Thursday, October 11, 2007

Japanese Bobtails

Japanese bobtails are called bobtails for a good reason — they have bobbed tails! The tail, which can be curved or kinked, look more like a pompom or a bunny tail than a standard cat tail. Bobtails shouldn’t be confused with the Manx, which is a naturally tailless cat. The Japanese bobtail’s trademark tail is created by a recessive gene. So, mate a bobtail with another bobtail – and voila! you have more bobtails with their distinctive tails.

Just as an aside, my late cat Saki, although an ordinary black cat, had a kinked, truncated tail. Her tail was longer than that of Japanese bobtails, which aren’t supposed to be more than 2 or 3 inches in length. Everyone who met her for the first time would ask me if she lost part of her tail in an accident. Maybe I accidentally slammed a door on her tail? (Yikes!) One friend kept calling her an "atomic cat" -- he insists that her tail genes were deranged by an atomic blast!

Okay, back to bobtails -- these cats can have either rigid or flexible tails. Saki’s tail was quite flexible – and she’d often wriggle the tail tip, which was bifurcated.
No doubt about it, her tail was one of the most distinctive traits about her. That, and her vocalization.

In that respect, she was like a Siamese. My Japanese friends tell me that all black cats have Siamese blood somewhere in their ancestry. It’s said that early Siamese cats had kinked, full-length tails, so maybe there is something to the theory. Saki certainly sounded Siamese – very different than the melodious voice of a Japanese bobtail. She also behaved like a Siamese, with her high activity level and her penchant for climbing. But that’s another story for another time.

As to temperament, Japanese bobtails are supposed to be affectionate, amiable, alert, playful, spirited and energetic.(Actually, this sounds very much like Saki, except for the amiable bit.) They’ll run to the door to greet you when you come home. They’re intelligent and good with children. (Frankly, if they were really intelligent, they'd simply avoid children.)

Japanese bobtails are believed to have been introduced to Japan from China in the 6th century. (Just like everything else, I guess.) They were first imported to the United States in 1968.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Allergies in Cats -- Wheezing

What a prolonged case of wheezing in a cat.

I’ve been praying that it’s nothing more than a case of allergies in cats – or, in this particular case, allergies in Mittens.

Why not? After all, allergies are the most common cause of wheezing in cats.

Mittens, an affectionate if skittish, part-Siamese cat, has been wheezing for months on end. We still don’t know what’s causing her persistent wheezing.

Pixie, Mittens’ reluctant guardian (she acquired the cat willy-nilly), finally took her to the vet after weeks of foot dragging. (I hasten to add that Pixie is going through a turbulent time in her life, which has made it difficult for her to attend to things she normally would’ve managed easily.)

Wheezing in cats means there may be congestion in the lungs or sinuses. Congestion can be brought on by allergies or infection caused by bacteria, virus, or fungus. Another possibility is heart disease.

Mittens blood work was normal. Cat flu and pneumonia were ruled out. The vet told us that her chest x-ray showed an enlargement of the heart and “increased activities” in the area. Perhaps she had a tumor?

Based on her chest X-ray though, the radiologist thought that Mittens might have allergies. He gave her a cortisone shot, which immediately stopped the wheezing – for one day only, alas. Now, she’s back to wheezing. She sounds like she has a very, very stuffed up nose. Sometimes her breathing sounds completely normal; other times it’s quite labored, a gasping, high-pitched wheeze. Doesn’t appear to be any foreign object lodged in the nasal passageway.

The odd thing is that she has a healthy appetite and what appears to be a normal amount of energy. She has no nasal discharges, often a sign of respiratory infection. Except for the wheezing (which sometimes gets so bad that it interferes with my sleep, although apparently, not her sleep), she looks and behaves no different than when she was perfectly healthy.

Could it be asthma? It’s supposed to be one of the most common causes of wheezing in cats, and much more of a problem for cats than dogs. Asthma can be triggered by allergies. The wheezing sounds just like a person having an asthma attack.

Other causes of respiratory problems like wheezing in cats include:

Hairballs – Cats swallow fur when they groom themselves, and they sometimes cough and gag up hairballs. It’s not a problem usually, but if they look like they’re choking, take them to the vet immediately! An ounce of prevention is better than a pound of fur, as they say. Regular brushing can prevent the build up of hairballs.

Heartworms – Surprisingly, these parasites, which live inside the pulmonary (lung) arteries and the right side of the heart, can cause shortness of breath and coughing. Heartworms can be a serious condition leading to high blood pressure or heart failure. Preventing these nasty worms from growing inside your cat is your best line of defense because the drugs to combat these worms can cause side effects that can be quite dangerous to kitty.

Heatstroke – It’s easy for cats to get overheated if you leave them in a hot environment where they can’t escape or cool off. Cats can’t sweat like we do, so their international temperatures can quickly rise. The cat will start panting. If you can’t get the body temperature down quickly, the cat can collapse and even die.

In Mittens’ case, hairballs, heartworms, and heatstroke, have all been ruled out. So what is the cause of her wheezing? The vet didn’t seem to know.

Pixie suspects that Mittens has a tumor. If so, she would need surgery. And at 15 years of age, Pixie believes that Mittens is too old to benefit from surgical intervention.

I pray that the wheezing is nothing but allergies.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Allergies in Cats

Allergies in cats aren’t fun – either for you or for the cat. You hear about humans being allergic to cats, but you don’t hear as much about cats suffering from allergic reactions. At least, when I was a kid, it never occurred to any of us that cats might also suffer from allergies.

In fact, allergies in cats are one of the most common problems. Cats, being the complicated creatures they are, suffer from a wide range of allergies, which can be classified into the following four types:

Inhalant allergies (also known as atopic allergies). These are things that cats can inhale, airborne particles like pollen, cigarette smoke, perfumes, household sprays, air freshener, molds, mildew, dust mites. (Yes, cats are very much like humans in this respect!) Cats can even be allergic to kitty litter, so pay attention to the litter you get for your cat.

Contact allergies. An allergy can manifest when cats have a prolonged contact with a substance that it can’t tolerate, such as grass, wool, and plastic.

Flea allergies. Some people are allergic to fleas – but some cats can be just as allergic to them. (Fleas, not people.) When the flea saliva is deposited, an allergic cat has a much more intense, itch-producing reaction than non-allergic cats. You’ll know if your cat is allergic to fleas if he bites, bites, bites, bites, and bites himself relentlessly (or if he writes you a scathing letter for letting the fleas run amuck). He might also start chewing himself so badly that he removes large patches of hair, often around his eyes, ears, and legs. He could go bald, and that would be so very sad.

Food allergies. Yes, allergies in cats include allergies to foods. (This particular type of allergy in cats surprised me. The way my cat Saki ate anything and everything within reach, I never realized that cats could ever have food allergies. Guess I was just lucky!) Cats can be reactive to grains, meats, and dairy products. The tricky part is that food allergies don’t usually manifest overnight. It can take weeks, perhaps years, of exposure to rear its scabby face.

As you might expect, cats can also react to medications, such as penicillin. Talk to your vet about the possibility of allergies to medications.

Flea allergies are supposedly the most common type of allergies in cats. Next are food allergies, followed closely by inhalant allergies. Contact allergies are the least common.

Just as with humans, allergies in cats are caused by an overreaction of the immune system to certain substances. The most common allergic response is itching of the skin, which can be either localized (in one area), or generalized (all over the poor kitty).

Allergies in cats can manifest as:

Skin conditions – including dermatitis, skin eruptions and changes in pigmentation

Digestive issues – vomiting and diarrhea (food allergies can cause digestive problems, but they can also show up as skin problems)

Respiratory problems – coughing, sneezing, and/or wheezing

If your cat’s itching and biting a lot, don’t automatically assume that she’s suffering from allergies. While allergies are the most likely culprit, there are many other causes for frantic scratching. Like lice, fungus, mange, liver disease – and plain old anxiety. (Yup, this means that you shouldn’t give your cat pop quizzes.)

Whatever’s the reason for your cat’s frenetic itching, you should definitely get it treated as soon as possible because when open sores and scabs form on the skin, they can lead to secondary bacterial infection – and lots more problems.

What’s the cure for allergies in cats? Sadly, none. You can, however, get the allergies under control by avoiding the allergens (obviously, you have to identify them first, a task best left to the vet, unless you have aspirations to become Sherlock Holmes), treating the symptoms, or desensitizing the cat.

Steroids can be used to relieve inflammation and itching in the short-term. Don’t use it long term though, because the drug suppresses the immune system – not a good idea!

Antihistamines can also be used (can be used in conjunction with steroids), but again, popping meds isn’t a long-term solution, either for your or your cat. (Unless, of course, your doc or the vet tells you to do so, and don’t get the two mixed up.)

Your cat can be desensitized to allergens through immunotherapy. The cat is injected with small amounts of the substance(s) that the cat is allergic to. The vet will give you the extracts and instructions on how to give injections at home. You generally give the injections every 7 to 21 days, depending on the cat’s condition.

Most cats respond, but some don’t. The other down side is that therapy can e expensive, and since allergies can’t be cured, you’ll most likely have to continue the injections for life.

I’ll explore the possibility of other, alternative treatments in a future posting.

For now, the good news is that there are no reports of cats being allergic to humans. Although, who’s to say, maybe some kitties avoid us cause we trigger severe allergic responses in them!

Scratch, scratch. Bite, bite. Ouch!

Monday, October 1, 2007

Cats and Buddhist Beliefs

Are your secretly held beliefs about your kitties similar to Buddhist beliefs about cats?

Cats have a special affinity for Buddhism. For that matter, they have a special affinity for all religions because they consider themselves sacred.

Mind you, that’s from the cat’s point of view. Humans have not always taken such a sanguine view of cats. During the Middle Ages in Europe, cats were associated with the devil, evil, and witchcraft, and were killed en masse. Some scholars believe that the near decimation of the cat population contributed in part to the Bubonic plague.

Cats weren’t particularly well regarded by Buddhists, either: they came up with a story that cats were banned from heaven for rebelling against Buddha. (The most likely cause for the uprising is that Buddha failed to produce the right kibbles for the kitties, or refused to offer up his lap while meditating.)

Legend notwithstanding, Buddhism honors the cat – as well as all other animals – as sentient beings capable of suffering and joy, living creatures that seek life and happiness. From this perspective then, all creatures—and not just Americans—have the inalienable right to the pursuit of happiness.

The Buddhist doctrine of reincarnation makes it hard for humans to lord it over animals (though they still manage to). After all, a person can be reborn as an animal, and an animal can be reborn as a person.

Being born a human is considered a great gift because it gives you a better chance to attain enlightenment and redemption, not to mention the ability to pay taxes.

So, love your cats. Treat them well. Who knows, in your next incarnation, they might turn out to be your boss at work – or maybe even your dear old mom.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Bengal cats

Is the Bengal cat right for you? Watch this video by Janson Media to find out. At 3 minutes 14 seconds, it's a bit on the long side but well worth it.

Whether you choose a Bengal cat or not depends on your lifestyle and what you are looking for in cats. If you travel constantly or are away a lot, then probably the Bengal cat is not a good choice for you. The Bengal needs to be with people who are around quite a bit and can spend a lot of time playing with them.

Because Bengal cats are very active (but very, very smart and more fun than a barrel full of monkeys!), you need to cat proof your house. They are highly intelligent cats that are adaptable and travel well. they are very outgoing, social, and love people. Bengal cats live an average of 14 to 18 years.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Cat Training

Cat training done properly will help you get the right cat behavior out of your cat. (As opposed, say, to proper dog behavior.)

Cat training doesn't have to be difficult or mysterious. In the video I uploaded (Mean Kitty – Episode 1), Cory “Mr. Safety” Williams hires a witch doctor to train his cat not to bite.

Honestly, cat training doesn’t require witch doctors, psychics, or astrologers to be effective.

First of all, you have to understand that cats are not human. They don’t perceive the world as we do, and they don’t think like we do. We really have to stop the bad habit of anthropomorphizing.

To hear some people talk, you’d think that their cats were just little people in fur coats. If my late cat Saki could hear them, she’d be rolling her eyes.

But to get back to cat training, the sensory world of cats is very different from ours. They can hear things we can’t, smell scents we can’t detect, and their sense of touch extends beyond their body (think cat whiskers). Their vision isn’t as acute as that of humans, but they have wider peripheral vision, and they have far better night vision.

You don’t have to cram your head into your kitty’s skull to figure out the best means of cat training.

You just have to think in terms of reward and punishment. Sentient creatures all seek pleasure and run like hell from pain (boy, do I know that one!).

So what you do is get the cat to associate its behavior with either pain or pleasure. In the long haul, positive reinforcement works better than aversive conditioning, so it makes more sense to reward your cat for good behavior than to punish it for bad behavior.

If the cat’s doing something you don’t like, simply ignore her. For instance, if the cat’s jumping up and down on your face at 4 in the morning, do not – I repeat, do not – get up and feed it. Because once you do that, then you’re doomed for life. You’ll be forever bound to get up in the wee hours to succor the demanding, wee demon. You’ll just be a sucker, and you know it.

Ignore the cat. Pretend you don’t see her, hear her, feel her. Even if the cat ratchets up her assault, stay put. Lie low. You’ve seen the footage: In the case of a nuclear attack, duck and take cover. It’s the same principle.

From watching the video, I can see that Cory Williams has got it all wrong with Sparta, a.k.a., Mean Kitty. He’s giving the cat too much attention by writing lyrics and shooting videos for Sparta; all he’s doing is reinforcing the cat’s bad behavior.

Although I did say that you shouldn’t punish your cat, if your cat’s doing something highly objectionable like biting your hand or tearing up your Le Corbusier couch, then you need to take immediate action.

One thing that will immediately stop a cat is to clap your hands and shout “No!” Or else squirt her with a water pistol.

No that any of these techniques ever worked with my cat Saki. If I yelled “No,” she looked at me like she thought I’d lost my mind. As to the water pistol, I gave that away to a friend with a small child.

All I can say is that in a matter of mere months, Saki had me well trained to feed her on cue.

In conclusion then, when you know what you’re doing, cat training can be fun and easy.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Mean Kitty -- Episode 1

Here's Episode 1 of the Mean Kitty series. It's another amusing cat video by Cory Williams featuring Mean Kitty Sparta and a witch doctor he hires to cure the mean little kitty of his biting problem. It's such a funny video, my friend Pixie (guardian of the trio of felines I sometimes blog about) and I nearly died laughing.

If you haven't yet watched the mean kitty song video, it's uploaded on my previous post -- rather obviously titled "The Mean Kitty Song."

Cory Williams, also known as "Mr. Safety," is a viral film maker and TV show host, among other things.

If you like these videos, you might want to check out other videos by Cory on how he came to acquire the mean kitty in the first place and what the kitty's problem is. There's also episode 2 where he tries other tactics to stop Sparta from biting.

He (Cory, not Sparta) has lots of other videos that are great fun to watch, though they don't have anything to do with the mean little kitty Sparta or any other cats.

To see all other videos by Cory Williams, go to Mean Kitty

Friday, September 21, 2007

The Mean Kitty Song

The Mean Kitty Song

or Hey Little Sparta

by Cory "Mr. Safety" Williams of SMP Films

This is THE best cat video that I've seen! It's absolutely hilarious! Unlike so many cat videos that are full of visual clichés and bad music, this one is refreshingly original and has a great beat. The video received more than 2 million views within one week of being posted in YouTube.

Here are the lyrics to Mean Kitty:

I got this little kitty about 2 months back
he was the nicest little kitty, now a pain in my crack
This little kitty is a ninja, always stalking my feet
This little kitty is a warrior you know what I mean

he's an evil little kitty look what he did to my hand
tries to get in trouble in any way that he can
I could give this cat a toy, but he'd rather have the wrapper
and I will always give him water, but he still drinks from the crapper

You could lock him in a closet and he just won't care
kitty chews on my shoes and he licks my hair
always scratching on my favorite chair and jumping on the couch
playing in the window sills and tearing through the house

He's so full of energy and easily amused
kitty will attack anything that moves
Causing trouble, starting battles just so he could be a little part of
he's a meanest little kitty so we named him sparta

Hey little sparta what is with all the fight
little bitty kitty wanna bite bite bite
Hey little sparta what is with all the fight
little bitty kitty wanna bite bite bite
Hey little sparta what is with all the fight
little bitty kitty wanna bite bite bite
Hey little sparta what is with all the fight
little bitty kitty wanna bite

Where'd you go
are you stalking me?
are you under the couch, quite possibly
ears laid back so you don't get caught
ready to pounce my leg with everything that you got

I know you're probably watching me from across the room
concentrating contemplating on attacking me soon
You're not invisible kitty, I'm gonna find you first
Come out come out before I make things worse

I've seen where you hide and I know where you've been
Hey kitty why don't you give in
Even if you try to sneak up on me, I'm prepared
Cause I've got my safety gear on and I'm not scared

I think I hear a kitty cat under the bed
I know your making noises just to mess with my head
You can stalk me all you want, but I'm not your pray
cause you always seem to find me first, but not today

Hey little sparta what is with all the fight
little bitty kitty wanna bite bite bite
Hey little sparta what is with all the fight
little bitty kitty wanna bite bite bite
Hey little sparta what is with all the fight
little bitty kitty wanna bite bite bite
Hey little sparta what is with all the fight
Come on out, I'm gonna get you now

I've got 'em cornered
and now he's mine
He's not gonna get away this time
I'll snatch him up fast before he can blink and then...
Aw man! He's asleep in the sink

What is with this cat? I'm confused
He's got a bed, but it's never been used
In every waking moment, kitty's out for the fight
then [fart] next minute kitty's out like a light

How could I let this creature live inside of my home
I gotta keep an eye on him when I'm on the phone
I'm a little afraid to leave this cat all alone
this kitty may destroy everything that I own

Look at him now, I kinda feel bad
He's the best little cat that I've had
and the one big thing I forgot to mention, was that
He wasn't fighting, he just wanted attention

Hey little sparta what is with all the fight
little bitty kitty wanna bite bite bite
Hey little sparta what is with all the fight
little bitty kitty wanna bite bite bite
Hey little sparta what is with all the fight
little bitty kitty wanna bite bite bite
Hey little sparta what is with all the fight
showing love, that's all this kitty does


Yup, this is one mean kitty alright! Can't think of a better written mean kitty song.

Cute Cat Pictures -- When is a Cat a Ham?

Cute Cat Pictures

or, When is a Cat a Ham?

Check these out, are they cute cat pictures -- or not.

No, they're not cute cat pictures. They're just pictures of Sammy, who is, for a cat, a real ham.

He somehow manages to always insinuate himself into every photo shoot. All you have to do is point a camera -- and he's right there. You'd think he was mugging for cute cat pictures.

For instance, one day Sammy's guardian decided she'd shoot photos of a beautiful tree in front of her house.

As she walked out with her camera, she saw Sammy streak past her. He raced ahead of her, and with one leap, jumped up on the tree.

Before she could position her camera, Sammy climbed up the trunk the tree and was soon balancing himself on the branches of the tree.

It wasn't her intention to take cute cat pictures -- all she wanted was pictures of the tree! -- but she ended up with shot after shot of Sammy.

She failed to take a single picture of the tree alone.

The funny thing is, until his guardian showed up with her camera, Sammy had never taken the slightest interest in the tree.

And he hasn't since.

It seems that all he wanted was to have his pictures taken.

Do they confer any evolutionary advantages? Do wild cats go around looking for photo ops?

Cute cat pictures, indeed.

Cute Cat Pictures

Here are pictures of my friend Pixie's cute cats, Sammy and Dash. Even though she's a pretty cat, she just doesn't seem to be photogenic. A cute cat, yes. But sadly, Pixie wasn't able to take any cute cat pictures of her.

The cat pictures are:

Sammy doing a bunny impersonation

Dash, inside out

Dash, upside down

Dash as a kitten

To say that these are cute cat pictures is somewhat redundant because, basically, all cats take cute cat pictures. Except maybe poor Mittens.

Chinese Moon Festival

This year, the Chinese Moon Festival falls on September 25th.

So, do cats love moon cakes? Find the surprising answer to this admittedly enigmatic problem.

First, consider this question:

Do cats celebrate the Chinese Moon Festival?

The short answer is “no.”

The long answer, alas, is also “no.”

But some cats, like Sammy, enjoy putting their paws into the box of moon cakes. (See accompanying photo. Not recommended for santitary reasons.) Others, like my late cat Saki, loved to eat the sweet bean jam inside the moon cakes. (Not recommended for feline health reasons.)I once had a pure white Taiwanese cat who loved to eat bean-jam filled moon cakes and chew gum. But that's another story for another time, not the Chinese Moon Festival.

In case you don’t know, let me back track a bit and explain what the Chinese Moon Festival is.

Some people compare the festival to the American Thanksgiving. Chinese families gather together to give thanks for the bountiful harvest, at least in theory. Like Thanksgiving, the Chinese Moon Festival involves a big feast. Instead of pumpkin pie, you eat moon cakes. At least, that’s the theory.

Like the moon, the cakes are round in shape. Unlike the moon, the moon cakes are moist yet flaky and a bit greasy to the touch. Special designs for the Chinese Moon Festival are pressed on the top. I don’t remember what they are, as I’m generally eat them without looking. The moon cakes have different fillings, such as sweet, red bean jam (my favorite and the favorite of several cats I’ve had), lotus seed jam, coconut, nuts, or meat (my father’s favorite). You can also get the kind that has egg yolk in the center of the filling to represent the full moon of the Chinese Autumn Festival.

The roundness of these cakes symbolizes togetherness. As the saying goes, Yuè yuán (the moon is round), rén yuán (people are round). In other words, “When the moon is round, families reunite.” That is the true meaning of the Chinese Moon Festival, or so I am told.

Almost every Chinese I’ve met hates eating moon cakes. (I think I love them only because they are high in calories.) But they love the barbecues they have on the night of the Chinese Moon Festival.

Children love the moon festival because they can make—or buy—paper lanterns that they can carry on the fifteenth night of the eighth lunar moon, when the moon is supposed to be at its brightest and roundest to go moon gazing on hilltops and mountains.

Have yourself a well-rounded Chinese Moon Festival!

Read more about The Chinese Moon Festival

Thursday, September 20, 2007

How to Choose a Cat

How to choose a cat. I bought books and created a checklist to help me choose the right kitten for myself when I decided to get a cat, my first cat since college.

Since I was living in Tokyo at the time, I purchased several Japanese books on choosing the right cat. When I went out to meet my potential kittens (mentioned in my previous entry) I took a checklist with me on specifics to watch out for.

So first, you give the cat a quick look-over. Does it look like a cat? (I can’t stress the importance of this point.) Then observe its movements for a while. Does it seem to be moving okay? What is its walking gait?

Now, take an orifice, any orifice. There should absolutely be no discharges from anywhere.

Feel the kitty all over for any lumps, bumps, or clumps. A lump around the belly button may indicate a hernia.

The cat should have good muscle tone. Avoid cats that feel like lumpy dough.

Make sure the cat is not blind or deaf. (Unless of course, that’s what you want.) If the cat can follow the movements of a string or anything else, then its vision is probably fine. To check for deafness, clap behind the cat’s head and see if it reacts. If it doesn’t it’s either got hearing difficulties or it’s an unusually placid cat.

Respiration. The breathing should be even and quiet. The cat’s got a respiratory issue if it sounds like it’s making a dirty phone call. If it’s sneezing or wheezing, it probably has an infection of some sort.

Coat Is it nice and glossy? Or is it dry, matted, and greasy? Any dandruff? Comb through the fur for signs of fleas. Telltale signs are specs of black on the coat. These are dried flea excrement. Pay special attention to areas behind the ears, the base of the tail, and on the back.

Nose Is it normal in appearance? It should be cool and slightly wet to the touch. A runny nose might mean the cat has an infection.

Eyes The eyes should be bright and shiny. Look in the corners for discharges.

Ears Look inside both ears. They should be clean, with no dark or crusty wax. Check for mites and signs of inflammation or discharge.

Mouth Examine the jaws, teeth and gums. Look at the jaw movement. The teeth should be healthy and fit together well. The gums should not be inflamed.

Anal area Should be clean, free of any signs of diarrhea.


Observe the cat for a while. Does it seem afraid of people? How does it play with its littermate? Does the cat seem shy? Fearful? Is it a bully? Hyperactive? Noisy? Is it aggressive, argumentative, jealous, clinging, fearful, suspicious, egomaniacal, or difficult to live with? (Oops, I think I might have mixed in another tip sheet.)

And finally, is the kitten fully weaned and litter trained?

The books showing you how to choose the right cat even came with helpful illustrations and diagrams. I took them with me when I went to check out the black kitties. I planned everything just right.

Except for one small hitch: I didn’t inspect the kittens at all. I didn’t watch them play or groom. I didn’t pick them up at all. To this day, I don’t know why. Maybe I was just beguiled by the fact that they were cute cats, little black baby cats—and all rational thought went out the window. (Probably the same window that mom cat slipped out from to get herself knocked up.)

I didn’t choose a cat at all, in fact.

The cat chose me.

Isn’t that the way it usually goes?

Choosing Ragdoll Cats

Here's a great video on choosing ragdoll cats. In 2 minutes and 16 seconds you'll get a great overview of the characteristics of a ragdoll. The narration is clear and the ragdoll cat they show is absolutely adorable!

If you're a quiet homebody type, ragdolls will probably be a good match for you. It's a low-energy cat, though it can be playful at times. It loves to follow its owner around like a dog.

You should be prepared to keep the ragdoll indoors at all times as it's a docile, friendly cat who won't be a match for any predators (human or otherwise) that may be prowling the streets.

Don't worry if you happen to own a large dog -- the ragdoll has a natural affinity for large dogs. It's also very gentle with children.

The ragdoll comes in 4 different colors (chocolate, seal, blue and lilac) and 3 patterns. Although it has a semi-long overcoat, it doesn't require a lot of grooming because there is no undercoat.

The ragdoll is a floor dweller, not a climber.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Black Cats

My personal account of what led up to my choosing a black cat, a kitten with a funny, forked tail.

I’ve always loved black cats.

It started when I read a book as a child about a black cat belonging to a witch.

When I was living in Tokyo, Japan, I decided that it was high time I had a cat of my own. I wasn’t thinking of a black cat, necessarily. It just so happened that an American friend of mine happened to see an ad in the English Daily Yomiuri.

“You should check it out,” she said. “They’re giving away baby cats, coal black kittens. The ad says that every single kitty in the litter is black.”

When I called the number she gave me, I got a recording. I heard a coterie of caterwauling kittens. That should’ve been a red flag, but I didn’t see it at the time.

I asked a Japanese friend to accompany me to pick up the kitten. One of the cat books suggested that you should always take someone along whenever you go on a cat viewing expedition.

When we arrived at the tiny studio where the American couple lived with, the mother cat – the cat that got herself knocked up before her guardians had a chance to spay her – greeted us at the door.

One look at her, and I instantly understood why my mother always warned me that lack of discretion in mate selection meant that you could end up saddled for the rest of your life with kids who looked exactly like dad. Not good if you end up hating dear dad.

Although no one knew whom the opportunistic tomcat, the father of the litter was, it was clear that he must’ve been a black cat. Mom cat herself wasn’t the least bit black. She was a tortoiseshell, a dainty, innocent-looking feline. Who could’ve predicted that she’d act like a feral cat, a wild cat out sniffing for extracurricular liaisons. As I always say, appearances can be deceptive.

Deceptive or not, at least I remember mom cat’s appearance. That’s more than I can say about the American couple, the cat’s guardians. I vaguely recall that they were of medium build and wore jeans. They told me they’d consider keeping the entire litter, but they couldn’t because they were returning to the States in a few weeks. They were definitely taking mom cat with them and one of the two kittens that were left, probably the girl because she had a funny sort of tail that would not appeal to most people.

“We want to make sure that she has a nice home,” they explained. “But we’re also willing to give her to anyone who wants her. We figure if we want more cats, we can always adopt them from the humane shelter”

I decided I’d take the boy because he had a long, straight, normal tail, whereas the girl had a foreshortened, bifurcated tail. She wasn’t an ugly cat, I suppose you could classify her as a cute cat, but really what I was looking for was a cat that looked completely normal.

As it turned out, God – or rather, the kittens – had other plans.

After all, they're black cats.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Funny Cat Pictures

Timing is everything in taking funny cat pictures. Like all cats, Sammy likes to lie across your laptop -- or anything else that you're trying to look at. He also has a penchant for squeezing himself into small spaces. He's somehow managed to put all of his behind (except for his tail) into a cap. Looks very pleased about it too.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Funny Cats -- Bully for Sammy

More about funny cats. This one is about a handsome gray and white cat who is a bully.

Thug. Bully. Hooligan. Scar face.

These are the epithets that Sammy is known by in his neighborhood. Not funny cat, which is how I think of him.

Pixie, Sammy's guardian discovered this one night during a blackout when she walked around the neighborhood to see if anyone knew the cause of the power loss. She found out more than she bargained for. Sammy, it turns out, is not exactly what you'd call popular. According to her neighbors, he regularly beats up their cats. All the cats live in terror of him.

Ah, old iron paws. Who knew? Funny cat Sammy. He's not a big cat, he's not a fat cat, he's not a black cat, he's not a punked out hairless cat, and he's certainly not an ugly cat. And he's far from being a stupid cat.

No, Sammy is Mr. Nice Guy -- to humans, that is. Absolutely the sweetest cat you could ever hope to meet. Outgoing, social, and friendly, he'd put most two-bit politicans to shame. Pixie holds monthly Cash Flow games (the investment games invented and promoted by author Robert Kiyosaki, of "Rich Dad, Poor Dad" fame) at her house. Although attendance has drastically fallen off in the summer, there've been times when 40 or more people showed up to play the games. Pixie's other two cats escape in terror when they see the hordes of humans. But not so Sammy. Undaunted, he makes the rounds at each table, not exactly shaking paws with them, but meowing at the guests in a reassuring way, trying to put them at ease. "Oh, what a sweet cat!" everyone exclaims. Funny cat Sammy.

Aside from being funny (a quality in males that never fails to win the hearts of women), Sammy is most gallant. If he happens to be sprawled out across the outdoor passageway that leads to the front gate, he'll escort Pixie or me when we come home -- or, for that matter, any guest of mine. He's not doing this because he gets a kick out of it (or a treat, since none of us are inclined to give him anything -- no, we don't want to turn him into a fat cat). Sometimes, it seems like it's a real effort for him to get up and walk us to the door. You can tell that he'd much rather remain flat as a pancake on the pavement. Or flash his vital parts for the entire world to see, as he engages in the public grooming that cats are so notorious for.

Yet, no matter what Sammy may be doing (or not doing), he never fails to greet us with meows, then do what he evidenly believes is the right thing, the decent thing to do. You've got to admire his dedication. His is definitely a purpose driven life.

And what woud our life be without funny cats, without cute cats (some may say stupid cats, but I disagree) to give us a bit of paws in our busy lives.

Sneezing in Cats

What causes sneezing in cats? Here's an explanation of some of the common causes.

I'm worried about Mittens, one of a trio of cats my friend Pixie owns. She (Mittens, not Pixie) has been sneezing and wheezing for weeks. According to Pixie, Mittens' owner (or I guess I should say guardian), the sneezing comes and goes. Well, I don't imagine that Mittens would be sneezing 24/7!

I remember when I got my black cat Saki as a kitten. It was only after I took her home that I realized that she was sneezing quite often. I thought it might go away in a few days, but it didn't. The couple whom I got Saki from said that maybe she caught a cold from sitting by the window with her siblings too often. I'm not sure if that's the way cats catch colds. In any case, since she had a runny nose in addition to sneezing, I took her to the vet. She got some antibiotics and was fine in a couple of days. Ever since then, I've made it a point to take her to the vet as soon as something seemed wrong.

As to Mittens, she looks relatively healthy and has a good appetite. She regularly goes outside to play. The problem with cats is that they can act perfectly healthy even when they're quite sick. With cats, appearances can be quite deceptive.

So what causes sneezing in cats? Ah, more questions to ask!

From just the little bit that I know:

Sneezing in cats can be caused by both infectious and noninfectious agents.

Infections are from a virus or a bacteria.

Cats can have respiratory infections, like colds or flus. Most of the time, with cats, you're dealing with upper respiratory infections. The viral or bacterial infection is particular to cats so people don't need to worry about getting infected. At least I don't have to worry about that when Mittens sneezes all over me!

Noninfectious causes of sneezing in cats include:

Allergies -- Like people, cats can be allergic to pollens and mold in the air. This causes cats to sneeze. Or, certain products can cause the cat to sneeze. For instance, dusty cat litter might not agree with certain cats. Then there's cigarette smoke (smokers, take note!), household cleaners, perfumes, deodorants, and so forth. Anything that can cause humans to sneeze can also potentially cause sneezing in cats.

Certain breeds of cats, like Persian cats with flat faces and little squished noses have compressed nasal passages, making them more susceptible to sneezing.

Surprisingly, tooth abscesses can sometimes be the culprit. If a tooth that has its roots close to the nasal passageway becomes infected, sneezing and nasal drainage may occur.

And what about poor Mittens? What could be the cause of her sneezing?

Pixie thought that Mittens might have a foreign object in her nose. That's not too common in cats because their noses are small, but it did happen to Sammy, her other cat. He got a long stalk of something or other stuck in his nose. It was very visible and obvious.

The vet who examined Mittens ruled out the possibility. She isn't allergic, she doesn't have a tooth abscess, and she's not a Persian (she's part Siamese, so she's not even a traditional Siamese).

The vet raised the possibility of penumonia. But after a slew of tests, he thinks it might be something else. Her heart, he says, is enlarged, and there are "activities going on around the heart." Not exactly sure what that means, but he seems to suspect a tumor.

Or at least that's what he seems to be saying. We placed several calls to him for the results of Mittens' blood work, however, every time any of us call, he's "in surgery," and to date, he hasn't returned our call.

Poor Mittens. Because her previous owner was abusive, she had a bad kittenhood, and now this.

Funny Cats

For cat lovers, here are some anecdotes about three funny cats. They're cool cats.

Pixie, the friend I've been staying with temporarily, owns these three funny cats -- Sammy, the alpha male, Dash, the beta male (very beta), and Mittens, the "omega" female (bottom of the totem pole). Now that we've bonded with each other, it's going to be very hard for me to leave them.

Cats can be seriously funny.

I was brushing my teeth this morning when I heard Dash meowing most piteously outside the bathroom door, as if he'd been adrift on a stormy sea for a fortnight. When I poked my head out, he immediately perked up. With excited meows and frequent glances up at me to make sure I was following him, he lured me to his food dish, which sits on the kitchen counter. (They're on the countertop to prevent Pixie's two dogs from gobbling the cat food.)

The automatic cat food dispenser is always overflowing with cat food. So Dash wasn't trying to get me to feed him.

He just happened to have a diabolic mission in his little cat brain: Get me to watch him eat. Dash ate with a single-minded concentration that I wish I could emulate. He still managed to check up on me every few minutes to make sure that I was still watching him.

Sammy does the same thing too, lure me to the food dish and get me to watch him eat.

Mittens doesn't give a hoot if I watch her or not. What she does do is prance around, emitting urgent meows, encouraging me to pat and stroke her before she hunkers down to the serious business of eating a meal.

Poor Mittens, when she engaged in her preprandial ritual yesterday -- enjoying her feline version of aperitif -- Sammy showed up and chased her away. I had to dig up another bowl for Mittens and feed her secretly, out of sight of Sammy. No wonder I never get any work done aorund here.

Such funny cats. Why would any cat want to have a human watch it eat?

A Japanese cat magazine had a story about just such a funny cat. He was a black and white cat that just had to have the owner watch him eat. Or else he wouldn't eat.

I posed this question to a few cat lovers, but no one had a plausible answer.

Are they trying to entertain humans by being funny cats?

Does anyone know facts about cats?