Wednesday, March 28, 2012

photo contest

The annual Purrfect Pals Average Joe Cat Show is coming up on May 5th. One of the many fun fundraising activities the organizers put together is a photo contest. I decided to get in on it this year by entering a picture of Theo and Willow. Theo is in the best black and white photo category and Willow is in the best sleeping cat photo and best contented cat photo categories.

Click on the link below each photo to go to the Average Joe Cat Show site. There are some other great photos posted, so the competition will be tough. Each vote is $1 USD.

I hope I win the contest, but in the end the real winners are the thousands of cats that Purrfect Pals helps each year.

Friday, March 23, 2012


Thanks everyone for your prayers and purrs - it worked! My mom tells me that dad's procedure went well. He needed only one stent and got to come home the same day. So, now he's resting at home. Yea!! 

Dad, I hope you feel better soon! I'm sure if you had a cat purring in your lap it would expedite the healing process. I would loan you one (or two) but the distance is great. Sadly, I don't think dog licks are nearly as effective a healing agent as cat purrs but I guess you'll have to make do.

I also really, really appreciated everyone's comments about the euthanizing of in utero kittens. I was feeling horrid about it and knowing that I'm not alone helps me a lot. Together we can grieve the loss and keep doing what we can to care for the community cats.

No new news on Willow. She continues to act normal (and wonderful!) I haven't been around to witness a poop event to know how that goes for her. Hopefully, I'll get that opportunity over the weekend - that sounds like a good time!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

mixed bag

It's been kind of an emotionally heavy day.

I've said many times that I am new to the TNR thing. I am learning lots about how it all works. Apparently a few more cats were trapped from the site that I assisted with over the weekend. Two of the cats were female, pregnant with 5 kittens each. I wondered how cats could be spayed when pregnant, so I asked. The answer has rattled me.

In utero kittens are euthanized.

I didn't sleep well last night, waking numerous times thinking of those kittens.

This answer was explained to me and I have to admit that the explanation makes logical sense. And I can't think of other better solutions and yet I feel immense sorrow at this outcome. Whenever I think of this my heart aches. I can tell that this is going to take me some time to grieve and work through.

A long time ago, I bought a small stuffed rabbit dog toy thinking the cats might like to hunt it and Kickeroo-it. It was a major flop, none of the cats expressed the slightest interest. So, in a stroke of genius last night, I tossed it to the ferals, thinking maybe they would appreciate it and boy have they! They love batting it around, pouncing on it and even Kickeroo-ing it! It's so fun to see them play and play.

Handsome Oliver posing near his new rabbit toy

Unnamed feral pouncing on the new rabbit toy

I live 3,000 miles (4,828 km) away from my mother and father. I really wish this were not so, especially in moments like these.

I got an email from my mother this morning letting me know that my father would be going into the hospital early tomorrow (Thursday) morning for an angioplasty. Apparently yesterday the cardiologist found some irregular heart beats and he has at least one artery with some significant blockage. They won't really know the extent of the situation until they get in there. His angioplasty was scheduled with some urgency - the cardiologist is coming in on his day off, which I'm hoping is really because his boat payment is coming due and he saw an opportunity for some overtime, rather than this being truly urgent.

My father experienced a similar thing 10 years ago, when the angioplasty revealed he needed immediate quadruple bypass surgery. That was scary at the time but thankfully, everything went well in the end.

I would appreciate any and all prayers and purrs for a successful procedure and subsequent operation.

The USS Nimitz, an aircraft carrier is here!

I live in a Navy town. The aircraft carrier that had been stationed here for many years recently left for a new homeport and the Navy pier was looking rather naked. But no more, as the Nimitz commands a significant presence on the waterfront.

Willow hasn't lost any of her cutes

I'm a bit of a hypercondriac when it comes to my kitties well-being. I happened to arrive at the house this afternoon right when Willow was finishing up in the litter box. I thought nothing of it until I noticed her anus was all bloody. I freaked. The stool appeared normal, so I'm not sure what's going on, but I'll be keeping a sharp eye on her butt!

Monday, March 19, 2012

another TNR day

I had the good fortune of spending a good chunk of my day out trapping feral cats with Vicki, an experienced TNR'er. She was told there were two cats hanging around an industrial area. A kind citizen has been feeding them regularly but the cats hadn't been sterilized, so we went today hoping to trap them so they could be spayed and neutered.

This was the spot that the cats have been getting fed, tucked between these trees and the fence. Since the cats are used to coming to this spot, we decided to set the traps here.

These are the two we were after, a fluffy Siamese-mix and a small black kitten. Everywhere the Siamese-mix would go, the black kitten would be right by her, we guessed the kitten was following mama.

The fluffy Siamese-mix is heading into the trap while the black kitten watches.

In the end we actually saw four cats at this site, and when I left we had successfully trapped the fluffy Siamese-mix and a beautiful male (which was unexpected). The black kitten was still at large as well as a large longhaired black cat. Vicki was going to stay another hour and I haven't heard yet if she was successful in trapping more cats.

The more I get into TNR the more I learn. I'm amazed at just how many ferals there are out there that often go unseen unless you are looking for them. Even in my neighborhood there are many but all those years of living here I just never saw them.

Vicki drove me around the area and showed me several sites where she has trapped over the years as well as several colonies that she takes care of. She alone has helped hundreds of cats in the community - what a great blessing to the community cats and the community.

This orange and white guy was one that Vicki TNR'ed over six years ago! He's doing great living outside of a medium-sized apartment complex along with many other cats that Vicki has taken care of. Today he got to enjoy the remainder of the can of trap bait (stinky goodness!) Today I learned that one person can make a huge difference in the lives of many cats.

I also learned that the community cats face many dangers. When we were waiting and watching the traps at this industrial site, a man came out and started spraying down the white fence along the property. He was spraying on bleach to kill the mildew (one of the joys of living in the Pacific Northwest!) The first picture at the top was pre-bleach spray and you can see the mildew and the third picture above is 2.5 hours later, post-bleach spray and the mildew is gone! It seemed to me the concentration of bleach was very high, which would pose a significant danger to the kitties.

The cats make their way through the fences wherever there are openings.

On this site, this was one of the main entry routes for the cats. The hole is on the bottom right. Just to the left of the hole under the fence is a large coil of razor wire. One brush against that and poor kitty will come away with some serious lacerations. These community cats face significant dangers every day of their lives. 

I loved spending the time out in the community today looking for the ferals. TNR is such a win-win, for the cats and the community. I also greatly appreciate the opportunity to learn from experienced TNR people - thanks Vicki!

I came home feeling all jazzed up from trapping kitties, I thought it best to use some of that energy to improve Oliver's life. I don't think he cared for the idea of having his guest house on the enclosed back porch - he felt that was a demotion, a step in the wrong direction!

So, drawing on some inspiration from the Katnip Lounge's VIC Sky Lounge, I built Oliver a raised sleeping perch. It fits his heating pad nicely. I still need to sew him up a rectangular bed which will fit the spot much better than the oval bed that he's currently using.

Of couse Oliver snoopervised the construction and as soon as it was complete, he had to test it out.

I think he likes it!

Oliver gets to enjoy views of the backyard, the sideyard and the kitchen all from one spot!


Sunday, March 18, 2012

friendly feral?

Oliver greeted me this morning with one eye closed. It appeared as if he had been rubbing his eye quite a bit as the fur around it was gone. He's done this before and after awhile it gets better, but this time I thought I might take him next door to the vet to get looked over. I also wanted to inquire about Prozac (to stop the spraying), to get him microchipped and a nail trim as his claws were razor sharp.

Getting him into the cat carrier went fairly easily as he hadn't been acquainted with one before. I baited him with some nip, when he was mostly in I pushed his butt inside and zipped it up. For sure he didn't like it and he told me all about it.

I made the point to warn the vet staff that he was a friendly feral but he would probably wouldn't be showing his friendly side. When the vet tech came in to take his vitals and clip his nails all by her lonesome I thought she was crazy. As she started to unzip the carrier, I felt my heart in my throat as I envisioned blood flying after Oliver bit and scratched up her arm.

Oliver decided to make a complete fool of me! He was completely friendly. He let the vet tech and the vet do whatever they wanted to him and he didn't protest at all. Claws were trimmed, temperature taken, eyes examined - it didn't matter what was happening to him, he was kitty putty.

After a few minutes he even rolled over on the table and asked to have his tummy rubbed!

Some feral cat!

Who is this cat? What did you do with my Oliver?!

Oliver was better behaved than some of my indoor cats. I was thrilled to see him so easy going. He's such a great cat, sure would be a great indoor cat. When it was all over, he came home with a microchip, Prozac and some drops for his eyes. He doesn't spray very often these days, but some spraying is still too much. Hopefully the Prozac helps him curb this habit so he can come inside. I also picked up some Prozac for Buddy too.

When back home, I treated Oliver to some nip. He sure loves his nip!

With Laura's help, I moved Oliver's guest house into the enclosed back porch. With his heating pad inside the guest house. Hopefully he stays warmer this way, although it makes it harder for me to look out the back door window and see if he's on the porch. I might end up building him a little enclosed spot up on the wall. 

After it was all over, I had a pleasant feeling inside, like we are a few steps closer to possibly getting Oliver to be an inside kitty. Seeing him so lovey and sweet at the vet sure made me think he would make an excellent inside kitty.

Friday, March 16, 2012

ferals, ferals everywhere!

I'm sure this will come as no surprise, but my fondness for Oliver's family is growing. The ferals are slowly becoming more accustomed to having me observe them through the window. They no longer run away when they see me watching. I love getting to play with them with the chase the red dot game.

Kim at Fuzzy Tales pointed out that Mama Kitty needs a new name and I agree. For now I'm going with MK until he reveals his name to me. I'm not sure how to name the other two as I would never be able to tell them apart to know which one is which!

Here they all are in a rare group picture. Oliver is at the bottom center. MK (far right) and a sibling are playing with a fake mousie while the other sibling is having some dinner in the Dining Hall.


I'm really liking MK. He's different from the others in that he has a solid watch patch on his chest and a very short but wide tail. This makes it easy to identify him (the other two still look the same to me). MK seems to have a delightfully fun personality.

I've noticed lately that MK has been hanging around more. In fact several evenings, I have seen him hanging out in Oliver's heated house while Oliver lounges on the back porch. 

Sibling and MK

And now, for some exciting news!

For the past two evenings, a new kitty has been visiting the yard. The new kitty is also black but tall and thin. (What is it with all the black feral cats?!) It is much taller than Oliver's siblings and a lot thinner than Oliver. It kind of reminds me of how Oliver looked when he started coming around.

I first saw him on Wednesday night as I arrived home after dark. He was out having some dinner at the Dining Hall. Unlike Oliver's family, he wasn't phased by the car or the headlights shinning on him. Sadly, a few minutes later Oliver chased him away.

Then Thursday night, I heard Oliver growling again and sure enough the new kitty was back. I don't think it got any food this time before Oliver chased him away. Now I need to figure out how to get Oliver to play nice and share. There's plenty of food for everyone.

The new guy is persistent as a few hours later, he was back. I went out to find Oliver and the new guy in a stare down. Amazingly, I was able to get Oliver to come to me, but the new kitty headed out. I tried to snap a photo, but my camera focused on the small branch that was right next to me rather than the cat I was trying to get - argh! I lightened up the photo using photoshop and you can kind of see the skinny guy in the dark.

I thought I would give the new kitty an opportunity to eat by distracting Oliver with some loves and string play on the back porch for a good 30 mins, but sadly, the new kitty didn't come back.

While I was playing with Oliver, I noticed that MK came back to the side yard to play. He was all by his lonesome out there and he didn't seem as relaxed as he is when Oliver is with him. A few minutes after I opened the screen porch door to allow Oliver to leave, I noticed MK approaching. I did my best statute pose as I didn't want to scare him off. After a few more minutes he came right up to the back porch door and stood in the entry, about 5 feet away from me, surveying Oliver's porch. He must of stayed there about 10 seconds before heading back out - I was thrilled that he elected to get that close to me!

Never a dull moment here! Now I need to starting working on my plan to TNR this new kitty, but I'm not sure how to accomplish this with Oliver on patrol. I guess it's time to consult with Nancy, my mentor from the Community Cat Coalition group.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Mr. Chewy

A little while back I received an offer from Mr. Chewy, an internet based seller of pet foods and supplies. I was asked to provide an honest review of their services in exchange for $50 worth of products.

Cat food gets expensive, so this offer was too good to resist. Several of the bloggers I follow were provided with the same offer and I read their reviews, most of which were positive. So, now it's my turn to provide my thorough review.

First off, Mr. Chewy's website is easy to use. As you can see, the categories are across the top. I was shopping for cat food and treats, both of which were very easy to find.

I knew I wanted to get some Taste of the Wild Rocky Mountain Dry Cat Food. It took about two clicks to get to the item. At $28.49 for the 15lb bag, Mr. Chewy's prices seem quite competitive to what I can find locally. The price is currently $33.88. 

The real financial savings for using Mr. Chewy for me comes in the tax savings. The sales tax rate where I live is 9½% and since Mr. Chewy doesn't charge me sales tax, I instantly save 9½% from what I can get locally. That could really add up over time.

On the Mr. Chewy site, I like that the ingredients for the product are right there. I wish they also posted the nutritional info as that would make comparing foods much easier, but now I'm nit-picking! The search feature of the website works wonderfully. I searched for Buddy's canned Friskies and 26 options came up. Being the persnickety cat that he is, he only eats the shreds variety. Narrowing the search to shreds reveals that Mr. Chewy only carries one flavor of shreds, which seems kind of odd since the local pet food store has lots to choose from.

All throughout the site is a banner promoting 15% off your order, "no coupon needed - automatically applied at checkout!" I don't like sales practices where important information is withheld until later in the process, and this 15% off deal feels deceptive to me. They don't tell you until later that to get the 15% off, you have to sign up for automatic reoccurring orders. I don't have a problem with such a promotion, it actually makes sense, I just wish they would tell you the details upfront.

I selected all my items and placed the order on a Tuesday morning. Later that evening I received an email stating my order had already shipped. Wow! With such prompt service, I had hopes of maybe getting my order later that same week. But that was not to be.

Mr. Chewy's shipping policy claims that orders over $49 ship for free in the continental United States. They also state, "And don't worry, we don't skimp on shipping. We ship via FedEx and several other premium carriers to provide you with the fastest and most reliable service available." My order was shipped via FedEx Home Delivery (not to be confused with FedEx Express), it's basically the same as UPS. Mr. Chewy also states, "You shouldn't have to wait to get your order! So we work hard to ship your order as fast as possible. Most customers receive their orders within 3-5 days of placing them." I'm guessing that "most customers" pertains to customers on the East Coast, where Mr. Chewy is located, as it took a solid week (Tuesday to Tuesday) for me to receive my order.

When my order arrived, it looked like it's voyage west was a rough one. The carton sported a big gash on the side and lots of extra tape across the top edge where FedEx attempted to compensate for the structural failure of the box. With that kind of damage, I wondered what I found find on the inside.

Nahum inspects the damage

Nahum checks out the damage from the top while Theo assists

I was surprised to find a free toy included with my order! Nahum loves
packing paper and there was a wad of it included.

Thankfully, there was no damage to the product, only to the shipping carton. I think this is a testament to the Taste of the Wild plastic bag packaging. Had I ordered something with a less impenetrable bag, I'm sure it would have ripped and lost it's contents. Mr. Chewy could do a much better job on their packing, especially with a heavy package traveling all the way across the country. I thought everyone in the shipping industry knew that empty space in a carton = opportunity for damage. That's why packing material that fills up the void space is used (packing peanuts, plastic bags of air, etc.) The small bit of packing paper was not nearly enough for this application.

The products themselves are just as I ordered. I was pleased to see that the expiration dates on the food were a year or more out, that tells me the food should be fresh and hasn't been sitting around in a warehouse for years.

A while back, when I purchased some wet and dry Taste of the Wild locally, I was impressed that the wet food came in steel cans. It seems most cat food comes in aluminum cans and having read that aluminum toxicity can contribute to all sorts of health problems, I would rather have steel. Interestingly, the canned Taste of the Wild from Mr. Chewy is in aluminum cans. Not a huge deal, but interesting.

So, to summarize, I made a list of positives and negatives.

Positives:    Negatives:
  • Competitively priced
  • Easy to use website
  • Items are fresh
  • No sales tax
  • Good selection of food, including many grain-free options
  • Fast order turn-around time
  • Also carry litter and flea treatments
  • 24/7 customer service via telephone or chat
  • Slow shipping to Pacific Northwest
  • Shipping carton not packed well
  • Estimated delivery window inaccurate for west coast
  • 15% off deal not clearly explained upfront
As you can see, the positives are more numerous than the negatives. So, will I be ordering from Mr. Chewy again with my own money? Maybe. For me price and convenience are important. Mr. Chewy has good prices, however, the long transit time and potential for damage gives me pause. If I planned ahead and ordered well in advance or used their automatic reoccurring order option then I would probably be fine. Although, I must admit, the possibility of receiving a ripped bag of cat food from a poorly packaged box makes me nervous. Mr. Chewy says they have a 100% unconditional satisfaction guarantee, which seems nice, but the hassles of shipping back the damaged product and waiting an additional week for a replacement shipment to arrive doesn't sound like much fun.

I'll probably order again in the future and when I do I'll let you know how it goes.

March 15, 2012 8:00pm PDT update

I received an email response from Brent this morning regarding a few of my concerns. He gave me some good information, so I thought I would pass it along.
Concerning the 15% off Banner, if you click on it, a small window should appear to explain the details of the offer. We have no intention of withholding important details, such as this, from customers until they are about to checkout. 
For shipping, we are always working with FedEx to make sure deliveries are made within good time and minimal damage to the packaging. If you ever receive ripped products you may choose to donate it or toss it. We also ship a replacement at no charge right away.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

yard care

In between rain drops, I took the opportunity to rake up the pine needles from the yard.
Of course Oliver snoopervised my work.

Everything looks to be in order.

After the raking was finished, the yard needed to be tested to see if it was still suitable for play.

yep, yard still good for playing.

For those that want to see more of Oliver testing out the yard, check out the video.

I'm liking having an outside cat. It makes working in the yard and around the outside of the house much more enjoyable. Oliver is good company, he's dog-like, in that he follows me around. It's nice to take breaks from the work and wiggle the string for him - he sure loves it!

Monday, March 12, 2012

need for play

One of the most delightful things I love about Nahum is his insatiable desire to play. Above anything else, he loves to play. More than food, more than sleep, more than pets, more than anything! In Nahum's world, there is no such thing as too much play. Play makes his world go round.

He asks for play by dragging his favorite interactive toy across the house and drops it at my feet, looks up at me and makes his funny Maine Coon sounds. "Make it wiggle pleaaaassseese!!!" My heart melts, and of course I wiggle it for him! I so love seeing him drag his toys around - too cute!! Sometimes the other cats will chase the other end as he carries it!

My cats have taught me many things about life. I realized recently that like Nahum, I too have a significant need for play. I can happily spend the day playing with the cats. String toy, birdie toy, feather toy, building forts, chase... I also like playing with humans; goofy pranks, being silly and the like. It's really about not taking life to serious.

This little insight has helped me to understand more of what has been feeding my chronic depression over the last number of years. My current job doesn't allow for opportunities to play, so I need to find new ways of getting more play! Having a cat like Nahum has helped for sure, it's hard to stay depressed when playing string with my fluffy Nahum. He likes to play with his kitty friends but he prefers solo interactive human play. I too need to find more opportunities to play with fellow humans.

Here are a few examples of my style of play from years ago:

Feb 2002
I bought this classic van from a friend for a dollar. He had given the van a custom paint job and had proposed to his wife by popping the question on the side of the van for all to see. She painted the response. As I drove this thing around, I got lots of bizarre looks! These van colors remind me of the color-crazed humans over at the Katnip Lounge - this would be a color scheme they might choose!

A coworker's desk gets toilet-papered.                Apr 2003

Some beautiful yard art mysteriously appears on my friend's door step.   Jun 2004

 I made this film-themed cake for an Oscars party.   Mar 2004

A friend's office mysteriously experiences a major Peep infestation.    Apr 2003

 Sanding Block Man.                  May 2003

Snowman in bathroom of college dorm      Winter 1991-1992