Off the ‘Nice List’

AAAAARRRRRRRRGGGGGGGG!

Cooper has been chewing behind my back … and he chewed right through the wires of my fave Christmas lights. There are 5 strands on one string and (you guessed it!) he chewed through the main wire that gets plugged in. Luckily for him I had it on a timer and while it was plugged in, it was not on. J says he will try to splice together the wires – but I won’t hold my breath. I don’t know where I can get these lights any more… but they are (were) just magical!

BAD, NAUGHTY CAT!! Stop sucking up and acting all cute and loving!

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Pulled this photo off pinterest – these are our exact light set and how I use them.  Used – past tense.

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Naughty & Nice

It’s been a whole year that you’ve been our favourite little grey blur, Cooper.

This year Santa knows him much better and knows if he’s been naughty or nice. Mostly naughty. No wait – nice. Um… more naughty. But don’t worry – despite his dodgy record he’s still getting a few treats.

Cooper learned that he can jump to the end of the kitchen counter (no!), then leap to the top of the cabinets (NO!!), walk along the top of the cabinets and then drop down onto the 2in ledge of the part of the fridge that sticks out from under the cabinetry (no!!). Why would he even dream of doing this? – you might ask. Because that’s where da bird and the bug toys are kept away from him. He’s obviously seen us put them there after play and devised a way to get to them.

Da bird was found chewed to bits under the table after one of the nights when we didn’t know how he was getting them. We searched for the bug toy for a couple of days before we found it… with all the little paper bits gone.

Despite regular training, I know he’s been up on the dining room table. The secret is that the special little placeholders don’t really jump off the table on their own.

The sticky-side up tape doesn’t work with him as it has with other cats… he has his own technique of playing with it (while we’re asleep – he won’t dare going to the ‘tape places’ when we’re awake) so that it’s a toy for him. A tape ball is a fave treat.

‘Tape places’ that have been violated at least once include the fireplace mantle, the kitchen counter, the kitchen bar ledge, the fridge top, the dining table and the ledge going to the basement.

The plants (including my loved orchids) get dug into regularly. Sometimes the  big floor plant gets knocked over. He gets the water gun for that – and that’s when NO becomes his middle name. He also loves to swat at and destroy the leaves of these poor plants – endless frustration for me.

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Cooper doesn’t nap much during the day. He’s go-go-go. And unlike other cats who play until they pant and then crash after, when he’s playing and you stop, he’s riled up and will charge around the house looking for other active play.

Today Cooper played so hard with the bird toy, that he ripped the feathers right out of the holder. I’m not sure how… I think he put his full 15lbs behind the bite as I was dragging it along (he’s more a mouser than a birder… not a good jumper but a great chaser!).

He’s been better of late since he’s watching Bird TV for a good 8 hours a day – I have 3 winter bird feeders almost at the window and the birds are literally 5 feet from his nose at the best of times. He finds it fascinating (as does Nuala).

Bird TV has been a welcome reprieve to both Nuala and Shadow who are tired of him sneaking up and giving them a gentle swat before jumping on them to get them to play with him. He loves his sisters… not a mean bone in his body… but that body is 15 pounds of muscle and tackle when their slight frames least expect it.

Miraculously, he has been virtually an angel with the tree. He and Nuala will wrestle under it sometimes (presents are not kept under the tree… that’s cat space), and he has knocked a ball or two off with his ‘tail in the air like he just don’t care’ style as he prances by. But overall, an angel. He is a very gentle and loving cat -a big baby who loves being cuddled- so we just have to forgive all the naughty moments.

And yes, luckily Santa bought a new ‘da bird’ toy for Christmas. Just in time.

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His First Real KissMouse

We are just 2 weeks away from Cooper’s 1-year anniversary of arriving in our home. I can’t believe it – but I also can’t say that time flies.

Above – the first 15 minutes he was in our home

Nuala has been sick or off-kilter in one way or another pretty much since his second week in our home. It’s not that they aren’t friends – they are wrestling buddies (so unfair that he’s about 2 weight classes higher than her), food buddies, and Nuala even cleans him. They are excellent company for each other – but it’s more other behaviour or health things with her.

Shadow has been exactly as we hoped with ‘da boy’: skittish but not truly worried or terrorized by his presence. She has known him from his young days, wasn’t threatened by his introduction as she would have with a mature kitty, and watched him grow. He sill wants her to play, but he gets hissed at many times a day when she tells him ‘lay off’. Of course he turned out to be much more rambunctious than we hoped for Shadow’s disposition.

Ah Cooper. Well, our little wrecking-ball (more about that in a later post) has gone from that little fuzzy kitten we brought home on December 22, 2015, to a cat who looks like he ate that kitten! Cooper is likely 15lbs of silky-furred muscle now. So much for the personality description of ‘quiet and calm’. He was only quiet because his vocal cords are broken and don’t work. He was only calm because he was cooped up (hence the name Cooper!) in cages and sick his entire young life. When he was allowed out and given tons of love, his little muscles developed, his balance developed, and he discovered he loved running. He dashes the length of the house at least 1-2x an hour. Quiet and docile, my butt!

The tree went up this past week… it was so easy to decide how to decorate it. Plastic Only! It’s still an 8-ft natural tree – with all the challenges that entails for a cat-home. We have a very steady base, don’t fill the water to the top (tree water becomes toxic), have less ‘temptation’ on the lower branches. Still I give J & I credit for being relatively fearless in putting up Christmas ‘like normal’. He has been nearly a saint with the tree so far (as close to a saint as he could get). So… the tree is up and holding.

All is merry and bright… pretty much. And it’s Coopers first real Christmas with us since he was in a separate room when he first arrived. It seems like it was so long ago… but he really is part of our family now. A big, kooky, sweet, wrecking-ball part.

Merry KissMouse, Coop!

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A year later; my fave basket-case

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Courses of Action

I’m exhausted from being worried about Nuala. I know you know what that is like: when you know something is not okay with your pet and she’s family, it wears you down. I’ve explained about months of bad litter behaviours. Of over-licking and biting her back toes and nails. Of chewing off the fur on the tip of her tail.

Before this all started she got a pretty bad dose of FHV (kitty-cold) from Cooper who brought it into our home. Two years before that, she caught a mild case of calicivirus from the Rascals foster kittens. A year before that she went through ringworm with her siblings at the age of 5 weeks.

She is a loving, sweet natured cat who is very people-focused and also emotional. She shows her love or dislike or worry. She is not a lap-sitter – never has been. I wish she would, but it’s just not her thing. She will however reach up to be picked up every single day and will snuggle into your shoulder and purr every time. That’s her thing.

So when she was ill, I really didn’t know what to do. Can’t spent a ton on a battery of tests. But I also won’t ‘let it slide’ just because there is no physical damage I can see. I KNEW something was wrong. But what? Was it behavioural? (A reaction to the new kitty Cooper?) Was it physical (an illness surfacing or re-surfacing?) Or was it a combination of multiple things? That’s the hard part. What if there were two separate physical ailments plus a behaviour originating from it or the stress of it? What if there was another factor – some unseen variable – that was creating part of the problem.

I’m exhausted from chasing my tail on this.

After switching to a vet who was actually listening to me (not just hearing the words), I’ve been working on this again:

  1. J bought an air-blow deterrent for the area she was soiling in the basement. I was not sure about this behavioural fix since it’s punitive. However, unlike the one we tried like this some time back, this one worked. No kitty is going into that area now. For any reason. I won’t remove this little egg-shaped machine, because cats love and respect routine and now this is part of the routine. I don’t want to change the rules (again) and it’s one hallway that they don’t need to use for any reason.
  2. We tried different litters, new litter containers, have 2 open and 2 closed litters. What I hadn’t tried was to put a litter in a new area of our home. I resisted this because there were no great logical places for it… and I didn’t want litter smells in the living room, kitchen or bedroom. In the end, the bedroom was the loser since we put a covered litter in the second little bathroom – beside our bedroom – the one we use when we give our big bathroom to the ‘fosters’. Immediately all three (I think!) cats wanted to use this convenient new spot. Great – they love this litter, and our bedroom sometimes smells.
  3. All three kitties went on Milbemax – a gentle and effective dewormer. I didn’t see any worms, but I had long suspected Cooper of some intestinal bug since his poop was eye-wateringly stinky and a little wet for his entire time with us. And if they share litters…. well you know. After the season of visiting the ‘Out’ was over, all three took milbemax (the vet listened and I appreciated her going with my plan despite not knowing me well, and not being fully convinced. Milbemax is gentle enough for young kittens – it would do no harm as a precautionary measure – I know because I’ve used it with every batch of foster kittens). It’s two weight-related doses… and there was no change after the first dose, but Cooper’s poop began to smell like regular cat poop just a couple of days after dose 2. Is this one of the variables?
  4. After the Milbemax, Nuala didn’t have any behavioural issues for a few days. I thought we were in the clear between the deworming and the new litter placement. Nope. She continued to bite her back toes and toe-nails. Dermatitis of some kind? Or infection (bladder, skin, or other residual secondary infection from her bout with FHV?). And she peed outside perfectly clean litters a couple of times.
  5. Next visit to the vet – the vet didn’t agree with me, but again she listened and understood why I wanted one round of precautionary antibiotics. I was trying to safely get rid of the ‘usual suspects’ before having to invest the considerable money in tests. Judge me for this frugality or not – there are limits to my budget.
  6. I don’t know how this will work. Nuala is on day 6 of 10 – using a 40mg dose of amoxicillin 2x each day. I am not looking forward to the common side effect of antibiotic-induced diarrhea, but it’s part of me being committed to helping Nuala. She’s still biting her toes and toe nails. She’s had no litter issues since day 2 of the antibiotic.

I will let you know how this goes – I wish I’d been able to do all this in June when I took her to our last vet. This course of action is my gut feeling – I feel good acting upon it. But I’m also learning as I go – for example I’d never considered cat’s sense of smell and cleanliness as an intervening variable – what if Nuala didn’t want to use the litters Cooper used since he was so darn stinky? What if she started holding her pee from not wanting to get into a stinky litter – and got a bladder infection? Behavior + medical linking variables.  This can be in any number – or permutations.

I’ll figure this out. At least Cooper has normal poop for the first time since we met him. That’s a step in the right direction – getting one thing fixed at a time. Please send good thoughts to our little orange kitty.

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In the middle of a slow-blink

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Christmas Came Early

I don’t do one single thing about Christmas until after Remembrance Day. It’s like a family rule and respect for those who served… so the days between Halloween and Remembrance Day are often cleaning and chores for me.

Today however, the kitties got their Christmas.

It wasn’t planned that way – a local pet store had their ‘friends and family discount day’… 15% off. It works out to just saving the tax, but hey, we’ll take it. We needed stuff! Our 3 wave scratching posts were shredded – the sisal part. The cardboard scratcher was okay… but only in the middle strip where cats can’t scratch it properly. Cooper spent last night chewing my silk flower buds in the vase (urrggg – I’m sure he’s eaten a piece or two) – always wants something to chew. (Did I tell you how much he loved the dog chew I got him?) We have toys. We still need to replace the damaged stuff.

So off we went…

There is no use waiting for Christmas morning to give these ‘gifts’ to them. They are some of the basics we keep for them. Just out of the car, a wash to get it clean (some toys)… and then they can have them.

Cooper is in heaven. Nuala is too … until Cooper comes to whatever toy she’s got. (Shadow is hiding out upstairs). They have a new wave stretching/scratching post- with a little catnip rubbed on the scratchy part. New ‘kong’ chew toy for Cooper (he’s seriously a puppy) but this one is for cats – can’t wait to see if this works. New ‘mouse on a stick’ toy – since Cooper has chewed the tail off the mouse of the last one and has pretty much chewed through the sturdy rope. (Yes – do laugh – I laugh but in a sad way since he’s such a wrecking ball).

Unfortunately the store didn’t have ‘da bird’ or the ‘bug’ toys that are our must-haves. We still need one of each… Cooper needs to keep expending that kinetic energy!

Do your kitties get Christmas gifts? What are they getting?

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Do you see one face… or two?

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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!

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All hail Nuala, our little hero

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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.

 

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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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