Monday, January 31, 2005

Literary Cats

This afternoon, Liz found that the boys had ripped the jacket off of one of her books, without moving the book at all. She noticed only when she found the chewed jacket under a chair.


The boys not only enjoy chewing books; they enjoy reading them too. Arthur often sits on Liz's lap and peers up at whatever she's reading at the moment.

Some Progress With Arthur

It's unfair to say that Arthur has been totally ignoring me or that he's not an affectionate cat. He has been extremely affectionate with Liz, climbing into her lap to sleep for hours each day. Her lap also happens to be a good place for him, because Liz sits in the same chair for hours reading and she always throws a fleece blanket over herself. That said, it's not just the blanket he loves, because I tried sitting with it for a while and he didn't come to my lap.


Of course, Beowulf will sit in Liz's lap sometimes too, but he only does it when she has the blanket on and he'll sit on my lap at other times. Arthur has only been interested in cuddling with Liz for the past couple of weeks.





However, this afternoon, Liz scolded Arthur for trying to chew a paper bag she was using. She then went into the bedroom to lie down and while I was stretched out on the couch, Arthur came and slept next to my leg like he used to. He even nuzzled up to my leg and turned over for a belly rub. Liz said "he knows he can manipulate you, but it's not gonna work on me." And it's true. Later in the day, he was sleeping on my desk chair and I wanted to use the computer, but I didn't want to disturb Arthur. So I got a different, less-comfortable chair to use. I then pushed the chair with my sleepy king over to the right of the keyboard and petted him while I was surfing the Web. It's Arthur and Beowulf's world; Liz and I are just living in it.

Loom to Grow

My boys love to chew wires and that worries me a great deal. Every since I adopted them, I've been steadily buying more and more wire looms and placing them over the most sensitive wires. What's a wire loom? You can see several kinds of loom on this page.

The wire looms serve three functions:
  • To make the small wires appear bigger so they are no longer "bite sized"
  • To protect the wires and the boys in the event that they start chewing
  • To combine several small wires into one big tube, hence reducing the number of tempting chew toys

I'm not the only person to consider wire looms as a solution to wire chewing by pets. Here's a great page by a rabbit owner with simlar chewing problems. Nevertheless, here's a cat owner who claims that wire looms are dangerous and cause cancer, because the looms are plastic and plastic is carcinogenic if swallowed. The looms I have installed were barely touched, though a few were chewed on once or twice. I also spray all the wires -- loomed and not -- with bitter apple spray and that works to an extent, but it's not fool-proof and has to be reapplied to every inch of wire on a regular basis.

The fact is that the boys want to chew the thinest possible wires so making them thicker by looming them seems to be a good strategy in my view. Also, the danger of possible future cancer is less than the danger of immediate execution should they manage to open up a power cord. However, another possiblity is to get metal looms, like those used in car engines, but metal looms are extremely expensive and hard to cut to length.

What do you think? Am I doing the right thing or making it worse?


Saturday, January 29, 2005

Sweeter When They're Tired

I'm sure this is true of all cats, but when they're running around chasing each other or exploring, they're much less interested in human attention. They might be interested in climbing all over someone like a piece of furniture, but they won't stop and let you pet them. But even when Arthur, who has been giving me the cold shoulder of late, gets tired, he enjoys a cat massage.

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Should I Get Them a Playpen?

I'm thinking about getting my boys a playpen. Actually, I should be a bit more honest; I'm considering getting a cage that we can put them in when we're doing something that would endanger them if they interfered with it. I'm talking about things we do like cleaning with chemicals or putting together furniture we bought where, if there are things that could hurt the boys if they are their usual curious selves.

Right now, when we do something the boys can't get involved with, we put them in their carrier. This past Sunday, for example, we had to put together a huge bookshelf from Ikea. It took us three and a half hours and the boys were in their little carrier for the whole time and they slept quietly but I felt terrible keeping them confined in such a small space. But when it comes to something like building a bookcase, we have no choice but to put them somewhere safe and secure. If we let them walk around while we were building the bookcase, they could have very easily gotten hurt in any of a dozen ways (getting under the heavy plants, eating a nail, playing with a sharp tool, etc).

Sometime soon, our building super is coming to repaint our bathroom. The last thing we want is for Arthur or Beowulf to jump into a bucket of paint or poison themselves by eating painting chemicals.

I'd like to have a little cage, just for such occasions, because we could could put food and water and even a little litter pan in the cage while they're in it. I've been eyeing this playpen because it sounds like it can be taken apart and folded up and because it has stairs and platforms. At $129.99 the price is a little steep though. We only plan to use this for special occasions and for floor cleanings.

Can anyone recommend a cage or "playpen?"

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Tool I Can't Live Without: The Dirt Devil Extreme Power Hand Vacuum

About.com's Franny Syufy has great list of Top 7 Products for Managing a Cat-Owned Home. She suggests a couple of vacuums and a steamer as essential products for cat guardians. While I agree that regular vacuuming is a huge part of life now that we have cats, I'd like to recommend one addition to her list -- the Dirt Devil Extreme Power Hand Vacuum.

I bought the Dirt Devil Extreme Power back in November, just a couple of weeks after we adopted the boys. My goal in getting the Extreme Power was simple: to have a cordless hand vacuum that I could whip out quickly and easily whenever I found granules of litter, crumbs, nail sheaths, little pieces of hair, or any of the other little things our boys leave around.

The litter problem really overshadows all others. The boys are constantly kicking pieces of litter out of the box and carrying pieces of litter with them all over the apartment. We even find litter under furniture and closet doors where the boys could not possibly have gone. As soon as I see litter on the floor, I want to vacuum it up. But who wants to go to the closet, pull out a heavy upright vacuum, plug it in and roll it out over the floor, every time you see a piece of litter. You'd be opening the closet and lifting the heavy vacuum a dozen times a day.

I rarely make impulse purchases so before I bought the Dirt Devil, I did a lot of research online. I went to a few stores and looked at competing models from Black and Decker and from Shark. I wanted the most powerful cordless hand vacuum I could buy, because I remember using an early model Dustbuster when I was a teenager and being really frustrated by its lack of suction. I also wanted something that could reach into small crevices and something that was relatively easy to empty and clean.

I chose the Dirt Devil Extreme Power over competing products for two main reasons:

  • It has a powerful 14.4 Volt motor
  • It has an awesome crevice tool that is built into the vacuum and flips out. There are no detachable plastic tools to lose.

Since buying the Extreme Power, I have not been disappointed. I keep it charging in the kitchen and yank it out several times a day to pick up pieces of litter from the floor. The crevice tool (shown in action below) reaches into small spaces such as the space between the appliances (dishwasher, fridge) and the floor and allows me to pick up litter granules that get wedged against the wall or stuck just under the molding.







Is the 14.4-volt Extreme Power powerful enough? You bet. This isn't your mother's cordless hand vac. It sucks up not only the large pieces of litter, but also erases some of the stickier little clumps that find their way out of the litterbox way and onto the floor.

Is it easy to clean? It could be easier, but it's not bad at all. You just open it up, pull out the cup inside and dump the contents in the trash. Pieces of dust and hair tend to stick to the cup so you may have to use your hand (with gloves, I hope) to pull some of the crud off of the cup periodically. The cup does tend to get cruddy so periodically you will want to toss it out and put in a new one. Replacement cups for the Dirt Devil Extreme Power are sold in two packs that cost around $5.

Bottom line: Without this vac, I'd either be living in a pile of litter or I'd be in traction from dragging around a heavy upright vacuum twelve times a day.

Shifting Allegiances

The past week to ten days, it seems like the cat world here has been upside down. Beowulf, who is usually "Liz's cat," and Arthur who is usually closer to me, have switched places. Arthur has been pretty much ignoring me and Beowulf has been following me around. True, Beowulf always followed me around and we had a good relationship before, but Arthur and I were closer. He'd come to visit me on my desk and jump up on the couch so he could snuggle with me. He's even flip over on his back and ask for belly rubs.

Lately, he's been ignoring me, but during the day, when Liz is home without me, he goes and climbs onto her lap to sleep. I'm kinda sad about this turn of events and I'm hoping he'll take an interest in me again. He lets me pet him if he's resting, but he's not seeking me out anymore.

If he's mad at me, what did I do wrong? Could it be that:

  • He's run in front of me a few times while I'm walking and I've ended up accidentally kicking him
  • About the time this started, we came home at 10 pm one day and the boys were home alone for about 12 hours and got their evening feeding about 4 hours late. Since then, they haven't eaten much during their 7 pm wet feeding, but have scarfed down their dry food over night.
  • He identifies with Liz exclusively because she's home for more hours than I am and she sits in her chair for hours with a blanket he can snuggle on.

Saturday, January 22, 2005

It's Getting Cold in Here

This apartment is usually really warm in the winter. In fact, it's so warm that I need to open the windows in the bedroom a crack when I go to sleep because otherwise it'll be too hot to sleep. But this heat hides a persistant draft that comes from that tiny space between the floor and the front wall.

Today, as we experience a major blizzard, the floor, particularly near the window, is a bit chilly. Fortunately, Arthur has found the perfect place to sleep -- on top of the radiator.

Bad Bed Blues

Again, I ask why it is that cat product makers cannot consider cat safety when making their products. As a cat guardian, I try and I try, but it's nearly impossible to find cat furniture or products that are truly kitten proof.

This morning, my shipment arrived with the Pyramid Bed I had ordered. This bed looks nice in the picture and I figured it would be a fairly safe hideway for the boys. However, within minutes, we found several potential problems with it:

  • It has stitched seams on the inside and the boys were able to pull string out of them (we don't want them swallowing string).
  • The dangling puff ball had to be removed because it was covered in dried glue (at least it comes off)
  • The bed is soft fabric and does not hold its shape well. Beowulf tried climbing on top of it and I had to stop him because his brother was inside and the roof of the pyramid nearly came down on him.
  • Once you remove the puffball, you see that there is a piece of sharp plastic that was holding it in place. If the bed is crushed down on a cat (from another cat climbing on top), I worry that the piece of sharp plastic could injure the cat inside.
There goes another $20. At least it was only $20.

Whose Computer Is It Anyway?

Last night, I was in the middle of writing a long post about the boys' new scratching post when all of a sudden my computer shut down. How did it happen? Arthur batted at the on/off switch and turned it off. I lost all my work, unfortunately.

I know what you're thinking. You're thinking that he just happened to step on the power strip switch. Nope. He pressed the power button -- a small, springy button on the front of the computer. He had to hit just the right spot to get it.

Friday, January 21, 2005

Ignorathon Coming to an End

It seems like the boys are taking some interest in me again. Last night, Beowulf jumped on top of the desk and demanded a cat massage. But Beowulf was not really the problem since Arthur has been the one who has really been giving me the cold shoulder. This is particularly troublesome because I always felt closer to Arthur than to Beowulf.

After Beowulf fell asleep on my desk, I went over to Arthur and gave him a cat massage for a while. Then, right before I went to bed, I was coming out of the bathroom and Beowulf started following me around. I carried him over to the couch and nuzzled under my arm for a while. Arthur came over and sat at my feet and watched us but he didn't come cuddle.

This morning, I went to feed the boys their kibble and Arthur started rubbing up against my ankles and flipping over on his back for a belly rub. I guess he likes me again, for the moment. They are so fickle!

Thursday, January 20, 2005

Fantastic Deal at Petsmart.com Thru Jan 23

Petsmart.com is offering free shipping until January 23rd with the coupon code JANFREE. I mention this because, even though the small print says they may charge extra for "heavy items," I just ordered a lot of food and a 17-lb bag of World's Best Cat Litter and the shipping was still free. In fact, the UPS Web site says that my shipment will arrive tomorrow, only two days after I ordered it!

For those of you who like World's Best Cat Litter or just want to try a bag, Petsmart.com is one of the least expensive places to get it at only $16.99 for the 17-lb bag. I'm not one to normally one schill products or talk about sales, but I know how expensive World's Best can be at the store (our local Petco charges $30 for the same bag) so I'm just pointing this out for those of you who might be interested.

Did They Swallow Wire?

A few minutes after I got home today, I saw Arthur batting around a small piece of wire. You've probably seen this type of wire. It was a thin copper wire with clear plastic shielding that was attached to Liz's stereo and served as the antenna. We threw out the remaining wire from the stereo (no more radio for us) and the shred that we found Arthur playing with. Honestly, we didn't think they'd get to this wire because it was tucked away, bound with a tie, and we had sprayed it with bitter apple cat repellant.

We don't know if there was another piece of wire that was swallowed or if what we found was the whole thing. We suspect that there may have been another little piece of wire because the other end of the wire had a loop in it and we cannot find a loop on the end that was chewed off. We looked under every piece of furniture, but if a piece of wire exists, it's so tiny that it could be under anything or could have fallen into any crevice or crack. What if they swallowed some? How would we even know?

Ignorathon Underway

What is going on? The boys don't love me anymore! This week, they're just not paying much attention to me, but they are very interested in my fiancee Liz. They'll go over and sit on her lap or paw at her feet for attention, but they aren't interested in me. They're not scared of me, but they don't want to come sit with me or visit me on my desk nor do they fall at my feet for a belly rub like they used to.


I am still the one who feeds them most of their meals and scoops their poop, but I get no credit. Last night, I even bribed them with treats and they came over and ate the treats out of my hand, but they just weren't their affection selves.


To be fair, Beowulf did come visit me on my desk for a little while, but he walked away quickly. Arthur is the one who is giving me the coldest sholder and that's ironic because he has traditionally been more affectionate than Beowulf.


When am I going to get them to sit next to me on the couch like this again?



Woman Found With 63 Cats in Van

According to an article posted on CNN.com, a woman in New Mexico was charged with animal cruelty after she was pulled over yesterday for a traffic violation and the arresting officer found 63 sick cats in the back of her moving van.

It's not clear from the article exactly what the woman was doing with the 63 cats, two of which were dead. Were they her cats? Were they feral cats that she was transporting? Whatever the case, her actions sound pretty irresponsible, though probably well-intentioned.

Whatever this woman's story was, this article makes me think about all the "crazy cat ladies" out there who live with a lot of cats. A few months ago, I saw an old episode of CSI where the murder victim was an old woman who was living with over 20 cats. At the time I couldn't understand why someone would want to live with so many cats, but now I can sympathize. I think two cats is enough for me right now, but after visiting some shelters during the adoption process, I can understand why someone would want to "take them all home." That said, there are only so many cats one can reasonably provide for.

Not Eating Much

The last couple of days the boys aren't finishing their wet food (they get two wet feedings and dry in between) and they aren't finishing their dry either. I can't say that they're not eating at all, but they are eating much less. I've seen them go through stages like this before so I'm not ready to hit the panic button, but if this continues for another day or two, I will start to get concerned.

I'm actually wondering if this might have something to do with their rabies vaccination. They were vaccinated a week ago and were fine for the next couple of days, but they did get a modified-live vaccine. I wonder if reduced appetite is a reaction to that. When the boys got their distemper vaccine back in December, they had a reduced appetite for a few days. Of course, they could just be going through a phase too.

Update: They did eat most of their wet food this morning.

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Batting at Pictures

We've given up a lot for our boys. We've taken all of our knick-knacks and put them in drawers for fear the boys would swallow them or knock them over. We've forgone simple things like plants, flowers, and vases b/c they pose a danger to the boys. This past weekend, we even replaced our diningroom chairs with a whole new set because the boys were pulling string off of the old ones.

But there's one thing I really don't want to give up and that's the collection of photographs we're using to decorate our walls. We live in New York City and our apartment has a New York theme. We've covered the walls with framed black and white photos of New York landmarks. Above my desk, I have several photos of the Empire State Building, the Chrysler Building (my favorite skyscraper), and Central Park. Liz has pics of the Brooklyn Bridge and the World Trade Center above her desk. Our couch has a giant pic of Times Square from 1943 above it. We love these pics and we took months to pick them out, buy them, and frame them all.

Unfortunately, most of the frames are glass and they will break if the pictures fall on the floor. Today, Beowulf climbed on top of the bookshelf and was batting at our photo of the Empire State Building. If he had knocked it off its nail, I'd hate to think about the possibility of he or his brother getting seriously hurt by the broken glass. We're trying to keep the boys away from the top of the bookshelf by putting our Skat-Cat on top of it, but they're not always afraid of it and the top of the bookshelf is just one place where the boys can reach our pictures. Help!

Quick Q&A With Our Vet

Last Thursday, my fiancee Liz took the boys to the vet for their rabies shots. As I've said in earlier posts, we really like our vet and we're pleased that he uses Purevax, a brand of modified live vaccine that has the lowest risk of Vaccine-Related Sarcomas.

That said, Liz used this opportunity to ask our vet some questions we've had. She printed out a list and brought it with her for the occasion.

1. Do our boys need heartworm treatment?

The vet said he has "never treated" a cat for heartworm in all his years in the practice. He didn't dismiss our concerns, however. He said that, if we want, he can have the boys tested for heartworm before putting them on a preventative plan which he believes would have to be administered every month, not just during mosquito season.

Bottom line: I'm still confused on this issue.

2. Is our feeding schedule (2 wet feedings, free-feeding of dry in-between) adequate?

He says yes.

3. How much do our boys weigh?

Five pounds each now. He says they look very healthy

4. What happens if they eat the carpet from their scratching post or from other cat furniture?

He thinks they would probably pass the fibers, but the plastic string underneath is dangerous. Good thing we're getting rid of this scratching post.

5. When do they need to go back to the vet?

He says that, barring injury or illness, they don't need to come back until next January.

Disco Cats

Last night around 1 am, Liz and I were laying in bed and trying to fall asleep when we were jarred awake by the sound of disco music coming from the livingroom. We rushed out to the livingroom only to find that Arthur had managed to turn on the stereo and was now hiding in the bookshelf, scared out of his wits by the sudden influx of loud noises.

The cats already type on the computer and watch TV. What's next? Am I going to come home and find the boys watching a DVD of The Cat from Outer Space?

Monday, January 17, 2005

Another Day, Another Boatload of Cat Expenses

Wow, I think maybe I went a bit overboard ordering cat stuff online. I didn't even get a cat tree and I spent $175 on stuff just now, ordering from two different online stores. But it was all stuff we pretty much need. Here's what I got.

From Petsmart.com, which is offering free shipping this week on orders over $40, I got:


I know I got a lot of Petstages toys, but Petsmart happens to have a really good selection and some of the more interesting Petstages toys are hard to come by. If you read my previous post about Petstages brand toys, you know they are the best brand of cat toy I've seen. They are really durable, intelligently made, and the boys love them. I can't wait to try out the new wand toys with them.

I also ordered some things from Drs. Foster & Smith, which is a good place to shop for pet products, but they mainly carry their own products so I can't use them for my litter, pet food, or for Petstages brand toys. From Foster & Smith, I got:

Now, tell me. Was any of that stuff really unnecessary? I have to replace the boys' scratching post so I decided to give the Ultimate Scratching Post a shot because it has sissal (which the boys like) but no carpeting. I figure they need a hiding place so I got the Pyramid and, of course, more interactive toys may distract them from doing destructive things. Food and litter are staples that I have to get on a regular basis so I'm not even going to question those expenses.

I guess being a cat guardian can get expensive between trips to the vet, giant bags of litter, cases of food and the little intangibles like toys and treats that just add up. Of course, I can't put a price on the feeling I got this afternoon when both boys were sleeping with their paws around my arm as I watched TV.

ID Tag Concern

The day after we brought Arthur and Beowulf home, we went to local Petco and got them engraved ID tags with their names and our phone numbers. Considering that these are indoor-only cats, one might argue that they don't need ID tags, but you never know when they might accidentally leave the apartment.

As you might image, the cats often try to chew at the ID tags, but since they are nice shiney metal, they don't come apart. That said, I'm starting to wonder if perhaps I should either remove their ID tags for a while or find some kind of light plastic tag for them instead. The reason I'm thinking about changing or removing their tags is that the metal tags might actually pose more danger to our apartment than the cats do. Everytime the cats jump on something or run into something (like the window), the loudest bang comes from the heavy metal ID tag clanging into things. I'm very concerned that they may smash the windows and it would be the ID tag that smashed them, not their body weight or their paws.

Can anyone recommend a lightweight ID tag or do you think I can just live without them for a while? Of course, any ID tag would have to be hard enough to be tooth-proof, since they chew at their ID tags all the time.

Saturday, January 15, 2005

Cat-Proofing the Radiator: Your Advice Needed

As I mentioned in an earlier post, the boys have found a new place to explore, a very dangerous place: next to the radiator. As you can see in the picture at right, our radiator is covered by a nice wood structure. However, the structure leaves a little extra space between the radiator and the wall (see the yellow arrow).


Here's a blow up of the area in question:




The boys don't touch the radiator itself because it's hot, but they are digging into the crevice shown above and back behind the radiator is a loose concrete wall. At the point where the radiator pipe emerges from the wall, the concrete is loose and the boys are able to rip pieces of concrete off and play with them. Because I live in an apartment building, I am not allowed to mess with the radiator or that wall and I doubt I could get the super to do much about it (it's hard enough to get him to fix other things). This loose concrete has never been a problem until now and it's only a problem because the boys are going back there.

Obviously, I don't want the boys removing more concrete from the wall and breaking the wall or swallowing a piece of the concrete. What can we do to keep the boys out of the crevice? I'd love to put a thick book in the crevice as we've done with other crevices, but I'm afraid the hot radiator would set the book on fire. If I put a garbage can or other large object in front of the radiator cover, do you think it would be a fire hazard?

Dragon Slaying Cats

Well, this morning I heard a little thump when I was in the bedroom sleeping and my intuition told me that the boys had knocked something over. So I went out into the livingroom and noticed the boys batting around a jade dragon that had been sitting at the very top level of our bookshelf. The dragon, much like the Sphinx, was now missing its nose.

I quickly grabbed the dragon and noticed the missing nose. Was I angry? Not really. I was more concerned that the boys may have swallowed the nose. I immediately woke Liz up and we started a grid search for the missing nose, hoping to find it under a piece of furniture. We did a forensic analysis straight out of CSI and figured out that the nose had probably rolled under a chair. Low and behold, we were relived to find it there, rather than finding out the boys had swallowed it.

Nevertheless, the top of the bookshelf is new territory for the boys and now it is empty because we took everything off of it.


Tomorrow, we're going to Ikea and we're hoping to buy a whole bunch of new furniture to accomodate our kitten-proof lifestyle. We want to get a bookshelf that has glass doors on it (so we can put display items like the dragons behind glass) and we're going to get a whole new set of diningroom chairs that are all wood and metal (the cats ripped the thread off of our current set and we had to put them in the bedroom).

Literally Climbing the Walls!

I must apologize for not posting as much as I had been. It seems like every time I sit down to post to the blog, Arthur starts acting up. The last couple of days have been a new low. He has now literally bitten the paint off the wall in one corner and has found a spot next to the radiator where he can dig concrete out of the wall and bat it around the livingroom. These two things never happened before.

I've also seen him trying to climb the walls and bat at the pictures on the wall. I don't want him eating paint or concrete or knocking pictures off the wall and breaking glass. How can we calm him and his brother down?

Thursday, January 13, 2005

Cat and Mouse

The boys are just chewing everything in sight. The latest thing I caught Arthur nibbling on was the mouse cord. Before that, he tried to bite a hole in the wall!

Can I get them some of those Hannibal Lecter facemasks until they're done teething?

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Terrific Brand of Toys: Petstages

So many cat toys are made without giving a second thought to the health and safety of the cats they are intended for. Toy mice have glued-on eyes that can easily come off and be swallowed. Other toys have dangling pieces of string or feather that can harm a cat. One brand of cat toy I bought was actually covered in dried glue. I guess if a cat is poisoned and dies, it's not a problem for the people who make them.

Anyhow, I want to give some praise where it's richly due to one particular pet toy company, Petstages. Petstages takes the approach that cats, like children, have developmental needs and they seek to meet the needs that the cats have -- a need to chew, to bat at something, etc. Most importantly, their products are intelligently made.

I have bought a dozen of their toys and, while some were damaged a little after weeks of intensive play, they are incredibly durable overall and the cats absolutely love them. My cats are extremely rough on toys and these toys have stood up to weeks of chewing at batting. They haven't ripped open or shed little pieces on the floor.

Petstages makes not only small catnip toys (like the fish and ring shown at right), but also interactive toys (danglers like the one shown below), blankets, cat tunnels, etc. It's not always easy to find all of their products at the local pet store, but they are first-rate. For once, somebody is actually thinking of the cat's needs, not just the human's.



P.S. -- I noticed that Petsmart carries a wide selection of Petstages toys both on their web site and in their brick and mortar stores.

Sunday, January 09, 2005

Prisoners in Our Own Home

Yesterday my fiancee Liz put into words the downside of having our boys. She said "I feel like a prisoner in my own home." In a way, she is right. We must constantly watch what we do and don't put in the livingroom (the main room of our one-bedroom apartment). Our bedroom is a pile of things, including 4 chairs, that were hastily removed from the livingroom after the cats got into them or started destroying them.

When we leave the bedroom, we have to be extremely careful because teh boys are often waiting outside the door and will make a mad dash into the bedroom as soon as we open the door. In theory, it would be nice to let them in, but like I said, the room is the place where we put all the things which are dangerous to cats that we removed from our nearly-empty livingroom.

Each day, the boys find something new to explore. The pull the fabric off the bottom of chairs and we have to take the chairs away for fear they will end up swallowing string. They start wrestling against a desk and we worry that they will knock the desk over. Yesterday, Arthur started batting at the closed livingroom windows. We think that he saw his reflection in them and thought it was another cat. But I was worrying that he would break the glass.

Half of our books are unavailable to us; they are stuffed under the couch in our attempt to keep the boys from running under the couch and hurting themselves on the sharp metal bars down there.

We can't put salt shakers or napkins out on the diningroom table, because the boys would end up chewing them or hurting themselves with them. We may even have to remove the stereo from the livingroom, because they think that the speaker mesh is a scratching post.

We love the boys more than anything, but this is pretty frustrating right now.

Saturday, January 08, 2005

Chair Today, Gone Tomorrow

Just a few weeks before we adopted the boys, we got a new livingroom set. We were pleased and pleasantly surprised to see that the boys did rip up our couch, chair, or ottoman and that the microfiber fabric was strong enough to resist their climbing. That's a good thing, but it turns out that the boys have found a whole other universe of furniture to destroy.

They enjoy ripping labels or cloth or loose threads off the bottom of dining room chairs and desk chairs and then they try to chew them. It's looking more and more like we will have to replace our diningroom set and at least one desk chair. We have a collection of half broken chairs in the bedroom. They're usable for humans, but dangerous because the boys would end up eating and swallowing parts of them if they were out in the livingroom.

Friday, January 07, 2005

Bad Day, Good Boys

Ever have one of those days when it feels like nobody loves you, like the whole world is against you?

I won't get into the causes, but I came home feeling really crappy today. Fortunately, after I got home, I sat down on the floor and the boys came and sat in my lap and I can't say it solved all my problems, but it's good to feel like there's somebody waiting at home that really appreciates me.

Someone once told me that cats can sense stress in their owners and will come sit on your lap or help you relax if they sense your stress. I don't know if that's true, but I can say for sure that having my boys puts everything in perspective.

Thursday, January 06, 2005

Arthur Getting Bigger Too

By popular request, here are some pictures of Arthur to show you how much he's grown. When we got him, he was smaller than Beowulf and Beowulf was acting like the alpha. Now, Arthur is much bigger (I think because he is eating more). The first pic below was taken the first week we had the boys (around November 19th or so). The second pic was taken last week (December 31st). That's a 7-week difference:


Bigger and Bigger

Just look how much bigger our boys have gotten in less than two months. Here are two similar pictures of Beowulf. The first was taken two days after we adopted them. The second was taken last week.

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

Heartworm Concerns

When I first adopted my boys, a coworker pulled me aside and said "be sure to get your cat the heartworm prevention medicine." For those of you who are unfamiliar with heartworm, About.com's Cat Guide, Franny Syufy, defines heartworm as:

A large, parasitic worm that lives and reproduces inside the heart of a cat, generally in the right side of the heart and the lung. Heartworms are transported from one animal to another, through mosquitos . . .

Surfing the Web, I found a very comprehensive page devoted to feline heartworm at the American Heartworm Society. I also found a great summary of heartworm problems in both dogs and cats in About.com's veterinary section. I read this intriguing Q&A on feline heartworm from a vet. I even landed on some disgusting pictures of heartworms eating away at a cat's heart, but I'll spare you the link to that. Let's just say that I'll never look at spaghetti the same way again.

Here's a quick summary of the things I learned from those articles and others:

  • Cats are at much lower risk (10% as likely) to get heartworm than dogs
  • However, once heartworm is contracted, most treatments for cats are ineffective.
  • Indoor-only cats are less likely to get heartworm, but it is possible
  • Several prevention products, most notably Heartgard, can be administered during mosquito season.
While my cats never go outdoors, I think it would be foolhardy to assume that they will never be bitten by a mosquito. We open the windows during the summer and mosquitos do come in on rare occasions.

So my question is this: would it hurt to give my boys a treatment like Heartgard? Is there a long-term risk or side effect? If not, I'd like to get the boys on a program, because, even if the risk is tiny, it's not a risk worth taking.



Training Troubles

One of my christmas gifts from the boys is a book entitled Cat Training in 10 Minutes by Miriam Fields-Babineau. I've paged through the book eagerly several times and it seems like a great resource, but unfortunately it's not designed for people in my living situation.

The book is filled with pictures and step-by-step training instructions and that's great. However, the book suggests you conduct the training in a quiet room, free of distractions. It even implies that outdoor training might be a good idea. Well, as you may know, I live in a one bedroom apartment with two rambunctious kittens. Where's the quiet space here?

This evening, Liz and I spent 30 minutes trying to teach the boys to come to us on command. Unfortunately, as soon as we call one and try to give him a treat as a reward, his brother will come and try to snatch the treat away. Or both boys will come at once and they're not coming b/c of the command but because of the treat. The problem is that there are too many distractions and the biggest distraction each boy has is the other one.

Wal-Mart Cat Killers Get Off Easy

If you haven't been following the news lately, you may have missed a story about some Wal-Mart employees in Indiana who took a pellet gun from the store shelves and used it to shoot a stray cat to death.

At first, it looked like these killers were going to face felony charges, but now it appears that only a misdemeanor is in the offing. According to an article published in today's Indianapolis Star, this may not be illegal at all:

Attorney Michael Keating said Indiana law allows people to kill stray animals on their property.

"Had they taken a shotgun with a deer slug and blown it into little bitty pieces, no crime would have been committed," he said Tuesday.

"You can shoot a stray animal on your property; that's been the law in Indiana since the time of the formation of the state," added Keating, who represents former assistant manager Christopher Anderson.

I can see both sides of this issue. I think you'd want the authority to kill wild animals that show up on your property. If this were a rat or even a racoon and it was running around your house, spreading disease, and biting your family, you'd want the right to kill it, without having to think twice.

However, this is not a rat or a racoon. It's a cat, a cat that could have been taken to a shelter and possibly adopted. It may sound hypocritical to make distinctions between different kinds of animal but I believe in them. Yes, I'll eat a chicken, but I would not eat a dog or a horse.

In many other countries, however, cats are considered more of a nuisance than a pet, because large bands of feral cats roam the streets. Can we really judge? I'd like to think so.

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

Secret Documents Detail British Cat Dynasty

I like to keep an eye on the news so this story really caught my attention. Some recently-released government documents show that the British home office employed a series of cats as official "mousers" from 1929 to 1976.

According to the AP (via CNN), documents reveal that one of the cats (dubbed Peter III) almost caused an international incident. An official wrote that:

"I am informed that a couple of years ago, on the occasion of the Armistice ceremony, official humiliation was only averted in the nick of time by a HEO (higher executive officer) of Establishment Division, who threw a soiled doormat out a window a few seconds before the appearance of H.M. (Her Majesty) the Queen," the note stated. "The offender was Peter."

Read the whole story here on CNN.com.

Am I Playing Favorites?

Last night, my fiancee Liz accused me of favoring Arthur over Beowulf. This is probably a fair accusation because, but it bothered me a bit because I love both my cats. However, I do feel a bit closer to Arthur.

Perhaps the reason why I look at Arthur as my cat and Beowulf as Liz's cat is that, when we first got the boys, Arthur was the underdog. He was smaller than his brother and Beowulf used to pick on him a lot. People who would come over -- my mother for example -- would say that Beowulf was the handsomer one. As someone who has always been the geek or the unpopular kid, I identified with Arthur.

The other reason I bonded more closely with Arthur is that, at least at first, he was much more willing to sit still and be petted. Beowulf has a much shorter attention span. Arthur was also the first to flip over and offer me his belly to rub, a sign of respect and submission.


Now, it looks like things have changed. Arthur eats more and is much bigger than Beowulf and it's becoming clear that Arthur is the alpha cat. Beowulf has become much more friendly, but when I pick him up or play with him, Arthur gives us both a jealous look. The boys often compete for my attention, but since Arthur is the alpha, he'll often drive Beowulf away.

For example, a couple of weekends ago, I was home alone with the boys and they were sitting at opposite sides of the livingroom. I'd go pet Arthur and Beowulf would meow at me for attention. So I'd step over to pet Beowulf and Arthur would give me a look as if to say "what are you doing over there?" So I'd step back over to pet Arthur and Beowulf would meow again. I ended up give each one stroke and then moving back to the other.

Other times, Beowulf will be sitting on my lap or visiting me on my desk and Arthur will come and drive him away. I feel like I should probably intervene to stop this kind of behavior, but I also don't want to harm my relationship with Arthur. It's not like I never spend time with Beowulf. I put in an extra effort to give him attention too (and Liz gives Beowulf all the more attention), but I do feel a little guilty.

Monday, January 03, 2005

Touching eBay Auction

I'm not one to schill for charities, but I think having cats has made me more mushy than I was before. I really do feel for sick and mistreated animals and I didn't before.

Anyhow, I read about charity eBay auction via the blog on cats.about.com and I thought it was worth a mention. To quote the description:

What you are bidding on is a ceramic cat painted by my daughter. We are selling hand painted cats to raise money for my daughter's real cat who has skin cancer on his nose. The vet assures us it is no where eles (SIC) in his body, but the surgery to remove it will cost $1,100.00 by a local cancer specialist. My daughter is 7 years old and her cat is 4 years old. Rather than put the cat to sleep, she wanted to try to raise the money so I said I would help her.

If you want to help save a real cat's life by bidding on a ceramic cat, here's the auction.

I remember a few weeks ago when I took Arthur to an emergency vet. There was one woman we spoke to in the waiting room whose cat needed expensive treatments that she could not afford. I was so tempted to whip out my credit card and pay for her cat, but I can't afford to be giving hundreds of dollars away. Eventually, the woman signed up for a credit plan and her cat got treatment.

It amazes me that, if a human needed surgery, even if that person were poor, there would be some kind of social safety net, albeit a weak one. There are government programs like medicare and medicaid. They don't work very well, but they exist. If you have a cat and your guardian can't pony up $1000, you're just plain outta luck. Where's the low-cost health care for cats?

Fountain of Controversy

I'd love to get my boys a drinking fountain to replace or supplement their water bowl. I look at products like the Drinkwell Fountain, Petmate Fresh Flow, or the Hagen Catit and I start to drool.

This is an issue of some debate between my fiancee Liz and I. Liz correctly points out that the boys are getting a fair amount of water from the bowl we have now, a Petmate Le Bistro waterer. They are drinking and they are urinating quite a bit (if the litterbox is to be belived). But how much water is enough?

Because I'm a geek who loves gadgets and because I want to give my boys the best care, the thought of a pet fountain appeals to me, but does it really matter to them?

I know that, if I were a cat, I'd prefer fresh flowing water, but do they really need it? Also, I find myself with a huge electric bill each month, just because of the various air purifiers I use to remove dander from the air. Will having a motorized fountain running 24-7 add a lot to that bill?

Saturday, January 01, 2005

New Year's Resolutions for My Cats

Even though I think I'm making progress as a cat guardian, I still have some lofty goals. Here are a few for 2005:

  • Start brushing my boys' teeth (I hate a cat toothbrush and paste, but I haven't had the guts to try it yet)
  • Clicker train the boys to perform certain tasks (I just got a book on this)
  • Get better at cat massage (also recently got a book on this)
  • Groom them more often
  • Scoop the litter more than once a day
  • Get them a cat tree
  • Get more interactive toys (I already have a few but many broke)

What should I add to this list?