Sunday, August 26, 2012

The Cats Fly after Neko Flies

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, June 29, 2012

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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