Saturday, February 26, 2005

Cat-Proof Bookshelves

A few weeks ago, we bought some Bonde bookshelves from Ikea. Things have been so crazy lately with my fiancee Liz going back to school to take a few classes and with things at my job that we haven't gotten around to putting them both together OR even filling them with books yet, but here's the first one.

The reason we bought this bookcase is that you can get glass doors for it. The glass doors obviously prevent the boys from getting inside and eating the books or knocking over any little knick-knacks (for example: Liz's dragon collection) we want to display.

A lot of people say Ikea furniture is cheaply made. After spending nearly four hours putting together the shelf at right, I agree that it's not as solid as other furniture I've owned, but it looks nice and we honestly couldn't find another bookshelf with glass doors and cube-shaped cubbies like this. My main concern is that it lasts a few years and it doesn't collapse in the middle of the night or tip over.

You'll notice that the glass doors only cover some of the cubby holes. The bottom cubby holes can contain plastic drawers (which we bought) or can just hold heavier books that we're not worried about the boys chewing. Meanwhile, Beowulf and Arthur are exploring.


Hittin' the Books

My fiancee Liz loves to read and it's clear the boys have taken an interest in books too. They like to dig into a good book -- just more with their paws and teeth than with their minds.

We also use some of Liz's books to block off little paths behind the TV and the stereo and under the couch so the boys won't go hide there. So it's no surprise that the boys recognize the power of literature.

On a regular basis, we come home to find the boys pulling books out from the bookshelf or from under the couch and batting them around or chewing on them.



Thursday, February 24, 2005

Another Great Brand of Cat Food

I've been a big proponent of Nutro Max and Nutro Natural Choice cat food and I still am, but I also have been mixing it up lately by trying other premium canned cat foods. There's a great new brand, called Merrick, which offers some really wild flavors such as:

  • California Roll
  • Thanksgiving Day
  • Turducken
  • Cowboy Cookout (my boys' favorite)
  • Surf and Turf
  • Southern Delight
  • New England Boil

These foods are listed as "for cats and kittens" but I've been told that they have enough nutrition to give to kittens as part of their rotation of foods. Not only is the list of ingredients for each of these foods enticing, but you can also tell these are of superior quality when you open the can. They smell like real food and they are so juicy that they fall right out of the can. They're not congealed.

One tip: A lot of places charge an arm and a leg for the Merrick brand foods, but I was able to find them at a mom and pop pet store near my parents' house for .69 a can (3.2 oz). Here in the the city, we'd pay about .89 a can for the same thing and they are even more expensive on many Web sites.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Hunting for Hammocks

So this weekend, I finally took the leap and bought a cage (photos to follow once we take it out of the box). I am really relieved we have the cage so we can put together the rest of our "cat-proof" bookshelves without keeping the boys confined in their carrier for 3 or 4 hours while we fiddle with the various planks and screws. However, now I'd like to make the cage as comfortable as possible so it can be a place where the boys like to hang out, even when we're not locking them in it. How do I get a hammock for the cage? I see several "ferret" hammocks at the store, but I'm not sure if there's a special cat hammock I should be looking for.

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Houseguests and the Boys

My fiancee Liz had an old friend of hers from out of town and his fiancee stay over last night. It was the first time since we've had the boys that we had an adult overnight guest. Two weekends ago, we babysat a three year old, but the big difference here is that the three year old slept on the couch and the adults slept on the pullout bed.

Last night around 11:30 pm, we pulled out the bed from the couch, put the sheets on it, and bid our guests a good night as Liz and I retreated to our bedroom. Around 15 minutes later, we hear a scream coming from the livingroom. Our guests noticed that the cats were chewing the springs on the pullout bed. Liz jumped up and did some quick work to keep the cats from getting into the crevice between the couch and the pullout bed, though they still had a fun time playing with our guests' blankets all night. I just hope they didn't swallow any string.

Monday, February 14, 2005

Cat Furniture Idea

If you've been following this blog in the past, you know that I have a lot of issues with cat furniture. I think most cat furniture is poorly and dangerously made. Many pieces of furniture I have seen or purchased have:
  • Loose threads that a cat can swallow
  • Carpet fibers that a cat can swallow
  • Exposed glue that could be toxic or otherwise dangerous
  • Staples, splinters or sharp edges
  • Plastic carpet backing that comes off in string form

Remember that, if a cat swallows string, it's bad news. After swallowing string, a cat can develop life-threatening problems that require expensive treatments or surgery.

It seems like even the better-made cat furniture sheds carpet. Why oh why do they have to use carpet at all?!

I'm unhappy with all the cat furniture I've seen in stores and online because it's all carpeted. However, I have an idea and I'd love to know what you think of it. My boys want a place to hide and I want to provide them with one. So here's my thought. What if I bought them a new covered litterbox with a door on it and I put a soft, fleece cat bed inside of the litterbox instead of using it for litter? Would the cats still think of it as a litterbox and try to go? It seems logical to assume that they would NOT think of it as a litterbox, but as a hiding place and, since litterboxes are made of plastic, there's no fiber to shred.

What do you think?

Is There a Tooth Fairy in the House?

For the past week or two, we've found a couple of little tiny yellow specks of something with a little blood on one end of them. At first, we thought they were nail sheaths and that the boys had broken a nail or two climbing the furniture. Then, this weekend, we figured out what the specks were -- they were baby teeth from the boys. According to numerous sources, including About.com's Franny Syufy, kittens are supposed to lose baby teeth at this age.

We're just sorry we didn't save the first couple of teeth, though Liz saved this past one. Now, we just have to figure out what the tooth fairy should bring our boys.

Saturday, February 12, 2005

The Healing Power of Cats

This is the longest I've gone without posting to the blog since I started it back in November and I'm a little embarrassed that I let things go here, but I've been a bit stressed of late.

Anyway, I have to say I feel totally recharged after spending a quiet day with my boys. I was up late working on the computer last night and felt tired after a long week. But Arthur came and napped with me on the couch this afternoon and I couldn't have felt more relaxed.

Monday, February 07, 2005

Paw and Thaw?

It seems like Arthur has finally loosened up the past couple of days, but it could also be that he hasn't changed as much as I've learned the secret to winning his affections, with the help of my fiancee Liz and some user comments on this blog.

As you may recall, Arthur has been giving me the cold shoulder lately. He will let me pet him if he's relaxing (see the photo below), but he won't come and sit with me or on me like he used to. However, he spends hours on Liz's lap. So we sat down and thought about what Liz is doing different than me:


  • Liz stills very still for hours at a time while she is reading or watching TV.
  • Her legs are nice flat surface for Arthur to lay on, when she is putting her feet up on our ottoman.
  • She usually puts a fleece blanket over her legs, though he'll come sit on her even if she isn't using the blanket.
  • She'll stroke Arthur but she's not as "touchy-feely" with him as I am. I just to give him a big cat massage every time, while she just strokes him occasionally.
Last night, I lay on my back, stretching out on the couch and watching TV. When Liz was ready to go to bed, she put the blanket over me and put Arthur on my stomach. He stayed there and readjusted his position, but hung around. I was careful not to overstimulate him with too much petting. I just turned and watched TV while he slept on me. Then I fell asleep and, when I woke up an hour later, he was still lying on top of me.

This evening, when I got home from work, Arthur was laying on the couch. I went and sat down next to me and he nuzzled up to me. Then, later in the evening, I sat down on the couch and he ran to sit down next to me. I'm not sure if we've turned a corner, but I think things are better.



A Tale of Two Carriers

Here's a combination review / word of caution regarding soft-sided cat carriers. Soft-sided cat carriers are a great convenience, particularly in comparison to the hard plastic ones. In truth, I've never owned a hard carrier, but when it was time to get a carrier, I wanted one that was lightweight and easy to store in the closet.

When it comes to choosing a soft-sided carrier, though, you have to be careful. I have one carrier that I absolutely love, which is the Sherpa Deluxe. The Sherpa Deluxe really has everything you could ask for in a soft-sided carrier: it's secure, has pockets, contains a washable fleece inside, and it's light-weight.

However, I have another "Fashion Pet" carrier that I bought first. I got it because it was cheaper than the Sherpa and it looked nice enough when I saw it in the local Petco. I could have sworn there was a picture of a cat on the packaging, though the last time I visited Petco I looked at the packaging and I only saw pictures of dogs, which is as it should be.

The Fashion Pet carrier and others like it have a "feature" which makes them extremely dangerous for cats and, honestly, if I were a dog owner, I'm not sure I'd like it either. Note the loose flap at one end of the top opening (top picture) and compare it to the lack of such a flap on the Sherpa (bottom picture). This flap is designed to allow your pet to stick his head out of the carrier and get some fresh air. In reality, it allows your pet to unzip the top of the carrier, even if the flap is locked closed and you don't want him getting out. My fiancee Liz and I found this out the hard way, by having a few near-escapes when we took the boys to the vet in it.




To be fair to the Fashion Pet company, there is a leash inside that carrier that you can attach to your pets' collar to keep him from jumping out and running away. However, I think most of us with cats would cringe at the idea of hooking our cats up to a short leash and I don't think even a dog owner would want their pet to be able to unzip the carrier when it's supposed to be closed. I think the least you can ask for from any carrier is to keep your pet from escaping.

So here are my words of wisdom: be careful when choosing a carrier for your cat. Make sure the zipper goes all the way around like it does on the Sherpa.

Friday, February 04, 2005

Beowulf the Bold

Arthur continues to be a bit aloof, both to me and to people other than Liz. He will let me give him a cat massage if he's lying down. He'll even flip over on his back and let me give him a belly rub. But he won't come to me nor will he stick around if I pick him up or go sit next to him on the couch.

It's not just me that Arthur ignores. Last weekend, my mom came by and he gave her the cold shoulder. This weekend, we are -- for the first time -- babysitting Liz's friend's three year old daughter. Arthur runs away from her, but Beowulf immediately sat down next to her and put his head on her lap.

This is a huge change from the first few months that we had the boys. Beowulf used to be the standoffish one, while Arthur was the friendly one. Lately, I've been wondering whether the boys switched bodies like the mother and daughter in Freaky Friday. But then I look at Beowulf and realize he's still the same guy who can't sit still for too long and Arthur is still the same guy who finishes all his food and can sit in one spot for a long time.

Arthur and Beowulf have very different personalities and they have their ups and downs just like people do. But that's part of what makes them such special beings.


Dog Crate, Cat Playpen -- Any Difference?

I've been thinking about getting a cage for my boys for a couple of weeks now. As I said in a previous post, we need some kind of cage to keep the boys in while we are doing something that could harm them if they get in the way -- building a bookshelf, organizing a closet, vacuuming, etc.

It seems that there are two kinds of cages in the world -- cat "playpens" and dog "crates." Nobody wants to call them cages, because I guess the word "cage" has negative connotations. My fiancee Liz doesn't particularly like the idea of a cage either, but she understands why we probably need one. "Putting the boys in a cage means that we're treating them like animals and we want to treat them like family members," she says. I understand how she feels, but I think a cage is a more humane place to put the boys for a few hours than packing them into their carrier and putting it on the couch while we struggle to build an Ikea bookcase. The cage can hold water,food, and a litterbox at least.

The problem with the cat playpens I see online is that they are both very large and fairly expensive. It's also unclear how much they would fold down.

Today, I was at the local Petco and I went to look at their selection of cages. They had a wide variety of shapes and sizes and most of the cages were cheaper than the cat playpens I'd seen online. Unfortunately, they were all called "dog crates," but I started to think. Does it really matter whether it's meant for dogs? I walked over to look at the cats they have in the store for adoption. I looked at their cages. They were all "dog crates." Does it matter?

Worth Its Weight in Sissal

You may recall my difficulties with the first scratching post I bought the boys. The problem with the post was that, even though the post itself was made of rope, it had a carpeted base and a carpeted top so the boys were eating pieces of carpet from the base. I didn't like the idea of them swallowing carpet fibers so I ordered The Ultimate Scratching Post.


The reason I got the Ultimate Scratching Post was that its base and top are both polished wood so there are no stray carpet fibers and pieces of plastic carpet string to come off. That said, the post itself is sissal so it can shed small pieces of sissal, but that seems to be par for the course with scratching posts. Yes, you can get an all-wood post, but my boys seem to like sissal and I don't want them to get the idea that it's ok to scratch any tall wood object (like my furniture legs).

What I didn't realize is that the Ultimate Scratching Post has a lot more to offer than just its lack of carpeting. It's a full 32" tall, which makes it about double the height of my previous post. This means that a fully grown adult cat should be able to scratch the post while standing on his hind legs. In addition, my boys love to climb the post. They play "king of the mountain" and leap or claw their way to the top (see picture of Arthur below).

There's a lot to love about the Ultimate Scratching Post and, at this point, I would recommend it to others. That said, it's not perfect. As I said before, sissal can come off a little bit and the first day I caught Arthur chewing the post. I cut the loose piece of sissal off and now only little shreds come off from time to time.

That said, my only serious complaint about the Ultimate Scratcing Post is that the company which makes it -- Smart Cat Products -- feels compelled to adorn the top of the post with a sticker advertising their Web site. The sticker is impossible to peel off and, if you try, little pieces will come off, making the top of the post into a sticky, disgusting mess that will get onto your cat's paws. Apparently, marketing to people who visit my apartment is more important to the manufacturer than providing a clean, stickem free post to their customers.

Pros:

  • Really Tall
  • Sturdy
  • No Carpeting
  • Cats love it

Cons:

  • The unremovable sticker (see above)
  • Sissal comes off a bit
  • Expensive (but compared to other posts, it's worth it)



Thursday, February 03, 2005

Just Call Him Angel of the Morning

It breaks my heart that Arthur is so cold to me in the evenings, but he has a strange way of showing affection in the mornings right before and after I give the boys their morning feeding. He'll rub his head against the top of my foot then flip over on his belly. When I crouch down and rub his belly, he'll let me rub him for a few seconds, and then he'll flip over again.

In the evenings, though, he's Liz's cat. He will let me pet him if he's lounging around, but he's otherwise very standoffish. Yesterday, he totally dissed me, when he was sitting on the couch and I went to sit down next to him, and he got up and walked away.

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Arthur the Aloof

As I start typing this, Beowulf is sitting to the right of my mouse relaxing and grooming himself. This is a good thing, but Arthur continues to give me the cold shoulder. Arthur walked by a few times today and, as I reached out to rub his cheek (something he used to like), he duck out of the way as if to say: "don't touch me."

Meanwhile, he continues to be very affectionate with my fiancee Liz. Today, she was lying on the couch and he came and lay down on her side. Is he becoming a "one-person cat?" What did I do wrong?

They Ate Something Else (and it's not pretty)

Apparently, my lunch bag was safe in the bedroom, but they did find another foreign object to eat and I hope they're going to be ok. Each month, my building slips our maintenance bill under the door on the 1st of the month. They used to mail them to us, but they got lazy I guess and now they slide them under our doors. Well, when Liz got home today, the bill was there, but the boys had chewed and probably swallowed (we can't find the pieces) part of the envelope, including a piece of the little plastic window. I hope what they ate doesn't make them ill.

This presents a larger problem, because:
  • We get bills and other papers from the condo association periodically. Everyone here does. We could try to ask someone here not to do it, but our pleas would probably fall on deaf ears. The building management is unresponsive to everything.
  • We also find menus that are shoved under the door. We could put a big "no menus" sign on our door, but I'm doubting it would work 100% of the time.

Any suggestions?

I Hope My Lunch Isn't Their Lunch

I just got into the office and realized that I forgot something -- my lunch. Now, you might wonder why this has in me such a panic. Afterall, I can just buy a lunch from one of the many restaurants near my office. That's not the issue. I'm wondering where I left the plastic shopping bag with the gladware box filled with spaghetti and meat sauce. If I left it out on the kitchen table, I don't know what could be happening right now.

Could the boys be eating the plastic shopping bag, swallowing pieces of gladware, and munching through to the meat sauce? Could they be batting little pieces of pasta across the floor? What happens if a cat eats pieces of plastic shopping bag or gladware or meat sauce?

Chances are pretty good that I left my lunch in the bedroom, which the boys do not have access to. You might ask why I bring my lunch into the bedroom, but you see, I have to grab things from the fridge before I put my coat on (and I have to keep my coat in the bedroom because the cats would be all the dangling parts of the coat. Also, getting anything out of the fridge is a singular ordeal that requires my full attention and cannot be done with my coat on. I must deftly grab whatever I need from the fridge before one of the boys jumps inside. I also have to be careful about closing the door too quickly in haste, because usually one of the boys has stuck his head under the refridgerator door while I'm grabbing my food.