Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Toy Mice are More Fun

Kit, one of my three cats, is not often featured on my blog. That’s because she’s normal. Well, ok, she’s not normal but she’s more normal than the boys.

Her favorite toys have always been those little fur-covered mice. As a kitten she delighted in smacking them under the table, then darting in to “kill” them. To this day, they are her favorite. In the evenings, I fling toy mice down the hallway for hours so Kit can leap and run. The only problem with the mice is that Kit eats their tails. (See! She’s not so normal.) For years now, I’ve opened packages of toy mice and pulled countless tails off. I don’t really mind, though. They make her so happy.

One afternoon when I was still in college I was preparing to speak before one of my classes. I was sitting in the office floor surrounded by piles of papers. Kit strolled into the office with one of her new toy mice in her mouth. Thinking she wanted to play I started to shoo her off my papers when I realized that I’d missed pulling the tail off the mouse. As I began reaching for the mouse, something nagged at me. The package of mice had all sorts of colors: black, white, even purple, but I didn’t remember a brown one…

Kit dropped the mouse on my leg and it ran! I leapt up! I nearly pulled the tail off a real mouse! The mouse darted behind a speaker. Kit, interest renewed, followed after. I rubbed my head where I swear I had hit it on the ceiling. The ensuing commotion was like a beacon on a stormy shore to the other three pets. They were drawn to the office and the fray.The animals and I divided our efforts. They wanted to eat the mouse. I wanted to put it outside. Kit’s focus was so intent on the speakers that she did not see the mouse dart into the closet. She stayed by the speakers sniffing and pawing. By the power of her nose, the dog, Claire, knew that the mouse was in the closet. Hemmy, too, focused his attentions there. I began pulling junk, board games and schools supplies out of it wondering how on earth I’d find such a tiny animal amongst all the stuff. I made a note to myself to have a yard sale. Poor Friday wasn’t sure what was going on but he was eager to “help.” He prowled around on top of the computer desks presumably giving the aerial report to the pets below.

This is Chopper One; we see no sign of the mouse. I repeat we see no sign of the mouse.

We have a lot of stuff in that closet. I pulled item after item free shaking things a bit as I went listening for the sound of scratching or scampering. No mouse. Finally, all the contents of my closet were on the floor and the closet was inspected by me, Hemmy and Claire for possible mouse escape hatches. No such hatch existed and there was still no sign of the mouse. I knew he was hidden somewhere in all the stuff but was helpless to search anymore. It was time for class.

I felt bad for the mouse. No doubt, one of my slavering beasts would find him before I got home and then what would his fate be? I shuddered to think. I packed my supplies and tried to get my head back in order before my talk.

When I returned home there were all four pets in the exact position I had left them in. Kit was lying by the speakers keeping a casual eye on the gap at the back. Claire sniffed at the closet. Hemmy sat by the door watching sleepily and Friday was still on top of the computer desk. Presumably, no one found the mouse while I was at class.

No one ever did find him, either. Who knows what became of him. I like to think that in the dead of night he tippy-toed back out the way he came. Still, if you come to a yard sale at my house, you may want to thoroughly check the contents of the board game before you buy it. For all the pets and I know the mouse may never have left!

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Tummy Time!

Here's my cute cat picture for the contest going on over at Kashim & Othello. Typically, I try to avoid telling my cats that they are cute. It goes to their heads. But this contest is for a good cause so I agreed to make an exception this time!

Anyway, this is Hemingway, Hemmy for short. Skills include, purring, licking and sleeping under the covers. Hobbies are eating and performing Broadway musicals.

A Bird in the Chimney is Worth Less Than Two Outside

I live in an eighty-year-old house. It’s a cute cottage with a lot of personality. I had to have a house with personality, no boring old ranch for me. The trouble with personality is that it holds no allegiances. It’s cute, sure, but it’s cute on it’s own terms, homeowners notwithstanding.

Part of my house’s charm are the 3 original chimneys. Central heat and air were added about 5 years before we moved in so we rarely actually use them, but they make breathtaking candle holders and immediately draw your eye when you enter the room. We were delighted with them and in case we wanted to have a fire, we bought all the trimmings: a grate, tools and a freestanding screen. We were pleased with the results.

One lazy afternoon my husband and I were relaxing in our office when a sudden crash brought us to our feet. Fearing that a cat had finally knocked the aquarium off its stand I dashed to the living room, thinking that I could clean 30 gallons of water, rocks and assorted fish off the floor before my husband murdered a cat. He was right on my heels so I was going to have to work fast. We burst through the door and stopped. The fish tank sat benignly on its stand, water, rocks and assorted fish all in place. Then I noticed the fireplace screen was knocked over. The sound we heard was the sound of the screen hitting the hardwood floor. For an instant, we felt that we’d foolishly overreacted.

Then a dark shape swooped over my head. We’ve a lot of pets but none of them are capable of swooping. Cringing I looked up. A bird was frantically flapping around my living room. Three cats and one bird dog momentarily held their breath as though they couldn’t believe their luck. Brian and I momentarily held our breath wondering what to do. The stillness was shattered as everyone began moving at once. The cats went up every bit of furniture we own, eyeballs bugging. The dog bounced around frantically as only a Spaniel can do. Brian and I spread out wondering how any of us would catch the bird.

The frightened, disoriented bird flew towards the floor! Idiot! Hemmy seized his opportunity and leapt. With frightening accuracy, he snatched the bird from the air. Knowing the five of us were close behind him, he darted down the hallway with his catch, trying to elude us. Brian was close behind him. Visions of blood and feathers all over my house I dashed after Brian screaming for him to catch Hemmy. Friday, Kit and Claire followed me down the hallway and into the bedroom. Hemmy headed for the bed. Seeing the window of opportunity snapping shut, Brian fell to the floor, grabbed Hemmy by the tail and refused to let go.

Determined not to share his snack, Hemmy tried to pull free. Brian, with more resolve than I could have exhibited, held on tight. Pulling against Brian must have hurt Hemmy’s tail. He turned to bite Brian and opened his mouth. The bird burst from under the bed, flapping around the bedroom until it crash-landed in the basket of dog toys. Everything happened so fast. Somehow, I’d picked up a sheet. Realizing the sheet was in my hands, I tossed it to Brian who was closer to the basket. He dropped the sheet over the top trapping the bird inside.

The world suddenly seemed surreal. Was it really over? A sudden stillness descended over the house. We carried the basket outside.

“Is it alive?” I asked. Brian lifted the sheet and pulled the bird from the toys. Miraculously, we found no marks on its body, not even a ruffled feather. It sat in Brian’s hand stunned by the afternoon’s events. Suddenly, it spread its wings and took flight as though all was well.

How did the bird get in my living room you might ask? My charming fireplaces have no flues and allow birds free access to my home. Let this be a lesson to us all. A pretty face, or in this case fireplace, can hide nasty underlying flaws of character. Personality is truly a lady to be treated with caution!

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Not All People Suck

Just when you've had enough of the world and decided everyone you've ever known doesn't get you and you must be the sole decent person on the planet, you come across a story like this: Brothers Answer Kittens' Cries for Help.

Josh Poltilove of the Tampa Tribune tells us of two teenagers, Michael and Christopher, who worked diligently to help two kittens trapped and hungry in a storm drain. Though both the local animal services and utilities departments tried to reach the kittens both failed. It was the work of the boys who finally freed them and ended their suffering.

Makes me glad to know there are people like Michael and Christopher. Regular readers of my blog know I've had my own cat/storm drain experience. I shudder to remember it.

Want to do something cool to say thanks to Michael and Christopher? Make a donation to your local Humane Society in their names. After all, spay/neutering programs help keep kittens out of storm drains in the first place!

Gack! Hairballs!

I’ve a friend, Lisa, who loves to pretend that she hates her cat. She knows that myself and another friend, Amye, are big cat lovers. Lisa does not hate her cat. She does love trying to get a response out of Amye and I by telling us outlandish stories about how bad her cat is.

We were spending time together recently when Lisa announced (for the 400th time) that she wanted to “get rid” of her cat. Amye and I laughed as we know the game:
“What’s he doing now?” Amye asked.
“He’s throwing up everywhere!” Lisa exclaimed.
“Wait,” I said. The cat usually is just playful and silly. I was momentarily caught off guard by a health related problem. Throwing up could be something serious. “Is he throwing up or regurgitating?”
“Both.” She relented a bit then exclaimed, “The other morning he threw up something that looked like a furry tampon!”

Amye and I laughed in sympathy and told her that tampons coming out of cats are actually hairballs. Which made me begin thinking about all the things I do to prevent them. It seems like anytime the cats have one they leave it somewhere where I’ll step on it while going to the bathroom in the middle of the night. GROSS!!!!!!!

If your cat is gacking up hairballs it’s time to refine your anti-hairball arsenal. Things such as the food you feed, the water intake your cat has and even a hairbrush can make a big difference in the war on squishy, nasty hairballs.

Hairball food: This is typically cat food with extra fiber. The fiber helps your cat pass their stool more easily. Stool is the general way cats eliminate digested hair from their bodies. However, some raise questions about the wisdom of pumping your cat full of fiber and suggest that companies who manufacture hairball food have not yet done enough long term studies on its effectiveness and potential side effects.

Hairball Remedies: These are gels that you squirt out of a tube. Typically they are flavored to be appealing to the cat. We’ve one flavor that we call “Kitten Candy” in my house. It seems we just can’t get it out of the tube fast enough for Friday! Like the fiber, they help your cat pass hair in the digestive system before it can form into a hairball.

Water: Who’d have thought that the most basic need for cats and people could help with hairballs. Doctors Foster and Smith point out that water aids in digestion. Cats are very picky about water so watch your cat. If he’s drinking out of your glass or the sink he may not like the water in his bowl. If so he may not be drinking enough. Generally, cat water fountains increase water intake as cats prefer fresh water.

Grooming: Cats lick themselves to get clean and consequently ingest large amounts of hair. To help keep hair out of your cat’s tummy in the first place, brush them! Any kind of brush will do but a shedding blade like the Furminator works great for removing quantities of hair from your cat. Just remember to follow the directions closely as shedding blades can cause skin irritation if used improperly.

Monday, June 4, 2007

It's all fun and games 'till someone loses an eye!

I’ve written about Friday many times. He seems to have an uncanny knack for landing himself in all sorts of trouble, like how he begs my husband for food or the way he used to wake me up before the sun, and no one can forget the time he got his head stuck between a chair and the table. Despite story after story about his antics, I’ve still another one to relate.

Back in my college days, I lived with Mom and Dad. They’ve a mother-in-law suite and I was lucky enough to call it home for a couple of years. It was so nice. I had my bed, a piano, an entertainment center, a large book shelf, a sofa and a computer desk all in the same room with room to spare. Friday had his own little corner where I kept an assortment of toys. One is a sort of round plastic disk with a mouse inside that spins around on an arm. He thought that was cool because a well-placed smack could send the mouse into a rapid spin! He loved to poke the mouse and watch it spin around and often became very excited smacking and pouncing it.

It was a lazy Friday afternoon and I was home from my day’s classes with nothing to do but enjoy life. My sister and I were chatting about our plans for the weekend when Friday strolled benignly toward his toy corner mouse to give it a slap. We watched, amused, but soon turned our attention back to our conversation.

Friday became absorbed in the mouse. The more he slapped it the more fun he had. He flopped on his side and went after the mouse with vigor. Suddenly, he screamed! Growling and hissing he leapt away from the corner! I jumped from the couch to see what was wrong. Friday was in the center of the room yowling, livid with anger. The circle with the mouse inside had followed him from the corner. His paw was stuck!

He was so angry I had to pin him to the floor to see what was wrong and how I could free him. Squirming as only a cat of my acquaintance can, I was forced to pin him in between my knees and hold his front paws down. The bottom of the circle is dark black, so is Friday. I could tell his claw was stuck to the bottom of the mouse but I couldn’t see enough to free him. I could tell that he wasn’t physically hurt. He was furious! The nerve of that mouse! It had dared to attack him!

I relayed the information to my sister who looked on with concern. We couldn’t help ourselves. We burst into laughter. Only Friday could manage such a feat. Giggling, she headed to the garage to find a flashlight so I could better see his paw. We were still laughing when she returned. It was so bad I had to just hold the still squirming, cursing cat to the floor until I stopped shaking enough to see. A gentle twist and pull and his claw was free.

Fuming, Friday stalked off to groom his tail. My sister and I practically clung to each other helpless with laughter. To this day, roughly five years later, Friday avoids the spinning mouse and occasionally shoots it nasty looks. I doubt he’ll ever forgive the mouse for embarrassing him. My only regret is that we didn’t have a video camera on hand to share the giggles with the rest of you!