Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Updates and Observations

Sorry for the lack of posting over here, these last couple of weeks have been really busy! I spent a little bit of time in Nebraska, then had some Nebraskans up to visit, and both weekends were great fun. Now I'm just trying to get back into the swing of real life...

Inevitably, while catching up with people in NE, I also get caught up on the lives of their pets. I talked to a handful of people who still haven't made the switch to grain-free food, even though they are having problems with their cats that would be improved or eliminated by switching. C'mon guys, what are you waiting for? I wouldn't talk about it all the time if it didn't make such a huge impact on the health and well being of your kitty! Good health starts with good nutrition!

Need a refresher?
How Grain Free Food Changed Our Lives
Feeding Time!

You Omaha kids are especially out of excuses, because now you you have your own Soggy Paws!

And of course we have three of them here in Chicago: http://www.soggypaws.com/

Really though, it doesn't matter if you buy it at my favorite pet store or not, what matters is that your cats will be healthier after you switch to a grain-free diet. My lovely friend Melody, who came to visit last weekend, hadn't seen my cats in about two and a half years. She couldn't believe how different most of them look. Slimmer, softer, even more cuddly, it's because of switching to grain-free.

Now, in other news...

Kristal, I'm so sorry about Cinnamon! It's hard to lose a friend you've had for so long and I hope you're doing alright. He was a beautiful cat!

Next, a quick update on Bob – he seemed like he was doing a little better, but is now having a lot of ulcer flair ups again. I'm more than a little upset about it. Send your love and if you've had to deal with a similar issue, send any advice you may have!

And before this post gets out-of-control depressing, Harry would like me to remind you all how sweet and cute he is...

See? Look at that face.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

You Brought Home Another One? (Part 1)

As anyone who has tried knows, introducing cats can be a difficult thing. The secret is making the introduction as slowly as possible and keeping the interactions between your cats positive. There is no timeline that works for every cat, it depends on their individual personalities and on if your home is set up adequately to house multiple cats. If you've already introduced your cats and it didn't go very well, it's not too late to repair the damage. In this post I'm going to lay out an "ideal" way to introduce cats to each other, as well as give some backtracking tips if your cats are already having problems.

Then someday you'll get to spend your days taking pictures of
adorable cuddle puddles.

(Best case scenario, you do all this before you get another cat, but these are improvements that can help any cat household no matter how long the cats have been living/fighting together.)

The first thing you need to do is assess your home. If your house isn't multi-cat friendly then you are setting yourself up for failure. To have a smooth introduction and a peaceful life, you first need to check out your litter box situation. The golden rule for litter boxes is: number of cats + 1 and litter boxes should be cleaned daily. Having too few or dirty litter boxes pretty much guarantees cat fights, litter box aversion, or both.

Litter boxes good? Next, your resident cat(s) need a place to mark their territory and your new cat needs some territory to claim as his – for this you need scratching posts and cat trees. (Read about why scratching is important here.) Give your new cat a fresh scratching item, even if it's just one of the lay-on-the-floor cardboard scratchers. Having something of their own to scratch that doesn't smell like the other cats in the home will help you out later on during the actual introduction.

The third thing you should evaluate before bring another cat into your home is vertical space. Like scratching, it's a territory thing. Not having enough vertical space will increase competition in your home and certainly not help your cats get along.

Are your current cats happy and healthy? Before you bring a new cat home you need to make sure your resident cats are current on their vaccinations and spayed or neutered. Not only do you not want any accidents, but altered cats get along much, much better than they would otherwise. An unaltered male cat would happily kill a new tiny kitten if they were left unattended together in your home.

If you currently have ill or unaltered cats, right now might not be the best time for you to make an addition to your family.

It's hard to believe now that at one time Harry wanted to eat
Damien as a snack.

As soon as you walk into your house with a new cat, your current cat(s) are going to know. Even still, your goal is to be as unobtrusive about the new member of your family as possible. Before you bring your new cat home, set up a room just for them.

In this room you need:
  • fresh water
  • food, as needed (dependant on how you're feeding – free or scheduled)
  • a clean litter box
  • something to scratch on
  • something to play with
  • something to sleep on
  • somewhere to hide
When you bring your new cat home, bring them straight to this room. Transport them from wherever you're getting them to this room in a sturdy cat carrier. Try to avoid your other cats, this is a stealth mission. Once in this room, open the carrier door and let your new cat come out. If it's a little kitten, chances are it'll come bounding out and ready to play. A mature cat, however, may take a little time to venture out. Let the cat decide when it is ready to explore it's new home and don't try to force him out!

If you already have a new cat and you're having problems, repeat this step (or do it for the first time). It's the first step to making things better and it keeps your cats safe from each other. Not only are cat fights awful to listen to, but they can cause an array of damage – anything from small bites and scabs, to scratched eyes, to puncture wounds that form abscesses.

Lola, circa 2004, after getting beat up by another cat while
I was in the shower. She received a puncture wound which
turned into an abscess that had to be drained with a tube.
Nothing about this experience was enjoyable.

You have a new cat! Yay! Keep your new guy in his own private room, and keep your resident cats firmly on the other side of the door. Do not be tempted to do anything more right now. You might think your current cats will be excited for the new addition, and maybe they will be, but rushing the introduction process will only make it take longer to obtain your goal – a peaceful home with cats that like each other.

In Part 2, I will go through the next steps to introducing cats to each other. Until then, just remember that you can't go too slow with this process. Be patient and make sure you show love to all your cats, not just your newbie!

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Added Some More Old Photos

I raided Jerod and I's Myspace accounts and found some great photos. They are predominantly puppy pictures of Scout (as in, all but one of them), but I think she's worth the look. Go check them out here: www.photobucket.com/jenyqueenofcats.

Scout with my nephew. She is exactly one day older than he is.

Boo and I, the day of his homecoming.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Importance of Vertical Space

An architect and a landscaper will look at the same street corner and see completely different things, much in the same way that a retailer and their customer will look at a window display and get a different story. Even what constitutes as extra, open, or empty space changes with experience. My concept of space changed entirely after making the move from Nebraska to Chicago. If the very life you lead can cause you to view space in a different way, then it stands to reason that the space in your home looks differently through the eyes of your cat(s).

Cats need vertical space. It is especially important in a multi-cat household where hierarchy is a big deal. Generally speaking, your "top cat" is going to be in the highest spot of your home, where it is easy for them to survey their domain. It's far more involved than all that, and there are plenty of other ways cats display dominance, but elevation is a basic visual cue.

Mona on the staircase.
Some boys enjoying a multi-leveled view.


In a home without vertical space, it can be harder for cats to establish who is dominate. Because they are on the same physical level or close to it, the more dominate cat may feel that the less dominate is trying to usurp it's power, causing fights. The less dominate cat might not even want "the power", but without the ability to effectively communicate that, it's left with the standard two options, fight or flight. Fight, and you're left with battling cats who could seriously hurt each other, or flight, in which you have a rather aggressive top cat, and another cat who is scared, nervous, and hiding all the time. Neither situation is a great one to find yourself in.

Cats on every level!
Asses the vertical space in your home. When it comes to cats, that matters far more than the actual square footage. Cat trees are great, and they aid in healthy scratching, but they are not the only option. In my house the cats can frequently be found on the top of the fridge, the kitchen cupboards, on the bookcases and record shelves, or on the crate thing that holds our couch pillows and blankets, as well as spending time on their cat trees. Just make sure you have a few items in your home that are tall, stable, and that have room for a cat on the top of them.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Pablo Bob

Bob's grandma, Smokey, belonged (or belongs still maybe) to a girl I went to high school with. For whatever reason her family elected to not get Smokey spayed and to let her be an indoor/outdoor cat.

Shortly after, my best friend in high school adopted two of Smokey's kittens, one for herself and one for her sister. She named her kitten Ash and her sister's was christened Thomasina. Thomasina was indoor only, but Ash came and went, in and out, as she pleased. Just like her mom before her, she wasn't spayed.

Jared and Pablo Bob
 Ash was very young when she got pregnant, less than a year old, and on the third day after her kittens were born she started going into convulsions. She and her kittens were taken into the vet where they stayed until everything was progressing normally again. As one of the kittens was going to be mine, it was a traumatizing couple of days.

I had picked out my kitten the day after they were born, having told my parents I was taking one. (Ooo, look at me testing my boundaries!) When the kittens were old enough, I brought my tiny guy home, where my youngest brother and I ended up naming him Pablo Bob, after a hamster we knew. (Not my brother's hamster though, every hamster he ever had was named Jac Haudenschild after the sprint car driver.)

Bob joined our house in August '00 as the 4th and only male cat. Belle was still young, spry and beautiful, then there was Fluffy, my mom's cat, and Patches, who belonged to the family. I remember very little about the introduction of Bob to the household, so it must have gone smoothly.

As kids, the older of my two younger brothers and I were supposed to take turns cleaning the litter boxes. Mind you, everything we did when it came to litter boxes in my childhood home was pretty much just wrong, including the frequency and dedication Jason and I had to keeping them clean. Consequently, our family wasn't a stranger to improper elimination. Bob's unique way of letting us know the litter boxes were too dirty was to poop on the top of the fridge. Every now and again there'd be a yell from the kitchen and then my mom would be there, ordering me to clean up "the surprise" Bob had left for us. Looking back I find it rather amusing and, for the record, Bob hasn't pooped on top of the fridge in over nine years.

The Bobster loves listening to Tom Waits and giving head butts. His head butts can be messy if you have a beverage, he likes to head butt the bottom of whatever you're drinking and then you end up with liquid all down your front. The first time he heard the Tom Waits song "Alice" he settled in to a sitting position, slowly closed his eyes, and swayed — just slightly — back and forth. He's so handsome with his grey and white suit that my friend Michaela has always said he needs to wear a bow tie.

Bobby, circa 2004
Unfortunately, the older he gets, the less handsome he looks. Even though he's only 11, he is riddled with health problems. At the age of seven, he was diagnosed with hyperthyroidism and he also gets awful mouth ulcers. Between the thyroid problems and the ulcers, Bob has gotten incredibly skinny and his fur isn't beautifully well kept like it used to be. Some days, when his ulcers flair up really bad, he drools uncontrollably. Over the last month his ulcers have started causing a lot of problems again, but we are making progress towards getting them under control, which I will write more about later.

In the meantime, on days when he feels pretty good, he comes out, pretends to scratch on his favorite scratching post (my teenage rebellion stopped at getting him home, I didn't win the no-declawing battle with my parents), hangs out on top of the cupboards or perches himself on the couch arm and accepts some assistance in grooming himself, provided by me or another cat. He's getting to be a little old man, but he's my little old man, so I'm just going to continue doing whatever I can to help him age gracefully.