Eat Dammit!

I have so much I can write about today with our new friend. I will need to break it out over the next few days for you.

Today, I wanted to talk about something I watch every time a cat comes to my home: eating and drinking. New cats need to be watched to make sure that liquids and solids are going in, and liquids and solids are coming out in good timing and form. (Are you grossed out? Sorry!)

When I got our foster, the lady from the rescue told me that one thing she had trouble with him was that he barely ate. She’d only had him a number of days since his operation, but there didn’t seem to be foods he liked. Okay… radar officially switched on.

He came in the early evening and is a sweet cat – I can’t believe how immediately friendly and people-centered he is. Once he arrived, I put out food for him… a selection of 3 dry foods. This is what my cats are currently eating… a mix of three (one tasty cheaper but good brand, one great shaped, great protein medium priced brand, and one they find less exciting but extremely good-for-them-brand). My cats eat all three and yes, they sometimes do pick through for their favourites. This is good for my new foster… if he’s picky he can eat the ones he wants.

I gave him the dry food and left him alone for a few hours to let him settle in. I returned and no food had been eaten. No problem: he’s still new to the room and home. So I offered some wet food and left him alone for some hours again. No eating.

By mid-day the next day, there was no change. I tried a different dry food.  My spouse tried and he ate less than 10 pieces of kibble and stopped. I tried fresh (different) wet food. He looked interested and sniffed each food and walked away. Once or twice he licked the food and left. He might have had one mouthful of wet food – when again my spouse offered him some. Getting more concerned, I opened a bag of treats and gave him two. He licked one and then ignored it. I opened a second bag of (different fave junky) treats thinking any eating is better than no eating! Again nothing. 24 hrs with almost no food at all.

I was getting worried. Did he have a medical issue – ulcerated tongue or painful teeth? How a cat eats is one of the first things to watch in a new foster. Also, my cat became anorexic – something stressful happens and they stop eating. Unfortunately with cats, it’s like a switch in their brain that gets turned off and they will (if they get anorexia and there is no intervention) starve themselves to death. My cat who got this used to act this way … sniff food, maybe lick a kibble and then walk away. This got me jittery. Eat Dammit!

After petting and gentle brushing, we left him to sleep.

The next morning, most of the food was gone! He had eaten all the wet and most of the dry by early morning. I fed him again in the late morning (1/4 can of wet and 1.5 scoops of dry) and he ate all of this by evening. I was just so happy to see him eat! In the evening he got 1 scoop of the mixed dry and a little wet… he had cleaned the bowls and was eagerly anticipating breakfast. This was a pretty voracious appetite. I think he had been stressed and holding himself back from eating for days and days.

The second part of the equation is the litter box. Especially after stress, surgery, and being moved, litter-use is a good indicator of health. He pee’d right away and again the next day so I knew those pipes were fine and working. With not eating, he had not pooped. 48hrs – nothing. But sometime during the night – before 60hrs since his arrival, that food he ate was processed and the eagle landed.

I can breathe a big sigh of relief.

May1B 007

Icy Blast

It is icy cold here – we got an artic blast that blew into our area last night and left us freezing today. The fluffy snowflakes which came down non-stop for two days have hardened into a crispy crust on every surface. The wind is brutal and gusty. It is January weather – the depth of winter chill. It’s about –8C with the windchill of –16C. Somewhere nearby, there is a little black cat struggling.

After not seeing him for two days so I don’t know if he got the food, or some other critter, he came yesterday. He was so happy with the hot soup I gave him – it might be the only warmth he gets in a day. I hope he is in a dry sheltered place. There is a little place he could go behind my bbq that is sheltered and always dry, but he won’t use human-logic.

It’s going to be cold for days. Days I won’t be here. The holidays are approaching and we are going to be away. Our amazing nephew has volunteered to drive out of his way to come and care for our kitties (and I trust his mature and caring nature) and feed the black cat once a day. I can only hope that the black cat will get the food each day. It might be a very hard week for him, and the cold weather could not have come at a worse time! Right now, this is the best I can do for him.

Please keep him in your thoughts and send him good thoughts every night until I return.


Sigh of Relief

I woke this morning to the charming dance of snowflakes twirling by my window. The leaves are gone now, the municipal election signs have come down, the trick-or-treaters are eating candy somewhere, and the November greys have painted the sky. Tonight the clocks roll back and we will slip into the dark and cold months.

November 1st is All Saints Day. It’s a day I’ve begun to associate with black cats because they have been so vilified and unjustly tormented through blind and ignorant fears. This morning I was waiting to see Mr Midnight – to ensure he was all right.

He arrived hungry and ate all that was left for him. I was so relieved to see him – healthy and safe after Halloween. I caught the fearful yellow-moon eyes before he disappeared off my porch. He missed coming yesterday – he must be starved!

After the more than a week of construction noise and activity next door, things changed with our outdoor visitor. He’d inexplicably miss a day. He’s even more skittish. He came sporadically. He came at different times. But he came. I often don’t see him for days – but the food disappears.

We’ve been putting out more food for him than we did for Oscar. We are taking chances to try to get him a good meal at any time of the day. We can’t get him on a schedule. Here’s what we’ve gotten for our trouble – a skunk (first I’ve ever seen at our home) came by last night, a fat wobbling raccoon visits almost daily, a little young racoon visits timidly sometimes, a large possum scours the yard, a little possum follows the scent trail of where the cat food has been, a blue jay has decided he likes cat food, a grey cat sometimes comes and helps himself to a meal. While I love animals, this is precisely what I didn’t want. I’m sure there are mice and voles that I don’t see.

Sometimes I think Mr Midnight must have a home – he looks healthy and strong, his fur is beautifully kept, he is less fearful about eating from an enclosed box in the rain than Oscar was, he misses coming for food some days and doesn’t come regularly. Yet other things tell me that he is homeless – he often eats more than my cats do in a day (which he shouldn’t do if he had a home), he comes at 7am, 9pm, and once or twice we have seen him later so I can prove he’s outside for most of a 24hr period, he is skittish so we can’t open the door when he’s around or he disappears like a wisp of smoke.

We have followed every lead for lost black cats in a wide radius and posted several ‘found’ notices. We will keep feeding him. It’s not all he needs, but it’s something. As usual, rescues are full and he won’t have a good chance with Animal Services. I’m just relieved he’s okay.


Stray vs Feral

I just realized how long my last post was. Wow – sorry. I guess I had a lot to tell about Oscar’s story! I talked about Oscar being abandoned. Who knows really! He’s not fixed so his biological urges could have made him dash out of someone’s home and then get lost. He could have been dumped in the little park that adjoins the conservation area. Or yes, he could have been abandoned when someone moved away.

Here’s why I know he’s not a feral cat:

  • He comes up to humans. Despite being chased off by neighbours, he is people-friendly or at least people-curious. As of 2 days ago, he lets me pet him full-out. You know; the big, 2-handed, all over the body petting.
  • He tried to get into my house a long time ago. Despite having females in the house, a feral would never try to get in.
  • He meows. They say meowing is a trait picked up by cats who live with humans. Go figure. He purrs too… a little purr. While he sometimes hisses when he gets food, it’s rare, soft, half-hearted, and not really meant to intimidate. I’ve also seen this in rescues I’ve fostered.
  • He is a food snob. No really. He won’t eat bits of real meat, fish, or pork. He will not eat most wet cat foods. I’ve tried him on ones for kittens, ones my girls won’t eat, ones my girls love. He will eat any type of dry cat food I put out for him. Oscar, you are easy to please!
  • I think he understands doors.

So there you go. I think Oscar is not only human-friendly but fully re-hab worthy. And his friendly (if shy) nature will make him a good house cat. Better than that: if I can do what I hope to do in the next few weeks, he will be the perfect adoptable indoor-outdoor lap cat.

What do you think? Am I out in left field?

Abandoned Again

Now and then I’ve mentioned my stray buddy Oscar. I’m not sure if I’ve ever told you his story.

About 3 years ago, I noticed an orange cat who was out in the most ungodly weather. I remember being angry that anyone would allow a cat out at those times. And I noticed him walking in the woods over my fence, which made me worry about his safety since there are a few coyotes out there. I didn’t think more about it until this cat broke through my window screen one night and had a fight with little old Mouci. Mouci had to go to the vet for this, so my pocketbook and I didn’t exactly love this cat.

Time passed and I came to realize that this cat had no home. It was two winters ago…. the two year anniversary will be next month. I began putting out a bowl of dry food every day, and this cat started to come by faithfully. He had ears tattered by frostbite, a puffy furry coat, and big sad eyes. He let me pet him, and we were pals. I’m not sure why or even when, but I began to call him Oscar.

Oscar came through-out the winter. I worried for him on cold nights, and gave him a blanket to sit on and hot water packs on cold nights. He didn’t use any of this (but a happy possum from the forest did!). In spring I researched where I could send Oscar.

Finding a place for a cat is not an easy task with the cat overpopulation being what it is.

  • Animal Services in Pickering are funded municipally but do not care about strays. They don’t want them. They will take them only if they are hurt. And then, if they are upset or scared and are not deemed ‘social enough’ to be sent to a pet store for adoption, they are put down. This is not a good situation, since most cats are older, or scared, or agitated upon being surrendered into a tiny metal cage in a strange place. So many ARE put down – and this is what my tax dollars goes to.
  • The Durham Humane Society wants nothing to do with the region’s strays. They say they can only take pets being surrendered. Period.
  • There are a couple of cat rescues working in the area and they work hard, but have financial constraints and their own agendas of what cats they will focus on helping. Though I’ve volunteered in raising litters of kittens, none of the places I’ve volunteered for have offered to help with Oscar or take him into their program despite my absolute certainty that I’m dealing with a pet not a feral. (I made up my mind that if I do foster again, it will be for an agency which helps me with Oscar… if any of them do.)
  • Further afield, I found a great group who could take him if I caught him, had him neutered and ran all the tests and then delivered him to them. This is a nightmare for me since I can’t take him into my home because Shadow is such a challenge…still, I’d work something out.

Buoyed with this one option, I set about borrowing a trap and trapping him. I fed him a couple of drops of feline calming remedy (like rescue remedy) and set about setting the trap. He avoided the food for 2 days. He avoided coming to us. And then, the one time he half went into the trap, the trap closed before he was properly in. That was it… he was gone. He didn’t trust me again.

I didn’t see him for weeks. I returned the borrowed trap. I went back to putting out food, but rarely saw him. And when I did, he wouldn’t come near the bowl if I was anywhere nearby.

I moved his bowls out to the front of the house since he’d had a fight or two with some neighbours cats who had started to come by the old spot for the free meal. It was getting difficult to feed him and not other outdoor cats, raccoons, and the possum.

I fed him faithfully though the summer, fall, winter and next spring. If I was away, my cat sitter fed him. In winter, I was afraid every time we had a cold snap. I watched the bowls to see if he’d come by and was okay. I bought a winter shelter for him from the Toronto Humane Society. I looked for a place for him to to go, but my options had dried up.

What I learned in late spring was that my neighbors were feeding him. Twice a day in fact. They had once told me they wanted to do something about a cat hanging around – he was a nuisance. I told them clearly that I was feeding him and that he was homeless and struggling to make it on his own.  I wouldn’t let anything happen to him, so if they could find a place where he could go, then I would love to hear about it. They took this to heart I guess, and having a cat of their own, started feeding him. So Oscar was well fed, but homeless for another full year.

In summer, without a thought, they moved away. Oscar had been abandoned again. I think he had really come to trust them. Poor Oscar.


I kept feeding him. And still he was wary and avoided me because he was always jittery in the front yard. Twice this past summer I was able to pet him there … a big change. Slowly the tables were turning again.

This poor cat! He has been lost or abandoned for at least 3 years. He has ears damaged by frostbite. He has scratches on his nose. He has big sad eyes. He is a beautiful boy. Surviving out in the harsh weather, in times of lack of food, with no love, and still I think he has hope.

It’s the Little Things

I traveled to Turkey last month. I’d been hoping to go for years and planning it since February. I saw tons and learned tons… and had my eyes opened to many things. I also met tons of cats.

Did you know that the Prophet Mohammed was a big cat fan? He loved his own cat and grieved his death. He offered an example to Muslims. I like Mohammed more now, and feel he is a bit of a kindred spirit.

There was also a lot of respect given to cats in the fertile crescent for their effectiveness at keeping the vermin at bay. So in Turkey, they do have a cat overpopulation, but people feed strays. In general they are healthy and happy but always hungry. They get pieces of pie, bagels, and hopefully some meat. I don’t think the good-natured people realize that cats are obligate carnivores.

I know I can’t make a change in their lives, but I know that kindness can fill their bellies for a day. Each day of my trip, I took meat from our morning buffet, slipped it into the paper napkin at the table, and then put it into a plastic ziplock bag. This bag was almost always in my purse, so I was able to feed cats in the most extraordinary places: Troy, Topkapi Palace, Goreme, Bodrum, Izmir, the Blue Mosque, and on the Silk Road.

My mother would have a fit: I grew up being told to not go near strange or stray animals. Here I petted and met dozens of cats… and even a few stray dogs.

I met some cats who were full-feral – and I was a strange and suspicious source of food. For these kitties I threw meat their way, and didn’t ask more of them. The hardest were the semi-feral ones – ones who would want food but be untrusting or even aggressive while being fed. Both my spouse and I have a few scratches to affirm this. Even the cutest tabby kitten outside Topkapi Sultan’s Palace in busy Istanbul was semi-feral. She was gorgeous and all claws as she pounced voraciously on every piece of meat that came her way. There were lots of friendly ones too… who came for a petting even if I had no food to offer.

A few will remain with me for a long time. One was a little girl with a limpy-paw who lived in a lonely outpost. I was warned not to go near her since she scratches. No she doesn’t. She might scratch if you try to get too familiar or pick her up, but I was able to pet her fully and she was purring! With people being warned away from this lovely long furred calico with the green eyes, I worried that she would not get enough food. She got all my stolen sausages for the day… a full and healthy meal. Another was a little pregnant orangie in a very cold area (colder than my area of Canada) in a small and dreary town… we gave her all we had, and she was so friendly. She was all sweetness and love despite clearly harsh conditions.

And then there was ‘Sultan’. Yes: Sultan gets his own paragraph. On our first day touring Turkey, we went to the Hippodrome in Istanbul in the morning. We didn’t have any food with us, but my spouse found a couple of kittens of about 8 weeks old and was playing with one: a gorgeous little grey tabby who just wanted to be social and play. He took a little video of him, since he was smitten. A full two weeks later on our return to Istanbul, we walked though the same area of the Hippodrome and looked for the little guy with no luck. We’d bought a whole pack of sausages at the local market, so we fed a dozen cats that day. At the end of the day, we were walking back towards our hotel past the Hippodrome where we’d seen our furry friend, and out of nowhere, the grey tabby came running right up to us! He was lankier and 2 weeks older. We fed him until he was not interested in food, petted and played with him and then had to leave for the airport. We called him Sultan – fitting since we were in Istanbul’s Sultanahmet district. If it was feasible, I think we would have brought Sultan home with us. It was love at first sight… and then a serendipitous second meeting.

While I couldn’t save any cats, I know that I made many happy with the joy of a tasty treat or a full belly for one day. It’s the little things in life that matter.

PS I don’t have many photos of the cats we met – dirty, meaty fingers and cameras don’t mix!

PPS My travel group thought I was nuts, but by the end one actually thanked me for caring enough to feed the animals. Who knows… maybe I planted a seed in some of them!


Blue Mosque Kitty


St Paul’s Cathedral and Grave, Ephesus


Spot the kitty – Caravan Stop along the Silk Road


Goreme Open Air Museum


No food: she just wanted company and some love and hopped up – Ankara Museum


Fast asleep among the crowds, Spice Bazaar, Istanbul


Meet Sultan! We will always remember him and hope he has a great life! Opposite Blue Mosque in the Hippodrome, Istanbul

The Buffet is Open

There are a number of costs involved in rescuing kittens. Next to the vet costs, food is the big one. Knowing that the costs of fostering can also add up, our kittens’ rescuer brought a care package of donations from the rescue she works with – quality kitten food (wet and dry- what I really needed!), some treats, and even a few soft toys. Yes: she’s a certified angel. We’ve been feeding these foods to the Rascals and Mattie.

My last two litters were fostered from rescues which provided food to the foster home. The first one had a sponsorship with Science Diet and they provided dry food. The second one had a deal with a food company (I think Science Diet) and food cost significantly less for them.  A big shout out to Science Diet – because they are helping and because they are smart enough to know that pet owners will be loyal to companies who do.

As the kittens grow and settle into eating solids, they consume lots. Do you blame them? They are growing and active. I just got back from the pet store up the street… I was out of wet food.

Mattie is still feeding them. When she offers them food, I dash out of the room as I find my presence is energizing rather than calming. Both mom and kittens are apt to get up and want attention if I am there. If I see Mattie lay down prone, I grab Rogue and Gypsy and put them to her and then run for the hills.

The other buffet consists of wet food, dry food, soggy kibble mush mixed with wet food  – with three refreshes each day. Certain combinations are more successful than others. Go figure. I was trying to keep tabs, but lost track yesterday when someone (no names mentioned, honey) mixed up dry foods which looked identical. We had 3 types of wet food, 3 types of dry… so lots of combinations.

Little Gypsy suddenly started getting her bounciness when we started finger-feeding her solid food 5 days ago. She picked up her energy as we suspected and then started eating full out. She will not only eat from the bowls now…but she happily eats with 1 or 2 siblings on the same bowl! Now that is progress! I wish I had a photo that really showed her round belly – it seemed to change almost overnight.

They love wet food, but I am not giving them what they want all the time. SO mean! For their own long-term health and their transition to a new home in the future, I need them to eat a number of different foods and be comfortable eating dry kibble by week 9. It’s a responsibility of the foster mom… and you know it will help them forever though you won’t be around to see it.


Aiming for Balance

It’s been 6 days now, so I am starting to really get to know my crew. The kittens are at a wide range of stages. Mattie is young so she is a bit bored with the kittens now and then. She wants to pounce and play. She is also not as enthused as my former kitty moms in sitting around to let kittens feed. This is a bit early if she’s trying to wean them. I think she’s just the impatient type. Good news is that she is stuck in my bathroom…and can’t wander too far from them. Sorry Mattie – I’m holding you to your responsibilities for now.

I have two smaller kittens – Rogue and Gypsy. Gypsy has been my concern for the past 2 days. She is the only kitten who does not eat any food. None. I have rubbed a bit on her mouth, and always offer her a variety… kibble mush, wet food, even wet food softened by warm water. Nothing. NO interest at all. Due to this, she is falling behind in size. She is now the smallest by a hair. Just behind our littlest hobo, Rogue. Rogue is tiny too, but he is somewhat interested in food. I have been so vigilant – the moment Mattie looks like she will allow feeding, I grab Rogue and Gypsy and put them to her.

Contrast this with the calicos (Minx and Jinx)… curious, confident, playful, and eating any and everything! I don’t worry about them! They are so cute! But for the fact that they are progressing at this rate, I don’t baby them as much.

So that leaves Maverick and Scamp. These two are middle of the road. They eat with a bit of encouragement, play, explore… and both LOVE to climb into my lap and curl up with me. Maverick has this heart-melting habit of looking up into my eyes and giving me a silent little ‘meow’.

I am able to happily say that there have been a lot fewer accidents last night and this morning. They are using the litters more and more. Though, Mattie does not seem very comfortable or happy with the litter situation, she has never had an ‘oops’. I’m hoping as the kittens get larger and stronger, the litter will be less of a challenge for them.

Water is hilarious… none of the kittens understand water yet. Though, they will drink it. There are lots of little sneezes from tiny noses that get dunked in too deep, or the shaking-paw when someone tries to step in. No-one has taken a bath – yet.

The Rascals just 10 minutes ago

The storm formerly known as Hurricane Sandy is still tossing some rains and wicked winds our way – and she played with our power a few times. We are lucky – there has been storm damage not too far from here. Just a few ‘flickers’ no long-duration outages … but that turned off the dedicated space heater in the kitten room. Their room was 22C this morning. I’ve upped it to 25C. The warmth will help little immune systems.

A Rushed Preparation ~ Wednesday Oct 24

Getting the room ready! Okay I‘m dashing around the house for supplies which I will need for our newest guest. In all honesty there is very little you NEED to have to foster a mom and babies. Here’s my own list of essentials:

1.     A cardboard ‘nesting‘ box with a towel and blanket to create the ‘nursery’. The box needs an entrance cut into it, so mom and come and go, but tiny kittens can’t roll/fall out

2.     A few blankets and towels to rotate to the wash, to have areas for them to curl up on

3.     A scratching surface for mom cat and the kittens as they grow. I LOVE the wave style scratching post… because kittens use it as a favourite jungle gym. They play on and round it and it helps their coordination.

4.     A litter box low enough for kitties who are learning. Litter – I splurge here. Kittens are curious and will ingest some litter no matter how careful you are. We use World’s Best… and though they won’t pay us for this endorsement, I give it freely. It‘s 100% natural and kittens can eat it without any harm. Clumping litters could kill kittens.

5.     Kitten food – mom cat and kittens should eat the highest grade of kitten food you can afford. They need all the support they can get at this time. Bowls for the food and water… plastic is actually not great for cats. The dollar store is great for little ceramic bowls.

Really, that’s it. Kittens are so creative, they don’t need expensive toys.