Thursday, March 31, 2005

What Are the Biggest Cat Misconceptions? -- FAQ

My experience tells me that there are two huge misconceptions going around about cats:

  1. Cats are Low-Maintenance -- It's true you don't have to walk a cat and I've known people who got away with leaving their cats alone for a weekend (not a good thing to do, IMHO), but if you really care about your cats or even if you don't, you'll find yourself putting a ton of time into them. If nothing else, you'll find yourself cat-proofing your house and doing what you can to keep your cats from getting into things. I can't even count the number of hours I've spent trying to find the perfect cat food, litter, and toys.
  2. Cats are Unaffectionate -- Cats, like people, have different personalities. So it's fair to say that some cats just aren't that friendly, but their "owners" might be to blame. If you put the time in, chances are you will be rewarded by a cat that wants to rub up against you, sit next to you, or use your hand as a pillow. Cats express affection differently than dogs or humans, but you I can tell that my boys love me when:
    • They come and lay down next to me while I sit on the couch

    • They stand outside the bedroom or bathroom door and meow for me to come out

    • Arthur rubs the top of his head against the top of my foot, then flips onto his back for a belly rub.

    • Beowulf comes and lays down right near my computer mouse while I'm typing.

    • They come running to greet me when I come home from work.

In "Meet the Parents," Robert De Niro's character says: "Dogs are emotionally shallow animals. Cats make you earn their love." If you have cats, you know when they're being affectionate with you and you value it all the more because you've earned it.

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Are You a Cat Person? -- FAQ

Before I adopted my boys in November, I would not have considered myself a "cat person." I was not a "dog person" or even a "pet person" before this. Growing up, I wasn't allowed to have pets (except goldfish) and, after a while, I stopped wanting to have an animal. Flash forward a couple of decades and I'm living with my fiancee here in New York City. Our building allows pets and we see people walking dogs in and out every day. After much consideration and pondering, we decide to adopt a pair.

Am I a cat person now? Yes, but let's use the term "cat parent." I think there are two types of people who share their lives with cats:

  1. Cat Owners -- Live with cats and consider them an "easy pet to care for." Cat owners care about their cats, but only to a point. They don't spend excessive money or time on their animals.

  2. Cat Parents -- Nuture their cats like children and put an enormous amount of time, energy, money, and emotional commitment into their feline family members.

If you've read this blog for a while, you know that somewhere along the way, I crossed the line and became a cat parent. How can you tell?

  • I often put my cats' needs above my own. My boys love my leather chair and I'll often give it up for them. In the evenings, Arthur likes to curl up on my chair while I sit next to him and give him a belly rub. I'll grab a diningroom chair for myself so the king can have his throne. My fiancee Liz calls me a pushover, but that's just my nature.
  • I don't normally refer to my cats as "my cats." I call them "the boys" or I talk about them by name. My fiancee Liz and I refer to them as "our sons." One of us will sometimes call the other one and say "do you know what your sons just did?"
  • I experiment with all kinds of shmancy cat food. Lately, I've been feeding the boys a lot of Merrick Cat Food. Merrick is the brand with flavors like California Roll, Cowboy Cookout, Surf and Turf, and New England Boil. I can't say they like it all, but I'm figuring out what flavors they enjoy. When I meet other cat people, we often talk about food and litter.
  • I can't stand to leave them alone. The longest the boys have ever been alone in the past has been 17 hours (on Christmas) and I wasn't happy about that. I'm going to get someone to catsit if Liz and I ever get to go away for a weekend. The boys aren't allowed in the bedroom so I often stay up watching them until late. I love to watch them sleep.
  • I'm very picky about cat products. A lot of cat toys and furniture are poorly and dangerously made. I'm obsessive about finding the safest things I can. Nothing's perfect, though.
  • I miss my boys. When I'm at work, I stare at the pictures of the boys I keep on my desk. I can't wait to get home and feed them their dinner.
  • I prefer cats to dogs. I've never had a dog so maybe this isn't fair to say, but there's just something about the feline form I really admire. Is it the graceful way they walk? Is it the all-too-human expression on their faces? Is it that "sense of cool" that I'd like to emulate in my own life? All of the above.

Cat Lap Dance

A friend of mine pointed me toward this great cat lap dance animation. No, it's not a "lap dance" in the "adult" sense. It's about a man whose cat wants to sit on his lap and he wants to get up and eat without distubing the sleeping cat. I think this animation is really funny to cat people, because we've all had the experience of wanting to get up but not wanting to wake a sleeping feline companion.

The man in the cartoon is afraid to move because his cat will scratch him, but I don't want to move because I don't want to spoil the moment when my boys are cuddled up with me.

Saturday, March 26, 2005

A Human on Our Couch? No Problem

My fiancee's brother has been visiting for a few days and he's been sleeping on the couch. Apparently, this doesn't stop Beowulf and Arthur from wrestling, even right on top of him. In fact, I think they like to fight on top of him.

Saturday, March 19, 2005

Arthur the Foot Fetishist

Arthur loves feet -- my feet, Liz's feet, even old socks that we let him play with. Whether I'm sitting at my desk or walking around, he loves to come and rub the top of his head against the top of my feet then flip over on his back for a belly rub.

Ironically, when I go to pick him up, he's usually not as enthused. He'd rather be at my feet. Beowulf, on the other hand, likes to rub his head against my hand. If I stick my hand out, he'll jump up to touch it with his head. He'll sit next to me on the couch, while Arthur will sit on the ottoman and lean his head on my feet. What's up with this foot fetish?

Friday, March 18, 2005

Giant Cats?

If you've been reading this blog for a while, you know that my boys are not allowed in the bedroom. It's a shame, but necesary b/c the bedroom is our dumping ground for all the things we don't want the boys getting into. The problem is that my fiancee Liz and I don't get to sleep with the cats, something many cat parents do.

However, there are times when I will nap on the livingroom couch and Beowulf or Arthur will come sleep against my leg and it's a wonderful feeling. However, it makes me nervous, because I'm afraid I'll roll over and crush him. A friend of mine at work tells me that he once knew someone who killed her cat by rolling over on it in her sleep. I am big a toss and turner so this worries me.

Can you really smother or crush your cat to death if he sleeps next to you?

Thinking about how small and fragile my boys are, I'm actually looking forward to them getting much bigger. I hope they get huge.

In fact, I think it would be cool if someone would breed house cats that were the same size as a medium to large dog (not Mastiff size, but maybe Golden Retriever or Irish Setter size). There are several urban legends about giant housecats, but most are either false or involve a very obese cat. This article discusses the possibility of breeding giant housecats.

I think a large housecat would be great, because it would have all the great feline qualities us cat people love, but be large enough that you wouldn't have to worry about stepping on it, tripping over it, crushing it, etc.

Right now, for those who want a large cat, there's the Maine Coon (which is still much smaller than a medium dog) and then there are wild animals which are probably illegal to keep (Tigers, Panthers, Lions, etc).

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Cats and Stress

Everyone experiences stress, but lately my stress-level has been off the chart. Fortunately, my boys have been there to help.'s Franny Syufy writes:

It is an accepted fact that cat owners have lower blood pressure, especially in older people. The human-feline bond is never quite so close as when a person is holding and petting a purring, vibrating bundle of fur on her lap, and all is well with the world. You may even find yourself purring in response.

I can accept this fact, because I've experienced the calming effect my boys have on me. I'll come home after a hard day and I'll lie down on the couch and Beowulf will come cuddle with me.

This weekend, I spent the better part of Sunday and Monday (took the day off) cuddling with my boys and staying away from the computer. Arthur won't come sit on the couch with me, but if I put him on the leather desk chair and roll it over to the couch, I can lie down and stroke him while I rest.

In fact, on Sunday, I was sitting on the couch and stuck my arm out so Arthur could wrap his paws around it. He snuggled with my arm on his chair (actually it's supposed to be my chair, but we all know whose chair it is) as I fell asleep on the couch. Those of you who have never lived with a cat are missing that feeling one gets when your feline companion decides to use your hand or arm as a pillow. There's nothing quite like that feeling of love and trust.

Everyone knows that the ancient Egyptians worshipped cat dieties, but did you know that some pagans today believe that cats have magic powers? After living with them for four months, I can see why.

How Old Are the Boys? -- FAQ

Unlike most cat parents who adopt a stray, I know my boys' exact date of birth. Arthur and Beowulf were born in the Bideawee Wantagh shelter on September 1, 2004.

When we adopted them on November 13, the shelter people showed us a picture of the boys nursing from their mother. I'm not sure why, but they wouldn't give us the picture (which was a printout from a digital camera). They gave us a horrible black and white photocopy of the picture so I can't really scan it and post it online.

Here's a picture of the boys coming out of their temporary carriers on November 13, 2004, the day we adopted them.

Sunday, March 06, 2005

How Do I Tell the Boys Apart? -- FAQ

How can I tell Arthur and Beowulf apart? People who have actually visited me in person and met the boys ask this question more than blog visitors and I can't believe it. They are not identical twins by any stretch of the imagination.

Beowulf has a lot more white on his face and body. He also has bigger eyes and more of a lanky build. And he also is the one wearing the black collar. We've often suspected that Beowulf is the younger brother (although they were both born in the same litter), because he has a more youthful, wide-eyed look and expression.

Arthur is mostly orange with white paws and a white chin and belly. Arthur has more white in his eyes and when he looks at you, he has this wise expression which makes him sometimes look like an old man. He's also the one wearing the blue collar.

Saturday, March 05, 2005

Litter Still a Problem

My fiancee Liz and I spent the day cleaning up the apartment. It's just amazing to us how much litter dust gets on the furniture and the floor and in every crevice of our apartment. We use the World's Best Cat Litter and we love it as a litter, but we hate stepping on it and having it all over our furniture.

A few months back, we got a The Litter Welcome Mat and it helped a little bit, but the main problem is that:

  • The boys kick litter out of the litterbox (even though it is a covered box)
  • The boys get litter dust on their fur and paws and they track it all over

This problem is particularly accute if we put them in their cage and put a small litterbox for them to use in there. They kick litter out of the cage and all over the floor (and we put them in the cage, because we are cleaning).

Any suggestions?

Thursday, March 03, 2005

Feeling Guilty

This past weekend, my fiancee Liz and I bought a spray bottle so we could use it to train the boys to stay away from certain places -- the diningroom table, the power strip under my desk, etc. We've tried several other cat repellants and each one either doesn't work or only works to a point. I'll post my reviews of some of these soon, but we've tried a noise-based solution, a motion detector that sprays water, and sticky doublesided tape. We need to be able to train the boys not to go to certain places.

That said, I have a hard time motivating myself to spray the boys with water. I always feel so guilty about it because it startles them so and they usually jump away with such wildness that I worry they will hurt themselves. Tonight, I saw Beowulf on top of the TV set and I sprayed him. He jumped off so fast that he fell on top of a speaker with a loud crash. He seemed ok physically, though I'm not sure how I'd know if he broke a bone. But he was obviously startled and upset. I gave him some treats and he calmed down and went to sleep, but I feel so guilty.

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

What Are Your Cats Named? -- FAQ

My boys are named Arthur and Beowulf. The people at the shelter had named them Comet and Bowie, but my fiancee Liz and I came up with new names for them on the day we adopted them.

On the day we adopted them, we went through dozens, if not hundreds of potential names. Before we got the boys, we had thought about giving our future cats New York City names (Lexington and Madison) or Giant Japanese Monster names (Godzilla and Gigan), but those just didn't seem appropriate.

When I looked at Arthur (shown at right), he had such human eyes that I thought he needed a human name. When I looked him in the eye, I could see the whites of his eyes and he just looked like an Arthur to me. My fiancee Liz and I talked for hours about names, but I insisted that Arthur must be named Arthur. I actually didn't have a particular Arthur in mind to name him after, but later on we decided that he must be named after King Arthur.

After we decided that Arthur was named after King Arthur, we decided that his brother needed a companion name. Liz suggested other Arthurian names like Merlin or Lancelot, but I felt that it was not appropriate to make one cat a king and the other one less than royal. They had to be on equal footing.

We considered other kingly names like Alexander and Octavius, but we settled for another mythical king, Beowulf (shown at left). Unfortunately, there are a lot of people who have never read Beowulf so they don't know the old english legend. They ask me "why did you name your cat after a wolf?" Maybe the upcoming movie, "Beowulf and Grendel" will enlighten them.

Just the FAQs

I get a lot of questions about my cats, both online and in person. I also feel like I have some insight I might be able to share with other cat people and new cat owners. So, in honor of the boys' six month birthday, I'm going to start a series of FAQ posts (frequently asked questions) on this blog. Eventually, I'll compile links to all the FAQs on one index page so people always know where to find them. First FAQ to follow this post.

For those of you who come here looking for cute pictures, here's a good one of Arthur sleeping on my desk chair.

Kitty Cage Match

We finally unpacked the cage today and set it up. We had to put the boys in it while our building superintendant came to spackle and repaint the bathroom.

He has to leave the bathroom door open while he works and we can't have the boys running in there and getting spackle or paint on themselves.

I wasn't home at the time my fiancee Liz set up the cage, but she tells me that the boys were upset at first and then calmed down and started playing inside. She put a small litterbox in the cage for a while, but Arthur kicked litter all over the place after using it so she took it out.

The next time we cage them, I think we'll just have to live with him kicking litter around b/c we don't want them to have to hold it in for too long. I'd also love to get a hammock that would fit in this cage. I still haven't seen a simple place to get cage hammocks for cats. Should I get a ferret hammock?

As far as the cage is concerned, it seems pretty sturdy and more than big enough for the task at hand. For those who are curious, it's a Precision 4000 Basic Crate, made for dogs but good enough for cats. I got it for $79 at a local Petco, but I don't see it available online.

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

6-Month Birthday Boys

The boys were born on September 1, 2004 so today is their 6-month birthday. We adopted them on November 13th so the 6-month anniversary of their adoption won't be until May.

Nevertheless, this is a milestone for them and their mom and I celebrated with birthday cake (well, we had some of Liz's birthday cake leftover from the weekend). I even fed the boys California Roll for breakfast.