Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Why I Need a Vacation From Vacation

Friday has a nasty habit. He hates company. Anytime someone comes over he growls, hisses and once he even attacked my brother-in-law. Though you may come visit every day, he will not like you. He would faint dead away if a hamster attacked him but let a 200lb, 6’5” human male come in the door and he’ll square off and show fangs. Charming. Simply charming.

Thankfully, he’s not putting as much effort into his company-hatred as of late. Yet, his newfound ambivalent attitude did little to ease my mind while I was preparing for my recent vacation. Vacation means that “company” has to come into the house. He doesn’t care if they’re there to feed him. He can’t be made to like anyone. I worried that he would be uncooperative at best and lethal at worst.

Because our dog can be aggressive, we keep the cats separated when we’re not home. That alone doesn’t present much of a problem as Friday doesn’t mind being “wrangled” into the bedroom but he eats in the bathroom which is not connected to the bedroom. It’s an old house. I knew that twice a day Friday would have to be steered from bedroom to bathroom and back to bedroom. Two years ago, he spent my vacation shut in the bathroom, as he refused to come out and threatened to bleed the woman who was watching him. She put a litter box in the tub and a water bowl out for him and called it good. Naturally, he scattered litter everywhere and I was determined that he would cooperate this year.

I racked my brain. His sitter needed a way to move him without having to pick him up or on a bad day without even touching him! I finally struck on it! Tuna! Friday would follow Satan himself to the gates of hell at the mere promise of tuna. Feeling smart, I bought a couple cans and left the sitter a can opener and several little plastic bowls. Sure enough, one morning after breakfast, Friday decided wanted to sit in the dining room and watch the birds through the window. He promised to stay put for hours. But with a flick of the can opener he was front and center and not only was he willing to go back to the bedroom but he led the way!

Knowing I’ve figured out the trick to buying Friday’s cooperation for anyone, company included, makes me feel much better about my future travel. Since I spent so much time and energy prepping for a sitter I decided to offer you a list of tips from me, a professional pet sitter with nearly ten years of experience taking care of everything from hamsters to horses. Hopefully, your cats are better behaved than mine and you won’t have to go to tuna lengths!

When using a pet sitter be prepared:
Clean it up: Don’t leave a mess in litter boxes that calls for a back hoe to clean it out. Change it and leave fresh litter for your sitter. Likewise, wash water and food bowls before you leave. Your pets don’t like nasty dishes any more than you do and a good sitter will wash the bowls again before you come home.

Get organized: Sitters have limited time. Time spent looking for the cat food is time that could be spent socializing with your cats. Clearly describe where food is stored. If it’s stored at the back of the pantry slide it to the front for your trip. The same goes for litter scoops (you wouldn’t believe how many hours of my life are spent looking for these jewels. Where do you people put them?!) brushes, treats, can openers, medications or anything else you would like your sitter to use for your pets while you’re gone.

Medical info: If your pet is on medications, be sure to tell your sitter. Leave medicine where the sitter can find it but somewhere safe where your pet cannot chew into the container and accidentally overdose. If you hide the meds in treats or food leave everything your sitter could possibly need to get the pill from the packaging to your pet including: scissors, spoons, paper towels, etc.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

One More Web Link

Being a blond I sometimes miss the obvious. Ok, being blond probably isn't really an excuse for that but I'm running with it anyway.

On Tuesday, I published a list of cat friendly web sites and I left off the cat site I visit most often (besides this one.) TheCatSite.com is a fount of kitty info. My favorite section is the forum page where you can delve into an assortment of cat questions. I love reading about other people's problem cats. It makes me feel like Friday might not be so strange after all!

Check it out, ask cat questions maybe even answer a few. Just remember that no advice there, or here for that matter, can take the place of a vet's advice. That person with the screen name howtoholdacat? Yep, that's me! I hope to see you there.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Why Your Head Does Not a Cat Pillow Make

In case you never noticed, cats like a warm place to nap. They’re often spotted napping in a patch of sunlight or sleeping on top of laundry fresh from the dryer. Ordinarily, this is considered cute behavior and the Web is flooded with adorable pictures of cats sleeping in funny poses. However, it’s not so cute when at 2 A.M. your cat decides your head is the warmest place. How do you keep them off your face so you can get your beauty rest?

I’ve written before about Friday’s nighttime habits, but that was limited to play at night and did not discuss how I got him to be a good bed buddy. Once he decided that sleep was cool he began to sleep with me. On my head. We’d overcome his need to play at 4 A.M. but we hadn’t yet found a sleep pattern where I actually got to sleep. He literally would lie down on top of my head. It isn’t as cute as it sounds, trust me. If it wasn’t my head it was my rib cage which he would plaster himself to with amazing staying power. To get him off of me I had to wake and physically move him which really ruins a good night’s sleep.

After some trial and error, I learned a move which I call the Kitty Spatula that went a long way to keeping Friday off of me at night. I let Friday snuggle up wherever he wants when he first gets in bed: head, side, whatever. Then I read for about 20 minutes. While I’m reading, Friday begins to get sleepy. Once he’s good and soggy I slide one hand under his shoulders and the other under his hips and deposit him at the foot of the bed. If he’s sleepy enough and if I’ve moved him smoothly enough he’ll sleep there for the rest of the night. This arrangement works out very well as I read every night anyway.

Perhaps you’re not into reading (why are you here then?) or perhaps my method simply doesn’t work on your particular cat (I understand I’m wrong from time to time). The key to finding a solution you can live and sleep with is to create a sleeping environment for your cat that is more desirable than the one he created.

Try giving your cat his own bed. You can make one out of anything soft such as old towels or blankets or you can buy one such as this. Cats also like to lie on paper. Try putting out a few newspapers (in another room so you don’t hear crinkling) or if you don’t want newsprint on your hands a magazine or some scrap paper. Anything will do so long as your cat won’t shred it which is counterproductive since shredding paper is loud and will also wake you.

Remember cats like it warm, especially in winter. A favorite product is this heated cat bed. A sensor turns on a small heating unit when the cat puts weight in the bed. There are several varieties to choose from so you can find one to fit your cat’s needs. Just don’t try to substitute with a heating pad. These beds only come on when the cat is in them and a heating pad left on all the time is a fire hazard.

Finally, when you make a new bed for your cat sprinkle it with a bit of catnip. This will draw their interest and after 20 minutes of catnip, cats often become sleepy. Oh, look, there’s a new cool bed for them right there…

Good luck and remember cats are individuals so a bit of testing will be necessary to find the right solution for your furry friend.

The Cat Friendly World Wide Web

The web is full of useless information. Occasionally, you run across a site that just happens to be funny or not quite as useless as others. Here are a few not so useless cat related sites that I dug up for you my devoted reader.

Weekend Warriors!
Summer is on the way (or if you live in the south like I do it's already here) and now is the time for Do-It-Yourself projects. Who says all your hard work has to be wasted on something that benefits you? Isn't it time you did something for your cat? Here are a few ideas from truly dedicated cat owners.

Build Your Own Cat Tree
Hey, cat trees are expensive. After all that top quality food you buy for your cats who has money left over for trees? I know my cats eat better than I do (Spaghetti O's are less than a buck a can) but is that enough for them? Heck no! They want to be able to climb to the ceiling and kamikaze each other from new heights.

If you want a tree for your kitties but don't want to take out a home equity loan to do it, check out PandEcats.com. Their step by step instructions will have your cat napping feet about your sofa in no time!

Build an Outdoor Enclosure
When fake trees aren't good enough, build this nifty enclosure so your kitty can enjoy the great outdoors (real trees and all) without the worry of predators, catnappers, automobiles and cooties (*actual enclosure does not prevent cooties.)

Mary Anne Miller of The CatSite.com will show you how to set up this outdoor enclosure for your cats. All you need are some 2x4's, chicken wire and, of course, cats. The site has great photos of their version but altering the enclosure to suit your (I mean your cat's) needs would be quite simple.

For the Non-Hammer Savvy
Not into tools? No problem! Cat Wallks has the coolest cat furniture around. It's a cat tree that hangs right on the wall. Customize it to suit your needs. Talk about a conversation piece. Cat Wallks lets your cats be your decor. No dusting needed! Framed art will be so passe after you install these kitty toys!

For the Broke and Lazy
Who says the internet has to be about work and spending money? Why not use it for it's original intent? Goofing off! For an overdose of adorable visit KittenWar.com where two cat pictures are pitted against one another in a battle to be the most cute. Vote on your favorite. Picture after picture brings you snuggly cuteness versus even more snuggly cuteness. It's engrossing so be ready to explain to your boss why that project you're "working on" is still in a pile on the corner of your desk before you click this link!

You've seen it here before and you'll probably see it here again. Stuff On My Cat is a fantastic web site where you can see what happens when good cat owners get bored. People submit picture of stuff they put on their cats. You'll see everything from pinatas to laundry baskets on top of these cats. The site is well organized and you can search the images categorically. It's a must see and a personal favorite.

The Internet Has Helpful Information?
A little known truth I recently uncovered is that there are some web sites dedicated to the betterment of the world. Two cat related sites are Animal Hubbub and Feral Cat Behavior.

Animal Hubbub is a slick site that discusses all things animals. Their For Felines Only page answers cat related questions (which you don't need because you already know the answers from reading my blog), discusses cat issues and features a plethora of cute cat pictures.

Feral Cat Behavior is a blog about one family's devotion to homeless and abandoned cats. Whether you have feral cats or not, learning about them can offer tremendous insight into cat behavior. If your cat is behaving strangely check out this blog (after you've read mine of course!) you might find the answers you're looking for.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Tortoise Attack!

While Stumbling around the web, I came across this video. I didn't believe the caption but watched it anyway. I wonder if a tortoise could whip my cats into shape. Somehow I think any tortoise coming in this house would need 2 shells!

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Can't We All Just Get Along?

One amazing cat is leading her own peace rally! Ok, maybe not quite a peace rally, but this kitty sure knows how to spread the love. Despite raising three kittens of her own, this mommy cat eagerly adopted seven chicks who's own mother died. They're just one big happy family!

I don't doubt that my own three cats would also be happy to adopt the chicks, but I'm certain that's not a picture I could post on the internet. The only similarity between the pictures would be the look of bliss on the adult cat's face. For the sake of the chicks I'm glad that cat found them!

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Can Anyone Recommend a Good Therapist?

There’s something wrong with Hemmy. He likes to play with catnip, he likes to play with cat toys, but his favorite game in the world is dog hunting. I first noticed this strange behavior when, as a stray, he arrived on my deck years ago. He lived outside until we were sure we could not find his previous owner and had him checked for illness. During this time, he spent much of his day sunning on the deck in the back yard.

One day while he was sunning his big brown belly, a Labrador retriever strolled through the back corner of the yard. Hemmy sat up and stared. Most cats on seeing a large dog freeze and hide or if unnoticed slink off somewhere safer. Not my Hemmy! A strange look came over his face, it was the sort of the look Bugs Bunny gives the camera when he’s about to play a trick on Elmer Fudd. Almost gleefully, Hemmy jumped up, darted down the steps and strode purposefully across the yard toward the dog. Luckily, it’s a very big yard backed with woods and Hemmy never caught him. Who knows what scars that poor dog may still have if he had!

This strange trend manifests itself at the vet’s office as well. Hemmy doesn’t mind going to the vet. Even after countless trips and major surgery, he is ambivalent about the experience. He does object, however, to being in the carrier. He objects very, very loudly, so contrary to my own rule I usually take him out and let him sit in my lap in the waiting room. Unlike the other cats in laps, he sits up tall and looks around with interest. He scans the dogs with that twinkly look in his eye. He usually locks in on the largest dog present and stares him down dying to get away from me to pick a fight.

What can I say? My cat is a man. He lives to have a good fight. When stray cats fight outside Friday and Kit are visibly upset. Hemmy dashes over (inside the house, of course) and vows to fight the winner. In supervised trips to the backyard, he picks fights with the neighbor’s dog through the fence. Hemmy slaps him and the dog runs in circles.

It’s not that Hemmy has a personal dislike for any of the animals he fights (or tries to fight) with. In fact he usually likes them. He and the neighbor’s dog are great friends. He just loves to roughhouse. If he were a person, he would make a great hockey player.

But there’s a secret he doesn’t want told. He’s really a softy on the inside! He is the best snuggler in the house. When he turns on the cuddle he just can’t get close enough to you and his purr is rich and warm. When he nestles up next to me on the couch I forget all about my stress and know that I have the best cat in the world, even if he does cause my heart to stop when he rushes toward danger!

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Monday, May 14, 2007

A New and Hideous Terror

A new and hideous terror entered my house Saturday. It was a peaceful spring morning. The cats lounged on various bits of household furniture languidly observing the birds that had gathered to splash in the water from the sprinkler. The dog quietly chewed a bone in the floor and I took my time rising and facing the day. Then IT happened. My sister pulled her SUV into the driveway and deposited her four-month-old daughter on my couch. The stillness was shattered like a baseball crashing through a window.

The only children in my house are the kind with four legs. The cats were mortified that I would allow such a smelly, noisy little thing into their house! Kit headed for her sanctuary under the bed. She wasn’t responsible for the disruption and she didn’t think she should be subjected to such horror. That thing on the couch was my problem. Hemmy couldn’t decide how to feel. He’d had breakfast and couldn’t see how the baby could interfere with that. He could have lived without the noise, though. He removed himself to the cat room at the back of the house and settled for watching the birds at the bird feeder. Friday, our customs inspector, began sniffing everything. There were plenty of items for him to cover: diaper bags, swings, car seats, the baby herself. It was as if Babies-R-Us had erupted in my living room – and my kitchen, dining room, office, etc. Friday didn’t really like the baby but he’s imperturbable regarding loud noises so he settled down in the corner to see if anything interesting developed.

Naturally, the screaming began 15 minutes after my sister left. I heated a bottle in the microwave all the time being harangued by my dog, Claire. Claire, who to date has tried to maul two children and hated her own puppies, suddenly decided motherhood becomes her. She moved back and forth between me and my niece, watching the baby soulfully and shooting scornful looks at me for not feeding the baby faster. She guarded the baby all day and would not let her out of her sight. Considering the look of extreme interest on Friday’s face, I decided a back up in baby guarding might not be such a bad thing.

Finally, the baby was fed, changed and sleeping soundly on a pallet in the corner of my dining room while I worked on a painting. Kit, drawn by a morbid curiosity decided to investigate. She tip-toed into the room and was past me before I was even aware of her. Slowly, as though stalking prey that might turn around and eat her, she crept toward the baby. She stretched her neck out as far as it would go, loath to get closer than necessary. With the tip of her nose, she leaned in and sniffed the baby’s foot. She recoiled in disgust and looked at me like I was crazy for bringing that nasty little animal into the house. Disdainfully, she sassed out of the room, presumably to groom any baby-scent off her pristine gray and white coat. Children, she no doubt thought, are better outdoor pets.

Hemmy, too, gave the baby a sniff. Once he’s finished digesting he becomes much more animated and can easily be persuaded to try new things. Still a bit on the fence, he approached the baby with his ears cocked to the sides in uncertainty. He sniffed the baby’s foot and she kicked him in the face. He jumped back confused and offended and shot her a nasty look. He decided babies aren’t for him.

Lucky thing for the cats that we don’t have a baby of our own. Kit and Hemmy would buy bus tickets and there’s absolutely no telling what evil scheme Friday would devise. The good news is the dog would be happy. She’s the only one though. My cats are happiest being the babies in this house!

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

When Disaster Strikes Only the Strong Survive

It’s a sad day here at How to Hold a Cat Without Losing an Eye. Yesterday afternoon, tragedy struck our household. While working here in my office I heard a loud crash come from somewhere in the house. I just happened to be on the phone with my husband at the time. Together, (sort of) we explored the house to find the source of the disaster. I found Kit in the living room. Her shorthaired tail was fluffed out fluffier than a feather boa. Several picture frames that I keep on the mantle were scattered across the floor. Amidst the frames lay my favorite vase shattered into a thousand (ok, it was more like thirty) pieces.

“Nooooooooooooooooooooo,” I wailed! I loved that vase! It was a wedding gift from a friend and it was so cute! It was made in the shape of a cat and it’s two ears open up to hold flowers. Adorable isn’t a strong enough word to describe it. It was one of my favorite pieces.

Kit knowing she’s not allowed on the mantle darted for the bedroom. My husband hung up the phone to let me face my grief in silence. Friday, unable to resist disasters, strolled over to inspect the ceramic carcass. I shooed him away and began cleaning up the scene of the disaster. Kit commits murder thoroughly. The pieces were scattered about the living room, fragments were found in the fireplace (was she planning to destroy the evidence?!) some of them smaller than my fingertip. It looked like a trashcan burial was soon to follow. Still, a nagging thought persisted. Ceramic glues back together almost seamlessly, but do I have the skills? Archaeologists glue thousand year old ceramics back together all the time, I reflected. Suddenly confident I collected the pieces with renewed vigor.

I rushed them to the ER, my computer desk, and began surgery prep. Superglue? Check! Paper towels? Check! Anything else? No! I was ready. I began the operation. Progress was slow and painful. It seemed like half the cat was missing. For hours, I toiled over my patient, winning small victories and suffering crushing setbacks. After hours of diligent labor, I sat back from my work and wiped my brow. The cat would live. It would look like a ridiculous parody of Quasimodo and the dry flowers I keep in it will forever have to hide the missing piece of its ear but my favorite vase is back home recovering.

I’m holding up ok. It was a near disaster but knowing my vase is counting on me helps me face each new day with determination to overcome crack lines and those little bits of superglue that I didn’t quite get off.

Now that the vase is on it’s way to recovery I have a few moments to consider Kit’s actions. Why would she commit such a heinous act? What does she have against that vase? Is she threatened by it’s cuteness? Does she want flowers stuck in her ears? These are just some of the questions we hope will be answered in the upcoming trial.

It’s hard for a mother to see her two children squabble like that. As a form of therapy, I’ve decided to visit the local art studio where my vase was born. Nothing’s certain but I might just buy another one to replace my Quasimodo vase. By the way, does anyone know a good way to get super glue off your fingers?

For the exciting conclusion to this story, tune in to, I mean link over to Confession is Good for the Soul!

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Make the Punishment Fit the Crime

Friday has a knack for getting into trouble. Like cats avoid water it comes naturally to him. Yell, throw things, squirt him he’s imperturbable. When caught on the dining room table he blinks happily at me even though he knows that tables are off limits. He just doesn’t mind being fussed at. His cavalier attitude is what prompted Mom to pull the nastiest trick that has ever been played on him or any cat.

When Friday was a young cat, we lived at my parents. I was a college student and Mom and Dad were generous enough to let Friday and I move in so I could study. Friday spent his time tormenting my grandmother’s crotchety old cat and learning to open doors. He was constantly in trouble with Dad for opening the doors to Dad’s home office while Dad was on the phone with customers.

One of his favorite times was dinner. Mom usually cooked dinner and it was always yummy. Friday would “help” her cook by lying in the kitchen floor and scavenging for tid-bits that Mom was glad to slip him. We would sit around the table together and eat. Friday even had his own chair, pulled out from the table of course. He liked that chair because he could see what we were eating. He was allowed to get in any other empty chair but he was not allowed to put his head at table level. He remembered the rule occasionally but more often than not, a pair of black ears would slowly rise from the underbelly of the table only to disappear again when someone discouraged their progress.

It was on one of these occasions that Mom made Friday the maddest he has ever been. He was in the chair next to her and the smell of chicken proved too much. I saw his ears raising and started to correct him but Mom stopped me. She let him put his head at table level! He was thrilled and began to get a particularly smug look on his face as he sat surveying the contents of the table. Busy being full of himself he didn’t notice Mom slowly sliding his chair flush to the table. The curved back of the chair and the straight edge of the table meant that he wouldn’t be able to put his head down. He was stuck.

Mom tickled his back paw. He turned to “get” her back and sudden realization took over. He wriggled and squirmed bumping the chair slightly and freeing himself. We laughed at the look of sheer anger on his face when he realized he had been tricked. He was so mad at us! He stalked down the hallway and plotted his revenge. He wouldn’t talk to either one of us for the rest of the evening.

Mean? You bet it was mean, but Friday’s no fool. He never, ever stuck his head up to the table again. Not so long as Mom was in the chair next to him, anyway! He might not mind fussing but he hates to be laughed at!

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