Little Orange Hero

Today Nuala might be a hero – a little, furry, orange, accidental hero. She was outside in our back yard on her harness and leash and she kept trying to get into the neighbours yard. Our yards are pretty open with only 4.5ft iron rail fence… so she can see whats in their garden and can fit through if the lead is long enough. She was pretty insistent – and then J realized why.

A little bird had struck their window and was still somewhat alive on their deck. J knocked, but it’s Thanksgiving and they are not home so he popped over and brought the bird to our yard. It was not moving, but not dead. A flurry of activity here – we both looked up what to do with window strikes, bring in both cats, find a un-waxed shoebox or paper bag, get the bird to a safe warm place (J’s office is warmed by the sun and has a door we can close to keep curious kitties at bay).

The bird was tiny – and I didn’t know what it was. I think it was a little brown creeper. With many North American bird species populations showing losses of 70-90% and with cats and windows as the most massive killers (numbers beyond comprehension) every life matters.

If you have windows that face trees – especially forest – you have a ‘kill zone’. The bigger the window, the more dangerous. Birds can’t see glass (especially highly reflective glass) and only see the trees reflected there and fly to them … and their deaths. You can put up UV reflective stickers on your windows, keep the blinds closed, or as I do  – keep the windows dirty especially during migration times (the dust is a barrier that they can sometimes see). I also use UV stickers on my larger windows. I rarely get a bird-window collisions – but nothing is perfect.

We left the little bird alone in the warm room in its shoe box. They say an hour. We waited an hour and it was slowly coming to – flapping like it wanted to leave. As per the online instructions, we walked into our forest nearby… and opened the box. It didn’t come out immediately. In fact when it flew – it only went a short distance and hung awkwardly from the tree – but too high for us to re-capture it. We waited. And waited. It didn’t fly off or move. We had no choice to leave it there to recover it’s senses (we hope!).

Went back an hour later to look at/for it. It had flown off – it wasn’t on that tree or on the ground or nearby. Every cell in me hopes it survives and is okay.

But no matter what, our little orangie is a hero to that bird. If it has any chance at all, it’s because she was vigilant and alerted us to its plight. You hear so many stories going the other way – cats killing birds. It’s so nice to hear a good-news story of a rescue partially by a cat. Way to go ‘Wala!


All hail Nuala, our little hero



13.5lbs of Love

In our home, we celebrate our kitties’ birthdays. If that makes us crazy cat-lady and cat-guy, so be it. We love our family.

Part of this love is investing in the vet visits. This is often a sore point for me since vet care around here is extraordinarily expensive for the average person. It always seems to leave you between a rock and a hard place. I try to be reasonable and keep the costs down by opting for only meds or procedures I think are necessary. It helps that I don’t like over-medicating myself or my kitties.

Every year, around their birthdays, we review our cat’s health and what the primary concerns are. This often means a visit to the vet. So… yesterday Cooper went to meet his new vet. It’s my first lady-vet – and frankly I like her already. She’s got a no nonsense approach and is reasonable to speak to. (Yay!) It’s a family practice where she and her husband treat all their clients.

Cooper was terrified. He ‘chirped’ all the way to the vet – about a 5min drive. It’s the most vocal he’s ever been. He still can’t meow but he really tries, and between our family we’re doing fine with the fact that he can’t verbalize. It’s amazing how you adapt your communication when one member can’t communicate back. It’s also amazing how much a pet owner has 2-way communication with your cat: you recognize distress, fear, happiness, laziness, hunger etc all from the sounds they make. I’m learning to go around that with Cooper.

This vet (now the second I’ve asked – just to see if there was insight better than I can come up with) said that it could have been his very early illness or he may have been born this way. She checked his mouth and throat – nothing visible. We know he has vocal cords – he makes some sounds – and it’s certainly not for lack of trying! And he purrs up a storm.

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Cooper – Then (Dec ’15)

Cooper got his 1-year shots (I’m almost religious about all the shots in the first year) + rabies. I think he’d had rabies already. He was a champ – I’m the one who had to look away for the needle.

He also got weighed. I’ve been accusing him of being 14lbs… but he’s 13.5lbs of love. Or fear – he was so scared at the vets being weighed! We had to move him to and from the scale and he put out his claws and clung to the door frame. It was one of those hilarious-sad moments you want to laugh at but feel bad.

The other thing I brought up with the vet was the fact that Cooper has slightly-wet, very stinky poop. (Yeah- I know you needed potty-talk from me! Sorry) He’s had this since we got him.

I have long suspected that while he was treated for worms as a young kitten, it was also around the time when he was getting antibiotics for his FHV. If the two drugs were too close to one another, they can affect the effectiveness of each other. So the anti-parasites meds might not have gotten all the worms. Not that there have been other signs, but I feel I need to be careful and address this and I purposely waited until the weather was getting colder and I wouldn’t be taking him out into the garden nearly at all. (They can pick up worms from other species and other cats using the same garden)

Since they all use shared litter-boxes, if Cooper has any worms, he’s likely passed them on to one or both of the girls. It could be part of Nuala’s problems with the litter (still sporadically ongoing). This is my phase-one to address the situation: spend the money and have them all go through a course of milbemax for worms. (Disinfect or replace the litter boxes as well). At worst, it’s a gentle waste of my money. At best, it’s a problem solver.

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Cooper – Now

The vet suggested that I consider a feline pro-biotic. I love this suggestion and will think of this down the road a few months from now. Yes… for all 3 kitties.

Does love have a price? Well, this vet visit and the pills for the kitties came to $170. Ouch. (But that’s average ’round here) It’s what I need to do to protect the little-big guy. And the girls.



You Say It’s Your Birthday

A year ago today, somewhere on the streets of Montreal a litter of kittens was born. One of those tiny wiggling babies about the length of my index finger grew to be our Cooper. He went from a high-kill shelter to a safe one, traveled across borders with kind Ontario rescuers, got the kitty cold and got better, and grew and grew…

If the birth records are right (and they are likely not -because how could they know the day of a stray’s birth?) then today – September 24 – is Cooper’s Birthday.


Pate wasn’t evenly packed in the tins … it’s kinda a wonky cake

It’s not every day our handsome boy turns the ONE. It’s a big moment in his life (though I’m not sure he sees it that way) because he’s passing from his kitten months into his cat years. It’s bittersweet for his mom (me) – and frankly the two girls can’t wait for him to be older and lose his manic moments.

Of course there had to be a ‘cake’. Of course there was a candle (blue!). Of course we sang ‘Happy Birthday’ – though in our home it is always sung as ‘Happy Bird-day’.

Cooper didn’t care much … he just wanted to get to the ‘cake’. Nuala watched me prepare it and tried to get to it first. In fact we had to hold her back – to her dismay. He got in just a few licks before she joined him.

What do kids do? They have too much fun. Eat too much. Eat too fast. Get sick. Nuala did just that… threw up her meal all over the floor. I don’t even mind. She’s fine… both back to being happy cats after the celebration.

Today I’m very thankful for our boy – and I’m sending good thoughts into the universe for his siblings. I hope they have as happy and secure homes as he’s found.






Ray of Light

Sometimes, you just have to smile and know that while it’s not perfect now, it will be one day and they will be life-long companions. It’s a ray of light … and a glimpse into their future when their present is sometimes rocky.

This is low light and from J’s cell … but Nuala walked over to the napping Cooper and cleaned him … Cooper snuggled into her and put his paw around her.


We are still trying to blend our kitty-purrsonalities and get them to find their natural ‘grooves’ living with each other. Cooper is still a kitten and though his size is double that of the girls, he has that kitten sweetness but he’s in his terrible-twos.

In this moment I think of Mouci… and am so thankful for her immensely sweet and generous spirit. She put up with every cat she met and nurtured more than a few… including Nuala who lost her mom at 9-weeks old. Nuala always looked to Mouci as her mother (though there were 16 years age difference between them) and Mouci taught her this loving cleaning behaviour and patience. It’s now Nuala’s turn to be the teacher…

Long Abandonment

I did something I’m not proud of. I left the kitties for 10 long days to go on holiday. It’s not really the going; it’s the lack of preparation I gave Cooper for this abandonment.

We ran away to Newfoundland – and enjoyed every moment – except those I worried about Cooper and the girls.

I am very pro-vacation for cat owners, but I am also a big fan of acclimatizing the cat for the separation and the inevitable anxiety. Cats feel separations deeply – since they are very routine-focused. And they can become increasingly anxious about life without you since they have no way of knowing that you will come back. You know you will return. You see time as cycles. They don’t. They see the future stretching out in front of them as it is in this current moment.

Cooper had a really hard time of this. He has been with us for 8 months – most of his life. In that time, there is almost always someone home. And, due to this and also his early days in rescue, he is more people-focused than cat-focused. He targets people more than cats for his socialization. We are gone for 15 hour days sometimes, but that has been the extent of his ‘abandonment’.

What I should have done – and meant to do – was to slowly prepare his understanding of separation. Go away for one night. Return and shower him with love. Go away for 2-3 nights and give him lots of love. You get the process. That allows the kitty to learn that their ‘pride’ goes away but there is always a return and loving reunion at the end. It’s gentle preparation.

We have done this with all of our cats… except Cooper. In the past, we’ve left for as much as 3-week stretches and returned to lonely, but happy and well-adjusted cats. Poor Cooper – he didn’t get those lessons. He was just abandoned. It must have been a very, very long 10 days.

In that time I’m sure he bonded with (aka bothered the living daylights out of -also a cause of stress for me) Nuala and Shadow. He bonded with our pet sitter who loves him and shares his enjoyment of watching the hummingbirds at our windows. He whiled away his time sleeping. He wondered if this was the new normal… no us in his life anymore.

I’m meant to write and ask you all to think good thoughts about our ‘little guy’ – and the girls – while we were gone. In the end, I was so rushed with preparations, I didn’t do it. I came back to 3 very needy kitties. Followed us everywhere. Wanted extra love. And of course they got it – treats, and love, and excursions to the OUT. I can only imagine what they went through.

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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.


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


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.


  • 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.


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.


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)



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.