Sunday, August 26, 2012

The Cats Fly after Neko Flies

Pet Product Advisor was really pushing Neko Flies recently. And with a 10% coupon code, I decided to give them a try. The concept was interesting - life-like critters on a wand. The videos at the Neko Flies web site made the products even more enticing.

We have a zillion wands in the cat attic. The cats don't normally go for them with a lot of gusto. Ivan gets obsessive over wands with a big clump of long feathers on the end of the string - he grabs the feathers and locks them in his jaws and growls ferociously, as if he has caught himself a big, tasty bird (good thing those wands are cheap, usually $5 or less, because it doesn't take long for Ivan to destroy the feathers!). Boo is less motivated, but a few wand-like toys get him going, especially the Cat Dancer (which is a long, slightly flexible wire with random pieces of cardboard on the end - the wire causes unusual movement and the cardboard pieces move around like a bugs legs). Another wand toy that fascinated them for a while was the kind with a mouse on the end that squeaks when it moves. However, as with all wand toys, they grew bored with it.
Why did I think Neko Flies would be any different? I didn't necessarily, but I thought they could be more instruments in the cat exercise arsenal. The cats would be fascinated by them for a while, then grow tired of them, at which them the toys would go into the cat attic and come out again a few months later, and the cycle would start again. No problem.

The minute the Neko Flies wand with the included attachment, the small kittenator toy (a very lifelike mouse - the photo above does not do it justice!), came out of its box, the cats were interested. Ivan went bonkers after I pulled the mouse across the floor. Soon he was in overdrive, and after about 5 minutes of overdrive, Ivan was a panting maniac, his pink nose almost bright red with excitement. Ivan and Boo used to take turns with toys like this, Boo taking over while Ivan rested, but Ivan was so obsessed that Boo could hardly get a swipe in. After about 10 minutes of Ivan chasing, catching, and not letting go of the kittenator, panting heavily, I had to put the toy away!

Now, every time I ask if they want to play with "the toy" they go wild. As with all toys that they get obsessive with, it must be hidden in a place that is inaccessible to them, or they'll get it and destroy it. In the beginning, it was very difficult to get the mouse from Ivan. Upon catching it, he would try to carry it away in his mouth. Sometimes I would let him, following him with the wand. After about a week of trying to teach him that it's better if he lets go of the toy after a while, he finally seems to be getting it. He'll relax his grip on it just enough that I can pull it away from him and engage him in the chase once again. When he does get completely tuckered out or otherwise distracted (the latter does not happen very often at all!), Boo will come in. He hasn't gotten as crazy about it as Ivan. He'll run back and forth a few times and then flop down. But he is interested, and he is always the tougher one to get interested in most toys (he will go crazy over the Undercover Mouse, though, if Ivan isn't in the way).

I bought all three of the insect attachments for the wand, because I thought they looked especially enticing to the cats. I thought I'd let the cats get a little tired of the kittenator before trying any of the other "flies". The insects do look very real, with gangly legs and bright colors. The dragonfly has iridescent wings! Again, the photograph below does not do it justice.  I'll write again once I do use the other flies with these crazy cats.

The price of the wand with three additional flies was $51.37, including shipping and a 10% discount, from Pet Product Advisor. The discount almost made one of the flies free. You can probably find better deals elsewhere.  However, be sure to check out the photographs and video at the Neko Flies web site.

I've seen Jackson Galaxy of "My Cat from Hell" pull a Neko Flies wand and small kittenator out of his guitar case, but I hadn't seen him actually use it until the most recent episode, "My Cat is a Bully" (an episode that showcases one of the weirder pet-owning families featured in the show). Jackson seems to prefer Da Bird*, which we also have, and which these cats also go crazy over. The one benefit of the Neko Flies over Da Bird is that, since Da Bird's lure employes only feathers, the lure gets very beat up rather quickly. The small kittenator mouse that I'm using with the Neko Flies wand, on the other hand, is pretty darn tough, despite Ivan wanting very much to crunch it like real prey.  However, both toys are very enticing to the cats.

*I was certain that Da Bird had been reviewed here, but in trying to find the review to link back to, I discovered that it has not, in fact, been reviewed!  We will right that wrong in the next installment!

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

July 4th: Happy 7th Birthday Ivan and Boo!

The birthday boys
Ivan and Boo were born high up in an old oak tree seven years ago.  Yes, their mother was a feral cat (albeit beautiful, and, according to the vet who handled the N part of her TNR*, was once owned by someone) that we were never able to touch, but she was a wise and calm animal, and for the most part she imparted those qualities to her offspring, who were amazingly unafraid of humans when we first took them in.  Ivan is the genius, and Boo is the gentle giant.  They are both shy of strangers (their feral heritage) but warm up to folks fairly quickly.  They are also great test subjects for toys, food, and other cat products, as they are quite different: Boo is difficult to motivate into action, while Ivan will chase just about anything.  So a toy that gets Boo moving is a good toy, indeed.

Since these boys were born on the Fourth of July (Independence Day in the U.S.), it's a good time to remind you to take extra special care of your pets on this day, especially tonight when the fireworks will be popping and exploding and frightening pets everywhere.  Keep your pets indoors - shelters across the country receive more pets on and after July 4th than any other day, due to all of the cats and dogs who run away, frightened by loud firecrackers.  I have to wonder if the same problem happens in the U.K. on Guy Fawkes' Day (Nov. 5), another very popular day for fireworks.

1 oz. tub
Since this is a product review blog, we can't close without reviewing something!  We kept hearing about "bonito flakes".  Bonito, called katsuobushi in Japanese, is a dried, fermented and smoked form of skipjack tuna.  It is cut in very thin shavings called "flakes".  While the Japanese use this as a seasoning and addition to foods, it is sold in the U.S. as a high protein cat treat.  Ivan and Boo LOVE the stuff.  Because it is shaved thinly, the cats can get a big pinch of the stuff and not get a lot of calories, which is important for indoor-only cats.  The best price for the largest quantity that we've found comes from Pet Product Advisor, whom we have recommended in the past.  They are somehow affiliated with VPI (Veterinary Pet Insurance), which we also recommend.  The 1 oz tub of bonito flakes is $7.95, but they also sell a 4 oz bag for $23.99, a savings of $8.00. There have been connections made between smoked and fermented foods and stomach cancer, however (in humans), so I would not feed your cats a lot of this.  We feed a pinch a day after the cats eat their dinner.

*TNR=Trap Neuter Release, performed on feral cats to reduce feral populations

Friday, June 29, 2012

We're Baaaaack! A Review of Past Cat Product Reviews

It's been a long time since we last posted.  We are fine.  Ivan and Boo are fine, still faithfully testing cat products and foods.  However, work, life, etc. got in the way of us sharing their opinions on those products with you.  Despite that, there are so many cat products beckoning for reviews that we could no longer resist the siren song!

Ivan and Boo, happy and healthy.
First and foremost, we have gone through a few food transitions.  Last time we posted, we were trying Blue Buffalo products.  We gave them a fair shot, but Ivan seemed to vomit more than usual (which is pretty rarely) on the Blue Buffalo Wilderness food.  The ingredients are great, don't get us wrong - high protein and low carbohydrates - but it just did not sit well with everyone, so we stopped feeding it to the boys.

Around that time we were introduced to a company called Petflow.  These guys offer a WIDE variety of pet foods (and other products) with FREE SHIPPING!  I kid you not!  And they carry both Evo (the food we really like (and the cats do, too) but found hard to get) AND our favorite cat litter, World's Best Cat Litter!  With free delivery to our home AND all the products we want, we had to give these guys a try.  We are happy to report that we are still using them!  The beauty of Petflow, in addition to the above, is that it is very easy to change your delivery schedule until you get it just right.  We give these guys a THUMBS UP, along with our old favorite food, Evo, available in kibble and canned.  We feed Ivan and Boo mostly canned, but they get about 10-15 pieces of kibble at each feeding, after finishing the canned, to aid in cleaning their teeth.  Our vet recommended that we cut back on the kibble as they were a little overweight at their last vet visit.

Now let's take a look at some cat toys that we mentioned in previous posts.  First is the SnazzyKat NosyMouse.  It was new when we mentioned it, and we had discovered that it did not contain catnip, but the package suggested that we store it with catnip.  Frankly, I have no memory of trying this after it was stored in catnip.  So we dug it out, presented it to the cats, and they were singularly unimpressed.  Some kitties might go for this toy, but ours did not.

Next was the Lazy Pet Products 8 in 1 Kookamunga Catter Up.  Again, I swear that I did not make that name up.  And I re-affirm that I have no idea what the "8 in 1" refers to.  But I can tell you that the toy is still attached to the door next to the Kittywalk Cozy Climber, and I don't believe I've seen the cats playing with it for years (we even moved into a new house since the last blog entry!).  There are probably plenty of cats who would be entertained by a fuzzy ball with a feather sticking out of it, hanging from a string, but not ours.

Last was the Toyshoppe Playables Cat Toy (it was negligently not identified in the review!) - a fishing pole type toy with a non-replaceable feather on the end of the line.  Ivan still loves it, as long as we put it away for a while.  When it is brought out after a hiatus, he definitely goes for it.  And you cannot beat the price ($3.99 at PetSmart; in fact, all of the above toys were found at PetSmart), especially as it's not a toy that has a replaceable lure.  Boo is not quite as interested in this toy, by the way, probably because Ivan growls like a mad cat when he has the feathers firmly between his teeth.

Scrap of Ribbon with a Clip Attached at the End toy
Now for the toy that currently has both of the boys flying across the living room, and collapsing in panting (yes, panting!) heaps 15 minutes later!  It's the amazing Scrap of Ribbon with a Clip Attached at the End!  Seriously.  The guys have not played so hard in MONTHS.  They whip around, fly through the air, scrabble on the hardwood floor, and tear across the carpet to get at this thing as we drag it and flip it around!  Can someone explain this to me?  There are cat behaviorists and cat observers and cat experts out there designing amazing toys, yet the cats seem to go for the homemade toy when they are surrounded by store-bought ones.  When they are surrounded by homemade toys, do they go more for the store bought ones?  I will never understand...

The game-changing clip
At first we were trying to get them to play with the ribbon alone (no clip).  That kind of ribbon is very light and doesn't go where you want it to, though, so we were reduced to walking around and trailing it behind us.  However, I came up with the brilliant idea to add a bit of weight to the end of the ribbon so that we could toss it where we wanted, and that is when the cats turned maniacal!

The moral of the story is: watch your cat for patterns in the kinds of toys he likes.  We knew that our boys preferred snakey kinds of toys, mice covered in real fur (sorry), as well as toys with LARGE feathers. Further, they love to grab at things from behind the bannister poles on our staircases, and from under doors.  They also like to attack things that are under a rug or piece of fabric.  And, finally, they love to chew.  We have created a collection of toys and treats that fall into many of these categories.  We will share those with you in future blog posts.  But we will also be trying new products outside of those categories, and we'll share our reviews of those, as well.  Just remember, your own mileage may vary.

Until next time, keep exercising your cats, to keep them mentally AND physically healthy, and to keep you sane!

Friday, March 18, 2011

Daffodils are Toxic to Cats; New Cat Food - Blue Buffalo

Greetings! It's been over a year since we've posted! We have simply been very busy with life. However, we plan to do our best to post a bit more regularly now.

Earlier this week we bought some cut daffodils and brought them home and put them in a vase. We planned to take them to work the next morning to enjoy in the office. As with all cut flowers, unless we know for certain that they are not toxic to cats, we planned to put these in a closed room overnight so that the cats could not get to them. However, we were distracted and forgot to do so.

The next morning we got up and fed the cats as per the normal morning routine. Ivan wasn't terribly interested in his kibble, which is unusual, but he scarfed down his ration of canned food. However, almost immediately he threw it up. Then he went and sat in his "don't bother me" spot, and we knew he didn't feel well. Was there something in his environment that may have caused this? We spied the daffodils. Hmm. We inspected them for signs of cat chewing, and there we found that a cat had eaten about the equivalent of one petal. We immediately hit the Internet to see whether daffodils are toxic to cats.

We found quite a bit of good information that indicated that daffodils are toxic. The bulbs are the most toxic (they contain all the energy that the plant needs to survive). Thankfully Ivan had eaten only one petal. The consensus seemed to be that if he did not vomit again and did not get diarrhea, that he had probably thrown up all the offending material and would recover on his own. This is exactly what happened. We did read about instances where cats got very sick from daffodil ingestion, requiring veterinary care, and there are one or two documented cases of cats dying from the effects of daffodil ingestion. WHEW! We were lucky!

As some cats are wont to do, Boo cleaned up Ivan's vomitus. Later that evening Boo didn't seem as hungry as usual. We wondered if that might be because he had eaten some of the daffodil material in the vomitus. But he was fine the next morning. However, the moral of the story is that you should be careful with any plants in the house. Ivan does have pica (he eats things that he shouldn't, namely fabric), but any cat might eat plants, even poisonous ones.

Now to things that cats should eat. You may recall that we have discussed cat food here in the past. We wanted to make sure we gave Ivan and Boo the best food possible, to try to avoid the cancer that struck our two previous cats, who, though aged 20 and 7, died only 10 days apart. We were also concerned about obesity in our cats, and after discussions with our vet and some research on our own, we decided to put them on grain-free diets. Our vet recommended Evo.

The cats really like Evo, but it's not always easy to get. Only two stores in the San Jose area sell it, and neither is terribly close to us. So we started looking around at the PetSmart near our house to see what kind of grain free, high protein options they had. We found something called By Nature and By Nature Organics. They had a grain-free variety in dry and canned form. The price was good and the cats liked it. End of story.

Not exactly. This week we went to stock up, and there was one bag of By Nature left, and no cans. There was a sign saying that PetSmart would no longer be carrying it. THANKS, PETSMART. So we had to do some quick research to figure out what to get!

We found Blue Buffalo. They have a high protein, low carb, grain free line called Blue Wilderness. It is supposedly patterned after the diet of the wild lynx, and the line sports a lynx on the bag and cans. Their other lines are wheat and soy free, but they do contain rice. However, our vet really has no problem with rice as long as there are no other grains or soy in the mix.

We have just started feeding the boys the Blue Buffalo canned food (we bought the Blue Wilderness cans, as well as the Spa Select and Healthy Gourmet cans - the latter two contain rice). We have a little By Nature kibble to finish before we start them on the Blue Wildnerss kibble. We will keep you posted on their progress.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

New Toys

We rotate Ivan and Boo's toys, so that once they get bored with the current rotation, we can pull out some things they haven't seen in a while, and they think they've got new toys. This week we brought out a couple of items that were still in their packaging, not having been opened yet. We also purchased a new item and put it into immediate use.

One of the items we've had for a while but only just opened is the SnazzyKat NosyMouse. This is a smallish mouse made of shiny fabric with feathers on its back. We assumed it contained catnip, but when the cats were not terribly interested in it, we checked the packaging, and here's what it says on the back: "To lure your cat to play, store or roll NosyMouse in SnazzyKat organic catnip (sold separately)." Well, at least they tell us you have to supply your own catnip, even if it is in fine print! We are storing the toy in catnip at this moment, and we will report back later on how interested the cats are in it once it reeks of nepetalactone (the feline-attracting chemical in catnip).

Another item we had in the cats' toy storage box but had not yet opened is the Lazy Pet Products 8 in 1 Kookamunga Catter Up (I swear I did not make that name up). This is one of those toys that hangs from the top of the door, supposedly enticing cats to bat it about. The cats are mildly interested in it. We hang it next to their Kittywalk Cozy Climber, and they bat at it from inside the Cozy Climber. The toy consists of a hanger, a long string, and a ball and feathers attached at the end of the string. We're not sure where the "8 in 1" comes in, and there's no explanation with the packaging.

The last toy is the biggest hit. We pulled out an old "cat fishing pole" (a stick with string and a lure tied at the end of the string) with the remains of a feather on the end of the string, and Ivan went nuts over the old feather, so we decided to look at PetSmart for a new feather to attach. Not finding that, we instead found a whole new cat fishing pole with feathers on the end for only $3.99. So we bought it. Ivan went nuts over it immediately. Even Boo was interested in it! Ivan gets so involved with the feathers that he growls as though he is guarding prey! We can get Ivan running back and forth and jumping after it, twisting and turning gymnastically in mid-air. Boo, on the other hand, will run in circles after it, tearing up the carpet with his claws. This toy is made by ToyShoppe Playables and is called the Feather Wand Teaser.

Mind you, Ivan and Boo went nuts over the Cat Dancer and the Cat-Aerobics Action Toy (both similar to the "cat fishing pole" type toy), but then grew tired of them. That may happen with this Feather Wand Teaser, also. But we'll keep bringing it out for the boys as long as they show interest.

That reminds us - the Fling-a-Ma-String has been out of circulation in our house for a few months. It's probably just about time to bring it out again and see Ivan and Boo react to it as though it were brand new!

Saturday, November 21, 2009

More for Cats Who Like to Chew

Ivan loves to chew. He chews the cardboard on cat scratchers, he chews the wrist strap on cameras, iPods, Wii remotes, and other portable electronic devices. He even occasionally chews small cables. And, if you're a regular reader here, you know that he likes to chew fabric - especially clothing.

We wanted to try to redirect his passion for chewing so that it would not be so destructive. We tried cat chew toys (yes, PetStages makes cat chew toys that are intended for teething kittens), we tried rawhide chews made for dogs, etc. We eventually found dried chicken breast strips, marketed for dogs and sold by Trader Joe's. The cats went nuts over these, and the strips seemed to satisfy some of Ivan's chewing urges. However, Trader Joe's stopped carrying those, so we had to find an alternative source. We did, at PetSmart. However (again), we read, after feeding those to the cats for months, that those made in China seemed to cause some health problems in dogs. Knowing about the Chinese melamine pet food scandal, we decided to stop buying dried chicken made in China. Unfortunately, EVERY brand of the chicken strips we could find was made in China! So for the past year or so, Ivan hasn't had much to chew on except what little he could find in the house that we had not already removed from his reach. We substituted freeze dried salmon and shrimp cat treats for the chicken strips, and while the cats love the salmon and shrimp, neither is terribly chewy.

Well, Trader Joe's started carrying a product for dogs that looked interesting. It is a piece of rolled rawhide wrapped in dried chicken breast. Hmm. And it's made in the U.S.A.! Of course, it didn't have to be made here. We would have bought it if it were made just about anywhere but China. But it is made here. We gave each cat one of these, and they went wild! They threw these chicken breast wraps in the air, knocked them around, and pounced on them and chewed the heck out of them. FINALLY! Not only do they like to chew these things, but they like to play with them, too! We hope to have less cardboard and fabric chewing in our future! See Ivan in the photo below looking rather guilty about his bad habit.

Trader Joe's also carries the chicken breast strips again, but we find the chicken breast wraps (with rawhide) to elicit more chewing from the boys. They gobble the breast strips down pretty quickly, and while the chicken is low carb and high protein, the boys are on diets (being indoor cats, they tend to be less active than outdoor cats and so gain weight, despite being on a no-grain, low carb diet already), and the chicken breast wraps have a bit less chicken and require more work (and burning of calories) to get it.

Be very careful in giving these kinds of treats to your cats. You may even wish to speak to your vet about giving your cat the dehydrated chicken breast. We are lucky that our cats are chewers, so they very thoroughly chew the dried chicken and have no problems swallowing or digesting it. But all cats may not be quite so adept at handling the dried chicken. If you want to try it with your cats, break off a very small piece of the chicken and let them eat it. Then slowly increase the size of the piece. The good thing about the chicken breast wraps is that the chicken is wrapped around the rawhide roll, and the cats have to chew bites of the chicken off the rawhide. The chicken is a bit crumbly and so they aren't getting big pieces. But the dehydrated chicken strips are definitely a bit more chewy.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

We Love Feliway, and ModernCat's New Boutique


We love the Feliway diffuser. Feliway is a synthetic version of feline facial pheromones. When your cat rubs his or her face on you, or a corner of table, or a wall corner, or anything else, s/he is rubbing a pheromone of well-being onto those objects. It is a form of marking, but not necessarily a territorial type of marking, like urine marking or vertical scratching. So veterinarians decided that this pheromone was a good thing, and that diffusing it into the local atmosphere would keep cats calm. They also found that it reduced territorial behavior like urine marking and vertical scratching.

I'm here to tell you that it works! We first used it when our 20-year old male cat Ian was diagnosed with cancer. He was given prednisone tablets, which helped him somewhat, but the Feliway diffuser, after a few weeks, really seemed to help Ian calm down and feel more relaxed. He had fairly advanced lymphoma, but with the use of the Feliway and prednisone, he lived a comfortable two months, during which he was eating well and interacting a lot with us.

After we lost Ian, having lost our dear Aggie 10 days earlier, we adopted two kittens, littermates, from our feral cat colony in the country. The Feliway helped Ivan and Boo transition into their new home. Now it helps them remain calm when their tendency is to fight over who is top cat. We can tell when it's time to replace the Feliway diffuser refill - Ivan starts terrorizing Boo! Boo, though the bigger, heavier cat, is so polite that he will not fight back much. So the Feliway diffuser is a true aid in keeping these silly brothers from fighting in the first place.

The diffuser is very simple to use. It is a small unit that plugs unobtrusively into a wall outlet. You screw in a diffuser refill, which lasts about 30 days. The refills are admittedly pricey (typically around $25.00 US), but it's a small price to pay for maintaining peace in the household, not to mention preserving furniture and carpets! We occasionally find the refills on sale and stock up. There is also a Feliway spray, which is useful for spraying in a cat carrier, when you need to take an uncooperative kitty to the vet, or for spraying in a room, when a new kitty has arrived but is in seclusion before being slowly introduced to the indigenous cat population.


Our friends at ModernCat have opened a new shop in Phoenix. They plan to make their wares available via Etsy. Check them out at their Facebook page to keep track of when you can buy their products on line. And if you're in Phoenix, drop by and pay them a visit.