The Cat Days of Summer

I haven’t given you an update about our kitties … but I have thought of so many things to tell you that I’ve now forgotten. Funny things. Sad things. Life’s crazy moment’s things. But then you know these – because these are the fabulous reasons for us having cats in our lives.

On the litter-behaviour front, things were good for a week and then became bad again when I added the pheromone plug-in. Not sure if that was a cause, an effect, or just an concurrently occurring variable. I wanted to throw my hands up and give up. Instead, I cleaned my floors again (hopeless tears not far away), cleaned the litters more often, and hoped for the best. It’s now been good for 3 days again… keep your fingers crossed for me.

Nuala is an emotional kitty – and so we showered her with love even though she was withdrawing from us. It’s changed her behaviour and she is more social and loving again. Not the same as pre-Cooper, but then again, she spends more time avoiding the grey freight-train.

And speaking of… Cooper is a kook. Sleeps on his back constantly. Belly-up like he doesn’t have a care in the world. Loves all kinds of cat nip. I brought some inside (only one little plant of mine is surviving so I can’t harvest much) and left it for a moment… and came back to find that he’d eaten all of it. Smug…and almost grinning at me. Food… he has never met a wet food he didn’t like… and will inhale his and then push Nuala away from hers. We hide food and feed them in separate spots since both girls will simply give in and let Cooper eat their food.

And then there is OUTSIDE. Out is a new favourite thing for Cooper. If you remember his disastrous first visit to the Out, and his subsequent wussy-butt, pawthetic ways about being in the Out, you’d be surprised at this. Cooper loves Out. He visits the Out almost every day now and squeaks (still no voice development) at the door and waits patiently until you put his harness on. He now understands that getting stuck momentarily on his leash (pegged to the ground so he can walk the width of the yard) is not an alien attack. He just flops over (like he is prone to do in the house) and roll in the dirt until one of us (there is always someone on leash-duty) un-tangles him from whatever he’s gotten into.

Thanks to his preferences, there is now a globe cedar that has lost its lowest branches to my clippers and my giant hostas are attacked, stepped on and mangled somewhat.

But how can we resist – Cooper loves the shade, cool and damp earth, the breeze (now that he knows it doesn’t attack him – though he still doesn’t like a strong breeze and will go to the door and squeak pitifully), and the birds who fly over his head and land nearby. He’s an old pro now, and when he’s had enough (about an hour) he will let you know by heading to the door and being a total suck until you let him in.

He’s a massive baby – about 14.5lbs of love, energy and joy. He bowls the other two light-weights over, but they are getting good at working out that he’s a kind soul. He will be an epic sleeper they can count on when he matures.

IMG_0044

The branch on the lower left is no longer there  thanks to Cooper always rolling around it and getting tangled

IMG_0038

Meanwhile … on the opposite side of the yard

Perplexed Still

I don’t know what Nuala has gone though. The last few months of disengaged sickly behaviour could have been illness and could have been a behavourial adjustment to a new kitty. My gut (and I am starting to trust myself and go with my gut more often in things – since the ‘gut feelings’ are often your picking up of imperceptible changes and clues that don’t register cognitively, but exist and build subtexturally as a body of knowledge from being within the situation) tells me that it was medical.

Part of why I say this is that Nuala has met and blended well or not-very-well with a number of cats in our home without any litter-related problems. There was Merlin (who was play aggressive and too active and challenging for her disposition). There was Mouci (perfect bonding – parental relationship). There was Shadow (who doesn’t want to interact – they worked out a perfect peaceful agreement). There were the Rascal kittens – she wanted to play and keep them. There was Oscar – a mature, big, male stray the size of Cooper now – who she was curious with and wanted to engage with in play. Even with the daily visits of Midnight – she polishes the window to be let out too – but doesn’t react in a threatened or aggressive way. No behavioral incidents.

A second clue is that Nuala fully blended with Cooper. Bonding to the point of cleaning him. They shared a litter box (boxes) for months without incident before it all changed. I don’t think this is triggered by Cooper being here or even becoming bigger because she’d accepted him already. And while he is pouncy and bothers her sometimes with his joyous, uncoordinated exuberance, she had been taking it in stride.

I did all I could (except an expensive round of medical tests) to figure this out. I didn’t have time to use the scientific method of isolating variables and testing each one. Instead, I used the parental ‘throw everything at it and see if it works’ approach. I can’t tell you what may have helped or not. I will tell you that having a basement that was pooped and pee’d in each day was mentally and physically exhausting – and embarrassing. I’m telling you this because sometimes, no matter how hard you try, you have a kitty issue that is a deep challenge you can’t solve. You feel stuck, drained and defeated.

Litter:

  • We always offer uncovered and covered litters so we didn’t have to try to offer a different type of box.
  • We were offering 2 types of litter texture. Just in case the cat develops an allergy, sensitivity, or hates the feel of one, it’s good to have a second on hand. Also, if there is a litter the kitty has used and loved, make note of it as a fall-back option. The secondary litter was barely used by any cat, so I went to all 4 litters with a low-dust litter we’ve used for a long time.
  • Bleach-clean the box or offer a new box. Litters get dirty and etched and cats are clean creatures. I cleaned all 3 boxes and bought a new one.
  • Gave her a pheromone infused ‘calming’ collar for 2 weeks. She hated it and wanted to get it off. Since behaviour change in the kitty should happen in the first two weeks, we didn’t torture her longer. (The collar did nothing for the obsessive biting of her toes or the litter issues)
  • Gross – but I checked her poop and pee for blood, worms, or any other clues of illness.
  • Tried putting a litter box on the same spot on the plastic mat where she was pooping daily – thinking location might be the issue of contention. Maybe Cooper had marked the laundry room (aka litter room) as his? Nope. Pooped beside the litter.
  • Washed and scrubbed the mat she was using – air dried it for 2 days – to get rid of the pheromones of it being the ‘new defacto litter’. Nope… continued the inappropriate elimination.
  • Ordered Feliway – diffuser that has better pheromone reaction in most felines and is very highly recommended by doctors and shelters. I wanted to make the litter room literally her ‘happy place’. No change – will try again.
  • Tried to put her into a litter box so it would trigger her memories and ingrained habits. She’d just exit.
  • The day before she stopped the bad behaviour, I’d caught her starting to squat, and I carried her to the litter – she immediately got out. I did something I’d never done: I locked her alone in the litter room for about 30 minutes. The behaviour changed. I am very skeptical about attaching any sort of cause and effect relationship here.

Food – The vet suggested that Nuala had a food allergy that explained her ulcerated gums. We feed a mix of 3-4 foods at any given time so they don’t get too picky. They were not liking the Blue Buffalo at all – but I thought we’d just get through that bag. I had originally thought that Nuala ate something on her first visit outside this year. I was with her the entire time, but you know cats! Many behaviours (the obsessive toe licking/biting and the ulcers) began immediately after that visit – and she had no more outdoor visits for 2 weeks and the problem calmed down.

  • We immediately changed her food, to a cheaper but good food that she had always liked and tolerated well. We then changed her food again to see if there was a difference – there was none. (Yes – everyone had to eat the same stuff!)
  • We changed treats – though the new treats we’d been using seemed to be fine for a couple of months before the problems started, we changed these too since ‘cheap treats’ are notoriously allergy-causing in many felines.
  • We haven’t gone back to my tin of mixed foods… not sure what I’ll do there.
  • The biting of the toes still continues … too much to be normal, but not nearly as obsessively as she had before.
  • My plans are to give all 3 kitties milbemax (oral worm treatment) within a month. I’ve used this lots with out fosters. If they have come into contact with worms, they are passed along by sharing litters. Cooper could be an originator or just going outside on a leash could mean one caught it.

Behaviour – We changed our behaviours and the house rules in hopes that there would be a change in Nuala. She was never punished for her litter issues – since it could be an illness.

  • We started to exercise Cooper more – I try to do 1-2 10 minute sessions of high energy play with him each day. I have asked J to do at least 1. This has eased a little on days when we take him outside – the bug-chasing and fresh air tire him out. He has less energy to bother Nuala (or Shadow)
  • We started consciously seeking Nuala out and picking her up and showing her more love. For no reason… just wanted to show her how to engage more.
  • We began welcoming her into our bedroom at night. She and Cooper have woken us up sometimes, but for now it gives her time to come and visit when she wants to
  • We recently started taking her outside more (she loves this!)
  • I checked her for any signs of ringworm – she has had it as a kitten, so she might get it in her later life. There were no signs.
  • The vet checked her carefully for fleas (biting and over-licking are flags) and checked her ears for mites – nothing there

There’s more but this is a LONG post already. I’ve shared this in hopes that one day it might help someone dealing with a similiar issue. I wish I could tell you what worked.

IMG_2502

Getting Her Groove Back

Nuala has got her groove back! Well, mostly. We’re not 100% there, but it’s getting better every day.

As you know, Nuala has gone through a period of 3+ bad months. She’s lost weight, got lethargic, she withdrew, developed ulcers on her gums and on her chin for a couple of weeks, was over-licking and obsessively biting her toes, was not playing or engaging, and was just sad. She hasn’t been fully herself since the boy arrived and gave her the feline herpes virus (kitty cold). She got over the cold, but just didn’t seem to thrive… and then got lethargic and had the other problems. Then she stopped using her litter box.

We were both really worried. Nuala was a happy cat – by nature she is loving, sweet, playful and engaged. She was trained and never had a single litter issue. The trip to the vet only netted us 3 weeks of steroids- that didn’t help one bit.

We were trying product (food, litter) changes, behavioral training (for us and her!), routine changes… and nothing worked. (More on that in a separate post, perhaps.) Was it medical? If so, what? Was it behavioural adjustment to the boy?

Then about 2 weeks ago, there was a barely-noticeable shift in her. I was almost holding my breath. She began to get more energy gain. She started to engage more. To play now and then. To have more energy. In tiny increments, she’s been getting better.

After about 2 months of refusing to use her litter box (we have 4 – two covered, 2 uncovered and yes we tried all sorts of litter, remedies etc while this has been going on), 3 days ago she mysteriously began using the litter again. I am almost afraid to tell you this in case I ‘jinx’ it.

She’s not 100% back to being herself, but she’s well on her way now. Both of us are breathing a sigh of relief.

np102

Nuala – playful and delightfully naughty at 1yr old

Summer Nappin’

Oh how we love summer! Nuala loves to go outside… does a dance if we go anywhere near the back door. And now Cooper (after a lot of coaching and reassurance) has decided that he loves outside. Both of them will happily stand at the back door while I put on the harnesses. Cooper squeaks with joy. He’s still a suck and a little jumpy but he’d discovered outdoor pleasures (and bugs). Both sleep like babies after their 1-hour forays into our backyard…

So … here’s a Nuala & Cooper summer sing-along! Sorry about the spacing – I can’t get it fixed so just go with it. I think you will know this one well … click the title link to hear the original score and then sing it loud!

Summer Nights (Grease)

Summer nappin’ had me a blast, oh yeah
Summer nappin’ happens so fast,
I found a spot purrfect  for me,
Has a mat cute as can be,

Summer days drifting away,
To, uh oh, those summer nights

Well-a well-a well-a huh
Tell me more, tell me more
Did you nap very long?
Tell me more, tell me more
How can nappin’ be wrong?

She ran by me, she got a pounce
He ran by me, he’s full of bounce
I saved her life, she was so bored
He’s a pain, so he was ignored

Summer sun, lookin’ for fun
But, oh, oh, these summer nights

 Well-a well-a well-a huh
Tell me more, tell me more
Was it chase at first sight?
Tell me more, tell me more
Will she like a play-fight?

Took him out onto the lawn

He pounced bugs, then started to yawn

She flopped out beside a rock
We stayed out ’till 6 o’clock

Summer fling, don’t mean a thing
But, oh, oh, those summer nights

Tell me more, tell me more
Like did they play tag
Tell me more, tell me more
‘Cause he sounds like a drag

Shoo-bop-bop, shoo-bop-bop, shoo-bop-bop, shoo-bop-bop
shoo-bop-bop shoo-bop-bop shoo-bop-bop YEAH!

He got sleepy sooner than planned
She got sleepy down in the sand
He was sweet just started to clean
And, she can nap you know what I mean

Summer nap, boy and girl scrap
But, oh, oh, the summer nights

Tell me more, tell me more
How much time did he spend?
Tell me more, tell me more
Could they learn to be friends?

It got later, that’s where it ends
So I told’em they’d have to be friends
Then we heard a sleepy meow
Wonder what he’s doing now

Kitty dreams, not as they seem
Bu-ut oh, those summer nights!
Tell me more, tell me more!

Summer Nights (Grease)

IMG_2469

imageedit_3_8597645442

Breakfast Visitor

I had a visitor for breakfast this week…

I haven’t mentioned Midnight in months and thought I’d give you an update. We have concluded that Midnight is someone’s cat. He’s let out in some cold weather (sometimes far too cold weather) and seems to be out for the day, every day. Sometimes he’s out at night. Since he’s not fixed, the biological imperative is that he wanders the neighbourhood.

In January we gave it one last try to capture him, but it didn’t work. We had the trap and the process, but since he was also getting food elsewhere, he was not willing to go into the trap. He wasn’t hungry enough to take that chance.

It would have been a good thing to get him – at least he’d see a vet and get his shots. At best his owners would have been more careful with him.

So… I stopped feeding him. I know he has food elsewhere and is healthy over all, if not very well cared for. For the sake of my cats and the birds I feed, I shouldn’t encourage him to visit daily for food (as he had been for months before my decision that he really has a home). I took a long time to come to the decision since I thought (for a whole year) that Oscar had a home – when he was a stray struggling to survive. Thank goodness that he’d found enough food elsewhere – that someone fed him. I didn’t want to stop feeding Midnight unless I was pretty sure.

I see him from time to time crossing our street. I think Midnight remembers our home – and all the good food he received here. Yesterday in the rush of the morning routine, I suddenly saw a little black face peering in through our garden door. Nose at the window. I couldn’t help but smile and take him a scoop of food. He ate happily and trotted off.

Once a friend, always a friend.

 

 

Oh Pussy Cat

It’s been over a week since Cooper’s fateful first visit outside. We’ve taken him outside about 4-5 times since then. He’s getting easier to put on a harness – Cooper’s great outdoor adventures.

He’s had time to know that breeze will not attack him. He’s had birds land in the garden. He’s now able to get so close to his obsession (hummingbirds) that he can swat at the feeder from the windowsill. Squirrels come and don’t give him a second glance.

Cooper has someone sit with him every moment he’s outside. I am at his beck and call the entire time. The only other activity I can indulge in is perhaps a sip of coffee. Why? Because the routine goes something like this: go outside, cling to N like velcro, sit in her lap, finally venture to slip onto the deck, slink over to the door to make sure it doesn’t open if it’s stared at, slink under N’s chair, slink to the BBQ, jump to the window sill and meow (or Cooper’s broken version of a meow – a tiny squeak of a 4-week old kitten) at the window in an ‘open sesame’ way, will the window to open, jump to the BBQ. Sit for a moment. Stare long and hard at the chair beside N and then decide to jump to it. Climb into N’s lap… begin the whole process again.

We have also varied it and sometimes take a chair to the back of our tiny garden to sit with Cooper there – and put him at Nuala’s fave yew. He feels comforted by being hidden and by Nuala’s presence, but inevitably there is the dash for the door to make sure it won’t open with a solid stare.

IMG_3824 (2)

The results are in: Cooper is a big fat wussy pussy. He will wile away his hours sitting in the window with just a screen between him and the deck, but if he’s on the other side of that same screen… on the same window sill… all bets are off. He’s stressed, restless and needy.

Not every kitty takes naturally to being outside.

IMG_3829 (2)

8 Lives

It’s likely Cooper is down one life based on his first experience outdoors. Hope he won’t need that one!

Despite the current lunacy of the kitties in our home (training Cooper, exercising Cooper, dealing with Nuala’s illness, pills and litter issues, integrating Shadow & Cooper, Cooper litter issues – he wants to play in there, changing foods to balance both Nuala and Cooper), we decided to up the ante and buy Cooper a harness.

For a few weeks, we’ve been opening the windows and letting him sit looking outside with the screen between him and the ‘big wide outdoors’. He loves it. He’s realized that birds sing, that breeze makes both sound and movement, that rain can bounce and mist him. He is so curious and this occupies some of his mental energy every day. Luckily for us, he hasn’t even tried to open a screen (none of Merlin’s ‘evil mastermind plans’ in Cooper!).

So… Cooper got a harness and a leash. He then got about 3 days of harness training. This entailed putting the harness on, giving him a treat, and letting him wear it for about an hour. The first harness was a fail… too difficult to put on him. The second one was cheaper and more effective.

Okay… so now he’s ready!

I’d taken Nuala outside (she loves this… though she spends most of her time just sitting in the yew). J put the harness on Cooper and brought him outside. He clung to J and sat in his lap. Cooper has been going through a phase (at least I think it’s a phase!) where he’s a big 12+lb scardy-cat. Noises, new people, changes scare him – not at all like Nuala. He had time to sit. Relax. In the grass at J’s feet, he crept along on his belly. Interested and curious at the same time as being scared. This was good… he’d spent about 10 minutes outside and was enjoying it.

Then J moved Cooper’s leash in the grass so he wouldn’t get caught on anything. It was a simple and small movement – a flick of the leash. All hell broke loose – and what I’m about to describe happened in about 3  seconds. Cooper was spooked and terrified and flew off to the right of where he was sitting. He startled Nuala who ran forward all puffed up. Cooper saw Nuala and changed his angle and ran at my deck at full force. He ran blindly and knocked over a potted plant with his leash and sent the begonias tumbling forward which then terrified him more. He darted harder – and freaked when he reached the end of his leash line and was yanked backward. Stuck, he panicked and LITERALLY RAN UP OUR BRICK WALL. He scaled the wall to about 5 feet.

Obviously we were both on our feet immediately. I soothed Nuala while J went for Cooper who was still on the wall. His heart was racing and he was terrified. We sat on the edge of our deck with him for a long while… Cooper on J’s lap… trying to tuck himself into J and hide. Poor guy! After a little while, we put him on the deck… and all he wanted to do was head to the door to go inside. We didn’t let him in right away. We sat talking and letting him calm down and get back to being secure. We didn’t want his first excursion outside to end on a frightened note.

Poor Cooper!

It wasn’t until the next day that J and I talked about the fiasco and I laughed until I cried. If Cooper learns to scale walls like Spiderman, I won’t need to trim his nails… he’ll file them himself!

IMG_2133

No Changes

We’re nearing the end of Nuala’s 3 week prescription of steroids… and the results are nil. She is still the same… less bouncy, less vigorous, less herself. Somewhat listless… acting more like an older cat like Shadow. Still over-licking her paws and biting her nails- though there is no visible irritation. She will even stop mid-treat-chase to do it. Utterly unlike her.

IMG_2469

I had told all this to our vet in her appointment, and he felt it was her food that gave her the ulcerated gums. So we changed the food immediately, but her behaviour is not changed. To test the process, we changed her food again 2 days ago… to another type we use regularly and have for years.

I think Nuala needs to go on a course of general antibiotics. I can watch to see how it impacts her… if there is improvement.

The second thing is that I’d like to put all three kitties through a course of milbemax (worms etc) as a precaution. Cooper has a stinky butt and slightly wet poop – has since his arrival so it’s something to consider since Nuala got sick once she met him. It’s no good to treat one when they all use the same litters. At best, it will do nothing. Antibiotics would affect the efficiency of Milbemax, so I’d have to time the process carefully and make sure that there are no interactions.

Why focus on the litter? Well, Nuala has stopped pooping inside the litter box and is now using the floor. Same spot. Every day. We weren’t sure who it was, so we actually used a video camera to determine who is was. Since she’s still biting her toes and over-licking her paws, it might be that her toes are sensitive to the litter now. We had 2-types of litter, open and covered boxes… but it didn’t make a difference.

I called the vets office today to arrange to pick up the antibiotics for Nuala and the vet didn’t even bother to get on the phone to talk to me. And though we’d discussed the antibiotic course on the visit last time (as a next step if the steroids didn’t work), they will not give it to me unless I bring her in for another exam. Since she was there just 3 weeks ago, I think that this is a waste of both my time and money and that the vet is simply not listening to me. I’ve had this feeling before, so I think I will change vets this time.

If I need to research online and get her a course of general antibiotics that way, I will do it.

In the end, it’s my responsibility to do what I feel is best for my kitty. Any vet office that doesn’t ‘get’ that is disposable. This is the exact diagnosis he gave me with Oscar – and I wasted my time and money on steroids and new foods that didn’t work. Seems that this diagnosis process is by rote and it didn’t sit well with me then… or now. I won’t talk to a wall having to pay for the privilege. Vet costs in Canada are far too high to put up with nonsense – there’s a vet on every corner.

June5a

Missing the ‘old’ Nuala!

Missing Bouncy Nuala

I miss my Nuala. I adore the little kitty who she’s morphed into, but I really miss all the magical behaviours that made her incredibly unique and special. Of course, I didn’t use this blog to gush about her level of amazing-ness. You all have kitties who are unique, charming and loving – you didn’t really need to hear about mine. I will say though, in many ways Nuala was different from any kitty I’d fostered or been owned by. She had a sweet charm and chattiness and a deeply loving nature mixed with just enough naughtiness to make her irresistible.

A lot of this has changed and I don’t know if it’s because she’s sick, she’s aging, or because the dynamic of the house changed and she adjusted to her ‘new reality’. Nuala is more quiet, withdrawn, not bouncy and happy any longer. She is hesitant. Her bouncy confidence is not there. She is a lot less chatty. She’s broken her beloved routines and also the house rules.

Nuala is sick. She really  hasn’t been herself since Cooper arrived. You may think it’s a shift of adjustment to a new cat – and I watched this closely thinking that as well. First of all, Cooper gave Nuala FHV – feline herpes virus. It’s a respiratory illness. She got it mid-level bad, and had trouble breathing and needed to have steam sessions to help her. It was a long 2 weeks. She was miserable and confused and deeply sad.

She never really bounced back. After the last effects of the virus ebbed away, she remained less bouncy and less engaged.

Over the past two months I noticed weight loss. At first it was a good thing – she lost the inactivity-pouch she was developing on her belly since she lost Mouci. That was strange: Mouci was barely active. 18.5 years of tired. They didn’t play: but they were bonded. But somehow, Nuala’s activity dropped when Mouci died. So she lost her excess tummy… but then she seemed to continue to lose weight.

She’s been lethargic, less chatty, less … herself. Try explaining that to someone who doesn’t know your cat! If you know your kitties on an emotional level, you observe things about them almost sub-consciously. That gives you a gut-feeling about them. My gut wouldn’t keep quiet. She was not thriving.

Then, about 8 weeks ago, I took her outside on her harness for 1.5 hours. Our backyard. She loved it. But within the next day or two the itch began. She was over-licking her paws, biting at her nails obsessively, and she developed a swollen lower lip a couple of days later. We watched her carefully, and the symptoms eased, but they were still there. Her paws looked fine, but she continued to lick and bite at them too much.

A couple of weeks ago we took her to the vet. He gave her a cursory exam and told us that she had ulcerated gums. The lower lip was also an ulcer. He felt it was a food allergy. He suggested changing her food. He said if it didn’t improve we could give her steriod pills: since it had been about 3 weeks and the licking behaviours were pronounced, we decided to give her the pills right away. So she’s been on a reducing dose of pills for about 3 weeks. And we put all three cats on a kitten food that we know Nuala has tolerated well. She’s still licking her paws. The lower lip bump is gone and she has a bit more energy. She’s still not thriving – I can’t put my finger on it.

I think it’s almost too coincidental that she was outside the day or so before the onset of this. Did she get bitten by something? Did she eat a bad bug? Is there some sort of toxic weed growing in the garden? Is she allergic to something? I keep thinking environmental agents.

I don’t know if it’s the food… our kitties eat a food-mix. We buy 3 or 4 foods and mix them for taste, variety, nutrition etc. I had mixed up a new ‘batch’ in our big food-tin about 2 weeks before onset I think. We put all that food aside. Could it be the new Wellness? Could it be Nutrience? The other food is one that’s been constant for ages – Whiskas for taste. Was there a 4th? It’s unlikely their treats since they’ve been getting these for about 5 months. It’s so hard to pinpoint.

I’m worried about her. I’m watching this as closely as I can. And a week after she’s done the steroids, she may need to go back to the vet. Send good kitty thoughts to our little girl.

IMG_2502

 

 

 

Energy Output

With the tales of Cooper’s naughtiness, you may think he’s always a terror. Naw. He’s a terror about 20% of the time. And part of this is my fault. You see, I knowingly adopted a single kitten. Never adopt a single kitten if at all possible – always adopt 2. Not only do they communicate and co-train good behaviours that one learns and the other ‘just doesn’t get’, but they engage each other in the high-energy play activity that is natural to this age.

The high-energy kitten months last from about month 4 to month 15 – in my experience. Of course each cat is different – and you’ll have cats that are very-high energy and need a great deal of engagement (like Merlin) or cats who are curious and playful but never destructive (like Mouci). Some quiet down earlier and some keep their energy and kitten playfulness for years (like Nuala). Most fall in between.

When we had Merlin, I did a little reading about energy and engagement in young cats. One particularly good article recommended 45minutes each day of active, engaged play to help a high-energy cat expend the energy in an appropriate and positive way. I remember thinking 45!!! is a lot. I was at about 30min each day with Merlin and that was a lot – I often used da bird for 1-2 sessions of 10-15 minutes each day. Full-out highest level of activity I could safely have him do. Then there was chasing the mouse-on-a-stick – about 10 minutes every second day. 10 minutes cross-house treat chase daily (use lower calorie healthy treats if you can – since cheap treats are not good in quantity). And 10-20 minutes most nights with ‘the bug’. Ten fun fully-active minutes is longer than you think.

Boredom and pent-up energy seems to explode in naughtiness. So, Merlin needed it. More than I could give him. And he overpowered both my cats and scared them, so they couldn’t engage him and help use his play-energy. Cooper is not as demanding since he doesn’t have Merlin’s extreme level of activity and intellect. (I suspect that Merlin has calmed down some by now in his new home – but I’ll bet he’s still the smartest cat I’ve ever met.) Cooper is quieter and more gentle than Merlin. He doesn’t actively hunt or attack the girls for fun – he will playfully pounce Nuala, but relatively half-heartedly.

Another reason for two kittens is that older cats don’t want to engage with kittens – they are just too much for them.

Here is where I made a misstep. Nuala was extremely playful and pouncy until Mouci died in April 2015. She treated quiet, elderly Mouci as a mother and always curled up with her to co-clean but she engaged all her human friends for play. She loved all sorts of games and play. After Mouci died, Nuala became sullen. Merlin’s fostering was my solution – so she’d have new engaging company. That didn’t work: Merlin was play-aggressive. Nuala became  more reserved, sad and quiet – even after Merlin left. Our Tigger had lost her bounce. She became even more loving and needy with us.

Merlin left in September and by December, we’d re-trained Shadow  after her stress and trauma and were ready for a new kitty. We knew a kitten would be less stress for Shadow – small and less threatening. She could watch it grow with familiarity. Nuala (who was always so bouncy) could have a playmate and rediscover her bounce- albeit he’d be 3-years younger. The thing is that Nuala has passed that stage – and is more of a quiet and reserved kitty now. I never expected that. I didn’t expect that she wouldn’t want to play with Cooper. I’m not sure how I could have have known/anticipated/planned this better. Integrating cats based on their needs is never easy – even when you adopt specifically with your cats’ temperments and ages in mind.

Nuala is a very different kitty. Much more prim and proper – no longer the carefree tomboy we adored. I often wonder if it’s the loss of Mouci, age, or having to adapt to Merlin and then Cooper.

So – here we are – Cooper 8 months. Nuala 4 years. Shadow 13? 12? years. Will this work? Yes. Will it be easy – not really. Are we working at it? Yes.You can’t stop working… the first year is always the tough one. But all the work pays off forever after – you just can’t give up or throw up your hands.

The only way for us to balance Cooper’s energy is to let him run – to engage him in active play every single day. To give him things that engage his furry little mind and fast-moving paws. To help him be an ‘only child’ since he’s the only one at this stage. We’re in charge of his ‘zoomi moments’ – and we need to invest the interactive-time to balance this energy output.

Ideas to keep a kitty active:

  • Give your cat interactive toys. Rotate through the toys you let your cat play with to keep your cat interested and excited about the toys. Also consider playing with your cat with prey-like toys (mouse-chase or bird chase games).
  • Consider a battery operated toy that suits your cat’s way of play – it will give some exercise each day for a few minutes – but don’t let them have it all the time. It should be an augmentation rather than crutch of your ‘activities plan’
  • Have scratching posts. Cats have a natural instinct to scratch. Provide a variety of surfaces for your cat to scratch.
  • Don’t just give a treat- always have them chase it. It’s ‘capture and eat’
  • Give your cat access to windows. Whether your windowsills are wide enough or you need to install a cat perch, having window access allows your cat to sunbathe and watch the outside world from inside. You can also install a birdbath outside the window to give your cat an ‘engaged watching’ experience.
IMG_2149

He’s AMAZING in his quiet moments! And his high energy is also funny … sometimes