Saturday, December 13, 2008

We've Got Some Products to Review

We have quite a few things to review:  we are switching to a corn based cat litter and will tell you about that.  We have several new toys to talk about, and one on the way (the "Fling-ama-String").  We've decided on a food regimen that we'll tell you about, as well.

We'll be back in the next day or so with our reviews.

Meantime, Ivan and Boo are well.  Boo is overweight and we're sure the vet will get onto us for this at his semi-annual appointment on December 19th.  Hopefully she'll have some tips for getting his weight down. He's not huge - he could probably stand to lose a pound or two.

Belle is getting spayed on December 16th.  She was scheduled for this surgery to occur in January 2009, but she has gone into heat for the first
 time and so we decided to push up the surgery.  Dev is very interested in her now, so we have separated them until after the surgery. He'll be neutered in January.


Sunday, October 26, 2008

Holy Crap, Catman!

Do you want to read one of the most bizarre things I have ever read?  Check out this page, and then go out and adopt as many cats as you can properly care for.

 

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Videos for Cats, Plus New Toys and Food

Yes, videos for cats.  We have one.  We've had it since before Ivan and Boo were even born - we'd purchased it for Aggie and Ian.  Ian was oblivious, and Aggie showed some interest.  But we were rewarded when Ivan and Boo were transfixed by it!

So what kind of video would cause cats to watch TV?  Why, videos of birds, mice, gerbils, butterflies, and several other prey animals running and flying around, with nice animal chattering and birdcalls for a soundtrack.  The specific video of which we speak is the original Cat Sitter, Vol. 1, on DVD. It's available on VHS or DVD at Pet Sitter Videos.  Our two city cats sit in front of the TV and watch intently, and as critters run out of the camera shot, to the right or left, the cats both jump and put their paws between the side of the TV and the entertainment console in which the TV is housed.  They also run to the side of the console, looking to see where those tasty-looking mice and gerbils and birds got to.  It is quite hilarious!

On that same theme, we were watching Planet Earth (the one narrated by David Attenborough)
and Boo sat and simply watched almost the entire two episodes we watched!  He did sniff and bat at the television screen several times, but mostly he sat intently and watched.  We wonder if it has anything to do with the fact that we were watching the program on a High Definition screen.

On another topic, you may recall that we have discovered Ivan and Boo really like "snakey" toys. They are attracted to snake-like movement.  So we have several toys that are long pieces of fabric on the end of a stick.  We can drag those and swing them around so that they look like snakes slithering along the carpet.  We found a new one.  It is longer and thinner than the last one we found, so it moves even more snakily.  The fabric is light but sturdy, not to mention colorful.  And while the photograph at right doesn't show how long the strip of fabric is, we measured it and it's 52 inches in length - long enough to drag around and wiggle it and get the cats' attention.  This product is made by Cat Dancer Products and was only $5.99!  You can find it even cheaper from pet product web sites - just search "Cat Charmer" toy on Google.

Now on to food.  We wrote about switching to EVO kibble and canned food, as well as Primal raw food.  Well, we went to Pet Food Express here in the Bay Area, and unfortunately they do not carry EVO.  They said that another pet food supplier in the area has a contract with EVO.  Well, that seems silly, to have an exclusive contract with one small supplier (of course, we found EVO at another place in San Jose, but it's not always easy to get over there).  Sheesh.  So we needed some canned food and checked out Weruva.  

Weruva is not all grain free, but each variety is labeled  as to whether it contains grain or not.  We purchased a few of their 3-ounce cans to tide us over until we can get some more EVO.  The cats tried the Weruva tilapia this morning and sucked it down.  Of course, we were going for EVO because it claims to be "minimally cooked".  But we did check out the Weruva web site.  They use some pretty amazing ingredients in their cat food:  prime, human-grade meats and fish.  Wow.  So if the cats continue to like it, we may feed that to them in conjunction with the other canned or raw foods we feed them.  We may try to eventually remove kibble completely.  Really the only reason we keep kibble is that we think it's good for the boys' teeth.  As the Weruva web site says, cats were not meant to eat kibble.  It's too dry, and cats are not ones to drink a lot of water - they evolved getting much of their moisture from their food (prey).  Weruva believes so strongly in this notion that they do not even make kibble, which is where pet food makers generate most of their money.  So if we can find the Primal "Raw Meaty Bones" somewhere near here, we'll try keeping those on hand instead of kibble, wethinks.

The cats were out of sorts today as we had a visitor.  Some visitors they warm up to fairly quickly, others they do not.  Today's visitor has a pet boa constrictor back home, so we wonder if the cats could smell the snake and decided they weren't too sure about it?  Just because they like snakey toys doesn't mean they'd like a living, breathing, real snake.  Anyhow, now that the visitor is gone, they are back to normal, sleeping on their backs in the middle of the living room floor, cruising around and asking for treats, head rubs, brushing, and play time.  We got a good shot of Boo yawning the other day.  Here he is:

Thursday, September 18, 2008

The VPI Saga; Feline Heartworms; Etc.

Sorry, just  had to show you the ridiculous picture of Ivan sticking out his tongue, at left.  OK, now that that's out of our system...

We mentioned in our last blog entry the problem with VPI (Veterinary Pet Insurance) denying Dev and Belle's first claim (for their baptismal vet visit).  We talked to VPI, as mentioned, and they indicated we simply needed to talk to the vet, find out what "kitten vaccination" means, and then call VPI back and let them know. Entirely resubmitting the claim was not required.  Yea!  Well, of COURSE when we called VPI back to tell them what the vaccination really was, they said the rep who told us this could be done soley by phone was WRONG!  What?!  We made a fuss and VPI said that, since there was a miscommunication in this instance, their claims  adjuster would call the vet to get the scoop on that vaccination.  Which was FVRCP (Feline Viral Rhinotracheitis, Calcivirus, and Panleukapenia (Distemper)), by the way.  So that's fine, but the kittens had to go back for boosters, etc., and, of course, there on the second invoice is "kitten vaccination" again.  Dang it!  So, knowing that VPI wouldn't accept that, we called the vet's office.  The woman who took our call was indignant: "I've dealt with VPI for 20 years and never had a problem!"  My response, "I don't make the  rules.  I can only tell you what they're telling me."  So she agreed to note exactly what the vaccination is on the invoice and send it to us.  Sheesh!

We can report that VPI covered everything on the kitten's first vet bill except for $10.  Amazing!  We know they won't cover anywhere near as much on the second invoice, but that's to be expected.  However, we are considering making The Cat Hospital our vet for the kittens (even though it's five hours away!) because their prices and procedures seem more reasonable (hey, a vet in a small town can afford to charge premium prices as there's no competition!) and The Cat Hospital doesn't seem to give our cats things they don't need.  I stress the word "seem".

The small-town vet sold us a 3-month supply of "Revolution Feline".  This is a combination heartworm and flea medication (it is also touted as preveningt mites and tapeworms!). Heartworms in cats?  Apparently so.  This came up with Ivan and Boo at their last vet visit at The Cat Hospital a few months ago.  They both pant after heavy exercise, so we were a bit concerned, and we came across articles on feline heartworm when researching poossible causes.
However, we talked this over with our wonderful new vet at The Cat Hospital, Dr. Mattern, and she told us that The Cat Hospital had never seen one case of feline heartworm, so they do not
routinely give the heartworm medication, especially not to indoor cats.  But when the small-town vet prescribed it, we did a bit more research, looking for the incidence of feline heartworm in California.  This is what we found:

It shows that, in the San Francisco Bay Area, there are between 1 and 25 cases of feline heartworm reported per clinic.  Yikes!  Why has The Cat Hospital not seen any cases, then?  I hate to say it, but is it possible that they are misdiagnosing feline heartworm cases as asthma?  Feline heatworm presents radically differently from canine heartworm and causes more pulmonary
problems than cardiovascular problems, or so says Charles Thomas (Tom) Nelson, DVM, in a 2007 article written for the newsletter Know Heartworms: Inside and Out.  Granted this newsletter, the product of a partnership between The American Heartworm Society and The American Association of Feline Practitioners, is sponsored by Pfizer Animal Health, and Pfizer makes - surprise! - Revolution, the heartworm medication we mentioned above that our small-town vet sold to us for Belle and Dev.  So it is difficult to rely solely on Dr. Nelson's article.  We are going to do more research on this topic, and we'll share what we find in a later entry.

OK, we have to give Boo equal time - here he is showing off those amazing eyes and his namesake spot on the nose ("Boo" is, as much as I hate to admit it, short for "Boogernose").

Oh, and we finally started using the PerfectLitter that we purchased a while back (buy one, get one free).  The cats would have nothing to do with it, so we did as directed on the package -- we added a layer of their regular clay litter on top of the PerfetLitter.  That did the trick for at least one of them (Ivan), but so far the conversion is tenuous.  We'll keep working with it.  It definitely is very absorbent with regard to liquid AND odors, and it is amazingly light and dust free.

Before we close, we must admit that we watched the television program "Greatest American Dog" this summer (hey, we recorded it on the DVR and fast-forwarded through the boring bits), a "reality" series in which 12 dogs and their owners competed before three supposedly renowned judges.  The prize was the title "Greatest American Dog" and $25,000.  Each week one contestant and his/her dog was eliminated.  The premise was intriguing, but the execution was poor.  However, we did get hooked by the interesting dogs and humans in the competition.  If you happened to catch it, allow us to say that we think J.D. and Galaxy should have won.  If the show had not been heavily edited and rigged to let the cute, single guy with the cute dog win, J.D. and Galaxy would have gone home with the prize.  As 
consolation for J.D., we offer you a link to his web site., K9 Kings Entertainment.  J.D., if you're interested, drop us a line and we'll fix up your web site and make it slick and cool and more in line with the great work you do with your dogs!

Saturday, September 6, 2008

HUGE Price Difference!

YIKES!  We paid over $50 for Primal Feline Chicken and Salmon frozen raw cat food at NationalPetPharmacy.com (shipping was free).  I checked Pet Food Express, which is a brick and mortar pet food store here in the SF Bay Area, and they sell the same 4 lb. bag for $21.99!! Holy cat food, Batman!   (Pet Food Express has a web site , but one cannot purchase food at the web site.  However, one can check to see what the brick and mortar store carries.  The web site also boasts a "buy 3, get the 4th free" special in the store.) 

Unfortunately Pet Food Express does not seem to carry  EVO, made by
 Natura, a local SF Bay Area company.  That's what Ivan and Boo are eating, along with Primal Feline Chicken and Salmon.  But there are some other pet food stores in the area that carry Natura's products, or so the Natura web site says.  We will pay a visit to one of them, Sam's Downtown Feed, which we have passed a million times but never visited. They have a large model horse in front of the  store.

Because of the cost of the Primal food, we were not going to
continue feeding it once the 4 lb. bag we have in the freezer is gone.  However, now that we see how comparatively cheaply we can buy it, we may continue it!  And if we can find Primal's "Raw Meaty Bones" for cats being sold in our area, we may try those as well.  However, we do foresee a problem with those.  We currently give Ivan and Boo dried chicken breast pieces as treats and also to satisfy their chewing obsessions.  We give those to them on the dining room carpet, as they are dry.  However, because of that, we envision them taking "raw meaty  bones" onto the dining room carpet, too.  That would not be good.  We'll see what happens!

On another front, VPI Pet Insurance denied our claims for Dev and Belle's first vet visit!  The paperwork said the claims were denied because the vet's invoices were not itemized.  Hogwash! They were itemized.  So I called VPI and the customer service rep was as puzzled as I. She finally found out that one item on the invoices, listed as "Kitten vaccination," needed to be better defined.  She said that if I could get details about what exactly that vaccination was, and call VPI back with the information, I would not need to resubmit the claim.  Of course the vet was closed today (Saturday), so this will have to wait until Monday. 

We purchased a new type of cat litter to try with Ivan and Boo.  It's called PerfectLitter.  The PerfectLitter web site is a bit annoying, so here is a link to information on the product from
PetPlace.com (but you can click on the PerectLitter image here to go to the PerfectLitter site, if you feel brave).  It is touted as being 70% lighter than clay litter, flushable, dust-free, four times more absorbent than regular cat litter, and if your cat develops a urinary tract infection, his/her urine turns the white litter pink.  We haven't tried this litter yet, but as soon as one of the litter boxes in our home is ready for a complete litter change, we're going to try PerfectLitter. PetPlace.com suggests having one litter box with your regular clay litter available as your cats get used to PerfectLitter in another litter box.  A good suggestion!

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Microchippies

We now call Ivan and Boo the Microchippies because we had them microchipped a couple of weeks ago. The cost at our vet is $37 per cat, and pet insurance paid $20 each. They were a wee bit sore between the shoulderblades for a week, but now they are fine. The vet said there are no known health problems from microchipping (i.e., she has never seen a cat get an infection at the injection site, or cancer, etc. The chip is about the size of a grain of rice). By the way, some other collective names we have for Ivan and Boo are "The Celebrity Catheads," which was the name of a band in the late 1980s in Houston, Texas, and "Va Bruvahs," which is Cockney for "The Brothers" (sort of).

The company that manufactures these chips and keeps records that will help reunite you with a lost and found microchipped cat is HomeAgain. Not only do they keep your contact information, but they also send e-mail to area members, vets, and shelters any time a pet is reported lost. This increases the chance that your pet will be found and reunited with you. On one hand it is a bit sad to see the number of pets who get lost (as indicated by the number of notices we receive in e-mail), but on the other hand it is good to know that the Internet is being harnessed for such worthy purposes. A one-year "subscription" to Home Again is $14 per cat. Our vet said that any time a new cat is brought in, they scan it for a microchip, just in case someone found the cat and adopted it, thinking it was a stray. There is a story on the Home Again web site about that very thing happening! A cat disappeared, only to reappear two months later when the lady who had found her took her to the vet to get her spayed!

While microchips are great for locating lost pets, they do not protect pets from ingesting evil substances. Ivan did just that yesterday. We purchased some "glow necklaces" for use when camping. These contain a substance that, when activated, will glow for several hours. The substance is a fluid. To see how much light the necklaces actually produce, we activated one of them. They are actually just long flexible tubes that can be joined at both ends to create circles that fit over the head and around the neck. Once the glow died, we were going to throw the spent tube away. We unhooked the ends so that it was a 22" straight tube. Before tossing it in the trash we noticed that Ivan was interested in it. We dragged it around on the floor and he became obsessed with it, running back and forth like a mad cat to chase and grab it, and flying through the air like a gymnast to seize it, his eyes fully dilated as though he were chasing some serious prey. After reading the package and noting that it is non-toxic, we decided to keep it and use it as a toy for Ivan, but we made a mental note to put it away each time we finished playing, as we did not want Ivan to puncture the plastic and get to the glow goo inside the tube.

Yesterday we pulled it out of the fridge (where we have to keep it or he would find it and chew it to bits) and played with Ivan for a while. He is so obsessed with it that Boo doesn't even want to try to play with it - Ivan runs right over him! We had a good play session with Ivan. We let him "catch" the tube occasionally to keep him interested. When he catches it, he usually lays with the tube between his paws for a while, until we get the tube and play with him some more. However, after letting him "catch" the tube last night, we turned away for a few seconds to get something. When we looked back, Ivan was backing away from the tube and shaking his head. We thought he had gotten the connector off the tube and was chewing it, but there was nothing in his mouth. We quickly inspected the tube and saw that he had punctured it with a tooth, and some of the fluid had escaped. Ivan started running around in distress. We couldn't catch him for a minute or so. At one point, as he ran around, we saw a lot of saliva coming from his mouth. This was alarming! We finally caught him, examined his mouth, and then took him to the sink and rinsed his mouth out. Once we rinsed his mouth he was fine, ready to eat a handful of treats and play again as normal. But we were freaked out! We later determined that the substance either tasted bad, or it stung his mouth, or both, and his body's natural reaction to something undesirable in the mouth was to produce extra saliva to wash the substance away.

The puncture was barely the size of a pinhole, so a very, very tiny amount of the glow goo made it into his mouth. We threw the tube away promptly and won't be letting him play with those again! We would not even have considered it if they had not been labeled NON-TOXIC.

The ASPCA says that many pets are poisoned each year by all sorts of things, including chocolate, grapes, onions, the sweetener xylitol, coffee and houseplants. This article talks about things we might never suspect would poison a pet, as well as more obvious poisons (like antifreeze). It is recommended reading for any pet owner.

We think Ivan liked the tube because it looked a bit like a snake. He and Boo seem to LOVE snake-like toys and objects. They go crazy over some of my necklaces if I move them around in a snake-like fashion. We have started looking for snakey toys in the pet store. The first one we found is the Swizzle Teaser (also called Swizzle Bird) by "Dr. Noys' Pet Toys for Cats with an Attitude". This is a division of Kong Company at www.kongcompany.com - they make the Kong toys that are so popular with dogs. Unfortunately, the Kong web site does not include the Dr. Noys' products. The above link for the Swizzle Teaser goes to an Internet pet store with which we are not familiar, so if you order from them, let us know what you think. Anyhow, we bought the toy at PetSmart (there's a PetSmart about a mile down the road from us, so we frequent it). The cats seem to like the Teaser, and we can get them interested in it most of the time, but they don't go crazy over it like Ivan did over the glow-goo tube! We have yet to find something to replace the tube. The photo at left shows Boo playing with the Swizzle Teaser. The feathers at the end attach via Velcro, and you can purchase replacements if the original feathers gets chewed on a bit too much.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Ivan and Boo: Successful Vet Visit, and Raw Diets

We have a standard plan policy with VPI (veterinary Pet Insurance) for Ivan and Boo (and we just purchased standard policies for Belle and Dev). We feel insurance is a necessity as pet medical care is almost as expensive as human medical care, and we want the option to treat medical conditions that we otherwise might not be able to afford to treat! The plans we have, which include a "Core Coverage" rider, partially cover two vet visits a year per cat, standard testing and vaccinations, and even micro-chipping (we'll talk about that in the next blog entry)! So we took Ivan and Boo in to see the delightful Dr. Mattern at The Cat Hospital in Campbell, California on Monday. It's been about six months since their last check-up.

Having lost two cats to lymphoma a couple of years ago, we want Ivan and Boo monitored closely to watch for problems like that, especially since cats are adept at hiding ill health. So the two-visits-per-year coverage gives us some peace of mind. Dr. Mattern says they are both very healthy, though a bit overweight, and she recommended a low-carbohydrate diet (free of grains, especially corn) to help get their weight down to normal (they are 13 lbs each!). She specifically recommended two brands of cat-food, but the one she seemed to prefer was EVO.

We researched EVO on the internet and found many web sites that sell it. Dr. Mattern mentioned that there is at least one store in the San Jose area that carries it, but we found some good prices on the internet and decided to go that route instead of burning a lot of time and gas. We ordered EVO dry and canned food from PetFoodDirect.com as they had some of the best prices on pet foods and shipping, and the site got decent reviews on review web sites. While exploring the PetFoodDirect.com site, we also found a section of "raw and frozen" diets, and this intrigued us, so we did some research.

Apparently there is a growing group of veterinarians, researchers, and pet owners which believes that a raw diet is best for pets (there is a parallel raw food movement for humans, as well). This does make sense on its face. For millenia the genus Felis ate raw food. They killed their vegetarian (or possibly insectivorous and/or omnivorous) prey and ate it, benefiting from almost all parts of the prey animal as well as everything the prey animal had eaten. They did not cook their food! Besides, cooking changes the chemical properties of food materials, especially the fats in meat. Since we did have two cats with lymphoma (in addition to other health problems like pancreatitis and urinary tract infections) in the past, we felt that one area to scrutinize rigorously was diet. We wanted to feed them wholesome, organic, and proper ingredients. As we researched EVO dry and canned foods further, we discovered that it is "gently" cooked and billed as a good alternative to raw food, so this was an added bonus. However, we liked the idea of frozen raw food, as it is closer to what cats would eat in the wild (other than being frozen, of course!). So in addition to the two types of EVO, we ordered Primal brand frozen cat nuggets from PetFoodDirect.com. The shipping on the Primal food was free, and this was a true deal, as they have to ship it UPS Two-Day to insure that it stays frozen during shipping.

Unfortunately, PetFoodDirect.com did not send us a confirmation e-mail, and we have gotten out of the habit of printing order information from web sites as we always get a confirmation e-mail! So while we have received the frozen part of the order, we have not yet received the EVO portion, and we have no easy way to track it. If it does not arrive on Monday (which will make it one week since we placed the order) we'll call them up, as we did make a note of the order number (not sure what inspired us to do THAT!). So that's our one complaint with PetFoodDirect.com so far.

Back to the Primal raw food. It's a four-lb. bag of small, ice-cube shaped nuggets of raw chicken and salmon with lots of vegetables and ground up chicken/salmon bones (the ingredients are listed in detail on the Primal site). Of course, those distinct ingredients are not recognizable as, when a nugget defrosts, it is a mush. We mixed it with the Science Diet "Nature's Best" kibble for the first time this morning, and the boys loved it! In fact, they ate around the pieces of kibble to get to the mush! Wow! And they have had canned/soft food perhaps one time in their lives previously. They are currently eating their dinner portion of the raw food and Science Diet kibble, and they are gobbling it up (Ivan leaves the kibble behind at first, but Boo eats it all at once). This morning we put the defrosted-but-refrigerator-chilled raw nuggets, which we'd placed in a zip-lock bag to defrost overnight, into a sink of warm water to warm them a bit before feeding, as suggested by the manufacturer. However, just now, we gave it to them right out of the fridge. No problem for them, apparently! That removes a step in the process for us, at least! (Not only is refrigerated food foreign to wild animals, but cold food also puts off less odor/scent, and cats rely heavily on scent to interest them in food. Apparently Ivan and Boo were pretty hungry!).

The raw food is way too expensive to be the boys' primary food. Instead, we think we'll continue to use it in addition to EVO (assuming they will eat the EVO, but they do not appear to be finicky guys). The Primal food was $51.99 for the four-pound bag! However, that computes to two weeks of food for two cats if we are using it along with EVO. Perhaps we'll only feed the raw food once a day, and stretch it to four weeks. We'll experiment and see what works. The Primal web site contains a lot of information, including a calculator to determine how much of their food to feed your cat for specific needs (weight loss, maintenance, weight gain, etc.). The calculator, as well as lots of other good information, is on Primal's Feeding Recommendations page. We halved the number they recommended for weight loss (two nuggets per feeding) since we are using the Primal food in combination with EVO (or Science Diet until we get the EVO food). In comparison, the 15.4 lb. bag of dry EVO was $37.99, and 12 13.2 oz variety pack cans were $25.99 (they were out of the 5.5 oz cans). However, we will attempt to do more research on this topic and see if anyone has compared the effects of a pure raw diet with those of an EVO diet.

In our research, we found that a lot of vets and owners recommend digestive enzyme supplements for cats who do not eat a 100% raw diet. We did some digging, and Total-Zymes seemed to be the most-recommended product. Primal actually recommends that it be used when a pet is first being transitioned to their raw food. So we ordered Total-Zymes from Pet Food AZ. They had the best price and the cheapest shipping. They DID send us a confirmation e-mail, but their ordering system is a bit confusing, as we wanted the product shipped to Mrs. A's office, but our credit card billing address is different from the office address. It was unclear which address they were using for billing and which for shipping until after the order was already placed. Thankfully it worked out correctly. By the way, the AZ part of their name appears to be for Arizona. That's one reason their shipping was cheaper than other pet food web stores' shipping. A lot of these stores are in the central or eastern U.S., and we're in the west. We were surprised how few web stores that carry these products are on the West Coast! You'd think California would be the Center of Natural Pet Food! Anyhow, we'll let you know what we think of Total-Zymes some time in the future, after we've had a chance to give it to the boys for a while. It's apparently a powder that is added to their food. Should be interesting. In the meantime, here is some "propaganda" from the Total-Zymes web site.

We'll provide updates in the future on how the boys are faring with their new diets.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

More Kitten Photos Plus Product Reviews

The orphaned kittens, Dev and Belle, are doing just fine. They are still small, but they're only 3 months old, after all! Here they are about to attack a dangling toy. They are sitting on a normal, three-cushion couch in this photo, so it gives you an idea of how small they are - smaller than the average person's butt (arse for you in the UK, etc.), that's certain!

Dev is definitely the cuddler of the two, but both are absolutely devoted to Mr. Aleurophile, who did the bulk of their raising (as I was traveling for business). Belle is the noisy one, making big scary cat noises the entire time she is wrestling with Dev or playing with a toy. Mr. A did a fantastic job of socializing them with humans - so far they're not afraid of anyone. They also tolerate loud noises as Mr. A practices playing drums and other instruments fairly frequently around them. They've also been socialized with at least one other cat - Jericho - who tolerates them, but just barely.

We haven't seen the sibling that their mother took with her. That one, Belle's twin, may not have survived.

We are feeding them premium kitten food, but of course Jericho helps himself to that when he can! We also keep plenty of fresh water about. There are plenty of toys to keep them busy during the day. And their big playpen is available for them to play in if they wish.

Dev took to hiding to sleep for a while; he still does it occasionally. Here he was hiding under a pillow, which we moved to take the photo. Then we replaced. He did not stir! The first time he hid under the pillow, Mr. A was frantic when he realized he was missing and couldn't find him! It didn't occur to Mr. A that Dev would sleep under a pillow on the sofa, but when he lifted the pillow in desperation, there was Dev!

Weaning them from kitten formula to solid food was relatively easy. They now eat dry and canned kitten food. They have gotten over their fear of water, too!

Boo and Ivan haven't met them yet. That probably won't happen until some time in September. Boo and Ivan have met Jericho, and they do fine with him, so we are hoping for the best when they meet Dev and Belle.

Ivan and Boo are doing fine, by the way. We have purchased them some new little toys. They love the Fat Cat (www.fatcatinc.com) "Mouse-A-Roni & Cheese" toy - it's a stuffed fabric mouse with catnip. Ivan holds the mouse in his front paws and kicks it with his back paws, but he also licks and chews it (loves that catnip!). Fat Cat recently joined the Bamboo family of pet products. We have reviewed Bamboo products here in the past.

We purchased Ivan and Boo a new waterer: the Drinkwell Platinum water fountain. It took them a while to get used to it - at first they looked at it suspiciously! So I left their regular water bowl out for a week or so. They eventually came to prefer the Drinkwell. Boo will lap out of the fountain stream, then stop and stare at the bubbles that result from him disrupting the flow of water. Once the bubbles disappear, he drinks again. And he repeats this process a few times before he gets his fill of water. Ivan drinks from it, but of course he also plays in it (!). The fountain has a reservoir, and when it senses that more water is needed, it glug glug glugs as the water empties from the reservoir into the fountain. Ivan is absolutely FASCINATED by this. If he hears the fountain "glug glugging" from afar, he comes running. He even bats at the clear reservoir as it glugs (as he sees bubbles rising). Fun for the whole feline family!

We've got a few more cat products to review, so stay tuned.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Kitten Jail!

Belle and Dev continue to grow and develop. Belle wanted to play with Dev before he understood what that was all about, but now he is a play-fight freak! They both continue to use the litterbox. Amazing! They turned 5 weeks old this week. They are truly "little cats" now instead of "little dependent blobs".

Belle has started running. The first few times her back legs moved faster than her front legs, so she ended up tumbling, but now she's figured it out. She can also jump out of the suitcase we were using as a playpen! Dev is, of course, a bit behind and doesn't run, but he gets around pretty well. Both recognize Mr. A and go straight to him whenever they see him. They love to crawl on him and smoosh their noses into his face. We think they want him to clean them! So he does, using a warm washcloth.

They showed some initial interest in canned kitten food but have since turned up their noses to it. They continue with kitten formula about every four hours. The do not seem interested in plain water yet. In fact, we put a small bowl of water in their "nest" but it scared the daylights out of Dev! However, they no longer seem to need stimulation from Mr. A in order to eliminate. We'll be offering them canned kitten food more often to start the "weaning" process.

Our only concern is exercise. We received and assembled the kitten "playpen". They like it! However, we have two complaints: the shelves that come with it (as part of a "conversion" kit sold specifically for the playpen) are too wide and cause the cage to "bow" where they are inserted, and the shelves are missing screw holes. The instructions do indicate that some of the shelves might need to be drilled, but there is no mention of that in the description of the item in the catalogue. However, the benefits of this playpen outweigh those two flaws. We have a drill and we think we can modify the shelves to fit properly.

The above photo shows Belle and Dev in jail. Yes, they ALWAYS look that surprised!


Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Toddlers

The orphaned kittens are now toddling around, even showing some signs of wanting to play with each other. They gain weight every day. Dev had some apparent pain with elimination, but that seems to be subsiding. We think he was eating too fast and swallowing a lot of air, as his little abdomen was sometimes a bit hard and distended and he expelled gas. He's fine now. We still have to help him eliminate. Belle, on the other hand, whom we are pretty sure is at least a week older than Dev, eliminates on her own now. We inserted a small pan of litter in their box and she used it! That is pretty impressive for not even four weeks old! It is amazing what is hardwired into kitten brains.

We have an impromptu playpen set up for them -- it's a huge suitcase. They play around in that between meals and naps. We have ordered a nice big playpen/cage for them through one of our favorite pet vendors, Drs. Foster and Smith. They'll be able to play safely in this cage in Mr. A's office while he works, until they are old enough to be left at home during the day. He still feeds them formula every 4 hours or so. We gave them a taste of some canned kitten food and they appeared to like it, though Belle is better able to eat it, it seems, probably as she's a bit older and more developed that Dev. Dev is still primarily interested in suckling.

We did also purchase the "Conversion Kit" for the playpen, which includes the ramps and the "hammock". Once we receive the cage and use it with the kittens, we'll review it here. The base price of the cage is $139, not bad for solid construction and portability -- the cage rests on casters so can be easily moved.

We managed to snap some photographs of Dev and Belle, but Dev was always moving, so he's a bit blurry in all of them. Belle is a bit less wiggly than Dev, so she is clear - this is the best of the bunch:

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Da Babies

The kittens are doing well. They are gaining weight (in grams) each day. Both have opened their eyes and are now trying to walk. They were approximately three weeks old on Thursday. They have names now: we called the female calico "Cali" for a while, and it made Mr. A think of Kahli, the consort of Shiva. He suggested Shiva as a name for the black and white male, but I felt it a bit too pompous, so he then suggested Dev, short for Deva, which means "[male] deity" in Sanskrit. It is pronounced "Dave". I have never had a cat named Dev - pronounced - "Dave", so why not? As for the female calico, Mr. A noticed that she has a black spot right where her belly button would be, so he thought of Belle (pronounced "bell", of course). I told him that he had better be certain about naming her that, because it is likely that one or both of us will eventually call her "Belle-y" (pronounced "belly"). We call Ivan "Ivy", Boo gets called "Boopy", and Jericho gets called "Jerry", so "Belle-y" is inevitable.

They get fed every 3-4 hours, now. Before long they'll be climbing out of their box. Target sells a clever contraption that is made to allow indoor cats to go outside -- it's like a cat play-pen that is sealed in mesh on all sides. Since Mr. A has to take the kittens to work to feed them, we thought this might be a good thing to have, allowing them to walk around and play without wandering off or getting into things. Once we get it and use it, we will review it here.

I haven't explained before, but I, Aelurophile, live in a small apartment during the week, and I go to our "country house" on the weekends when I can. Mr. A stays at the country house as he can telecommute and needs to be there to take care of everything (cats, gardens, house repairs, and keeping strangers, bears, rattlesnakes, cougars, and gophers away). So Ivan and Boo are with me in the apartment, and the babies Dev and Belle are at the country house with Mr. A. When I go to the country house, I take Ivan and Boo with me - they travel very well other than Boo getting car sick occasionally on mountain roads. Mr. A has not been able to come to the apartment recently as that's a bit far to travel with the babies. The apartment and country house are about five hours apart (!) by car.

I have had to go out of town on business during the week for the past couple of weeks, and will do so for the next few weeks. We have friends who live a block away who were happy to check on the cats for us when we had to go out of town, but the wife of the couple, who did most of the checking, now works out of town and does not always get home each night. We decided we needed another solution to the cat-care problem. Luckily our veterinarian has vet techs who moonlight as cat caretakers. We've been taking our cats to this vet for years, so we called the office and one of the techs agreed to check on Ivan and Boo every other day during the week (this amounts to Tuesdays and Thursdays). She will scoop their litter boxes, feed them, change their water, and even water the plants! Her 9-year old son comes with her, and he will play with the cats (if they decide to emerge from under the bed) while she is taking care of things. The fee is $25 a day. Not bad when you consider that boarding them in a cage is around the same price per day (for two cats). We save money this way, the cats are in their own home which means they will be less stressed, and our plants get watered!

By the way, our veterinarian is The Cat Hospital in Campbell, CA. Unfortunately they do not have a web site. I should speak to them about that!

Anyhow, back to the kittens - the title of this blog entry refers to what a little 2-year old named Sienna calls the kittens: "da babies". She is the granddaughter of the owners of a coffee shop that is housed in the same building as Mr. A's office, and she stops by to see the kittens a few times a day. On arrival she says, "Burble unintelligible babble DA BABIES gurgle blubber." Here's a quick clip of her saying simply, "Da babies."

video

Sunday, May 18, 2008

The Walls of Jericho

Jericho is our male Siamese mix. He's around 12 years old. Mr. Aelurophile found him in the downtown area of a large San Francisco Bay Area city, behind a sandwich restaurant, when he was a kitten. We think his love of cantaloupe and asparagus stems from his days living out of garbage dumpsters.

He's very intelligent. In fact, he is so intelligent that he seems to be lacking in the neoteny department. Neoteny is defined as the retention, by adults in a species, of traits previously seen only in juveniles. Most domesticated animals are neotenous. Mature wild cats do not live together (lions are an exception), nor are they as playful and affectionate toward humans as house cats are. Kittens of wild cats, however, do exhibit these traits. When humans found adult cats that retained kitten-like behavior, they selected for those traits, and eventually the cat was domesticated. The same is true for dogs. Domesticated dogs play a lot more than wild dogs, and they prefer human companionship, while wild dogs do not. So early man selected the dogs that remained puppy-like into adulthood. (Here's an interesting link about neoteny.)

Jericho is less kitten-like than most domestic cats. He is not terribly fond of being petted, and he'll let you know about that. The only time he is affectionate is when he is sleepy or cold. All other times he is aloof and grumpy. At times he may growl if we even so much as look at him. We think he knows he relies on us for food and he hates having to be dependent on us (yes, we read a lot into his behavior!). He detests using a litter box and will only use it if it is raining or snowing outside, otherwise he demands to be let out.

So, Jericho was resting on the sofa while Mr. Aelurophile was seated on the same sofa, feeding the calico kitten. After feeding her, Mr. A let her crawl and explore on his lap. She started crawling toward Jericho, who, after a while, had enough of that, gave the calico one swift "bap" (claws retracted), and ran away grumbling. So much for the birth of a lasting friendship!

By the way, I swear that the chair Jericho is sleeping on in the above photograph is NOT in our house!!

Ivan and Boo Are Still At It

We went out of town for one night and a day this week (business). We left the boys plenty of water, and food in two automated feeding bowls which open at sent times to reveal compartments that we previously filled with specific amounts of food. The boys have broken into these feeders in the past and gobbled up all the food so that they were without food for a day or two, but usually the feeders work very well. This trip was no exception.

The night before we left we gave the boys their usual evening chicken strip snack. We asked them, as we normally do, "Do you want some cat cheekin?" Yes, we suddenly acquire speech impediments when speaking to the cats. These impediments disappear if we are speaking to anyone other than the cats. Puzzling! Anyhow, they know what "cat cheekin" is and started meowing madly. We gave them a chicken strip each and they settled in and started chewing. The next morning we got up to finish packing and get going, but we found a suspicious zip loc bag on the floor. We knew immediately that, the night before, that bag had held the package of chicken strips. No, not again - they'd broken into the chicken strips!

There was no sign of actual chicken strips, not even crumbs, or the chicken strip bag anywhere in the apartment. We searched high and low, determined to find it in case it still contained any chicken strips. We didn't want the boys gorging themselves any further and risking a gut impaction or something crazy like that. The bag was simply nowhere to be found. After looking everywhere twice or three times, there was only one place left to look - under the couch. The couch sits only half an inch to an inch off the floor, so the cats cannot get under it. However, with the help of a flashlight, we found the chicken strips bag! Under the couch! Had the little criminals tried to hide the evidence from us? Well, the bag had one small piece of chicken still in it, so we suspect the boys were trying to get that last piece of chicken and inadvertently pushed the bag under the couch.

Now the chicken strips (yes, we bought more) stay in the fridge. By the way, we were shopping in Target today and decided to see if they had any chicken strips like the ones we found at PetSmart (and originally at Trader Joe's). They did! In fact, they have vitamin/supplement fortified chicken strips! They are sold under the brand "Vitality" and are, like all pet-grade chicken breast strips we've found, in the dog section. We bought the variety supplemented with flaxseed oil and vitamins to promote healthy eyes, coat, and skin. Boo has had a little dry skin lately, so this sounded good. We bought the last two bags.

The boys did not ravenously eat these strips the way they did the brand we bought from PetSmart. They ate these strips, but they were not as excited about them as they've been about other brands. But, again, they ate them, so we're happy to continue giving them to the boys. These are $5.99 for a 6 oz (weight) bag. That's pricier than the PetSmart variety, but these are fortified with extra ingredients that are good for the cats, after all.

We'll review the automatic feeders soon. We also bought the boys a little "play station" at Target today, and we'll review that soon, as well.

The orphaned kittens are doing fine. The calico's eyes are fully open and she responds strongly to KittyDaddy (Mr. Aelurophile). Black-and-white-kitten's eyes don't even show signs of opening yet. We are convinced he is at least a week younger (based on conception date) than the calico. We have read that there are often kittens of differing ages in one litter, certainly kittens of different fathers! But little black-and-white continues to guzzle KMR and put on weight. His eyes should open soon.

At least we are pretty certain of their sexes, now, so that we can start trying to think of names for them.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

The Kittens are Purring!

The kittens purred for the first time when we fed them this morning. A milestone!

We also found out that the black and white kitten is a male. Not so certain about the calico.

They seem healthy and eat heartily and sleep soundly. After gently stimulating the black and white kitten's bum with a cotton ball this morning, there was a single tiny drop of blood on the cotton after s/he defecated. We researched this and, if it is an isolated occurrence, it is nothing to worry about, but if it happens again it could be anything from a parasite to distemper. Our fingers are crossed. The kitten has no other symptoms, which is a good thing.

The calico's eyes continue to open - still not fully - but black and white's eyes are not opening yet. We did read that some litters of kittens can contain kittens of differing ages, suggesting that once a mother cat conceives, she is still fertile for at least a few days and can conceive again. If that is true, we suspect that is the case -- the calicos are older than the black and white(s).

We washed the SnuggleKittie in the washer on the gentle cycle and then dried her in the dryer (sounds so cruel!). It took two hours to dry her! But she is nice and clean for the kittens now. Next time we will place some piece of fabric - a sock or shirt - in or on her and we will NOT wash that when we wash her, and we will place it on her when we replace her in the nest after a washing, so her scent is not so foreign to the kittens after being washed.

The outside temperatures were warm today and forecast to be warm tomorrow, which is good news for the kittens, who do like warmth.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

More on the Orphaned Kittens

The kittens are doing fine. They were shivering last night so we turned up the heating pad and put a towel over the box to retain heat, and they were much happier. Kittens this young are not able to regulate their body temperature, so they need heat from their mother, or, in this case, from some other source. The SnuggleKittie came with heat "pods" that last about 20 hours, so we were using them, and it also comes with a pouch for holding raw rice that is heated up in the microwave. Raw rice retains heat quite well - I used something similar to apply heat to my jaws when I had severe TMJ problems.

Callie the calico is opening his/her eyes! Maggie the magpie-colored cat is a little slower in the eye department, and s/he may simply be "behind" in every aspect of growing as s/he was never fed mother's milk (except for the first two or three days of his/her life). We've learned that they are really too young to sex accurately at this time, so we will wait a bit longer before we give them permanent names. They are getting a bit more coordinated and moving quite a bit more, and Callie can almost climb out of the box! We'll have to get a bigger box.

The SnuggleKittie is still a hit and the kittens sleep on it, under it, or burrow into it. They also defecate on it -- Snuggle Kittie folks, your next invention needs to be a SnuggleKittie that will clean itself! It would be even better if it would clean the babies, as well...

Monday, May 12, 2008

The Surrogate Mom

The kittens LOVE The Surrogate Mom! Especially when she's got a heat pod in her pocket! Yes, it's the CuddleKittie. Here is a fuzzy photo of the fuzzy babies and fuzzy mom (it's feeding time, and they know by now that their food comes from somewhere other than this surrogate). We'll try to get a better picture soon.

Little black and white, whom we call "Maggie" (short for "Magpie" because of his/her fur color), was shivering quite a bit tonight, but we finally figured out it was not a neurological problem - s/he was COLD! We turned up the heating pad and slipped an extra heat "pod" into Surrogate Mom, and Maggie settled down nicely with Callie the Calico.

You can just notice the difference in size of the two kittens in the blurry photograph above. Callie's head is closer to the camera, yes, but by less than an inch, which does not account for the difference in head sizes. Amazing what mother's milk will do.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Reunion Failure

We lost a kitten.

Mom was nursing all of them and everything seemed fine. We checked them frequently. But on checking Saturday morning, one of the black and white kittens was dead, and Mom had left with one of the calicos (NOT the calico she'd had for the past week!). So we were left with one black and white kitten and one fat calico.

We are guessing that Mom just wasn't making enough milk for all four after a week of milk for just one. We should have known this, perhaps, but everyone we asked said it was best to try to reunite the kittens with Mom and their one sibling. Anyhow, when one of her kittens died she decided to high tail it with the original one she'd been feeding (not realizing she mistakenly grabbed the wrong one -- hey, it LOOKED like the original one!), thinking she might be able to save one from whatever had started killing the other three.

Lesson learned.

The remaining black and white one seems well enough. We are trying to strengthen him and get him up to speed with his fatter, fitter littermate. We are armed with lots of KMR, as well as a product we spotted in PetSmart - a SnuggleKittie. We had been discussing how the kittens seemed to be looking for Mom in between feedings last week, and we mused how nice it would be to have something they could snuggle up with and feel comforted by, some kind of surrogate mom. And then we found that someone else had already had the idea and developed and marketed it!

It looks promising. It is a largish plush cat. It has a "heart" that "beats" (run by batteries that are included), and two heat packs that are supposed to last 20 hours each, plus a terry pouch that will hold uncooked rice for heating in the microwave after the heat packs, which are activated by air exposure, run out of heat. (Of course, we are already using a heating pad.) It also has a spot where a nursing bottle can be placed so that the nipple protrudes from the cat's belly! It's all quite ingenious. The price at PetSmart is $29.99, a bit steep, but until competition arrives from other companies, they can get away with that price. Well, they can get away with it if the product works as advertised.

So far the product is doing what its packaging promised. The two remaining kittens have taken to the SnuggleKittie and are cuddled up, sleeping with it! We'll have photographs soon. Meantime, note that the company that makes the SnuggleKittie does donate their product to animal shelters and rescue groups, so check out how to help them out.

Also, since this blog is supposed to be about Ivan and Boo, rest assured that they are both just fine and as crazy and hilarious as ever. In fact, they seemed quite interested in the SnuggleKittie themselves!

Friday, May 9, 2008

Reunion!

We were able to reunite the abandoned kittens with their mother!

Last weekend she took one of four kittens but did not come back for the other three. It is possible that she was feeding the three in one spot and the fourth elsewhere, but we could not be sure, so we took the trio in. However, yesterday, we found where she was keeping the fourth, so after some quick consideration, we decided to replace the trio in the "nest" mom had made for the fourth (the nest was in our garden in a shallow hole filled with straw and covered with a wooden box. The garden is fenced, making it difficult for predators to enter).

At first it was not obvious that she had accepted the trio, because she flees when we come near, being a feral cat, so we could not see her actually nursing, or even interacting with them. However, after leaving the trio with the fourth littermate for at least five hours, we checked on them and it was very obvious that mom had been cleaning the trio (humans are not as good at cleaning kitten poop out of kitten fur as mother cats are), and they seemed healthy, hydrated, and had good color. We left them in the nest overnight, and this morning they, again, seemed in fine shape. We will continue to check on them to make sure.

Interestingly, the kitten who stayed with mom is noticeably bigger and fatter than the other three. Hopefully they will catch up with him, now that they're back with mom. Obviously mother's milk is a million times better than kitten formula.

Before we found mom's nest, we had gone to PetSmart to stock up on KMR and found a product that would be purr-fect for comforting orphaned kittens. We'll review that in the next blog entry.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

What to do with orphaned newborn kittens!

One of our farm cats had kittens last week but was spooked away from them. We believe she took one with her, but she never came back for the remaining three. After multiple attempts to reunite mother and kittens, we had to take the kittens in.

Talk about a crash course in kitten care! A neighbor is a retired veterinary technician, so she came over with an eye dropper to show us the basics of infant kitten feeding, burping, cleaning and elimination. It was Sunday and the only place in town that sells kitten formula was not open, so we had to make due with evaporated milk and sugar. Monday morning we found the savior of orphaned kittens everywhere: KMR.

KMR is "kitten milk replacement" made by Pet Ag and sold at pet stores and feed stores, even in the feed store of our tiny town, population around 900. KMR is a wondrous thing. The kittens took to it immediately. Kitten bottles are also available! Isn't the 21st century amazing? We buy the liquid form of KMR, as it is not easy to prepare formula from a powder with three mewing kittens demanding food. They suck the stuff down. We are very lucky that this is available. However, from what we read in our crash course on nursing kittens, there is still no guarantee they will survive. We estimate they were about three days old when mom abandoned them. We, and they, are lucky if mom fed them for three full days, for we read that a minimum of 72 hours worth of mother's milk is necessary to establish good immunity in kittens.

The kittens must be fed about every two hours. Then the must be burped by rubbing their tummies. Then their little rectums must be stimulated with a cotton ball or q-tip to promote elimination. They apparently cannot quite eliminate without this stimulation for the first week or two. Their mother usually licks them to stimulate defecation. Then they must be cleaned up and put back into their "nest", a box with a warm blanket or towel inside, and the box rests on top of a heating pad. The heating pad should be at a low setting, and it should only warm half the box so that the kittens can move off it if they get too hot. We did not feel much warmth with the heating pad on low, so we set it to medium. The kittens slept a lot more once the heating pad was in place.

That is the cycle for the first few weeks of life. We cross our fingers that nothing goes wrong, or that they do not catch anything, as just about anything they could catch would be life-threatening at this stage.

Here's a photograph that shows the kittens inside their box and gives a better sense of their size. Mr. Aelurophile takes the kittens to his office every day so that he can feed them every two hours, and this photo was taken there.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

The Carnivorous Criminals


They broke into the bag of chicken strips!

Yes, as mentioned previously, we found an alternative to Trader Joe's chicken strips (marketed for dogs) when our Trader Joe's stopped carrying them. In PetSmart, we found "Smokehouse" brand chicken breast strips (again for dogs). The boys love these as much as the Trader Joe's brand. They are $9.99 for a pound bag (above). The Trader Joe's brand is, surprisingly, more expensive (when we can get it).

We store the bag o' chicken on the top of the refrigerator. Well, our boys are smarter than we thought. They realized that the thing we are putting on top of the fridge contains the stuff of dreams! They somehow managed to get on top of the fridge and they knocked the bag down, and together they ate the top of the bag open. See the photo below which shows the damage they did. We caught them probably seconds before they actually got anything out of the bag. Little carnivorous criminals!

We have to say that we are not entirely sure that these are perfectly good for cats to eat, and we plan to call our vet to check. Both of the boys seemed to have an evening this week when they did not feel well, but we honestly cannot attribute it to the chicken. After all, what's wrong with chicken? We did reduce their daily chicken strip ration to half a breast each, though (the Smokehouse brand strips can be broken in half by hand).

The boys beg almost all day for these treats. So if they're not good for cats, it's a shame! I'll let you know what the vet says once we find out. See the evidence of the boys' breaking and entering above. The package comes with a zip-loc top, which they destroyed.

Here's Boo looking awfully satisfied with himself after the crime.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Cats vs. Dogs

Two hilarious cats vs. dogs pieces:
















And

Excerpts from a Dog's Diary:

  • 8:00am - Dog food! My favorite thing!
  • 9:30am - A car ride! My favorite thing!
  • 9:40am - A walk in the park! My favorite thing! - 10:30am - Got rubbed and petted! My favorite thing!
  • 12:00pm - Lunch! My favorite thing!
  • 1:00pm - Play in the yard! My favorite thing!
  • 3:00pm - Wagged my tail! My favorite thing!
  • 5:00pm - Dog Biscuits! My favorite thing!
  • 7:00pm - Got to play ball! My favorite thing!
  • 8:00pm - Wow! Watched TV with the people! My favorite thing!
  • 11:00pm - Sleeping on the bed! My favorite thing!
 
Excerpts from a Cat's Diary:

Day 983 of my captivity. My captors continue to taunt me with bizarre little dangling objects. They dine lavishly on fresh meat, while the other inmates and I are fed hash or some sort of dry nuggets. Although I make my contempt for the rations perfectly clear, I nevertheless must eat something to keep up my strength. The only thing that keeps me going is my dream of escape. In an attempt to disgust them, I once again vomit on the carpet. Today I decapitated a mouse and dropped its headless body at their feet. I had hoped it would strike fear into their hearts, since it clearly demonstrates what I am capable of. However, they merely made condescending comments about what a "good little hunter" I am.

There was some sort of assembly of their accomplices tonight. I was placed in solitary confinement for the duration of the event. However, I could hear the noises and smell the food. I overheard my confinement was due to the power of "allergies." I must learn what this means, and how to use it to my advantage. Today I was almost successful in an attempt to assassinate one of my tormentors by weaving around his feet as he was walking. I must try this again tomorrow but at the top of the stairs.

I am convinced the other prisoners here are flunkies and snitches. The dog receives special privileges. He is regularly released and seems more than willing to return. He is obviously retarded. The bird has got to be an informant. I observe him communicate with the guards regularly. I am certain that he reports my every move. My captors have arranged protective custody for him in an elevated cell, so he is safe. For Now.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Live (sort of) Prey


We found a new cat toy that the boys go crazy for. It's made by OurPets, and it is a "Play-n- Squeak Mouse". The mouse contains a microchip that causes it to squeak with a VERY realistic sound when the mouse is batted around. Brilliant! It fascinated our cats for a long time and while they are no longer playing with it 24-7, they still play with it a great deal. The gray mouse with pink ears and tail and plush fur comes alone or in two "interactive" versions that we've seen: on a string attached to a hand-held wand, and on a string that hangs from a door-hanger. We have all three but have not yet opened the wand - the boys are busy enough with the door and "stringless" versions! The prices are amazingly reasonable for such cleverly-designed toys (yes, the microchip alone makes these toys very innovative). The mouse itself is $5.99, while the interactive versions are each $7.99. The photo above shows Boo with the mouse. Ah, we forgot to mention that these toys all contain catnip. Luckily, our boys respond strongly to cat nip (not all cats do). They love it!

After a visit to the OurPets web site, we see that they also offer the Play-n-Squeak Mouse with a rod and reel. That's a great idea. We have a "CatFisher Rod and Reel" made by Bamboo and Ivan and Boo just love it. That's the toy that they beg us to get out every evening. We can sit (or stand! We're not always lazy!) and cast the mouse lure for great distances and reel it in quickly, slowly, in spurts, or not at all, depending on the boys' moods. We have not tested the OurPets rod and reel, but we can tell you that the Bamboo version is well-constructed and relatively easy to repair when the fishing line inevitably gets bunched up in the reel (fishermen know that this happens with "real" reels, too, so it's not necessarily a defect in the product). We've had the Bamboo rod and reel for a couple of years and use it a lot, and it's still hanging in there. We have had to replace the lures, which can be purchased separately. The Bamboo CatFisher Rod and Reel currently sells at PetSmart for $19.99. It comes with two lures. The OurPets rod and reel (above) is $17.99 and comes with the Play-n-Squeak Mouse as the lure.

By the way, Ivan and Boo also love the "string" that attaches the Play-n-Squeak Mouse to the hand wand or door hanger. They've always been fascinated by snake-like objects, and the string on these toys has a weight to it that makes it move "snakily". They can't resist it.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Chewy Cat Goodness!


The boys got another round in the Klaw Kontrol bag for some klaw klipping last night (we previously reviewed this product). Once again Ivan bopped Boo, this time TWICE, while Boo was confined. We had to remove Ivan from the room while Boo was being clipped! But yet again we had a successful klaw klipping session, which we hope will protect our leather couch and chair from claw scratches.

It's been cooler lately so the boys have been all over us. Last night Ivan decided he needed to sleep on my shoulder while I watched a bit of TV. Boo was feeling cuddly and slept in my lap. He's not always a cuddlemuffin, so we take it when we can get it.

They've started begging for between-meal-snacks. We give them two kinds. First are Greenies, which they absolutely love. Boo will stand on his hind legs for these. [OK, as I write this, I am seated in an office chair at my computer desk, and Ivan's hind legs are on the back of the chair, and his front legs are on my shoulders as he checks out my jacket and tries to groom my hair. He loves my hair, and I think it might be the hairspray! Don't worry, I don't let him groom my hair. I'm pretty sure hairspray isn't good for him.] Greenies come in several flavors, but the boys prefer the fishy ones (tuna, salmon, ocean fish). The second snack they get is Trader Joe's Chicken Breast Strips. These are marketed for dogs, but the cats go nuts over them.

When I found the chicken breast strips, I was actually looking for things that cats might like to chew on. These boys both have a nice case of pica ("eating non-food items"). If you've heard of pica, it's probably in the context of dogs who eat their own feces. Thank heavens these cats don't have that problem. No, they like to eat fabrics. Usually natural fibers (cotton, silk) but they have been known to go for a soft synthetic. Luckily I have a sewing machine so I can fix the damage they did before we caught them chewing our clothes. Since then we've learned to keep the closet well-closed and not let clothes lay around. Or dish towels - the picture shows a normal dish towel next to one that Ivan got his teeth into.

We did quite a bit of research on this fabric-chewing and found that about 5% of cats suffer from this. Some experts feel it is a displaced nursing reflex, others think the cats are missing something in their diets (the latter is unlikely as we feed them Science Diet "Nature's Best"). I simply feel these guys learned to chew while teething and just haven't gotten over it. They also love to chew cardboard (especially the cardboard cat scratchers) and Papermate Sharpwriter pencils. The only non-food items they swallow, though, are fabric. Since the pieces are small, the vet thinks it's not dangerous ( while eating dental floss or holiday tinsel is dangerous as those can get lodged in the cat's gut). Anyhow, since I thought it was a chewing compulsion, I started looking for things they might like to chew that were intended for that purpose, like dog rawhide toys.

I found some basted rawhide "sticks" made for very small dogs. They are about the diameter of a pencil, and about half as long. The cats were sort of interested in them, and they'd chew on them if I held the sticks, but somehow the cats seemed to have trouble "holding" the sticks by themselves so they could chew them. (Though how they manage to chew the Sharpwriter pencils is an interesting question.)

I also found a company called Petstages which makes toys and products for cats' various needs, including chewing. The cats would play with these chew toys (made of fabric and scented with catnip). But they didn't chew on them much. These toys are rather stiff, and the boys seem to prefer softer fabrics for chewing. So they mostly bat the Petstages chew toys around.

While looking at Trader Joe's pet section, I saw some desiccated chicken breasts for dogs. They are about 3-4 inches long and from 1/2 to 1 1/2 inches wide. They are pretty hard and rigid. I bought a bag of those just to see if the cats would like them. Voilá! They LOVE them. When I first gave the boys one each, Ivan took about five minutes to eat his, and Boo took about ten. They chewed and chewed until the things were gone. However, I was worried about calories as the vet said Boo could stand to lose a few pounds, so I started cutting the breasts in half (using garden pruning shears!!!) and giving each cat a half, and when the breasts are cut in half the cats chew them up pretty quickly. The sole ingredient in these strips is "dried chicken breast fillets" per the packaging. They are made in China, but I can't imagine the manufacturer would feel the need to add melamine to these.

So, for any of you looking for chewy items for your cats, try the Petstages products, but if all else fails try the Trader Joe's Chicken Breast Strips for dogs! (Unfortunately my local TJ's was out of them today, but they are pretty good about getting them back in stock.) The below video is of Ivan chewing his [whole] chicken breast strip.

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