Thursday, December 30, 2004

Getting Bigger All the Time

I wish I had a kitty scale so I could weigh my boys on a regular basis. They seem to be getting bigger and growing all the time. Liz and I just returned home from dinner -- we were gone for maybe 2 hours -- and it seems like the boys have grown in the interim.

I apologize for the lack of photos here. I think I will have to take some of the pics we had of them when we first adopted them and then take a pic now and put them side by side. In their first month with us, we know they doubled in size, because the vet weighed them twice and they went from two pounds to four pounds.

The past day or two they are also eating a ton. They usually don't finish all the kibble or wet food we leave for them, but lately they vacuum it right up, down to the very last chunk of dry food or the very last lick of chicken & liver (their previously least favorite flavor). Could they be going through a growth spurt?

Would You Clone Your Cat?

This week, the first cloned cat was sold to a woman in Texas for $50,000. About.com's Franny Syufy has an article about cat cloning, which details everything you'd ever want to know about the science and even something about the ethics of this procedure. However, most people don't react calmly to this or want to know how it was done.

A lot of cat enthusiasts are angry about the idea of someone paying $50K to clone a cat when so many stray cats sit in shelters waiting for a home. On the About.com Cats forum, there's a huge discussion brewing about cat cloning. As you might imagine, hardly anyone supports the idea. Wallaby77 makes a pretty good point when he says:

It totally baffles me how someone can think that buying a 50 000$ cat that looks exactly like the deceased pet will bring anything more in their life that any other cat could... If the person keeps expecting the new cat to act like the old one, there's gonna be a lot of frustration for everyone involved!

I tend to agree with the anti-cloning crowd, but I can see both sides of this issue. Will any other cat ever be as handsome or as sweet as my boys? Will I ever be able to have the same bond with another cat that I have with Arthur when he comes and rests his head on my lap? Will another cat meow for attention in the same endearing way that Beowulf does? They are truly a work of art, but to me it seems disrespectful to Arthur and Beowulf to pretend that a cat identical in appearance could replace them. They are truly one of a kind.

Cat Furniture Decision: Still Procrastinating

I've narrowed down my decision on cat furniture to a few choices. I'm considering getting one of the following from Drs. Foster and Smith:

The Classi-Cat Hideout -- on a great sale at $69.99 and looks like it's fully carpeted. What I can't tell from the picture is how secure the carpeting is and how many loose plastic threads there might be. I really want a place where the cats can hide from each other, but I'm not sure if the tunnel in this "hideout" is hidden enough for their liking. Still, I find that cat furniture which has completely enclosed hideouts, tends to have the sharp edges and frayed bits of carpet in the hidden area. This is the manufacturer's way of hiding flaws in construction from humans. At $69.99, if it turns out to be loser, at least it wasn't too expensive.

Amusement Park -- Very similar design to the classi-cat hideout but has sisal posts and it s a little bit taller. We can't have our trees be too tall or too wide, considering the space we live in, but this is just the right size. Problem is that it's twice the price of the classi-cat hideout and doesn't look twice as good.

Fitness Playground -- This is one of the modular, Catnex sets. These modular sets look good, because they don't have any rough edges and whatever carpeting they use is low-pile so it probably won't shed. That said, there's no hiding place at all on this and I have to question whether the cats would really take to it for that reason. Price is good.

What do you think?

Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Watching TV with My Boys

Who would have thought that a pair of rambunctious kittens would enjoy watching Godzilla movies as much as I do? Perhaps they just enjoy laying down with me while I'm watching TV. The past couple of nights I've sat down to watch TV and had one or both of the boys lay down next to me.


Tonight, I'm working on the computer and Beowulf has been sleeping next to the mouse so I can pet him while he rests.

The bottom line is that when it's night time and the boys are feeling relaxed, they love to cuddle with daddy.

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Floor No More

I can live with a little cat-based destruction. If the boys destroy a computer part, I'll get an upgrade. If they scratch a piece of furniture, I'll get another one someday. But the one thing I can't easily replace is my (formerly) beautiful hardwood floor. As time has gone by, I've noticed more and more cracks and crevices in the glossy wood surface. It's not just the finish either, that's wearing off. It's actual holes and pits in the wood planks that weren't there before.

Could it be the boys' claws? They don't scratch at the floor, but they do run all over the floor and wrestle each other. They also tend to kick up a lot of litter granules and drag them around. We clip the boys' nails weekly so they can't even scratch hard enough to hard our upholestry.

Cat-Proofing: An Ongoing Struggle

People who visit my apartment these days keep asking me how I keep it so clean. Well, this is because guests only see our livingroom, which is practically empty at this point. Because the livingroom is cat territory, my fiancee Liz and I are constantly forced to remove more and more personal items, as we catch the cats chewing them or jumping on them. We've removed most of our pictures, little knick-knacks, books, salt shakers, etc. The room is practically bare, and yet the boys keep getting into more and more things.

Are our cats unique in their zeal for exploring, chewing, and destroying objects or are we unique in our zeal for removing such objects? On Saturday night, I was at my sister-in-law Yvette's apartment and she has a ton of knick-knacks, candles, trophies, and other decor in her livingroom. She also has two adult cats who don't climb onto the tables or show any interest in the many objects she has lying around. In fact, Yvette's cats were hiding under the Christmas tree and they didn't mess with the pine needles or the many ribbons on the presents.

I think the difference between our cats and Yvette's may be two-fold. First, our cats are young kittens and both of hers are adults. Second, our cats are just naturally more curious than hers (at least at this point in their lives). Her cats are both extremely shy and spent the entire evening hiding from her guests. When I have guests, my boys can't leave them alone.

Anyhow, I think we should all be more careful about what we leave around. About.com's Franny Syufy has an excellent article on how to keep a cat-safe home. Be sure to read it.

Sunday, December 26, 2004

Christmas Gifts From My Boys

Who says cats don't pay for themselves? This Christmas, I got several gifts from Arthur and Beowulf. On Christmas morning, I got two books, "Cat Training in 10 Minutes a Day" and "Caring for Your Cat: 101 Essential Tips." These books were addressed to me from Arthur and Beowulf, though I get a feeling that my fiancee Liz bought it and put their names on it. If the boys had opposable thumbs, this deception would be more beliveable.

-- Warning: Sappy Stuff Alert --

That said, I found this Christmas that I had gotten a gift much greater than any I could have unwrapped. The boys have brought me I feeling I thought I had lost in childhood. Children have an amazing ability to have fun and be excited about the simplest things: a furry animal, a shiny bow, or the sound of thunder.

I grew up as an only child with a father who disliked both children and animals. I was taught to hate the child in myself. I wanted a cat or a dog, but of course, that wasn't allowed. As a teenager and then a young adult, I felt that childhood was a time of weakness and foolishness. I liked the idea of having a family in theory, but I didn't want to deal with young children.

Whenever I'd see a friend or relative with children in tow, I'd find some excuse to leave the situation. I think that is because being in the presence of children reminded me so much of my own childhood. Just seeing a room filled with childrens' toys made me feel like my own adulthood was being threatened. My fiancee wants to have children someday and I promised her we would, but I was really not enthusiastic about it. I've always liked the idea of having grown adult children I could hang out with, but dealing with wild toddlers always frightened me.

One reason I wanted to adopt cats was to see if I could take care of someone. I think my boys have unleashed a side of me that can be a parent without being a pill. I don't expect them to stop being who they are and suddenly turn into a set of adult humans who want to talk about politics and sports. I value them for who they are: a pair of rambunctious kittens.

When I went to visit Liz's parents for Christmas, her 3 year old niece was at the house. Previous times I'd seen her, I didn't want to talk to her. This time, though, I found a could talk to her. I showed her pictures of my boys and she asked all about them. We talked about her cats too. Finally, I got down on my knees so I was at her level, played "pillow fight" with her (I let her hit me with the pillows), and found I could be as silly as a three year old, without feeling like my parents were going to come and scold me.

I know now that I can be a parent someday and probably a good one too.

Saturday, December 25, 2004

Gone for 17 hours and 45 minutes

Last night was the first night the boys have spent alone since we adopted them. I know that a lot of people leave their cats alone for days at a time and the cats are no worse for wear, but I really didn't want to leave my boys overnight.

I was raised Jewish, but my fiancee Liz's family is Catholic and so we all celebrate Christmas together at her parents' house, which is about an hour and a half ride by train. Since we adopted the boys, Liz has visited her parents a few times and stayed overnight, but I always stayed home to keep on eye on them.

Because last night was Christmas eve, Liz really wanted me to stay over at her parents' house and wake up and open the presents with everyone on Christmas morning. This is something we do every year, but this year I didn't want to stay overnight, because I was worried about the boys. I agreed to stay overnight if Liz would take me to the train immediately after we opened presents so I could rush home and check on the boys.

I left the house around 5:30 pm last night and for the next 17 hours and 45 minutes, I had a great time but I kept worrying about the boys. Were they feeling lonely? Were they going to be messed up by getting their evening feeding early and their morning feeding late. Were they going to wolf down the dry food I left out for them and vomit? Would they get bored and chew an electrical cord?

Perhaps my greatest fear was the most selfish. I was afraid that the boys would forget about me and treat me like a stranger when I got home.

When my train finally arrived at Penn Station at 11:00 am, I walked briskly up the escaltor, hailed a cab and headed for home. When the cab let me off, I ran across the street to my apartment building, almost getting hit by at least one car. When I finally got home, I opened the door to see something like this:


The boys were curled up in their favorite perches, Arthur on top of my laser printer and Beowulf by the window. Since I've gotten home they have shown some interest in me, but not as much as I would like. They have eaten their food and become extremely rambunctious, wrestling with each other and batting at the dangling mouse and dangling ball toys I offered them.

Are they mad at me? Did they forget about me? I don't think they forgot about me, but they aren't in an affectionate mood right now. It's hard to see if that's because they're miffed at me or if they're just too rambunctious to be affectionate. Right now, I'm just glad they're ok, but I do feel guilty for leaving them alone.

Touching User Comment Makes My Christmas

I just got home from opening Christmas presents at my in-law's (more about that in the next post), and I logged in to my blog and saw this comment from a reader named Amy, which was really a great Christmas gift for us and the boys:

Merry Christmas, Avram! (and Liz and the boys, too)

Just a quick note to thank you for your blog - I'm grateful that I stumbled across it about a week ago. My cat Tigger passed away on December 8. He was 20 years old and I had him over half my life, so the past two weeks have been pretty difficult. I miss him a lot, and feel his absence most when he's not there to fulfill his part in our daily 'routines' (even now I expect him to jump on my lap and 'help' me type as he always did). I wasn't sure if I could ever get another kitten, especially an orange one, because Tigger is irreplaceable and I wasn't sure I could love another cat or expect it to heal the hole in my heart.

Anyway, Arthur is the spitting image of Tigger when he was a baby. I've enjoyed reading about your boys and have laughed and smiled as I've recalled similar incidents with Tigger. Your blog has helped start the healing process. I will never forget Tigger, but I'm starting to look forward to sharing my life with some new furry friends. I'm leaning towards two, and at least one of them has to be orange. Now I just have to wait for the right ones to come across my path, preferably after the Christmas tree is down because Lord knows that would be way too much temptation for a pair of kittens!

Merry Christmas to you too, Amy. Your post has really touched me and I'm thankful that Arthur and I could help you in any small way that we could.

Even though my boys are so young and I am so new to the experience of cat guardianship, I am constantly thinking about the possibility and eventuality of losing my boys. Whenever one sneezes or vomits or has a sore eye, I worry about losing them.

I will tell you that, for the longest time, I didn't want to get a pet and I had a million excuses -- allergies, responsibility -- but primarily my fear was the fear of loss. Even if I get a good 15 to 20 years with my boys, chances are that they will pass before I do. Each day, I grow more attached to them, and I worry more about losing them and how I'll cope when that time comes. I hope I am lucky enough to get 20 years like you did, but I'm sure that, even then, it will not make the loss any easier.

I can't offer any words of wisdom,but I can offer you my encouragement to bring a new set of fur babies (I recommend orange boys, of course) into your life.

I know that, in adopting my boys, I made a lifetime commitment, not only to Arthur and Beowulf, but to myself to always share my home with cats. I know that I will never be able to replace my boys after they are gone, but I hope I will find the strength to reach out and give a home to other boys (and maybe even some girls) that need one. Whatever cats I adopt in the future, I know they will never replace my boys, but they will be different, special creatures and I hope we will have a unique and wonderful relationship of our own when that time arrives.

When I was going to five different shelters looking for the right pair of boys, I saw a lot of great cats. I know these two boys are the ones that were meant for me, but there were so many other wonderful cats that were different and special and I wish I could've given them a home too.

Thursday, December 23, 2004

Christmas Came Early This Year

(If you saw this post as blank for a few minutes, it's because Arthur jumped on the Enter key just as I started typing it. He blogged!)

Saturday is the official date of Christmas this year, but whatever I get under the tree is a letdown compared to what I got on November 13th, the day my fiancee Liz and I adopted our boys. True, they're not objects; they are living beings with their own needs and wants. But sharing a life with them is a gift and I am thankful for that.

Ok, now that you've puked and lost any respect for me you might have had previously, here's a cute picture of Beowulf, looking up at me:


This scene is re-enacted each morning when I get up and open the bedroom door. Even if I'm just going to the bathroom at 4 am, the boys wake up and start following me around. Since they are not allowed in the bedroom or bathroom, I have to throw a toy their way or find some way to distract them long enough for me to run into the bathroom and shut the door before they can follow.

Quick Update

I better post quickly, before one of the boys jumps up on my desk and starts running on the keys again. It has been a busy day, but for those of you who follow this blog regularly, here's an update on some of the things that have been going on recently.

Arthur's Eye: Seems 100% better, but I'm going to put the ointment in a few more times just in case.

Vomit: No vomit found since Saturday

Scratching Post: Still in use, but we're getting a new one.

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Catnex: The Erector Set of Cat Trees?

In searching for the ultimate, safe cat tree, I found a very interesting company called Feline Furniture that sells modular cat furniture called Catnex. The furniture is made of snap-together plastic building blocks covered with very low-pile carpet and with hammocks or other pieces of cloth attached to the plastic frame.

I like the fact that this is all so modular and that it looks like the carpet won't easily be chewed off. That said, it doesn't look as solid and sturdy as I would want. The site claims that it's sturdy, but I'd be curious to hear from people who have bought it.

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Arthur's Eye Acts Up Again

You may recall the drama a couple of weeks ago when we discovered that Arthur's right eye was swollen, oozing puss, and half closed. At the time, the vet gave us some antibiotic ointment that we put in his eye for a week. The eye itself was a lot better even before we made it to the vet.

Now, today, we notice that Arthur's left eye is swollen, though not as badly. It actually looks like the skin flaps around his eye are swollen and the eyeball itself does not look that bad. We've taken the same ointment and put it in his eye a few times. If things don't get better in a day or two, it's back to the vet we go. Still, his eye is not as bad as it was last time. Could this be a chronic problem? Could it be feline ocular herpes?







Furniture Dilemma

This morning I caught the boys eating pieces of carpet from the base of their scratching post. Hopefully, they didn't swallow any of it. This just highlights the fact that so much cat furniture is made out of the cheapest material, without even a second thought about the health and safety of the cats it's designed for.

On the other hand, my cats desperately need a cat tree or kitty condo. They are running all over the place and chewing everything and I think a nice cat tree would help them find a positive outlet for their energy. But where do I find such a thing?

Monday, December 20, 2004

Hand to Mouth Part II

I haven't given the boys any treats since we started noticing the vomit. We just were concerned the treats may have been a cause of the vomiting. But I promised photos of the boys eating out of our hands and I'm a man of my word so here are two pictures taken last week. The first one shows Arthur eating out of my hand and the second shows Beowulf eating from my fiancee Liz's hand.

I will probably go back to giving them bonito tuna flakes today or tomorrow, but only to reward them for doing things we want (like sitting still while we groom them).

24 Hours Without Vomit

I'm starting to feel sorry for those of you who read this blog regularly and keep seeing the word "vomit" on your screen. Anyhow, the bottom line is that we cut back on the amount of dry food we were feeding the boys for a day and we have not found vomit since. That said, they seemed more hungry than usual last night so we went back to giving them their dry food. Still, I'm convinced that Beowulf's habit of wolfing down his kibble is the reason he was throwing up. We'll see if it happens again.

Sunday, December 19, 2004

Livingroom or Rubber Room

Honestly, I think I need a rubber room for my boys. They don't mean to be, but they are incredibly destructive right now. Their latest crime: ripping Liz's office chair open and pulling out the foam rubber stuffing.

Vomit Update

I've heard a lot of theories about why we're finding vomit and I appreciate every one of them. The one I'm going on right now is that Beowulf is the vomitter and he's eating kibble too fast. I say this because he eats kibble pretty fast and because the vomit is undigested kibble.

Since finding the last glob of vomit, I have stopped giving the boys dry food to see if that helps. So far, no dry food and no more vomit. However, we can't do this indefinitely, because the dry food is a good part of their diet.

Friday, December 17, 2004

Can Daddy Get His Computer Back?

It seems like every time I try to use my computer, either Arthur or Beowulf comes to visit me. If I don't make noise typing or moving the mouse, Arthur will usually lay down and I will pet him or rub his tummy. However, if I start using the mouse or typing on the keyboard, he will climb all over the keyboard and attack the pointer on the screen.

This is all really cute, but I am still having a bit of difficulty using the computer at home and that kinda sucks. I can't blame the boys for wanting to use the computer, though. I would if I were them.

Frightening Mystery Vomit

I hear that cats tend to vomit a lot and sometimes for reasons that are not serious. That said, two times in the past day, we have found cat vomit on the livingroom floor. We have not witnessed the vomiting so we cannot be 100% sure of who is doing it. I suspect that it is Beowulf, though, because I found him near the first pile of vomit last night. Of course, it could be both of them.

So what do I do? Is this a "rush them to the vet" moment or a "wait and see" situation? I'm not one of those people who goes to the vet as a last resort, but I can't afford to be one who rushes to the vet every week. We've had the boys for 4 weeks and been to vets about 5 times (some for vaccinations, but still). The time when we most thought we had an emergency was when Arthur's eye got swollen, but after going to the emergency vet and not being seen, his eye was almost 100% better by the time we took him to the regular vet the next day.

At present, neither cat appears ill, though I have seen that Arthur is eating more wet food than Beowulf of late. Both incidents of vomiting occurred during "free feeding" time, meaning the boys had had dry food available to snack on. I believe that Beowulf had just eaten a few pieces of kibble before his incident last night.

They are eating the same brand and type of dry food on the same schedule. Ditto for their wet food. Now I hear that eating too fast can cause vomiting and so can competition for food (Arthur is hogging up the food a bit). True, this hasn't happened before, but we've only had the boys for a month and they are growing up and sorting out their hierchy.

Who Wants a Belly Rub? Arthur Does!

When I first adopted the cats, I worried they would not be affectionate or bond well with me. We were within 5 minutes of adopting a different pair of cats at the shelter b/c Arthur and Beowulf didn't seem too interested in us humans. I am so glad we went with my gut feeling and adopted our boys, despite their shelter shyness. I'm also thankful that Liz was willing to go along with that feeling.

After only a month of living with us, I can safely say that our boys are very affectionate. Arthur, in particular, likes to roll on his back and ask for a belly rub. When I'm sitting at my desk, working on the computer, one or both of the boys will walk up to my chair and meow up at me to pet them. Or they'll jump up on the desk to come visit me.

When I come out of the bedroom at night or in the morning, the boys are often waiting for me and they start to follow me around. Being followed around is very cute, until I realize I can't go into the bathroom (where the boys are not allowed) until I can get them off my tail.

The boys even compete for my attention sometimes. Beowulf will be sitting on my lap and Arthur I think gets jealous and chases him away or gives him a dirty look.

One interesting thing, though, is that I'm not sure our boys feel any differently about us than they do about other people. This is both good and bad. When we have guests over, the boys are very friendly and totally enjoy being petted and played with. That said, it's a little disappointing to think that we don't get any special credit for feeding and taking care of them every day. OTOH, maybe we do and I just don't notice it.

Thursday, December 16, 2004

Annie Acts Out

I'm not the biggest fan of sharing cute Web sites, but here's a cat site I have to meow about. A friend of mine pointed me to My Cat Annie, a collection of short b&w videos of someone's cat doing strange things. The best part of this site is the commentary from Annie's owner that accompanies each video.

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Their Bed: What Does it Mean?

Those of you who know me offline know that I am a huge fan of Japanese movies, food, and culture. Originally, Liz and I had even considered giving the cats kaiju names like Godzilla and Gamera. So when we went shopping for a cat bed, we were thrilled to find one with a Japanese symbol on it.

The problem was that we had no idea what the symbol on the bed means. I was sure it was something appropriate, but Liz was worried that maybe the bed-manufacturer was having a laugh at our expense. Afterall, there has been a recent fad where Americans get tattoos of Asian symbols only to find out that the symbols mean something which would embarass them.

Fortunately, I showed the picture to a coworker of mine who grew up in Japan and she told me that the symbol stands for the Japanese word "Yume" which stands for "dream." Of course, that's appropriate for a bed. I really need to learn Japanese one of these days.

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Arthur's Near Death Experience

I was out to a company party tonight and when I returned home, my fiancee Liz had a real horror story for me. Apparently, tonight Arthur almost suffocated to death by getting his head stuck in a hole in the litter liner.

Ever since we brought the boys home a month ago, we have used litter liner bags in our litter box. The idea of litter liners, of course, is to make it easier to change your litter. They surround your litter like a giant trash bag and, when it's time to change litter, you just seal up the bag and toss it. If only it were that simple.

Our boys continually chew at the litter liner and scratch it and rip it. So when it's time for us to change the litter, we can't just throw out the liner. We have to dump it into another trash bag, but the liner keeps the bottom of the litter box mostly clean.

Tonight, Liz heard a commotion in the kitchen and ran in to see that Arthur had ripped a hole in the litter liner and gotten his head stuck in it. Would he have suffocated in there if Liz wasn't there to pull him out? I'm not sure, but she certainly thinks so. We threw out the litter liner and don't plan to use it again, but this incident just points out how fragile these kittens are. Even a product that is made for them can cause injury or death.

Hand to Mouth

I have to snag a picture of this later so I can post it here. In the meantime, a description will have to do.

Last night, I finally got the boys to eat out of my hand. Perhaps this is typical cat behavior and it means nothing to most cat guardians, but it meant a lot to me, because they were never willing to take food from my hand before.

In the past, they would act like I was trying to force them into something when I'd take a treat and stick it in my hand in front of them. They didn't even like the treats I had bought them (Nutro Max Tartar Control Treats). I figured that my boys just didn't like treats at all.

However, I talked to About.com's Cat Guide, Franny Syufy, about treats and she suggested that I try bonito Tuna flakes. Last night, I opened up a box and gave the bonito flakes a try.

After I put a bonito flake in my hand, I approached Beowulf. He sniffed my palm and then I slid the tuna flake down to the tips of my fingers where he snapped it up and ate it. I tried another flake and he did the same thing. I then felt emboldened and wanted to see if he would eat other things out of my hand. So I took a piece of the boys' kibble and tried that. Beowulf ate it. Finally, I whipped out the bag of Nutro Tartar Control treats and lo and behold, Beowulf at that too. Arthur was a little more cautious, but did eat the tuna flakes from my hand.

I think this is a sign of trust and a new stage in our relationship, but I could be making a mountain out of a piece of kibble. What do you think?

Monday, December 13, 2004

World's Best Cat Litter Review: The Inside Scoop

If you've been reading this blog for a few weeks, you'll recall that my fiancee Liz and I started having a major allergic reaction that would begin the moment we walked into the kitchen. We finally decided to try changing brands of litter from Swheat Scoop to The World's Best Cat Litter.

So how's the new litter working? Great! I recommend World's Best Cat Litter not only because we stopped sneezing when we switched to it, but because it lives up to its haughty name.

It's just kitty litter, nothing to write home about, right? Well, if you live with a cat, you know just how important litter is. If your litter's bad, your life just plain stinks. You want something that clumps, that controls odor fairly well, and most of all, you want something safe.

As you may have heard, not all cat litter is truly safe. In fact, there are a lot of questions about clumping clay litter, which contains sodium bentonite. I won't bore you by repeating the well-known arguments about how sodium bentonite can cause urinary tract infections or even respiratory problems in the cats that use them. I'll just refer you to Franny Syufy's About.com article on sodium bentonite and litter dangers.

World's Best Cat Litter does not contain sodium-bentonite. It's all-natural and safe, it produces much less dust than other litters (even the equally safe Swheat Scoop) and it clumps like cement. Yes, it costs more than other litters (the best price I found was $14 for a 17-pound bag at Petsmart), but theoretically, you should be able to use less of it because it clumps so well. Personally I can't say I'm using less of it, but I probably scoop more often and more obsessively than the average person.

I'm sorry to gross you out with the picture at right, but I think it helps illustrate just how hard this thing clumps. As any cat guardian knows, sloppy, wet litter is just plain disgusting, hard to clean, and smelly. This stuff really delivers on its name.

BTW, The World's Best Cat Litter comes in regular and extra strength versions. I have only used the regular version. If anyone has used the extra strength, please let me know if it's worth the extra money.

A Month With the Boys

It has now been exactly a month since the day we adopted the boys. Somehow it seems like longer. Perhaps that is because, during this first month, we have gone through:
  • 5 Different trips to various vets
  • 2.5 bags of litter
  • 60 cans of wet food
  • 2 4-pound bags of dry food
  • 2 medical emergencies (a severe cough and a swollen eye)
  • Around 4 boxes of tissues
  • One kitty condo that fell apart
  • One power cord chewed through and destroyed
  • 3 or 4 different types of cat repellant which were ineffective at keeping the boys away from a spot or from chewing something

Despite all these things, it has really been a great month, because I have experienced the range of emotions and experiences I was hoping to feel by bringing cats into my family. So far, I have learned that:

  • I am capable of caring for an animal as much as I care about any person. I thought I might see the cats as a chore I had to do, but instead I see them as family members I love and enjoy seeing when I get home each day.
  • I can successfully take care of someone. I had worried I would do something wrong that would harm the cats. I haven't (so far anyway).
  • Objects, even expensive ones, are not as important as living things (I'm not upset about the scanner my cats broke, but I am concerned that they almost hurt themselves in breaking it).
  • I can take pride in the achievements and development of my "children." I'm actually really pleased that they grew from 2 pounds to 4 pounds since I got them.
  • Even a pair of rambunctious cats can appreciate me for who I am. I was worried the cats wouldn't like me, but I was wrong about that.

Eating Their Crunchies

Liz called me at work to say she just got home and saw the boys eating their dry food, a little at a time. I hope this means that they are ok and just weren't hungry before. Perhaps they prefer dry food to wet b/c they are in the middle of teething. We'll find out more when I feed them their can of wet food tonight.

Not in the Mood for Food?

The boys haven't eaten much of their last two meals (last night and this morning's feedings) and that has me a bit concerned. They'll go over and peck at their food, but not eat much of it. Otherwise, they seem ok. They are rambunctious as ever and I get the sense they'd rather play than eat. Before you post, asking if I changed food on them, let me say that:

  • I'm feeding them the same brand / flavor of food as always. In fact, I tried two different flavors this morning.
  • They are being fed at the same time
  • I'm using the same food bowls in the same place
  • They are following me into the kitchen when I dispense the food and meowing until I put the bowls on the floor for them.

The only thing I can think of, which could interfere with their appetite is the fact that they were vaccinated on Friday. But they had a healthy appetite Friday night and all day Saturday and even Sunday morning. Could this be a delayed reaction to the vaccination?

They don't seem sick or otherwise upset though. They are incredibly active and they are using the litterbox as always.

Saturday, December 11, 2004

Away for a Day

It's Hanukkah and you know what that means. Presents? Candles? Dreidels? Potato Pancakes? Not exactly. In my family, it means I'll be providing tech support by hooking up whatever computerized gifts I bought my parents this year. This year was no different.

I had to leave the boys with Liz Friday night so I could go visit my parents and set up a wireless network for them. Sappy as it seems, I felt really guilty being away from them for so long. Liz was with them Friday night and then came to join me at my parent's house on Saturday morning. We had dinner with my parents and just arrived home around 9 pm on Saturday.

While it's true that the boys had their usual great care from Liz (she even took them to the vet for a scheduled vaccination), I feel really guilty for going away overnight. Liz says the boys were more destructive and rambunctious than usual last night. Now, I'm back and I'm not sure how they feel, b/c they are running around like crazy and wrestling.

Apparently yesterday Arthur chewed through the power cord on my scanner, destroying it. The two of them also ripped some cloth off a dining room chair.

Now here's my question: why were they more destructive than usual. Was it because:

  • They had overcome the trauma of going to the vet and felt good
  • They were mad at Liz for taking them to the vet
  • They were upset because I wasn't there
  • They're just having a rambunctious day

Friday, December 10, 2004

Cat-Life Balance Hard to Maintain

I've heard a lot of people talk about work-life balance, but what about cat-life balance. Right now, my cats are becoming my life.

I used to stay up until 3 am working on projects for work, but lately when I'm at home, the cats dominate my time. I don't feel too bad about this, but it's a radical change. I'll start working on the computer and then I'll hear the sound of the cats doing something and it will grab my attention. One of the boys will walk by and I'll pick him up and put him on my lap. If I start to type, the boys will take an interest and jump up on the keyboard.

Sure, I could turn them away, but if they take an interest in me at this point, I want to encourage that kind of behavior.

Thursday, December 09, 2004

This Engine Really Purrs

Liz always sends me stories from Yahoo! New's "Oddly Enough" section. Today, she sent me: "Kitten Survives 275-Mile Ride Next to Car Engine."

Apparently, a couple in Germany found a stray kitten under the hood of their car after driving on a 275-mile road trip. The 6-week-old cat, unharmed by the ordeal, was later adopted by the couple.

Maybe they really do have 9 lives.

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Will They Forgive Us?

In the interest of keeping them healthy and safe, we end up doing a lot of things to the boys that they don't like. We often wonder if we've pushed it too far and they'll start to dislike or distrust us.

We'll do things like hold them still to give them medicine, clip their nails, or groom them. We'll thrust them into a carrier to take them to the vet. We'll run the vacuum cleaner and make scary noises. We'll keep them away from places they want to go and yell "no" at them if they go there.

Tonight, we're doing something extra mean and I feel guilty about it, but it's for their own safety. We've put them both into their carrier while we clean. Liz is cleaning the bathroom and bedroom and for that she has to keep the doors to both open. Both places are very dangerous for the boys and they aren't allowed in either one at all. The bathroom was sprayed last week by the building's exterminator and the bedroom contains all kinds of things that aren't safe for cats. With the doors open and no secure room in our one-bedroom apartment to put the cats in, we have to keep them in their carrier for an hour or two while we clean.

Oh, and we clipped their nails tonight. They're really not happy with us, but do you think they'll hold a grudge for this sort of thing?

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Different Days, Different Moods

I guess cats are like people when it comes to moods and personalities. Some days the boys are just running all over the place; other days (like Sunday) they're more quiet and sleepy, at least when we're around. Most of the time they alternate between periods of wildness and periods of sleep in the same day.

I have to admit Arthur is much cuter this way than when he is hiding under the couch or trying to chew the litter liner or messing with daddy's computer wires.

What's strange is that you can never tell which cat is going to be aggressive. Today, it could be Arthur. Tomorrow it could be Beowulf who is leading the way under the sofa or chewing through a wire.

Arthur and the Sofa of Doom

This morning, Arthur gave me quite a scare. I had my coat on and was about to leave for work, but before I leave each morning I look at the boys and what they're doing and I say good bye to them. Well, I found Beowulf, because as soon as I came out of the bedroom, he started following me around and meowing, but I could not find Arthur anywhere.

I looked everywhere and I mean everywhere. I checked the kitchen and all areas of the livingroom. I checked the litterbox. I checked under and on every table and chair. I checked behind the desks. Then I started looking into places where the cats should never be able to go. I checked the bathroom (which we leave closed at all times to keep them out) and the bedroom (same thing). I even checked the closets.

Finally, I started to panic. I went out into the hallway outside our apartment and walked around calling for Arthur. I thought maybe he had somehow gotten out of the apartment. But he wasn't there. On the theory that his brother would find him, I carried Beowulf around the apartment and let him meow for Arthur. No luck.

I listened carefully, straining to hear the sound of Arthur's collar. No luck.

I called Liz at work. "Did you check the closets," she asked. "Yes," I said. "Did you check the litterbox, behind the desks, under the chairs, under the air conditioner, behind the steroe?" Yes, yes, yes.

Where was Arthur? Had he crawled somewhere, gotten hurt and died. A friend of mine once came home to find his cat laying dead in the mechanism of a reclining chair and I always think about that whenever I can't find the boys. We don't have a reclining chair, but you never know what they could get into.

The one place I checked but didn't believe he could get under was the sofa. The reason I didn't believe it is that we have fortified the sofa so many times to prevent them from getting under. We have thick books stuffed into every opening and the boys have thus far been unable, despite their trying, to get in. Well, just as I was about to lose it, I noticed a little paw sticking out from under the sofa. Somehow, he had pushed some of the books in and squeezed himself in. When Beowulf saw the paw, Arthur crawled out to play with his brother.

Whew! Now, how do we really keep them from getting under there?

Monday, December 06, 2004

Arthur Discovers the Computer

I knew it wouldn't take long before Arthur took an interest in using the computer. Today, he tried to chase the mouse pointer around the screen and batted at it.

In fact, I had the idea I would post to this blog while he was sitting in my lap, but he kept jumping up on the desk and trying to swat the pointer. Next week, he'll be surfing the Web. I wonder what he'll think about this blog. I hope I didn't say anything that would offend him.

What We Feed Them and When We Feed It

Let's talk turkey. Come to think of it, let's talk chicken and liver and lamb too! After reading About.com's tips for choosing cat food and "Canned Cat Food: Can Your Cat Afford to Live Without It?," I am convinced that cats need wet food. As Franny Syufy writes:

In the wild, a cat will eat only a very small quantity of any grain, namely the stomach contents of mice, rabbits, or birds he catches. Why then, should a pampered household cat eat a diet that is loaded with the one food nutrient he really doesn't need? Although french fries and Twinkies might be tasty treats on occasion, what human would consider living on them day in and day out, much less feed them to their children as a regular diet. Why then, would we do less for our cats?

Dry cat food can also contribute or be directly related to certain health conditions:

  • IBD (Inflammatory Bowel Disease)
  • CRF (Chronic Renal Failure)
  • Urinary crystals (which are potentially fatal to cats)
  • Diarrhea or other allergy-related conditions
  • Dehydration (cats on canned food diets get sufficient water in their food)
Franny's argument strikes a chord with me. Domesticated as they are, the best kind of food for cats is the closest to what they would get in the wild. Cats don't get crunchies in the wild; they eat fresh meat which is wet and juicy. They're "obligate carnivores" so they don't need the other stuff. It's the atkins diet -- nothing but meat -- for them if they can help it.

So what do I feed my boys? I read through Franny's About.com list of Top 6 Canned Foods for Kittens and, while they all sounded good, I decided to go with Nutro brand cat foods.

My reason for choosing Nutro over the other brands Franny listed is simple. In my area, Nutro is readily available and affordable at a wide variety of stores. I think it's important to use food and litter that are not only high-quality but easy to get. If I had to special order a rare brand of food all the time, it would be a pain.

So I'm going with Nutro brand, both their Nutro Max Cat line and their Nutro Natural Choice line. Both contain a good mix of high-quality ingredients and interesting flavors. Primarly, I use the Nutro Max Cat, which comes in three flavors: Chicken & Oceanfish, Turkey & Giblets, and Chicken & Liver. I give the boys all three, though they seem to like Chicken & Liver the least. Who can blame them for disliking liver?

I'd feed them wet food for every meal if I could be psychic and anticipate when they'll get hungry, but sometimes they want food in the middle of the night or during the day when Liz and I aren't around. So we leave out dry food during the day and at night for them. The dry food we chose is also Nutro brand. It's Nutro Natural Choice Complete Care Kitten Food.

So, for our boys, it's:

  • A half can each of canned food at 7:30 am
  • Dry food available for snacking all day
  • Canned food again at 7:30 pm
  • Dry food available all night
  • Water available at all times

Does this sound reasonable? The boys doubled their weight in the 3 weeks we've had them and they seem healthy.

Little Child, Running Wild

Beowulf was just going nuts this afternoon. Strike that, he's still a bit nuts. Liz, who gets home around 2 pm, called me to tell me about how Beowulf. Among his crimes dejour:
  • Chewed through the speaker wires on her computer
  • Pulled a rubberband our of Liz's hair (while it was on her head)
  • Turned over a throw rug we use to wipe our feet and started chewing through the bottom

When I got home, it didn't stop. He pulled a piece of poop out of the litterbox and was playing with it on the kitchen floor. Now he's wrestling with his brother again. What gives?

Sunday, December 05, 2004

Safety First, Unless You're Selling Cat Products!

Call me overprotective. Accuse me of being paranoid. I'm posting this anyway. It seems like a very large percentage of cat products -- from furniture to toys to training aids to kitty litter -- are made without thinking about the health or welfare of the animals they're intended for.

You may recall that we just tossed out of our first kitty condo (after only 3 weeks) because the boys kept pulling out pieces of carpet with glue on them and chewing them. They also risked injury from exposed staples and strips of fiber and plastic string that were just coming off the seams.

Just this evening, Liz and I visited a local Petco to look for a replacement kitty condo. We looked at the various models on the floor, sticking our hands into the little hideaways and feeling around for staples, loose threads, and splinters. We managed to find something dangerous about each and every one. Some had loose pieces of carpet hanging off. Others had splinters of wood coming out. Still others were unstable and looked like they would fall over the first time the boys wrestle on them.

But it's not just kitty condos we have to worry about. After giving up on the idea of buying a kitty condo, we perused the cat toy aisle. Most of the toys had small parts that looked like they could fall off so easily. We saw lots of toy mice with ears and eyes there were lightly glued on. We nearly bought a sissal mouse until we noticed that the manufacturer had spilled glue on top of it. And mind you, this is a mouse that is meant to be chewed.

It doesn't stop with fragile toys and dangerous kitty condos either. In previous posts, I have detailed the dangers of clumping clay litter, the risk of vaccine-induced sarcomas, and the toxic chemicals contained in certain "harmless" training aids.

Clearly, most cats manage to survive and stay healthy despite these risks. But these are unnecessary risks, brought on by irresponsible manufacturers who are more interested in making products that are attractive to humans than ones which are safe for cats. If a crib had staples in it where a toddler could swallow them, it would be recalled in an instant. If a child's teething ring was covered in toxic glue, there would be lawsuits until the end of time.

Here's a unique business idea: how about a pet store that sells only products which are truly safe and truly harmless, even for kittens. How about selling only toys that are clean and impossible to destroy? How about selling only cat furniture that is stable, has no sharp edges, and doesn't shed any little parts or fibers? How about treating cats as living creatures, not as objects that can be replaced when the next unsafe product kills them?

Cat owners have a part to play too. We need to demand better at the pet store and even at the vet. Caring for cats isn't on the same level of difficulty as raising a child, but it is a sacred responsibility, one made more difficult by all these dangerous products.

Who's Grooming Who?

I really wish I had a picture of this to show you, but we didn't have the camera out nor could I convince my fiancee Liz to run and get one. Oh well, it's something that happens all the time. We'll snap a picture someday.

Arthur is a big licker. If I stick my hand near his face and scratch his chin or rub his cheeks, we'll start licking me. In fact, last night, I held him with my arm and he started licking the hairs on my arm as if he was grooming me.

So what does it mean when a cat licks you? Do they like the taste of your skin? Is this their version of a kiss? Or are they grooming you like they groom each other? I'm still curious as to how my cats see me. Do they understand the concept of a human? Or do they think I'm just a bigger cat? If I'm a cat to them, am I a caretaking cat like their mother was? Or am I a peer who they groom and play with like they do to each other?

Whatever the case, it certainly seems like an expression of affection to me and has since he started doing it on day one.

Saturday, December 04, 2004

Sionara Dangerous Kitty Condo; We Hardly Knew Ye

As I posted earlier, our kitty condo was becoming a serious danger. The boys have been pulling pieces of carpet off of it since we first got it and it has gotten progressively more dangerous each day.

We've found them chewing more and more fibers (we always rush to throw them out) and we've even found sharp staples exposed on the inside of the condo. We always work hard to remove whatever loose edges or materials we find, but this evening, we decided we could risk it no more. We threw the kitty condo in the garbage, only three weeks after we first bought it.

Here's my question: how do we find a kitty condo that is safe for our cats? They really loved this thing, but we just couldn't bear the thought that they might swallow some pieces of carpet or glue or (gasp) staples! Thankfully, it only cost us $20. If it had cost $120 like some of the large kitty condos we've seen, I'd be even more upset.

What are the people who make these products thinking? Are they thinking at all? Do they know their product is dangerous for the very cats it is made for? Do they even care?

Cats are not toys you can replace when they break. These are living, breathing creatures who deserve a safe place to play and safe toys to play with. If someone made a crib that had loose staples or sharp edges or pieces coming off that a baby could swallow, there would be lawsuits, recalls, investigations, or a company going out of business. Yet I find that many cat condos are made out of cheap materials like this. What gives?

Allergies and a New Type of Litter

Last night, we decided to try a new brand of litter. As you may have read before, Liz and I have been sneezing almost as soon as we walk into our kitchen, where we keep the litter box. We have some theories about what is wrong in the kitchen:
  • Our sneezing started when we opened an air vent which spewed a lot of dust. However, we have since closed up the vent again and cleaned the counters and floor of dust.
  • We could be allergic to the cats' waste products, but we are really diligent about scooping the litter box (daily) and changing the litter entirely (twice a week).
  • We could actually be allergic to the litter itself.

Testing the theory that we may be allergic to Swheat Scoop, the brand of litter we have been using, we have bought a bag of The World's Best Cat Litter to try. The difference, besides the higher cost of World's Best is that World's Best is a corn-based litter while Swheat Scoop is wheat-based. Unlike, clumping clay litters, both brands are natural, non-toxic and free of sodium bentonite. BTW, if you're wondering about the dangers of sodium bentonite-based litters, check out About.com's article on clumping clay litter and health problems.

Our hope is that the corn-based litter will produce less dust and, if the litter is responsible for our allergies, hopefully we won't be allergic to the new brand. We changed the litter last night so it's too early to say whether World's Best is better for our noses than Swheat Scoop. We don't even know if the litter itself is the problem. However, I will say that the air seems a bit clearer in the kitchen this morning.

No matter what happens with our litter choices, I do want to give props to the Swheat Scoop litter. If it turns out that the litter is not the cause of our problems, we might go back to using it. It clumps well, does a competent job of eliminating odor, and we feel really good about using it b/c it is safe and organic. World's Best Cat Litter offers the same benefits, but it costs a lot more. However, if it solves our allergy problem, it's worth it.

Arthur's Eye: Nearly Normal

Today, it's hard to tell if there is anything wrong with Arthur's eye at all. My fiancee Liz says she still can see a little redness, but I can't see it. Still, we are following our vet's advice and continuing to put antibiotic ointment in both of his eyes three times a day for the next week. He doesn't like it and it freaks me out to see Liz (I get her to do it) put cream directly on his eyeballs, but it's better to be safe than sorry.

Friday, December 03, 2004

Whose Cat is Whose?

As I said before, I don't believe in the concept of "cat ownership" as much as cat guardianship. That said, Liz and I sometimes talk about which one of us has a closer relationship to which cat. We both tend to believe that I am closer to Arthur while Liz is closer to Beowulf. That said, we love both our cats equally; we just have a little bit closer relationship with one over the other.

I have a pretty good relationship with both boys. I really am fortunate in that I get to do all the good stuff. I feed them their wet food, I pick them up and pet them. I usually change their litter. Liz, on the other hand, has to do the harder things. She takes them to the vet, grooms them, gives them medicine, puts ointment in Arthur's eyes. These are extremely difficult and important tasks, but not always ones that the boys appreciate.

Both boys can be affectionate, though Arthur is much more people-friendly, particularly with me. As you can see in the goofy picture here, Arthur came up to me the other day (before his eye problem) and stuck his nose up to mine. I think that means something for cats, but I'm not sure what.

Beowulf is more independent. A lot of times he really wants to be picked up or played with, but it's usually on his schedule. On the other hand, sometimes Beowulf will demand to be picked up by coming up to one of us and meowing until we pick him up and carry him around.

Arthur is more laid back and Beowulf is more wild. The two of them are both very rambunctious and sometimes Arthur will surprise us by being the more aggressive one for a while, but Beowulf is usually the one getting into things we don't want him getting into. We have a theory that, even though they were born in the same litter, that Beowulf is the older brother because he tends to act like he's in charge.

Arthur Eyeball Update: Back from the Vet

So Liz just returned from our regular vet. He took a careful look at Arthur's eye and said he thinks it probably is an inflamation from wrestling with his brother, but because he can't rule out a virus, he gave us antibiotic cream to put in Arthur's eye "just in case" it is pink eye.

Now my question is this: what if this happens to one of our cats next week or next month or next year? How do I know whether it's "vet worthy?" I don't want to and can't afford to rush them to the vet or to an emergency vet everytime they sneeze. If Arthur were human, I'd at least put some visine in his eye, but I don't know what the equivalent is for cats.

About.com's Franny Syufy has a great article called "Know When to Call the Vet About Your Cat," but there's nothing in it about red, swollen eyes. However, she does say that "The First Rule is 'Know Your Cat'." A coworker of mine told me that his cat periodically gets red swollen eyes and that they usually go away after a day, without medical attention. If this happens again, I might give it some time and see what happens.

In other news:
  • Both cats received their third and hopefully final deworming treatment (they came from the shelter with roundworm). Their fecal matter is being tested to see if the worms are finally gone.
  • Next week, the boys will be returning to the same vet for a routine vaccination for feline distemper, herpes, etc. The vet promises to use the safest vaccine on the market, Purevax.
  • The vet was "very concerned" about the treatment we received at the emergency clinic and says he plans to write them a letter.

Arthur's Eyeball Update

We're still up watching the boys and Arthur seems a bit better. The eye problem never affected his behavior, but now it looks like he is able to open the eye all the way, even though it is still red and swollen. We're still taking them to the vet in the morning and still pissed off at our experience with the emergency vet.

Arthur's Eye Emergency and The Worst Vet Ever!

This evening, we had and still have a medical emergency with Arthur's right eye. Unfortunately, we can't get any help for him so I hope it does no permanent damage to wait until the morning to take him to the regular vet.

Around 7:30 this evening, we fed Arthur and Beowulf as usual, but when Arthur emerged from the kitchen, we noticed that his right eye was half open and was red and swollen. When we picked him up and looked at it, we realized that he was having trouble opening it and that it was red and bloodshot.

We immediately called our vet, but his office was closed for the evening. On the answering machine, the vet recommended two 24-hour emergency clinics, one which is about 20 blocks away and one which is about 40 blocks away. We called both clinics on the phone and were able to reach a person at the clinic which was 20 blocks away. The receptionist said "yeah, come on down."

Wanting to get him care ASAP, we hopped in a cab and went to the "Fifth Avenue Veterinary Specialists," the clinic which is closer to our apartment and the one which answered the phone. We arrived there at 8:30 pm. About 20 minutes after we arrived and filled out our paperwork, one of the doctors came out and asked us what was wrong with our cat. We explained his eye condition and she said "there are some serious emergencies here so you'll be waiting more than an hour."

Ok, it's an emergency room. We expected that we'd have to wait for care, but we didn't want Arthur's eye to have to wait until the next day. What if it gets worse and he goes blind or his eyeball pops out? I've seen some horrifying pictures (which I won't link to) of cats with missing eyeballs. I don't want that for my boys.

That said, we were there for 5 hours, the last 2 or 3 of which there was no one in front of us on line. At around 11:30 pm, I went home to look after Beowulf, who had been left alone for the first time in his life. Finally, at 12:45 am, Liz called me to say that the doctors had disappeared into the backroom and advised her to go home and take Arthur to another vet because they were "too busy" to treat him for a long time. For the last hour, she had been sitting alone in the waiting room, because even the receptionist had gone home.

So what were the doctors doing while we sat fruitlessly in the waiting room and Arthur's eye continued to get redder and started oozing puss? They were spending hours talking to other people whose pets were either there on long-term care (not emergencies) or whose animals were obviously sick enough that they would make a huge profit by treating them. One family came into the practice carrying the remains of a dead dog in a sack. One of the two doctors on duty spent close to an hour alone in a room with them. No offense, but this couple's dog was dead. What was she doing with them? Was she selling cremation and burial services in there?

They charge $120 just for looking at your pet, but apparently that's not profitable enough for them to take 5 minutes out of the 5 hours we sat there to check our cat and make sure that he's not about to go blind. Since we didn't even get seen by them, we left without spending the $120.

But hey, we did get some free medical advice from them. When they told Liz she'd be better off going home than waiting (this, after 5 hours of waiting), they said "you know it sounds like conjunctivitis. He had a cold before, right?"

So Arthur is home now and he's not acting ill, but his eye is very swollen and, if you want my two cents, I don't think it's a cold. He walked into the kitchen looking fine and walked out with a swollen eye. I think something is stuck in his eye and that he needs it flushed out. I hope whatever it is won't cause permanent damage because we have to wait until tomorrow to take him to the vet.


Wednesday, December 01, 2004

Someone Told on Them and "Ooooh, They're in Trouble . . . "

I'm at work and I get a phone call from my fiancee Liz who is at home with the cats. She says: "I told the boys if they didn't stop misbehaving, I'd call and tell their daddy so I'm calling you." Among their crimes today:

  • Attacking Liz's stockings while she was wearing them
  • Jumping onto her desk to play with her house keys
  • After being scolded and lifted off the desk, they tried to resume playing with the keys after Liz pretended she wasn't looking.

All I could say to Liz on the phone was "good luck reasoning with them." The apartment is their world; we're just living in it.

Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Keeping the Boys at Bay

I'm still looking for a safe, effective way to prevent the cats from jumping onto the kitchen counter or the dining room table. About.com's Franny Syufy has several suggestions for putting a stop to counter-surfing. One product she suggested is the Ssscat:

Although it may seem to be a Draconian solution, there is an excellent product called Ssscat! which uses a three-pronged approach. An electric-eye sensor on top of a canister which detects the motion of the cat. A loud alarm sounds, coupled with a quick spray of harmless gas. The unit is adjustable, and the spray can be turned off for sound conditioning.

I ordered the Ssscat with the intention of using it to protect my cats from the dangers of the kitchen counter. But when it arrived and I had a chance to examine this product more closely I decided not to try it, based on what the back of the can says:

Warning: Avoid exposing your skin directly in front of the SSSCAT spout in the outgoing gas stream as it may cause frostbite . . .

FIRST AID TREATMENT:

  • If overcome by vapours, move to fresh air and contact medical centre or physician immediately.
  • In case of liquid contact with eyes, skin or mouth, flush with warm water for 15 minutes and contact physician.

I went and posted to a few cat forums, asking for advice. I read a report from the maker of a competitive product called Skat-kat whose web site bashes Ssscat claiming that:

The Ssscat sprays a chemical called Freon R134a which is the same stuff in your refrigerator. Not a good idea. There have been cases of cats being blinded as this device first beeps, waits a second, then sprays.

So just what is this stuff made of? The can says:

SSSCAT Refill contains 100% 1,1,1,2 tetrafluoroethane (HFC134a).

Tetrafluoroethane is indeed another name for Freon. Will this stuff really harm a cat in practice? Makers of a competing product would probably like you to think that Ssscat is dangerous. However, it seems unlikely to me that the Ssscat company would market the product without safety-testing it and the Skat-cat page is the only page on the entire Internet that makes such a claim.

That said, the Ssscat seems like a more radical solution than I need. I just don't like the idea of scaring my boys that much or of bringing more chemicals into my home.

For now, I'll just try some of Franny's free tips:

  • Apply Sticky Tape to the Edge. Cats hate the feeling of sticky tape, and will be discouraged after one or two tries. The disadvantage is that you may have to keep reapplying it indefinitely, and the sticky stuff may be difficult to clean up afterward.
  • Tape a Strip of Aluminum Foil. It's not only the feel of it on their toes, but the noise that deters cats.
  • The Pennies in a Can Trick. This is an old tried-and-true means of deterring cats from many forms of undesirable behavior. Drop a few pennies (or pebbles) in an empty aluminum can and tape the opening. When you see your cat start to jump on the counter, shake the can loudly. The problem here is that he'll learn it's okay to jump when you're not around.

    Another method is to place several of these "shaker cans" right at the edge of the counter with just two or three inches betweeen them. One jump will bring down all the cans, and make a terrific racket, which will also bring down the cat.
  • The Spray Bottle. I don't generally approve of using a spray bottle for discipline, because some people just get carried away and end up drenching the cat. However, ONE very quick spray set to fine mist will do the trick for that one time. If you can manage to do it so the cat doesn't connect you with the uncomfortable feeling, it may be a permanent solution. (However it's my opinion that cats are a lot smarter than we give them credit for.)

Chips Off the Old Geek

Who says cats aren't like children? This evening, my boys started taking an interest in daddy's computer and daddy's desk chair. At different times, they each tried typing. Arthur even played with my mouse. Pretty soon, I'm going to start teaching them how to write PHP.

Monday, November 29, 2004

Cats and Mirrors

I don't have anything brilliant to say about this next series of pictures, but they do make me wonder. How do cats see themselves? Do they understand the concept of a mirror? Do they have a concept of "self?" Do they go through Lacan's mirror stage?

It's hard to say whether they think they see another cat in the mirror or an image of themselves. Whatever the case, it's amusing to watch them.





Bonding with the Boys

Tonight, I had some really good bonding time with each of my boys. First, when I came home, Beowulf started following me around, until I picked him up and played with him.

Then, after the boys ate, Beowulf was feeling restless so I picked up his favorite toy -- a stick with a toy mouse dangling at the end -- and played with him until he calmed down.

Finally, I sat on the couch and gave Arthur my arm to rest on while I petted him and watched TV. All-in-all, it seems like the boys are really bonding with us now. Remember, we almost didn't adopt them because they seemed so skittish and uninterested in human contact at the shelter. Looks like those days are over.

Hard to Leave Home

Apologies in advance, because I feel a little sappy posting this. I think maybe I should have my membership to the male gender revoked, but I actually felt a little sad leaving home this morning and leaving the boys alone. As I was about to walk out the door, Beowulf started following me around and rubbing up against my leg and meowing until I picked him up.

Then, after I picked him up and put him down in his bed, he rolled over on his back and meowed at me to play with him. I petted him for a minute, then started walking toward the door and he started following me again and rolled onto his back, expecting me to play with him. I petted him again, picked him up, put him gently in his cat bed and walked briskly to the door before he could follow me again.

Lately, Beowulf has also shown a lot of interest in our bedroom door, trying to open it or dig under it while we are in there (the boys aren't allowed in the bedroom).

It's really nice to see the boys taking an interest in us, not just as providers of food and water, but as playmates, guardians, whatever. I hate to diss them when they take an interest in us, but sometimes life intervenes. Oh well.

Sunday, November 28, 2004

Allergy Theories

Those of you who've been following my cat adoption process know that I always had cat allergies, but after taking Bioallers dander formula for a couple of months and visiting several people with cats and several shelters, I felt fine and so I adopted my boys.

The first 10 days we had the boys, my fiancee and I were both 100% fine no matter what we did with the boys. We'd let them climb us. We'd pet them then touch our faces. No problem.
Suddenly, a few days ago, we started to get big sneezing fits. We have since started a regiment of vacuuming, grooming the boys, spraying them with dander spray, mopping floors, but nothing works very well. Oh and we have a HEPA air purifier too.

We have been trying to figure out what changed in the environment on day 10 and we have a list of a few things. We are thinking that it's not the boys' dander that is causing our allergy but something else in the air that may be getting into their fur. Here's what changed on or around day 10. Any thoughts?
  • Boys started taking Cefa drops antibiotic daily. Could that change anything?
  • We opened up an air vent in our kitchen which let out a ton of dust. We just closed it yesterday, but maybe the dust is still on the boys' coats?
  • We went from using a mixture of Yesterday's News (pellets) and Swheat Scoop (wheat-based) to 100% Swheat Scoop. The Swheat Scoop now gets tracked all over the place. Could we be allergic to it?

Any theories?

Saturday, November 27, 2004

The Price of Pets

So how much have I spent so far on my boys?


  • Adoption Fee: $140
  • Litterbox: $30
  • Food Bowls: $10
  • Water Dispenser: $12
  • Litter Bags: $40
  • Cans of Food: $30
  • Bag of Dry Food: $7
  • Cleaning Wipes: $7
  • Deterrent Sprays: $20
  • Toys: $20
  • Emergency Vet Visit: $156
  • Soft Carrier: $45
  • Scratching Post: $20
  • Kitty Condo: $20
  • Grooming Tools: $20
  • Hand Vacuum Cleaner for cleaning up litter: $40

The moment you see in this picture: Priceless


Family Cats

Last night, we had a large group of guests visit our apartment. You see, a lot of my relatives were in town for Thanksgiving and they wanted to stop by and see me, meet my fiancee Liz for the first time, and see the boys.

I was a little concerned before they came that the cats would hide or just run away from all the people, but they were very good with the famly. They enjoyed being picked up and petted by all the different people. We even let my cousin Naomi and her husband Jay sleep on the couch and Beowulf slept on Jay's arm.

I don't see my cousins more than once a year, if that. So any visit I have with them is special, but this visit was made really special by the boys. Watching the boys and playing with them really brought us closer. I once had a friend who said that her family's cat had "held the family together." At the time, I couldn't understand how an animal could play such an important role in human relationships. Now, I know what she meant.

Friday, November 26, 2004

Allergy Explosion?

Tomorrow is the two-week anniversary of the boys' adoption. So much has happened that it seems like longer.

When I first adopted the boys, I knew I had a history of allergic reactions to cats, but I also knew of several solid methods to keep those allergies under control. But I started to feel a bit of hubris after not experiencing any symptoms for the first 10 days we had the boys. I had been taking Bioallers extract of animal dander for 2 months before the adoption and I thought maybe I'd developed a resistance.

Suddenly, the past 3 or 4 days, I have started getting sneezing attacks. Is it the boys? Could it be something else? Whatever the case, my fiancee Liz was kind enough to spend the afternoon vacuuming the furniture, mopping the floor, and even grooming the boys and spraying them down with Nature's Miracle Dander Remover spray. These are things we should probably be doing a couple of times a week and hadn't been doing regularly until now. Things seem a bit better, but I still have the occasional sneeze.

Of course, it might not be the boys at all. It might be dust coming from an air vent we just opened or it might be a cold or it might be a combination of things. Anyhow, whatever the case, we'll figure out the best solution. We already have a HEPA air purifier, a HEPA vacuum cleaner, and the anti-dander spray. We just have to use these tools as best we can.

Even in the worst case scenario, nothing changes. Even if I have to live with the occasional sneezing episode, there is no way Liz or I would ever give up our boys. They're family now.

Thursday, November 25, 2004

Thanksgiving with the Boys

This year, it feels like Christmas and Hanukkah came early (the day we adopted the boys), but Thanksgiving started late. Before we adopted the boys, we had planned to go visit my in-laws on Long Island and stay with them for two days. However, as soon as we brought the boys home, it became clear that we can't leave them alone overnight, at least not at this early stage of their lives.

So my fiancee Liz went out to stay with her parents Wednesday night and I stayed home with the boys. I fed them, gave them their antibiotics, and played with them. Finally, Thursday afternoon I took a train out to Long Island for dinner. As I write this, I'm sitting in my in-law's livingroom and looking forward to taking the train back in a couple of hours and seeing the boys.

Even though I've left them home alone for only a few hours, I'm still worried about them. They usually get their evening feeding of wet food at around 7 pm, but today I gave them a 1:00 feeding and left dry food out for them. If they seem hungry when we get home, we'll give them another can of food.

It's clear that they prefer the wet food to the dry, because we can leave bowls of dry food out all day and they'll eat just a little bit of it while they devour their wet food in a matter of minutes. I hope they're not too upset that we changed their wet food time today and I hope they don't end up going wild and chewing things while they wait for us to come home.

Mixed Signals

The past few days, people have been asking me how the boys are feeling. The reason I haven't posted a lot about the status of their respiratory infection is that it's hard to tell sometimes whether they are really getting better or I just think they are getting better.

Behavior-wise, they are rambunctious as always, though sometimes I'll see them calm down for a few hours and wonder whether this is "normal" resting or exhaustion from illness.

They eat and use the litterbox without a problem, but even when they were "sicker" that was not a problem. They chase each other and wrestle each other with great fervor, but even on Saturday -- the day we rushed them to the vet for coughing -- they did that.

So what makes me think they are probably a bit better today than they were a few days ago?

  • They're even more rambunctious than they were before
  • We witness them coughing less and sneezing less

That said, I had a disturbing incident this morning where Beowulf looked like he was going to cough up some phlegm and sat there trying to do it for about 30 seconds. Strangely, it sounded better than some of his coughs on Saturday because it sounded like it was more in his throat than chest. However, after that, it was off to the races with his brother.

The boys have been fighting the sneezes and coughs since we adopted them 10 days ago. We took them to the shelter doctor and they got a light antibiotic. Then, last weekend, they developed a frightening cough and we rushed them to a private vet who prescribed a more powerful antibiotic that they have been on since Saturday.

So my question is "how will we know when they are over this?" I continue to give them their daily antibiotics and, to be fair, it has only been 5 days that they've been on it. But how long does a cat URI (upper respiratory infection) last?

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

High and Dry

One thing I can say about the boys is that they sure like heights. Some evidence of this phenomenon:
  • Every day they climb on a new surface, higher than the one before
  • They would not sleep in their bed or use their little kitty condo until we put them on top of the couch and chair respectively. Now they use them all the time.
  • They now come up to us and meow, as if asking to be picked up. If we pick them up, they seem pretty content when we're walking around the room carrying them. They like to peer down from our arms just to see how high up they are. However, if we go to sit down in a couch or chair and have them on our laps, they get bored much more quickly and want to get off.
  • Arthur tried to climb into my lap my scaling my pant leg the other day. It didn't work, but he tried.

I hear that all cats like heights, right? I just hope we can stop them from liking our dining room table so much.

Litter, Litter Everywhere

My fiancee Liz and I have been extremely diligent about following the steps and advice given out in About.com's litter box maintenance tutorial. We got a box, a matt in front of it, we scoop it daily, and have been changing out the box twice a week (something we don't want to continue indefinitely b/c of the cost of litter).

We've been proud to use Swheat Scoop litter, because it is a safe, all-natural litter that doesn't pose any of the health risks associated with clumping clay litter. That said, there's litter everywhere!

The boys are tracking little pieces of litter onto the floor by the box and sometimes even into the livingroom. Granted, they are pieces of clean litter, but still -- who wants little crumbs all over the floor? We have a rubber matt in front of the litterbox that collects some of the litter, but obviously not all of it. Any advice?

Post, Interrupted

Last night, I was sitting down to write a post about how litter is getting dragged all over the apartment when Arthur approached my chair and meowed at me. I picked him up and he stayed in my lap purring, but contantly shifting positions for about 15 minutes. Then I went to put him down in his bed and he got up and jumped on my leg as if to ask to be picked up again so I picked him up and carried him around for a while.

When he finally got bored of me and became interested in sleeping with his brother, I turned off the computer and went to bed because I was tired. The good news: the boys seem to like being picked up and now "ask" for it on occasion.

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

It's Contagious

I found another cat blog today called My Growing Cat Family and the author cites this blog as inspiration. I'm blushing.

Allergies Reappear?

If you've been reading this blog since the start, you know that I have traditionally suffered from cat allergies. As you may know, I've never lived with cats before, but I have gotten itchy eyes / runny nose when visiting people homes where cats live.

However, since adopting the boys, I have been feeling totally fine. Last night, though, I got the runny nose / itchy eyes late in the evening. Am I sick with a cold now? Did I suddenly become allergic to the boys?

It's possible the problem occurred b/c Liz groomed the boys last night, combing their hair and causing a lot of it to become airborne or fall onto furniture. It's also possible that it's not the boys at all, but dust or the dry heat coming from the radiator.

Whatever the case, I'm sure it'll resolve itself. I haven't really taken every step I need to take to prevent allergen b/c things have been going so well thus far. I still should:
  • Spray the cats down with the Nature's Miracle Dander spray I bought
  • Groom the cats more frequently than we have been
  • Avoid rubbing my eyes or touching my face after petting them

However, things have gone so well I had thought maybe I didn't need to do anything special to prevent allergies. I'll be a little more conscientious from now on. Maybe I'll ask Liz to groom the boys on top of an old sheet or towel so their dander falls onto something we can wash.

Anyhow, even if I have to live with an occasional sniffle (and I probably don't), I will deal with it, because these are my cats and I wouldn't trade them for anything.


Monday, November 22, 2004

Is it Snot or Not?

So yesterday we had a strange and funny incident involving Beowulf. The vet asked us to get a sample of Beowulf's mucus so they could test it. Unfortunately, he kept sneezing and then cleaning himself before we could swab a sample. Finally, he was sitting on Liz's lap and sneezed. She quickly held his head still so he couldn't lick it up and I rushed to grab the sterile swab kit. I had to hold him still while Liz swabbed his nostril. I don't think he's forgiven us yet.

Meanwhile, Liz took the swab to the vet's today and they said they'll look at it, but we don't know if it has enough fluid on it for them to find anything. Will they send it to the lab and tell us we have "cotton?"

P.S. -- Yes, I've been dying to use the headline "is it snot or not."




How I Spent My Weekend

If you have no doubt from my previous post about how much time we put into our cats this weekend, here's a breakdown:

Friday Night:
  • Went to pet store for food and supplies
  • Fed cats
  • Went to dinner with Liz and came home a little tipsy
  • Slept for a few hours after dinner
  • Got up and watched the boys get into trouble for several hours

Saturday:

  • Woke up earliest I ever have on a Saturday to feed and watch the boys
  • Liz and I noticed the boys' colds getting worse, called a new vet and made emergency appointment
  • Took boys to the new vet where it was determined they were getting worse
  • Took cats home, gave them medicine and fed them lunch
  • Helped Liz clean the apartment so cats (and humans) would inhale less dust
  • Skipped party we wanted to attend to stay home and watch our sick cats
  • Took cats into the bathroom for steam treatment twice (to help clear their sinuses)
  • Spent two hours under my desk trying to cover some of my wires with tubes and tuck away others

Sunday:

  • Woke up at 7:30 am to feed the boys
  • Took nap for a couple of hours
  • Helped Liz give boys their medicine
  • My parents came to visit the boys and take Liz and I to lunch
  • Came back from lunch and watched the boys sleeping
  • Went out shopping for furniture and supplies with the hope of having more places to put things out of cats' reach
  • Came home and fed the boys
  • Took boys into bathroom for more steam treatment
  • Tried experiment to see if "sticky paws" (double-sided tape cat repellant) would keep cats off the diningroom table. Experiment failed.
  • Helped Liz hold Beowulf down and swab his nose for snot (the vet wants a sample of his snot for testing)
  • Tried to hide more wires

This morning:

  • Found Beowulf and Arthur trying to chew another set of wires (this time near the torch lamp) so sprayed the wires with "best behavior spray" (not sure if it really works) and threw a rubber bath mat on top of most of their length. Sprayed matt with "no scratch" and "best behavior" sprays though the cats still seem to be very interested in it.

As you can see, a lot of my time is spent trying to keep them away from wires and sockets. What do other cat owners do? I've tried sprays, tried putting things around the sockets to block them off, etc. While some of these things seem to lessen their interest, none of them is a cureall and we can't live without our wires here.

Sunday, November 21, 2004

Who Owns Who?

Humans who live with cats have traditionally referred to themselves as "cat owners," but lately I've seen a lot of people say they are "owned by cats." There's a group called "In Defense of Animals" who have come out strongly against the concept of pet ownership.

In this article, IDA writes:

Language is important because the way the law defines relationships influences the way people think and act towards those relationships. Throughout history, the law has defined animals as "property" rather than "persons." While it is technically true that animals are not "persons," neither are corporations, ships or municipalities. And yet, the law considers all of those entities "persons" for the purpose of granting some legal rights and protections. For example, a cruise liner does not have the right to vote, but it does have the right to sue on its own behalf if it suffers a financial or other injury.

The "We are Not their Owners" campaign is intended as a first step toward recognizing that "owning" an animal is inherently different than owning other forms of property such as a car or a pencil. The goal is that the use of the word "guardian" will encourage people who are responsible for animals to take that responsibility more seriously. It will also hopefully, eventually, grant animals some legal rights and protections of their own.


On the other hand, in "What's Wrong with Owning Pet Cats," About.com's Franny Syufy argues that the concept of ownership is mutual, between cat and human.

I'm not sure about the semantics here, but I will say this: I consider myself a cat guardian, not a pet owner. If I'm talking to people I might refer to myself as a "pet owner" out of habit or just because I'm not trying to make a radical statement. I just know that "my" cats are not my property.

My boys were adopted and we had to go through a screening process to get them. We didn't "buy" them, but rather gave an adoption fee to cover some of the costs the shelter had spent in caring for them. They are family members now, but they're not just here for our amusement. They're living creatures whom my fiance and I have chosen to share our lives with.

I know they're not human beings, but they are living beings and their lives are special and unique. Liz and I have dedicated ourselves to giving them the best lives we can. In practical terms, that means:

  • Giving them the best quality food we can reasonably afford
  • Getting them the best health care we can
  • Cat-proofing our home, even though it may inconvenience us in a big way
  • Planning our schedule around their schedule (feedings, vet visits, medicine time)
  • Playing with them and spending bonding time with them, even when we get busy
  • Always treating them like an important part of our family, even after we have human children

Am I wacky for feeling this way? I'll leave that up to you to decide, but I don't believe in doing things in half measures. When I decided I was ready to adopt cats, I knew it would be a big change in my life and so far it has been.

Saturday, November 20, 2004

Rambunctious as Ever

Well, they cough and sneeze a bit, but their mood and behavior seems pretty healthy to me.As I type this, they are chasing each other again, running all over the apartment, hiding from each other, and then wrestling. That seems like pretty healthy behavior to me. They still have a great appetite too.

Looking for Pet Health Insurance

After today's vet visit, there is no doubt in my mind that our boys need health insurance. Just having them looked at by the vet was $70 a cat and I hear that's not a high price. I've posted on the About.com Cats forum looking for advice on the two major brands of cat health insurance I've heard of: QuickCare and VPI.

Here are the details. Please chime in with your advice and experiences with any of these:

QuickCare's Indoor Only Cat Plan (my cats are indoor only)

VPI Superior Plan

VPI Standard Plan

IMHO but not in reality, this expense and any future expenses relating to their present infection should be paid for by the Bideawee shelter that sent them home with us without telling us about their respiractory problems (but that's a whole different rant). Anyway, even if they had told us, I still would have wanted them, because they're definitely "my cats," the ones I went to so many different places to find.