip he has taken in quite a few months.

It was fun to show off his tricks (shake, sit, left and right) and to see him do so well in a different environment.

He was a little nervous at the start of the visit, but quickly settled in. I had forgotten how fun it is to take him with me. He seems to enjoy the treats and love, and I like having him along.

He truly is an amazing cat.

friday fun feline factoid - teeth chattering

Willow lives for the hunt - she loves it! She often sits in the window watching far off birds. Sometimes while watching her teeth will chatter.  Max never did this and neither does Nahum or Theo, so not knowing what was going on, the first time I saw this it was a little concerning.

Bruce Fogle, DVM addresses what he thinks is going on when a cat's teeth chatter. He believes the cat is frustrated. "When a housebound cat sees a potential meal sitting on the lawn, but can't get near it, he becomes frustrated. He lowers his head, stares intently at his prey and then, either knowingly or not, his teeth move as they would if he had captured the bird. He carries out a death bite but, in the absence of prey, all that happens is his teeth chatter."

I am not sure I am fulling buying into that explanation. Willow doesn't look frustrated when she chatters, she looks like she is scheming how she is going to take down the bird. When a cat bites to kill their prey, is it one death bite or a series of rapid death bites, like what happens in the chatter? This fascinating characteristic to me remains a mystery.

Quote from: 101 Questions Your Cat Would Ask Its Vet If Your Cat Could Talkby Bruce Fogle and illustrated by Lalla Ward. A fun factoid about this book: Lalla Ward, an actress, played my favorite Doctor Who companion, Time Lady Romana, starting in 1979.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

litter box ventilation

As I pondered ways to reduce the clay-litter dust, I wondered about improving ventilation at the box. Create negative pressure in the litter box so the clay-dust doesn't linger nor coat everything in the room.

A quick Google search and I found this site, Litter Box Vent Fan, which details how to make a vent to take care of litter box odor. I like the idea, I wonder if it would work as well for dust removal as it does for the odor.

So, I got to thinking, which lead to planning, which lead to building.

The plan:
Wood box with front side that opens, allowing for litter box to slide out (litter box base attached with glider drawer tracks for easy access).

Concept drawing #2, with access door open.

The building:
The base that will ultimately hold the litter box.

The fan/filter housing and wiring installed in the prototype.

The installing:
Finished prototype. Box under broom, behind litter box is the fan/filter housing.

A look inside the litter box housing. The circle at the top right of the photo is the vent going into the fan/filter housing.

The testing:
Willow, checking out the nearly finished prototype.

Moments later, Nahum has to try it out
The fan is a little exhaust fan from a computer and the filter is a folded over paper towel. I am not sure the fan is creating enough negative pressure as it is. There may be a need for a more air-tight hood with a flap-type door or maybe a bigger fan. I was pleased that the fan is quiet and the cats are not bothered by the sound or by having the box covered. For now, I will give the prototype a trial run while making notes on possible problems and then will make the necessary adjustments.