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

FELIWAY

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.

MODERNCAT BOUTIQUE

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.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Cat-Aerobics, and a Bolt Update

Yes, even cats need some aerobic exercise. Exercising your cat keeps him fit, not to mention out of trouble! Cats who don't get exercise can get bored and develop bad habits. Even though we don't have dogs, and are pretty much bona fide cat people, we watch The Dog Whisperer, and his credo is "exercise, discipline, and affection" in that order. The exercise is important because it provides a natural energy drain. In the wild, dogs and cats would be hunting to live, and that would take up a lot of their time and energy. Domesticated animals don't need to hunt to live, so, unless we provide them some exercise opportunities, they build up a lot of energy that needs to be dissipated somehow. If it is not dissipated through exercise, it is often dissipated through other means, and those means may be undesirable.

This is why we are on a quest for toys that really engage our cats and get them moving. We've reviewed several here already. Another that we recently found is the Cat-Aerobics "Action Toy" and step-by-step aerobics program. Yep, that's what it says on the package! The package contains a toy that is somewhat similar to the Cat Dancer (see our previous blog entry), but improved upon. That is saying a lot.

We were astounded by how our cats reacted to the Cat Dancer. It is such a simple thing: a piece of baling wire with cardboard rolls attached at the ends. Ivan and Boo went nuts over it and even asked us (in their inimitable feline way) to get it out each day. Now they do that with the Cat-Aerobics toy, but even more! Why? Because the makers of the Cat-Aerobics toy have, as mentioned, improved upon the Cat Dancer theme by enhancing it. They've added a wooden handle for the human on one end, and a colorful lure on the other end for the finicky feline.

Also included in the Cat-Aerobics package is a booklet entitled CAT-Aerobics EXERCISE PROGRAM Instructions. This little booklet contains some good ideas for exercising your cat, some as simple as scratching him under the chin to more complex movements of the toy that cause him to jump into the air.

Ivan and Boo went nuts over this toy the moment it came out of the package. They turn into panting maniacs when we drag this toy around the room. The rubber, critter-like lure on the end seems to be the big attraction. Congratulations, SunRae Products, for improving on what we thought was the ultimate cat toy!

We bought this product ourselves and did not receive a review sample from the manufacturer.

FROLICAT BOLT UPDATE

After three months of fun, the Bolt laser toy decided to stop working in automatic mode last week. We searched the web for a FAQ that might tell us how to fix it, but instead we found the manufacturer's site and checked the on-line product user guide, which indicated that they would repair or replace a defective Bolt within one year of purchase. Here's the text from the user guide:

If you have questions about BOLT™ or any of our products, please call us toll free at (888) 726-MEOW (6369) to speak with one of our knowledgeable cat-loving staff. If there is ever a problem, FroliCat will replace or repair your BOLT interactive laser toy for one year. Just call our toll-free number.

We called the number, and as we are on the West Coast, and they are in Chicago, and it was late in our business day, we got voice mail for "Sarah". We left Sarah a message, explaining that we'd purchased the Bolt about three months ago, and it suddenly stopped working in auto-mode. We told her we had the receipt for purchase, and we wondered what we needed to do to get the item repaired or replaced, and we left our call-back number. Sarah's greeting indicated that we would be called back on the next business day. The next business day was Friday. We did not receive a call back. Today, the third business day after we left our message, we still have not had a response.

If the Bolt web site had not indicated they would repair or replace, and if Sarah's voice mail had not indicated that we would be contacted on the next business day, perhaps we would not be so disappointed in this crummy customer service. Maye we should have told them that we have a cat product review blog and had already given the Bolt a glowing review. But we didn't. Since then, because the cats have really missed their Bolt in auto mode, we bought a new one. They are $19.99 at PetSmart. That's a bit pricey to last only three months! FroliCat, if you read this review and are interested in repairing or replacing the defective Bolt (or simply refunding us the cost of the replacement we bought ourselves), drop us a line.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

The Kritter Kondo Lets Your Indoor Cats Go Outside Safely

We were excited when we ran across KritterKondo on Twitter. We checked out their associated web site and discovered that they were developing a cat playpen for cats who live in condominiums, apartments, or townhomes. Space might be limited indoors, but with the Kritter Kondo, kitties could play safely outside.

After a few months, we got word that the Kritter Kondo was finally available for purchase! We contacted Lisa, the owner and mastermind behind the Kondo, and asked if she would be interested in covering the shipping cost to send us a Kondo for review. She immediately agreed, so we saved around $18. We paid only for the Kondo itself, which currently sells for $124.99.

It took a week and a half or so, but the Kondo finally arrived via UPS. It comes with its own padded carrying case that has lots of pockets inside for holding the bag of pins that give the Kondo its structural integrity, plus it can hold lots of your own supplies - pet food and treats, people snacks/water, pretty much anything you like! The case is large, so the shoulder strap on it is a must. It is relatively easy to tote around - from the car to the patio, or from the car to the park or beach - you get the idea. The carrying case measures 30 inches tall by 36 inches wide and about five inches thick.

We first set up the Kondo indoors, to let the kitties get accustomed to it. It's easy to set up. Lay it flat on the ground, with the base frame on the bottom, and lift up the two ends. Then you insert the eight pins and voilá, you're done, and the Kondo is ready for its residents to enter!

Ivan and Boo checked it out for the couple of days that we had it open in the house. Then we made some space on our patio (which is currently pretty well occupied by potted plants, a small table and chairs, and a barbecue grill!) and set the Kondo up outside. It is a perfect fit on our patio! And it is quite spacious, even for two adult cats. They had room to walk around and check things out. They had quite the afternoon in the sun! The fully opened enclosure is 2 feet tall, 2.5 feet wide, and a whopping 5.5 feet long!

Almost every evening we open the sliding glass door that leads to the patio and we leave the screen door shut, and the boys love to lounge in front of the screen. We tried to escape-proof the patio with the plastic equivalent of chicken wire, but we are not convinced that the cats won't find some miniscule escape route, so we rarely let them out, and when we do, it's only for a few moments. However, the Kritter Kondo puts all our fears of escape to rest! We can leave the boys on the patio and go answer the phone or the door, or take a bathroom break, and we know they'll be fine. This is a great load off our minds!

The boys love the opportunity to be outside and smell the smells, hear the sounds, and see the sights. The sun was warm on them today, and they lounged in it. The birds were flitting about, and the boys clucked at them (you've probably had cats who do that!). There were leaves dancing about on the cement of the patio, and the cats batted at them. It was a wonderful afternoon!

The KritterKondo appears to be very well-designed and well-made. It is ridiculously easy to set up and take down. The door opens and closes easily and has a latch to make sure it stays shut when your cats are inside. You'll want to get a zip-loc type bag to store the pins in - the bag of pins will slip right into one of the pockets inside the Kondo storage bag.

There are other companies that make cat "playpens" and outdoor pens, but this is the biggest one at the best price. We haven't seen any other outdoor cat pens of this size, certainly not at this price. And you don't have to live in an apartment to use the Kritter Kondo. We recommend it for anyone who wants their cats to enjoy the outdoors without the risk of them escaping or running away. The Kritter Kondo is available from Kritter Kommunity at www.kritterkommunity.com. Tell them Ivan and Boo sent you.

Please be sure to provide your cats with a shaded area while they are in the Kritter Kondo. Lay a towel over one end of the enclosure, or set it up so that it is partially shaded by a tree. Cats can get sunburned and can even get skin cancer from sun exposure, especially cats who have white fur on part or all of the body.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Your Cats Will Beg You for this Toy

Seriously. Since when do cats beg? Apparently since they were made aware of a toy called "The Original Cat Dancer". Huh? Yes, I ran across reviews of this toy on Amazon.com when purchasing other cat items, and the reviews were so overwhelmingly positive, to the point of gushing, that I had to check this thing out.

I had no idea what it was. The Amazon.com entry didn't really describe the item very well. And on receipt of it, I could see why. It is ridiculously simple. It's basically a yard-long piece of bailing wire with some cardboard bits attached at each end. If you read about a cat toy like that, would you buy it?

Of course not! At least, not unless you were somehow convinced that it magically attracts cats, like the pied piper attracted rats. So how does it work?

I'd like to know as much as you would. I really have no idea
why our cats go absofreakinlutely insane over this thing. The first time we showed it to them, they went nuts immediately and we had to put the toy away after 15 minutes or so, before they had heart attacks from over-exertion. That's pretty much a first for any toy. With all other toys, they eventually get tired. But not with this one.

And, yes, just as the title of this blog entry says, your cats will beg you for this toy. Ours do. We come home in the evening and feed them, and the moment they have finished eating they start meowing at us and standing in front of the cabinet where we keep
the Cat Dancer. (We have to put it away when not in use or they'd find it and obsess over it and do who-knows-what to it!) They are not satisfied until the Cat Dancer comes out and engages them. And "engages" is a mild term for what really happens. They turn into crazed predators. They run back and forth as we drag this thing across the floor, and they also leap through the air after it if we dangle it above them. They get so involved in chasing the Cat Dancer that they actually pant like dogs from the exertion (and yes, we've had them thoroughly checked by the vet, and they're hale and hearty - no worries about the panting). Even Boo, who is normally tough to motivate with toys, goes wild over this one.

The best part about this toy? It currently sells NEW on Amazon.com for $5.31. Well, when you consider what it's made of, you'll think that's a fortune, but once you see how your cats react to it, you'll think it's one of the best deals ever.

By the way, the boys still love The Bolt laser toy. We turn it on before we leave for work in the morning (and let it shut itself off in 15 minutes).

On other cat topics, I came across a web site, recently, called The Random Cat Project. The site's premise is a truly enlightened idea and makes for touching content. The site's creators have filmed and photographed random cats that they've encountered while walking through London, and they've posted the photos and videos at the site. They are soliciting similar photos and videos of random cat encounters from all over the world. I was so smitten by this web site that I sent the link to, among several others, ModernCat, and they posted it in their newsletter/blog. So now it's my turn. Lovely idea, Neil & Co., keep up the great work, and we'll be on the look-out for random cats to document here in Silicon Valley.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Laser Toys Everywhere

We've been using laser pointers with our cats for many years. We first noticed our dear Mala (R.I.P.) running madly after the small circle of light that reflected off my watch face. But that only worked when there was direct sunlight in the vicinity. Then laser pointers appeared, and we recognized immediately that these pointers would make great cat entertainment! Those early laser pointers really sucked up the battery power, however, and they used unusual batteries (those small hearing-aid type batteries) that were not always very easy to find. But, nevertheless, our cats learned to recognize the sound of the laser pointer as it was being picked up (it had a key chain on it that jingled) - that's how much they loved to chase The Red Dot!

Recently several cat products have come on the market that purport to entertain cats with lasers while the humans get on with other business. This is a bit sad, because half the fun of the laser pointer is to get your cat flinging himself crazily around the house after The Red Dot, and laughing insanely at his silly antics. However, we're pretty sure that a few cases of tendonitis arose among cat owners who went a little bonkers with the laser pointers, and relief from that would be welcome. And sometimes, we have to admit, we just don't have as much time as we'd like to spend a lot of play time with the feline members of our families. So these automatic cat toys were definitely intriguing.

The first we found was the "Ba-Da-Beam Rotating Laser Cat Toy" made by Multipet Inernational Inc. Bit of a mouthful, that. But it looked interesting - it's shaped a bit like a NASA space capsule from the 60s, and it has a lid on top that lifts up to reveal a mirror and a laser. The mirror adjusts to two different positions so that one can direct The Red Dot at the floor or at a wall. Clever! It was $16.99 at PetSmart. Our cats are not as enamored of The Red Dot on the wall as they are of it on the floor, so we used the floor setting. However, the floor setting resulted in a Red Dot that moved languidly in a fairly small-diameter (2 to 3 inches) oval. It stopped every so often and sat for half a second, only to start its weary rotations again. The cats were fairly interested in it at first but seemed to quickly grow bored with it.

We fiddled with the lid/mirror, to see if we could entice it into any positions between "floor" and "wall". No luck. So we stacked a few things under one edge of the "capsule". This did result in some better laser action. The Red Dot actually moved in a larger oval, which interested the cats a bit more. And the Ba-Da-Beam has an automatic shut-off, so we could turn it on and let the cats play, and it would turn off after about 15 minutes. This is not described in the instructions - that makes it a Bonus Feature! The instructions do state that the Ba-Da-Beam may be held in the hand for a more "interactive" experience. We tried that, and Ivan perked up quiet a bit. He looked like he had suddenly acquired a palsy of some sort, his head bobbing in a manner reminiscient of an elderly Katherine Hepburn. Ivan was more interested in The Red Dot when the Ba-Da-Beam was held in the hand than when it was set on a table or on the floor. But that sort of defeats the purpose - it was the "automatic" nature of the toy that was most enticing. However, on the bright side, the Ba-Da-Beam comes with batteries included! That's a rarity.

We saw a review of the Bolt automatic laser toy in the ModernCat blog. We then kept seeing ads for it in our pet insurance e-mail newsletters (through Pet Product Advisor). However, if we ordered it through Pet Product Advisor, we had to pay shipping. So we checked at our neighborhood PetSmart to see if they carried the Bolt.

The first time we checked, they did not have the Bolt, but they did have the Ba-Da-Beam, and that's when we purchased that toy. We checked a couple more times, but no Bolt, until today, when we went into PetSmart to get some cat litter. Voila, there was the Bolt! It's hard to miss once you've seen what it looks like. It looks a bit like a bowling pin with a hole near the top where the mirror and laser are located. It was $19.99. Not including batteries (it takes 4 AAs).

The Bolt, made by FroliCat, is the laser toy perfected. It can be placed on any flat surface - a table, a counter, the floor - and turned on, and The Red Dot moves about semi-randomly. The movement is reminiscent of the movement of the Undercover Mouse toy. Its basic track is a circle (or oval, in the case of the Bolt) but it moves forward and backward along the circle in random motions, stopping and changing direction constantly. That kind of random movement drives cats crazy. Once we set it up and the cats got accustomed to it, even Boo was chasing it, and Boo is fairly difficult to motivate when it comes to chasing things. And, the best part about the Bolt is that the mirror is adjustable, so you can have The Red Dot moving in wide arcs across floors, walls, and even ceilings, or you can have it move in a fairly small arc, to keep it right in front of kitties who lose interest once The Object of Their Interest moves out of their line of vision. The Bolt also has a 15-minute automatic shut-off, so that the cats don't keel over from too much exertion. Truly, that is sometimes a concern with hyper Ivan!

So if we had to choose between the two laser toys discussed here, we would definitely choose the Bolt. For $3 more than the Ba-Da-Beam you get a much more adjustable toy that works well entertaining cats while you go off to clean the bathroom, but it also works as a hand held laser, allowing you to interact a bit more with your feline friends.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

The Kittywalk Cozy Climber and Music for Pets

Ivan and Boo spend most of their time in our small apartment. They travel well, so when we go up north to our 20 acres in the mountains, they go with us, but work's been busy so we haven't gotten out of town as much as we'd like this year. The apartment is only about 800 square feet (real estate is insanely expensive, even for leasing, in the San Francisco Bay Area). So we have got to work to find ways to maximize that room so the boys get some decent exercise.

One way we maximize the room is with the Kittywalk Cozy Climber. This ingenious "hanging cat tree" attaches to any interior door. It has four levels, with holes between each level to allow the cat to climb to different levels easily. However, Ivan often climbs up the Cozy Climber on the outside and sits atop the "roof"! He's the daredevil in the family.

The boys love the Cozy Climber and often sleep in it. They also use it as a refuge when they know we are getting ready for bed and plan to boot them out of the bedroom for the night (we do that so they can't jump on our heads at 3:30am in the morning, wanting to play). The only way we can get them out of it is to offer them dehydrated salmon (we've talked about that salmon here before).
One of the many attractive features of the Cozy Climber is the ease with which you can hang it and take it down. We take it down each night because it is on our bedroom door, and if we leave it hanging, the boys jump in and out of it during the night and rattle our bedroom door. So we take it down, and then hang it up again each morning. Of course, this amounts to one less distraction for them during the night, meaning they often get into mischief while we are sleeping!

We purchased our Cozy Climber as an "open box" item on Amazon.com for around $100. Currently Amazon.com is selling them for about $160.00. However, we saw it as low as $148 via a search on Google.

Kittywalk makes some great products. We also own the Kittywalk SUV Pet Stroller, which easily holds both Ivan and Boo (at the same time!). We'll review this product in a future blog entry. And we are eyeing the Kittywalk Deck and Patio system. We'd love to let the boys lounge outside in the sunshine on our patio in one of these. However, there is another similar item we are looking at from another manufacturer, the KritterKondo. We'll let you know if we choose one over the other and what we think of whatever we choose.

Another cat-related item we acquired is the Music My Pet CD of "Classic Cuts". This is a CD that offers classical music pieces that, studies show, help to calm cats and dogs. It's also pretty darn calming for humans! We've played it for Ivan and Boo, and they do seem to mellow a bit when it's playing. A web site that we found through our pet insurance, Pet Product Advisor, offers this CD for $12.99. However, they were out of it when we tried to order it, so we found it on Amazon. com (I swear that we do not own stock in Amazon.com!) for a bit more, though at the moment they offer it for the same price as Pet Product Advisor! The CD contains calming pieces by Mendelssohn, Beethoven, Brahms, Bach, and Schumann., as well as Schubert and Scarlatti, and, finally, Chopin. We understand that the studies done on this topic found that cats and dogs seem to prefer music that remains even in tempo and volume, as well as frequency. The reviews of this product on Amazon.com all recommend the product and indicate that it works well to calm pets!

One last item: we received a sample of bonita flake cat treats from Pur'fect Cat Treats. The boys love these as much as the dehydrated salmon! The only difference is that the bonita flakes are soft and very thin and small. However, if your cats are on a diet, these would be just the right treats for them!

Sunday, June 21, 2009

That Big Furry Cat Toy

Remember the furry cat toy we mentioned a few entries ago? We finally got the information on it from our local pet store. The product is made by Vo-Toys, under the "V.I.P" brand (stands for "Very Important Pet") and the line is called "Furry Friends". We found today that they make the large sized toy, which we purchased a few weeks ago and which Ivan and Boo love, and they make a smaller one, as well, which is $1.00 cheaper. We had not heard of Vo-Toys before buying these furry toys, but their web site shows that they have quite a few items available for cats, including many furry mice and similar toys. Our cats seem to really like fur, so this is a good find.

You may also remember our mention of the cat cubes that we found at Target recently for a very inexpensive price. We found a tunnel to attach to the cubes (it velcroes on), and we created a nice tunnel-cube-pyramid play area for the cats. It doesn't happen to be color-coordinated with the cubes we already had, but hey, we're pretty sure the cats don't mind. Plus, the tunnel has that crinkly, paper-sack sound that a lot of cat-toy manufacturers are using these days. (Ivan used to be afraid of that sound, owing to the fact that he got a paper grocery bag around his neck when he was younger and ran around the house trying to get away from it for a few minutes before we could catch him and remove it! However, he seems to have finally gotten over that aversion.)The product is made by "Sport Pet Designs". The cat cubes and pyramid we already had are made by "Pet Essentials" but we suspect these two companies are related and both supply pet products to Target. In fact, there is a photo on the back of the "Kitty Tunnel" which shows the cat cubes and pyramids that we already have, but in a different color scheme. This tunnel, like the cubes, was under $10.00. Ivan loves to take his toys into the tunnel-cube-pyramid system. He also loves to zoom into the tunnel, hang out in one of the cubes or the pyramid for a while, and then zoom out.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Great Interactive Toy - The Tornado

Recently we saw a reference to dog toys created by Nina Ottosson. The reference was in a cat context, and the writer suggested that the Ottosson toys, though designed for dogs, were great for cats. We had never heard of Nina Ottosson, so we googled her, and we found quite a bit of information on her and her toys. We also found several toys that even she recommends for use with cats. The above link goes straight to her own site.

Ottosson creates toys that challenge dogs (and cats), and that force the animals to use their brains. We've been looking for toys like this for a long time. We have one item, which we ordered from Drs. Foster and Smith, called the Peek-a Prize Toy Box. It's a box with holes along all but its bottom panel. It comes with balls to bat around, but we put treats in it, forcing the cats to work to get the treats. Boo, seeming to have some Maine Coon blood, puts his paw in, curls his toes around the treat, and pulls it straight up out of the box! Ivan has to work a bit harder, but he uses a bit more ingenuity to get his treats. The photo here is from the Drs. Foster and Smith web site.

We wanted something a bit more challenging for our cats, so when we heard about the Ottosson toys, we were very interested. After reading about several of her toys, we were most intrigued by the "Tornado". It was specifically marketed for dogs and cats. Ottosson does have a page at her site where she indicates the featured toys can be used by dogs, cats, "Polecats, Mini pigs, Parrots, Ratts [sic], Horses..." However, the Tornado looked to us like the easiest one for cats to use. (The word polecat, by the way, refers to a different animal in Europe than it does in the U.S. In the U.S. it is a skunk, but in Europe it refers to another member of the Mustelid family which we in the U.S. would call a ferret). Interestingly, the skill level of the Tornado is listed as "hard" on the box, but Ivan figured out the general principle, at least, in a matter of seconds! Of course, most cat lovers would argue that cats are more intelligent than dogs, and that this is proof. However, as we love cats and dogs, we will refrain from getting embroiled in that argument!

The Tornado is a bone-shaped toy (hey, the cats don't notice!) composed of different levels with compartments. Each level rotates separately around the center of the toy - hence the name Tornado. The cat must use its nose and/or paws to move the different levels and expose the compartments. We placed a piece of freeze-dried salmon in each compartment, and then we rotated all pieces so that each level lined up with the others and all compartments were covered. The salmon has a relatively strong smell which the cats love, and so they become intent on finding each piece (needless to say, they also love to eat the salmon!).

We videotaped Ivan and Boo (mostly Ivan) having a go with the Tornado.

video

We put a piece of salmon in each compartment and let them have at it. The video is only about three and a half minutes long, but the total elapsed time it took Ivan to find every piece of salmon was about 10 minutes. That's a long time to keep a cat busy! Even if you don't watch the entire video, just watching a few seconds of it will give you an idea of how it works.

We highly recommend this toy to mentally stimulate your cat(s). However, we have to add that they are not very interested in finding Greenies in this toy. These boys will only work for freeze dried salmon (which we discussed in a previous blog entry)! We purchased the toy from Dogs in Play via Amazon.com. It was $49.99. This is expensive, but after seeing our cats with it, we feel it is well worth the price. However, with a bit of web research, you may be able to find it for a lower price.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Another Litter Box Alternative, but This One Looks Good!

Just got word about a new product called the ModKat Litter Box. This thing looks COOL! Not only does it have an unusual shape and profile for a litter box, but entry is from the top ("roof")! Further, the liner (pictured below)is re-usable! It's made of a tarpaulin material and has built in handles for ease of lifting in and out, and it's very easy to clean. Wait there's more! It comes with a well-designed litter scoop that has a brush on one edge! And the scoop snaps right on the side of the box.

Don't let the above photo fool you -- there are four different colors available, at least per the web site.

This box should reduce litter tracking, as the cat will shed litter he's collected in his pads while climbing out of the box. And the holes in the "roof" not only provide ventilation, but they also allow litter that falls from the cat's paws to drop back into the box.

Shortly after first hearing about this gem, we learned it won the ICFF (International Contemporary Furniture Fair) Editor's award for accessories. Not bad!

You can sign up at the ModKat web site to be notified when this litter box is available. There are also many more photos at the web site. And kudos to the ModernCat blog/newsletter for alerting us to this cool find!

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Corny Cats and Furry Toys and Litter Robots

Corn litter. It's a great idea. It's biodegradable, it's renewable, it's non-toxic. It works in the Litter Robot. It's also dust-free and doesn't track much, and we don't have to worry about Ivan or Boo developing a giant ball of bentonite in the gut from licking clay litter off their paws.

These are good things.

The corn litter makes the laundry room (where the litter boxes are) smell like Corn Chex. And for some reason, Corn Chex Scent does not mix well with cat urine or feces - the smell is not easily described. Suffice it to say that it's not exactly pleasant.

These are bad things.

Since the good outweigh the bad, we decided to purchase a product that our pet insurance newsletter has been recommending: Zero Odor. It supposedly neutralizes odor-causing microbes and is marketed specifically for use in litter boxes. So why not try it? If that helps with the Corn-Chex-Cat-Waste scent action going on in our laundry room, the story will have a happy ending.

We just received the Zero Odor yesterday. We decided to test it immediately. First, we needed to get a good baseline whiff of the litterbox. After thoroughly scooping the box, we sniffed, recoiled, and then took the bottle of Zero Odor and gave it several good squirts into the litterbox. Then we immediately sniffed again. The recoil reaction was not as strong. So either we'd maxed out our Corn-Chex-Cat-Waste olfactory receptors with the first sniff, or the odor was now weaker. We sprayed some more Zero Odor into the box and sniffed again, and the scent definitely seemed quite a bit weaker. In fact, we seemed to be smelling mostly Corn Chex without the Cat Waste notes.

So the preliminary results indicate that we CAN have a Corn-Chex-Cat-Waste-scent-free home without abandoning the corn litter!

By the way, the litter we use is The World's Best Cat Litter - multiple cat formula. One more favorable attribute of this litter - it's quite a bit lighter than clay, so it's easier to purchase a big-ass bag and get it out of the store without damaging one's back.

Now, a more exciting topic: furry toys! We've had toy mice made from real fur in the past, and Ivan and Boo just love them. So when we saw a big furry critter toy at the local pet store, we decided we needed to try it out with our cats. They LOVE it! We accidentally discarded the packaging before we could record important information about this toy, but we'll go back to the pet store and get another. It was quite reasonably priced, and with two cats, one favorite toy is one too few! Ivan does amazing gymnastics with this toy. We'll try to catch him on video and show you.

We mentioned the Litter Robot above. We just realized that we have not given it a proper review! Here in our blog we've talked about how much we like it, and we've hinted at how it works, but that's about it. Well, let us tell you...this thing is IT! It really is the best automated litter box that we have come across. It doesn't get clogged. It doesn't have a "rake" that can get stuck. It doesn't have a difficult-to-install waste bag. This thing is a BREEZE! The initial outlay is a pretty penny, but, frankly, it's not all that much more than the rake varieties of automated litter box, and it works a million times better. In a nutshell, this baby sits and waits for your cat to climb in and use it. Seven minutes after it detects your cat has exited, it starts a cycle. The globe rotates 360 degrees, and during this rotation the litter slides across a sieve, leaving the clumped pieces, while the clean litter falls through. As the globe continues to rotate, the clumps of waste are dumped into the receptacle beneath the globe. Finally, the globe rotates back in the opposite direction to restore the clean litter to the bottom of the globe. It even rotates a bit past "level" to make sure the clean litter is re-distributed evenly. You simply pull out a bottom drawer, which is lined with an inexpensive standard "tall kitchen" garbage can liner, remove the garbage bag, and dispose of the waste. Inserting a fresh garbage bag takes about 4 seconds. You can watch a demonstration of the Litter Robot cleaning cycle here.

We love it so much we bought a second one for Dev and Belle. In their case we decided to purchase a reconditioned unit. Occasionally someone will have a cat who is not interested in using a new type of litter box, and since Litter Robot comes with a 60-day return policy, the folks with finicky cats return the little-used or completely un-used Litter Robot, and people like us can buy it at a discount. It is completely cleaned and sanitized before it is resold, of course.

We learned of this product on Catster, and numerous folks there recommended the Litter Robot to us. People with multiple-cat households, especially, love it. No more scooping litter! A fresh litter box for Fluffy every time! What more could s/he ask for? Hmm, well, yes, food that is available 24-hours a day, perhaps, but if they can't have that, at least they've got the Litter Robot!

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Testing New Cat Food

So, we tweet on Twitter. We follow Skeezix on Twitter, and earlier this week he tweeted (twote?) about some cat food and treat freebies. We took advantage of three of those offers, all of which we were able to order via the Internet. We have received two of the three freebies, but we've only tried one, which we'll tell you about now.

Petite Cuisine: They offer four cans of their cat food for a $5 shipping charge. We did consider that we are paying for the food AND the shipping for that price, but that's OK - it's a very convenient way to try a new cat food. The Petite Cuisine web site tells us the following: human-grade meat and fish are used in this food, and each piece is "steam cooked" to retain flavor. Further, they are not shy in telling us that they do NOT use wheat gluten in their canned food. And as far as we can tell, they don't use any grains at all. Yea! And another important point about their food is that they do not use any ingredients from China. Double yea! The boys SUCKED this food up. They love it!

Petite Cuisine can be ordered online directly from the manufacturer, or you can buy it at many grocery stores, as well as Petco.

We should also mention that there is another promotion going on for Petite Cuisine. It's "Get Jake a Date." Jake is a 19-year old male cat who has his own My Space page (!) and is looking for photographs of girl AND boy cats posing with a can of Petite Cuisine. If you send a photo to Jake's agent, Austin, you will receive a gift package of "date goodies" or "night out with the boys" goodies. You will also receive two cans of Petite Cuisine cat food, and your cat photo might be chosen for the Petite Cuisine calendar! Information and instructions are available at the Get Jake a Date link above.

Jake looks a lot like our Ian, who lived to the ripe old age of 20. You go, Jake!

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Cat Cubes

Ivan loves cat cubes. These nylon, collapsible cubes are quite inexpensive (we've seen them for $9 to $11 at Target) yet they provide hours of fun for the cats. Ivan loves to hide in them and leap out to pounce on toys - or Boo. He will also occasionally sleep in them. And they are super easy to fold flat and store, so the boys don't get bored with them.

Each package contains two cubes, as well as velcro strips that allow you to attach the cubes to one another and provide a sort of tunnel for the cats. There is also a pyramid ("Kitty Tumbler") available, with a "crackle" pad that goes inside, and it comes with a nylon cylinder that will attach between the pyramid and one of the cubes for yet more tunneling. Ivan and Boo don't use the cylinder tunnel much, but when Belle and Dev visited they loved it.

These cubes are made by Pet Essentials, which appears to be a Target brand. They are made in China, but since the cats aren't eating them, we're not concerned about that.

And speaking of pet food from China, in our efforts to find U.S.-made meat or fish snacks for the boys, we found Beefeaters Salmon Natural Cat Treats. These are 100% freeze dried chunks of real salmon, nothing else. And, most importantly, these treats are made in the U.S.A. We hope this means we don't have to worry about any kind of toxic content, like melamine. The boys go absolutely insane over these snacks. We give them one piece a day. Since the salmon is freeze dried, a layer of tiny pieces of salmon is often left in the botton of the ccontainer. We sprinkle that on the boys' food at feeding time.

Don't forget to check us out on Twitter!

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Undercover Mouse Update and More

Our one complaint about the Undercover Mouse, other than the short life span of the attachment wands, is that it won't always turn off. We turn the switch off (it is a dial-type switch) but we hear the mechanism continue to move. If we left it like that, it would run the batteries down overnight. So we have to remove the battery cover and take a battery out to stop it. That's a bit annoying. It doesn't happen every time we use it, however, suggesting there is some type of "intermittent open" as Mrs. A's electrical engineer dad would call it (aka a "short").

Ivan and Boo are still using the Litter Robot with no trouble. However, they also use their standard litterbox (we need a minimum of two litter boxes for two cats, and we can't really afford two Litter Robots...). In fact, we notice that they do not poo in the Litter Robot. They only urinate there. Hmmm.

By the way, the photo of Boo above shows him playing with the opossum toy that was received as a gift. It has a rattle inside. It's a bit big, but he and Ivan do show some interest in it. They prefer small, leather mice toys. And Boo's favorite is a milk jug cap. Ivan loves twisty ties (we just have to make sure he doesn't try to eat any of them!).

Belle and Dev also use their Litter Robot, but every time it starts rotating, Belle bats at it! We wonder if she'll ever get over that urge. Speaking of Belle and Dev, they have both been altered, now. Dev was neutered last month (and Belle last December). And what an improvement! He was starting to get a bit aggressive with other cats, and he would also sit in the window and absolutely howl at the top of his lungs. Since his surgery, he is no longer aggressive, and the howling has completely stopped. Further, neither Belle nor Dev tries to run out the front door every time it is opened.

We also discovered that Ivan has a bit of separation anxiety: if we are out of town for more than a day or two, he feels he must urinate in places other than his litter boxes. Mostly it appears he chooses a cat bed, which makes clean-up relatively easy, at least (throw the cat bed in the washer; treat any spots on the carpet beneath the cat bed with an enzymatic cat urine treatment). We will have to research how to handle this in the future, as we do have a week-long trip planned in May. Normally we have one of our vet assistants cat sit (many veterinarian assistants will cat sit on the side - ours will come out every other day and refill the automated cat feeder and freshen their water and scoop their litter box, and generally make sure they are not getting into any mischief. If they were a little more social with "strangers" she would also play with them, but they are usually hiding under the bed. All for $25 every other day, which is less than what we'd pay per day to board both boys). We figured that leaving them in their own home and having someone check on them would be less stressful than boarding them, but we are questioning that now. Perhaps they prefer some human company to sitting at home alone for more than 12 hours. We'll keep you updated on this.

As for Ivan and Boo's diet, they have definitely lost weight. We can easily feel Ivan's ribs, and we can semi-easily feel Boo's. So we are going to promote them to a "maintenance" diet, now. They really love their EVO kibble and canned (minimally cooked) food. We were alternating between EVO canned and Primal frozen raw food, but they are not as gung ho about eating the raw nuggets as they are about the EVO, so we are just going to stick with the EVO. It's easier to deal with (cans instead of bags in the freezer) and easier to find (we have to go fairly far afield to purchase the Primal raw frozen food, while EVO is sold at a pet/feed store just a few miles away). In addition to being minimally cooked, all EVO foods are grain-free (the carbohydrates in grain promote weight-gain in cats that remain indoors). However, the Primal product that we DO want to find is the "Raw Meaty Bones" for cats. Petfood Express carries some of the Primal products, but not this one. Pretty much all domestic cats get gum disease, unless their human caretakers brush their teeth (this per our veterinarian). We have tried brushing, and it's not easy. Cats don't like having their teeth brushed. We think chewing on bones would be the next best thing. In the wild, cats chew on bones regularly. And wild cats don't usually have gum disease.

Boo is standing on the back of my chair with his paws on my shoulders. I am pretty sure this means something, but I still have to figure out exactly what. Be sure to catch us on Twitter at http://twitter.com/IvanandBoo.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Undercover Mouse Replacement Wands, Feather Toys, Litter Robot

The Undercover Mouse replacement wands arrived while we were out of the country. Almost as soon as we returned, we tried them out.

"Rat tail" wand: Ivan and Boo love this wand, but the minute we took our eyes off Ivan, he had chewed the tail right off the wand. Maybe the Panic Mouse folks can find a more durable material to use for the rat tail?

Feather wand: The Boys love this wand, too. It took a little bit longer for them to chew the feathers off this wand than it took Ivan to chew the rat tail.

Moral of the story: if your cats are chewers, you'll need to police them when they play with the Undercover Mouse to make sure they don't chew up the lures! Even though the wands are only about $4, that's a quick $4! And we had to order ours from the manufacturer and pay shipping. No one else seems to stock them at this time.

Now for the feather toys. Belle absolutely LOVES a feather toy that she received as a gift from a Secret Santa on Catster. It's the Squeaky Featherlite Catnip Boa by JW Pet. It is available at PetSmart (the toy link goes to the PetSmart entry, as JW Pet does not list its products at its site). The head squeaks when pounced on or batted. Belle goes wild over this toy, throwing it in the air and chasing it. She played so hard with the one she received as a gift that we had to replace it, and we have since replaced the second one with a third. However, the price is right at $4.99.
The Litter Robot is a smashing success. In fact, we are so happy with it that we ordered one for Belle and Dev (who, you may recall, live at a different location from Ivan and Boo). The ease of use is amazing, and so far to clean it we have only needed to wipe down the inside-back of the unit, as suggested in the instructions, with Clorox wipes. The Boys still look up when they hear it come on, seven minutes after they've used it, but it doesn't alarm them in the least, and they have no problem at all stepping into it and using it.
Last, we'd like to recommend a blog to you: the ModernCat blog. Here you can learn about all kinds of great and innovative cat toys and furniture for modern cat owners, and the blog owner offers monthly give-aways. To enter, all you have to do is write a response to the give-away entry. This month they are giving away lots of Etsy cat toys, but the give-away ends tonight. Check it out.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Undercover Mouse Wand Replacements

Our cats love the Undercover Mouse so much that they have destroyed the two wands that come with the toy. The company that makes Undercover Mouse, PanicMouse, does make replacement wands. We were hoping PetSmart carried the replacements, but they don't, so we had to order them directly from PanicMouse. They're $4.95 each. We ordered two of each - the feather and the rat tail.

Also, we must mention that we decided to test the Catnip Theory on Ivan and Boo. The Catnip Theory holds that one should give cats catnip before trying to perform on them any operation or process that they do not like, for example, claw clipping. We gave Ivan and Boo a hefty pinch of catnip one evening. They snorted it and licked it. A few moments later, they were both rather playfully aggressive. So much for sedating them with catnip for a claw-clipping session! We may try a lower dose of the catnip next time. If that doesn't work, we may try valerian, as that did seem to calm them a bit.

Finally, Belle and Dev are visiting Ivan and Boo at the moment. Belle has really taken to the pink Hepper Pod Bed.


Wednesday, February 11, 2009

We Are Litter Robot Converts!

Yep, it's official.  Ivan and Boo love the Litter Robot.  And we are so impressed with it that we ordered one for Dev and Belle back at the mountain cabin.

We'll provide more information about this product, along with video and photos, in the next couple of days.   Meantime Mr. Aelurophile is here with Dev and Belle, and Ivan and Boo are not happy about the feline invasion, so we're having to keep the two camps separated.  Also, Mr. A had surgery a week and a half ago.  He's recovering, but today was really his first good day.  So we've had our hands full.  The Litter Robot arrived just in time to give us one less thing to do - scoop the litterbox!

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Undercover Mouse Revisited

We started having trouble with the Undercover Mouse.  First, it didn't seem to want to turn off.  Then it seemed to have a motor problem, as the arm was moving only very slowly.

We're using rechargeable batteries in the UM.  The charger has a "refresh" setting.  Rechargeable batteries can lose their ability to hold a full charge, and this "refresh" setting is supposed to "reset" the batteries and restore their ability to hold the charge.  We refreshed the batteries and then put them back in the UM, and, voila, the UM worked normally again!

That's a good thing, because Ivan and Boo LOVE that toy!

Thursday, January 15, 2009

We've Got A Lot to Tell You About!

Good gosh, we've been away much too long. So many cat products, so little time to test and talk about them!

Here's the short list:
Fling-Ama-String
Undercover Mouse
Hepper Pod Bed
Litter Robot
Valerian toys

Also, we've got to tell you about a few cool web sites.

But first, Fling-Ama-String.
This thing is amazing. Ivan and Boo went nuts over it the moment it was installed. Yes, I say installed, but installation consists of hanging it on a doorknob and securing it with the included elastic band. Then you flip the switch and voila! Cat entertainment for quite some time!
This video will demonstrate the toy MUCH better than I ever could.

video
Ivan and Boo especially love to it when the Fling-Ama-String is on the OTHER side of the door from them, and they try to grab the string from under the door. Hilarious! They actually ask for us to get this out for them (we can't leave it up all the time or they'd chew the string off!). We ordered it from our pet insurance's web site for $19.99 (only open to pet insurance customers), but the gadget retails for $24.99 in PetSmart
Undercover Mouse is another battery-powered cat toy that they love. They've both always loved to hide their toys under throw rugs and blankets. The go crazy if we put a hand under a blanket and move it around. They start trying to dig through the blanket like dogs. So when someone came up with a motorized toy that moves under a piece of fabric, we figured they'd love it. And they do.

video

After we stopped filming, Ivan wandered off and Boo went bonkers with the toy. We found it at PetSmart for about $20.00

The Hepper Pod Bed is a very modern, elevated cat bed. The design is simple but elegant. However, it's taking a while for Ivan and Boo to get interested in it. We figured they'd be all over it. They'll get in it, and if we remove the top they'll lie in it for a bit, but so far not for long. Well, we think they'll warm up to it. The model we purchased (candy pink) was on sale and we also got a $20 discount from Moderncat, so the price ended up being $105 (not including tax and shipping). And the Hepper folks are very nice. For some reason their web site would not allow us to complete the transaction, so they had us call in and they handled it all for us.

We expected to have our Litter Robot by now, but apparently they are built to order, so it took a wee bit longer than we expected. However, we think it will be worth the wait. We'll review the Litter Robot in a future blog entry. However, suffice it to say that it is a big hit among Catster members, several of whom sang the Robot's praises to us. There's lots of positive press on the Robot, too.

Now for the mysterious valerian toys. Is valerian some strange company that makes bizarre toys? No, it's actually an herb! Here's the story: we participated in an auction through Catster to raise money for one Catster member in England to meet her Catster member friend, who was very ill with cancer, in Florida. I won the auction for a cat-themed quilted wall-hanging. The person who entered the quilt in the auction sent the quilt along with some valerian-filled cat toys. They're made of a fleecy material and contain the herb. I was quite curious upon receiving these. The postal documents declared the items as valerian cat toys. We'd never heard of cats liking valerian. Well, Ivan and Boo went absolutely hyperactive over these things. It was like catnip on steroids! Mind you, the valerian has a pretty strong scent that's not exactly pleasant. But if you have just a couple of cat toys filled with it, the odor is really not detectable. And it's worth it to see how insane cats go over it.

Interestingly, valerian contains actinidine, which apparently has effects that are similar to nepetalactone, the active ingredient in catnip. Holy Bast, no kidding! And while on the topic of kitty drugs, I read an excellent suggestion recently: if you have to do something to your cat that's for his own good but that he does not necessarily like, give him a handful of catnip to snort and eat and roll in, and then, when he's blissed out, do to him what you will. It may be a lot easier to perform the not-so-pleasant task on him than it normally is! We're going to try that with claw-clipping, because the boys have outgrown their KlawKontrol "kitty straight jacket". (However, they're both on a weight-loss diet and have actually lost some, so perhaps there is hope that they'll fit into the KlawKontrol again some day!)

We can't forget those web sites we promised to tell you about. First is Catster, which we mentioned above. It's a social networking site for cat owners. You can upload dozens of photos of your cat, as well as video; write a diary for your cat; e-mail other Catsters; and find oodles of information on cats, cat health, cat behavior, cat products, and lots more. A basic membership is free, and a "Plus" membership is $19.95 a year.

The other web site is Kittytest.com. Here you can discover the prevalence of several common cat diseases in your U.S. county. This site raises awareness about those diseases, which can help cat owners reduce the chances that their cats will succumb to the diseases. I've written about heartworms here before. They do infect cats, and you can see how many cases of heartworm have been recorded in your county, and how your county compares to the rest of the country.