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!