Thursday, December 30, 2004
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?
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.
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
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
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.
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
-- 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
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.
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
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.
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
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
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?
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
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).
Sunday, December 19, 2004
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
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.
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.
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
Wednesday, December 15, 2004
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
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.
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
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.
- 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.
- 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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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.
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)
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.
- 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
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.
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
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?
- 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.
Friday, December 03, 2004
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.
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.
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
- 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.