Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Cats and New Year's Food

Welcoming in New Year with Your Feline Friend

It’s hard to believe that it’s already New Year’s Eve! Soon my laptop will be displaying the year 2009 on the screen. Amazing. I wish that my cat Saki were still alive to herald the New Year.

But I do have my friend’s cat Mittens, who is the same age as Saki if she were still around. (Saki, wherever you are in the Great Beyond, are you happy?)

Never Feed Your Cat Holiday Tidbits

Anyway, as a cat guardian I have to look after the well-being of my furry friend. On New Year’s Eve, that specifically means:

Do NOT give kitty any table scraps. Nil. Nada. It’s bad for cats. And dogs. Even if they beg, even if they look entirely too adorable, you absolutely must resist the impulse to toss them tidbits from the holiday table.

Can Mittens Ever Vibrate!

Okay, I confess. On Christmas Day I gave Mittens some organic, grass-fed filet mignon from my friend’s plate. (It’s way too expensive even for human consumption.) She was ecstatic. She blissed out. She emitted 4 loud, resoundingly happy meows, purred loudly, and vibrated her tail. Mittens vibrates more vociferously than my cell phone.

Hours later, she threw up. Fortunately, that’s all that happened. But really, I should not have given her human food. And not in the quantity that I did. Just because Mittens looked so cute that I could’ve simply squeezed her till she was purple (do cats ever go purple?) doesn’t give me the license to feed her steak.

(Okay, more confessions. I’ve given Mittens turkey from the restaurant on Thanksgiving Day. In the past, I’ve also brought her home some cheesecake.)

Nutritionally Unbalanced Holiday Fare

Festive fare is too rich for cats—probably too rich for human!—as well as unbalanced nutritionally and could be harmful to their health. It doesn’t pack the nutrients that your cats need.

Cats Must Avoid Japanese Sweets

Kittens require food that can help support their development and growth spurt.

More confessions. When Saki was a kitten, I was living in Japan so I gave her some Japanese sweets. She loved them. Even though cats can’t taste anything sweet.

When I happened to mention the snack to the vet, he shot me a look so withering that I wanted to tuck my tail and slink away. Well, at least I never fed Saki any more bean-jam filled pastries.

Be Careful What You Feed Elderly Cats

Older, geriatric cats find it harder to digest unaccustomed food. Like aging humans, their metabolism is slowing down, and they need all the nutrients they can get to help them cope with the onslaught of age.


Take it from me: Keep your cats away from New Year’s delicacies!

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Herbs for Cats with Liver Disease -- Part 2

Your Cat's Not Responding to Conventional Medicine?

You might try herbal supplements for your cat if you’re not getting much result from conventional medicine, or you want to avoid giving your cat medication on a long-term basis for a chronic illness.

Cats with liver disease might benefit from herbs and nutritional supplements. As mentioned in my previous post, however, please be very careful if you choose to do so.

Spotty Quality Control of Herbs

Bear in mind that there is as yet little research on the effects of herbs on cats. That doesn’t mean that herbs aren’t safe—but it does mean that you should talk to your vet before giving your cat any herbal remedies.

But most vets don’t know anything about herbs or nutritional supplements. It’s rather like asking your regular doctor for nutritional and other dietary advice—they mostly don’t have a clue. (I know, I’ve gone that route before for myself.)

Get Expert Advice

Look for a vet who knows how to use herbs for cats with liver disease. Whatever time you may spend researching for one is time well spent.

You really need expert advice. Dosage has to be adjusted for the smaller body size of the cat. And remember too that some substances that are safe for humans can be toxic to cats. (Like chocolate and garlic.)

Get herbs from a reputable manufacturer. (Again, get the recommendation of a vet or a practitioner that you trust.) Herbs are not regulated by the FDA (Federal Drug Administration) and the quality can vary a lot.

Helpful Herbs and Vitamins

Here is a short list of herbs and vitamins that are sometimes used to treat cats with liver disease. I will discuss them at greater length in my next post.

Milk Thistle

L-Carnitine or Carnitine


SAM-E (S-adenosylmethionine)

Vitamin B complex

Vitamin C

Vitamin E

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Herbs for Cats with Liver Disease -- Part I

Should You Try Herbs for Liver Disease?

I never used to think that cats could get liver diseases. Certainly not just because they stopped eating for a few days. But they do, they can get quite sick if they stop eating for a while, they can get hepatic lipidosis, or fatty liver disease.

For symptoms and treatments, read "Could Your Cat Have Fatty Liver Disease."

If you’re a cat lover it’s gut-wrenching when your cat gets sick. You just want to do everything possible for you companion.

Alternative Therapies for Cats Diagnosed with Liver Disease?

I think that if my cat had a liver disease I'd want to check out alternative therapies in addition to conventional medicine.

In fact, I'd check into alternative therapies for any illness that my cat was suffering from. After all, I always consider dietary and other approaches to health care for myself, so why not my cat? There is, as they say, more than one way to skin a cat. (Oops, sorry, bad analogy! My cat Mittens is glaring at me from across the room. I think I've seriously offended her.)

So I did a little research into some possible herbs that a cat might take if he had a liver disease. I discovered that many herbs that help people with liver disease also seem to benefit cats.

Precautions to Take When Giving Your Cat Herbs

As long as you follow the following precautions, it should be okay to consider herbs and nutritional supplements for a cat with liver disease:

Do NOT try out any herbs without getting them cleared with the vet. Although people tend to think that supplements or herbs are completely safe, they are not totally without side effects.

And you absolutely should NOT mix herbs with prescription medication. If your cat is taking meds, you definitely shouldn’t give him anything without first consulting the vet. Otherwise, you could do your cat serious damage.

You MUST get all herbs and supplements from reputable sources. They can be tainted and unsafe for consumption – as alas, so many pet owners have discovered in recent years.

Keeping a Daily Log

It's best if you can keep a log to record your cat's reactions to the herbs. In fact, it's a good idea to keep some sort of daily journal if you have a sick cat. Don't just rely on your memory.

Record the date, the time and dosage for any herbs, medication, or nutritional supplements that you give your cat. Observe your cat and note any signs, symptoms, or unusual reactions of any sort. Even if it doesn't mean anything to you now, it might provide a clue later.

Leave a space to jot down any comments. Having a journal will make it easier if you need someone else to look after your cat. And, of course, it's handy to have around when consulting the vet.

In my next post I'll list the herbs that may be beneficial for cats with liver disease.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Cat Pictures

More Cat Pictures


Just had to put up these cat pictures. These two adorable cats belong to my next-door neighbor CJ, who were once unwanted kittens. (I swear they make some of the best pets.) Aren’t they gorgeous? Actually, the photos don’t do them justice. They look even more beautiful in person (even if they’re not actually people).

My Heart Nearly Stopped

My heart nearly stopped, the first time I saw him: he was so beautiful. CJ snapped these pictures when Phooey was in one of his goofy moods. He’s a cat with a good sense of humor and a dramatic sense of timing. He has a long, bushy absolutely gorgeous tail. Oh, have I already used the word “gorgeous” many times? I think it’s time for me to whip out the thesaurus!

Phooey and his adopted brother simply adore CJ, who is a doting mom to them.


Long Cat!

It’s hard to tell from the photos just how robust – and long – Phooey is. I was totally floored the first time I saw Phooey—don’t think I’ve ever seen a cat that was so very long, a virtual locomotive (and a very furry one), I’d say! When he stretches out, I swear he becomes almost as long as CJ is tall—and CJ is a tall woman, tall and blond.


Boy Toy

He’s a boy toy, a toy cat, a feline gumby who lets you twist and turn him however you want. Drape him around your neck like a shawl if you want….well, maybe.

Spotted Nose

Maynard, who is 2 to 3 months younger than Phooey, is just as handsome as his brother. As you can see from the photo, he has spots on his nose. Unlike Phooey, who is sociable and just loves attention, Maynard tends to shy away from strangers. So it was a rare treat when he didn’t run away form me one day but let me sit and contemplate his nose. I most definitely can’t pick him up like Phooey. Even CJ has to be a little careful when she skritches him cause he can suddenly turn on you and claw you.

Big Boys

Phooey and Maynard are big cats. The last time CJ weighed them, which was about a week ago, they both weighed about 14 pounds. They’re not slim and trim like CJ. But then CJ is a fitness instructor, so of course she has to look fit. Maynard, being a much shorter cat than Phooey, feels heftier. They are both big boys—sometimes big, bad boys.

Calling for Cat Pictures

If anyone would like to share their cat pictures with me, I’d like to post them here. They can be pictures of your cats looking cute or funny or simply magnificent or anything else. (And of course, no animal should be harmed in shooting the photos.)


Saturday, October 11, 2008

Star Rating for Your Cat

What star rating would you give your cat?

This is the age of ratings. Since we rate books, movies, restaurants, hotels, and so on and forth, why not rate our cats as well? (Of course, we have to be prepared to have our cats rate us as their owners – or guardians, for those of you who live in Boulder, Colorado.)

Actually, I got the idea when I came across the writing of William Burroughs, who apparently was a cat lover. This is what he had to say about his cat:

“I award Fletch a four-star cuteness rating. Like most qualities, cuteness is delineated by what it isn’t. Most people aren’t cute at all, or if so they quickly outgrow their cuteness…”

Now, to help you rate your cat, I’ve listed a few of the attributes you might consider. These are just suggestions. You can add to this list or make up an entirely new one.

Good looks
Good manners
Sense of Humor
Energy level

The lowest rating is 1 star; the highest is 5 stars. You can rate your cat on each of the above qualities, or you can come up with an overall rating—or you can do both!

Here’s how I rated Mittens, a half-Siamese cat with an intriguing midline on her face that I’ve been taking care of:

Cuteness 5 stars
No comments necessary!

Good looks 4 ½ stars
I’d say 5, but I don’t want her to get too stuck up

Intelligence 4 stars
She can open doors and she’s got me trained to feed her on command when she vibrates her tail. So I’d give her 5 stars except that she couldn’t help me fix the audio on my Skype.

Sociability 1 star
She’s getting better though she’s still rather skittish. She’s sort of okay when the neighbors knock on my door but when Pixie – that’s her real owner – comes over, she runs and dives under my bed.

Good manners 1 star
She really needs to devote a few afternoons to reading Miss Manners. It looks horrible when she – ahem, presents herself to be butt-whacked. Let’s just say that the view never improves. Not only that, she seems to prefer orienting her rear end towards me instead of her face. Never known a cat to do this.

Sense of Humor 5 stars
See above.

Energy level ½ star
She ran around pell-mell the other day—I’m sure it’s only because that was one of the few times that I had to do some catch-up sleep during the day. Otherwise, she has the energy of a slug on a winter day. It’s hard to interest her in any cat toys. Well, she is a somewhat older cat. At least she patrols the back patio on a daily basis.

Literacy 5 stars
I know that she surreptitiously reads all my books. (Shhh, don’t tell her that her secret is out.) Every time I mention books to my friends, she butts in with commentaries. It’s uncanny how she knows what I’m talking about.

I hereby give Mittens an overall rating of 5 stars! I know that doesn’t compute, but I’m never been good at math.

So, what star rating did you give your cat? I hope you gave 5 stars at least!

Friday, October 10, 2008

Overweight Cats

First, my apologies for this long absence. I was caught up in deadline mania and failed to realize how long it had been since my last posting.

Today, I have good news and bad news. The good news is that Mittens, the Siamese with fungal infection of the sinuses who at one point was so emaciated that she was in danger of fatty liver disease, is most definitely out of the danger zone. The vet is elated with the cat's progress. She has to continue taking her medication for at least several more months, but she's definitely improving. She is so energetic now that she was galloping around the apartment the other day, keeping me from sleeping.

Now for the bad news. Mittens is officially overweight. She weighs 10 1/2 pounds, which is at least a pound and a half more than she should. The healthy weight range for adult cats is 7 to 9 pounds. If your cat is a bigger sized cat -- like a Maine Coon -- then you have more leeway. My neighbor CJ has a cat who's exceptionally long. He weighs 14 pounds but does not look fat.

But Mittens. Alas. She is a small-boned cat so every ounce she gains shows. I was so eager to fatten her up that I'm afraid I went overboard.

Some people think that overweight cats are cute but in fact it's not healthy. Just like with people, overweight is not healthy.

I'm now feeding her cat food for less active cats. Trying to resist feeding her every time she begs for food -- which she does with alarming frequency.

I am also trying to get her to play more, but she is not particularly interested in cat toys. I am going to have to implement strategies to help her lose her excess weight -- and above all, to keep her from gaining more weight.

Do you have cats that are overweight? How are you facing the challenges of slimming down an overweight cat?

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Tips and Techniques on Giving Your Cat Liquid Medicine

I have to give Mittens cat medicine (Flucanozole for her nasal fungal infection) in liquid form twice a day. The medication came in pill form at first, but I asked the vet to prescribe liquid medicine instead because it was a real struggle to pill Mittens.

I’m always looking for tips and techniques for medicating your cat.

So I was delighted to discover another demonstration video on the topic. Again, by “Partners in Animal Health,” courtesy of Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine. Go to this link:

This video is specifically about giving your cat liquid medicine. The first thing you do is to get out everything you need, such as syringe, dropper, towel, and kitty treat. That’s exactly what I do for Mittens.

The video says to place the cat on an elevated, slippery surface to make it hard for the cat to get traction. Since Mittens is almost always on my bed and since she tends to freak if anyone picks her up, I just medicate her right on my bed.

First, I drape a towel around Mittens like a bib. The towel makes it hard for her to escape. It also protects my bed in case any medication spills.

She doesn’t struggle at all now. She’s been on the medication now for a good 6 months and by now she’s pretty much resigned to her fate.

And most importantly, she’s so eager for the treat to follow, she seems to almost anticipate the medicine. (Well, maybe that’s a stretch, but she definitely looks forward to the treat.)

What I’m trying to say here is that I don’t need to restrain Mittens like the video suggests. Nor do I bother tilting her head – what I do is insert the syringe in the corner of her mouth, in the pocket between her cheeks and gums.

If you’ve never medicated a cat before, get a friend to help you. It’ll make a difference. In my case, my friends got injured trying to medicate Mittens – and I didn’t.

So having friends help did indeed make a positive difference.

For my story and tips on medicating your cat, click the link to my earlier post, “The Trials and Tribulations of Giving Cat Medicine.”

To find the video link on giving your cat medicine in pill or capsule form, go to:

You’ll discover how fun it can be to give your cat medicine. Not.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Tales of the Weird -- Animal Communicator

Talking Telepathically to Your Cat!?

A friend suggested hiring an animal communicator to help me decide what I should do about living arrangements for Mittens, my resident cat.

The mention of animal communicators brought back a flood of memories.

A Pet Psychic in Boulder, Colorado

The first time I ever heard about animal communicators, I was living in Boulder. I saw a flyer at a pet store. A woman named Teri was going to be at the store for a few days offering her services as an animal communicator. My curiosity piqued, I signed up.

I automatically assumed that Teri was an animal behaviorist who could help me with some behavioral issues with my cat Saki, the black cat who had been my constant companion back then.

On the day of the appointment, I stuffed my cat Saki into my backpack (yes, I left air space!) and pedaled to the pet shop. I couldn’t lug the cat carrier with me on the bike so I resorted to the backpack whenever I biked. Saki actually seemed to prefer the backpack. At least she was quieter than she was in the carrier.

When I arrived at the pet shop, Teri – a friendly, normal-looking middle-aged woman – told me that she would be talking to my cat telepathically.

“You’re going to what?” I thought to myself, incredulous. I was skeptical of telepathy between humans was possible, let alone with cats! But this was Boulder and I decided to go with the flow.

As I was to discover, an animal communicator – a.k.a. pet psychic – claims to have the ability to speak with pets and other animals through the use of telepathy. Unlike animal behaviorists who approach pet behavioral issues as a sleuth would, trying to puzzle things out, a pet psychic goes straight to the source – to the cat herself. (Or, Straight from the Horse’s Mouth: How to Talk to Animals and Get Answers, as one popular book on interspecies communication is titled.)

So far so good. Or not.

I sat down and placed Saki on my lap.

Saki remained remarkably quiet and cooperative.

Fu Gordon, the Renegade Siamese

First, I asked Teri about Saki’s manifest hostility towards a neighbor’s Siamese cat. His name was Foo Gordon (not Flash Gordon!) and he always came to my house to play. That’s because both my then boyfriend and myself showered him with attention.

That made Saki really mad. She’d growl and hiss at Foo, and the Siamese retaliated in kind.

I knew cats were territorial but wasn’t there a way that Saki and Foo could get along better? (I was pretty clueless back then!)

“Okay, let me ask Saki,” Teri said and closed her eyes. After a few minutes, she opened her eyes and relayed to me what she’d gotten from Saki.

“Saki says you don’t understand. Foo is really mean to her. You’re not aware that he’s making faces at her through the French door.

And, she fails to see what you could possibly see in that Siamese. He’s not in the same class as her, not in the same league. Not even. He’s just too far beneath her to even consider.”

(Here I thought Saki snorted every so slightly.) I must say that Teri did a credible imitation of the way Saki would sound if she could talk.

Not a conclusive evidence that telepathic communication took place, of course.

Snacking on Kitties

After that, I discussed my concerns about letting Saki outside to play. When I first moved to Boulder from Tokyo, I had believed that it would be safe to let Saki out. The town house we lived in was right up against the foothills, and the neighborhood was inaccessible to cars. It was an absolutely gorgeous area. An idyllic place for cats, or so I believed.

What I hadn’t counted on was the presence of mountain lions, foxes, and raccoons. Cats sometimes went missing in our neighborhood, apparently eaten by mountain lions. A neighbor even got footage of one eating a pet cat.

I was worried about Saki. But I didn’t want to have to coop her up indoors. I didn’t think she would stand for it anyway. The solution, I thought was to impose a curfew on her. She needed to come home before dusk – when predators were most active – say, 4 p.m. would be a good time. Could Teri communicate this to Saki?

What, Me Worry?

“I’ll try,” she replied. “But cats do their own thing so I’m not sure if she’ll listen.” Once again, she closed her eyes. Minutes later, she relayed Saki’s message to me:

“Saki says not to worry. She can take care of herself. For your sake though, she’ll try to come home earlier.”

As it turned out, about a week after the session with Teri, Saki began coming home earlier. Soon, she was regularly home by 4 p.m.

Did Saki actually understand my concern? Who knows? Whatever the reason for her change in behavior, I was pleased.

Besides, it was fun talking to an animal communicator.

Monday, June 30, 2008

Cat Rentals

Did you know that cat rentals -- as in felines, not automobiles -- are available in Japan?

This post has been moved to a new site:

Friday, June 27, 2008

Giving Your Cat Medicine -- Instructional Video Link

Want to know how to give your cat medicine?

Here’s a link to an instructional video on medicating your cat.

It’s by “Partners in Animal Health,” courtesy of Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine.

Sure wish I’d had access to a video like this when I was struggling to get cat medicine down my cat’s throat.

I tried to get the vet to give me a demonstration, but I only got verbal instructions. I never saw an actual demo.

This video is very well done and looks very helpful. Although I’m not sure that it would’ve made much of a difference when I was trying to give medicine to my late cat Saki.

I never, ever succeeded in her. I’d manage to get the pill way into the back of her mouth – as the video recommends – and then I’d stroke her throat to encourage her to swallow the pill – again, as recommended by the video.

When I saw Saki swallow (I observed her throat), I’d ever so slowly release my hold on her – only to have her spit out the pill! She was only feigning to swallow. I think that cat was smarter than I – I was duped each time.

What have been your struggles with giving medicine to your cat?

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Funny cats -- Japanese Cat

A friend sent me a photo of a funny cat from Japan. Is it a Bobtail? Maybe a Manx?

To find out about Japanese Bobtails, please see my post:

Please share any stories you have about Bobtails.

The Woes of Cat Medicine

Do you enjoy giving your cat medicine? If you answered “no,” you’re sane and normal. Medicating a cat has to be one of the more frustrating aspects of cat ownership!

Take my friend, for instance. Her cat needs medicine daily. Because she finds it impossible to pill the cat, she’s taken to driving the cat to the vet everyday. I certainly admire her dedication, but she’s an incredibly busy person and I think there’s got to be an easier way!

She says she’s tried adding the medicine to cat food but the cat sniffs it out. Alas, that’s usually what happens! This trick may work with dogs, but not with cats. I’ve tried grinding the medicine into powder and adding it to either regular cat food or baby food, but that never worked.

Some people find the pill gun effective, but my friend says she can’t use it.

With my resident cat Mittens, I finally figured out a way to give her cat medicine. You can read how in my earlier post:

Please feel free to share any tips and techniques you may have on giving your cat medicine.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Shop and Help Cats

So you love cats and you love to shop? Did you know that there’s a way where you can shop AND help cats?

You can do that through a program called escrip. The program streamlines fund raising – and donations – contributing a percentage of the purchases you make using your grocery loyalty cards, credit, debit and ATM cards to the group or organization of your choice.

You could, for instance, make donations to groups that promote cat welfare.

If you’d like to help humans rather than cats or other animals (my goodness!), you can do that too.

All you have to do is find what groups or organizations you want to help support are included in this program. And see which merchants participate in the program. There are about a 100 of them, including Safeway (in Northern California only), Office Max, Eddie Bauer, and Macy’s.

Then you can register yourself online. The participating businesses will contribute a percentage (may vary between 1 to 5% or more) of your purchases to the groups or organizations of your choice.

Your purchases are tracked and available for viewing online.

I registered myself in the few minutes I had while waiting for a friend. It was really simple. (If anything’s the least bit complicated, I tend not to do it.)

You can sign up for up to 3 causes. For now, I’ve registered:

Feral Cat Foundation

Massachusetts Animal Rights Coalition

Project Hunger Inc.

I can shop and help cats!

If you want to know more about escrip, click below:

And here's a list of participating merchants:

I think this is a great idea! It doesn't cost you a penny extra and you get to make at least a small contribution to the welfare of cats -- and maybe even some humans -- by shopping.

I can't think of anything better than to shop and to help cats. A great boon for a shopaholic like me.

Oh, in case you'd like to know about the groups that I picked, here are the links:

Feral Cat Foundation
is a non-profit that helps feral cats in the Alameda and Contra Costa counties of northern California.

Massachusetts Animal Rights Coalition
is a volunteer group that helps educate people and gives voice to all suffering animals including unwanted pets and wild animals killed or abused.

Project Hunger Inc. is a non-profit in Grand Island, NE whose goal is to address the reality of world hunger and help local communities through education and action. (Yes, this group is for humans, not cats!)

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Cat Collectibles

If you’re into cat collectibles – or if you want to give gifts to the cat lover in your life – you might consider some cat paws. Well, not real paws, but concrete stepping stones shaped like cat paws.

You can set them in your garden pathway or hang them up on the wall as decoration. You can also get round stones that are like a fat cat, or ones like a lion’s head.

They’re the creations of a general building contractor and nature and wildlife photographer John Pianavilla of Santa Cruz, California.

Pianavilla loves working with his hands and he says he’s always looking for new design ideas.

He thought selling these stepping stones would be a perfect fundraiser for an animal-related organization. He donates a portion of each sale to Project Purr, a Santa Cruz-based non-profit dedicated to decreasing the population of feral cats.

Pianavilla uses a special concrete mixture that he developed to produce stones with a very smooth surface and precise detail.

To add depth to the pieces, he sometimes adds a single color of concrete stain. He also adorns some with broken glass in the pique assiette technique.

The basic stepping stones range from $10 to $25, depending on size and design. The faux-granite stones and the pique assiette designs are based on the intricacy of the pieces.

Check them out at:

Monday, June 16, 2008

Cats and Software Engineers

Today we have a post by a guest who's worked as a software engineer in Silicon Valley for more than two decades. (He's seen it all!) As a long-time cat lover and observer, he's long noticed a certain affinity between felines and software engineers.

What do cats and software engineers have in common?

Strange question, you might think. Sounds like the set-up line for a bad joke.
But over the years, in my career as a software engineer here in the Silicon Valley, I've seen some interesting parallels between cats and software engineers. There are definitely some common threads that tie them together.

Like what?

The first one that comes to mind is: cats and software engineers both love freely available, and preferably unresisting, food. A recent incident of chicken thievery brought that common thread forcefully to mind.

Mittens, the cat residing at Cheryl's place, has been getting much healthier and happier recently. As Mittens' health improves, her stealth improves too. Not to mention her confidence, her demanding nature, and – yes – even her apparent greed.

Case in point: Cheryl had cooked some chicken and set it aside for no more than a moment or two. Quick as the proverbial flash, Mittens had jumped up on the table, started lickin' the chicken, and promptly ran off with a piece in her mouth!

And this was very soon after Mittens had just been fed!

Mittens needed yet another food fix. Like so many desperate addicts, she resorted to larceny to support her habit.

Clearly Mittens feels much safer and more secure these days. I don't think she would have tried to pull that kind of a stunt previously. And obviously, she would not have done so when she had dangerously lost interest in food.

Little Mitt’s appetite seems quite ferocious these days. It seems to grow by leaps and bounds. In this case, it grew with a leap onto the table and a bound into the next room to devour her ill-gotten gains.

And Mittens seems to be channeling Cheryl’s previous cat, Saki, in the increasingly daring and brazen nature of her attempts to become more and more well-fed.
So what's the connection?

Over the years, I've seen many software engineers ravenously trolling for free food among any and all company events. They stalk it much the same way that Mittens stalks a helpless, defenseless piece of cooked chicken.

"There's a pot luck in HR!" someone will say, whether by email or cubicle visit, and off we'll go to see what's on offer.

It doesn't matter whether or not anyone in the raiding party has actually contributed any dish to the potluck. It's a classic predator-prey relationship.

There are no ethics. Only the eaters and the eaten. “Have lunch or be lunch,” as a Silicon Valley executive and so many others have so memorably put it.

Other times, someone will pass the word: "There's a barbecue in shipping and receiving!"

Or one of us will spy some pizza in a conference room, or in the company lunch area, and word will spread like wildfire.

Unattended food – and sometimes, even attended food! – does not last long in the digital workplace. Certainly no longer than it would with a ravenous kitty like Mittens in the neighborhood.

It’s a jungle out there. And sometimes in here too.

by John Hartsell,

Software Engineer

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Can a Cat do Christina's World?

Have you ever seen a cat “do” “Christina’s World”? I'm talking about Andrew Wyeth’s famous painting. And whether or not a cat could pose as Christina.

I think most everyone is familiar with the famous portrait of Christina. She's lying on her side in a field of grass, gazing into the distance at a weather-beaten farmhouse on a wind-swept New England hill.

Christina holds the upper half of her body upright, one arm extended out to support her weight.

Her face is hidden from view. It’s hard to say whether she’s young or old. She has long hair and she’s wearing a pale pink dress.

The painting has a brooding, haunting quality to it.

In real life, Christina, was suffering from muscular deterioration that paralyzed her lower body. But she refused to let her handicaps stop her from moving around – she insisted on crawling through the grass.

Anyway, Mittens, my resident cat, often adopts a posture that reminds me of Christina. The basic position goes like this:

Mittens is lying on my comforter (almost always), and her face is turned away from me (as always). She’s either gazing into the far wall or resting with her eyes closed (as always).

She extends one front leg out, while tucking in her hind legs underneath her haunches. Her fur has a kind of wind-swept look.

She looks like she’s gazing out into the distance across the empty field under the empty sky.

It’s almost like having a real-life “Christina’s World” in my bedroom.

Uncanny, this cat.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Could Your Cat have Fatty Liver Disease?

You may never have heard of Feline Fatty Liver Disease -- but if you don't heed the tell-tale signs, it could cost you your cat's life!

What's Feline Fatty Liver Disease?

If your cat ever loses her appetite or stops eating altogether, you better take her to a vet fast! When a cat stops eating for an extended period of time – say, about 2 weeks – she may die from a condition called fatty liver disease. That’s when fat accumulates within the liver cells.

The medical term for this condition is feline hepatic lipidosis.

Signs of Fatty Liver Disease

You should suspect hepatic lipidosis if your cat refuses to eat, loses weight, acts lethargic, and vomits. You might also notice that the whites of the eyes look yellow from bile pigments.

Bile is a yellowish green digestive fluid secreted by the liver. If the liver isn’t functioning well, the bile won’t get broken down properly.

Causes of Fatty Liver Disease

In humans, fatty liver disease can be caused by excessive drinking. Needless to say, this is never the case with cats. (Don’t ever give your cat any alcoholic drink – you could kill her!)

Vets don’t really know what causes this condition, but cats that fail to eat for an extended period of time, for whatever reason, are at the highest risk.

Cats can stop eating for a lot of different reasons. She might be ill or too stressed out to eat. So it’s a good idea to pay attention whenever your cat loses her interest in food. You’ve got to make sure that the cat is eating.

I didn’t, and I’ve lived to regret it. When my late cat Saki stopped eating, I was so wrapped up in my work that I barely noticed. When I finally noticed, I wasn’t overly concerned.

Saki was a tad overweight (ah, but she had green eyes to die for!), and fat-phobic that I am, I figured she could stand to lose a little weight.

Little did I know that in cats, unlike humans, losing weight from partial – or even worse, total – fasting is dangerous even if it’s only for a relatively short period of time. Apparently, cats metabolize fats and proteins differently than humans.

When a human or cat stops eating, the body starts using its own fat cells for fuel. As you know, for humans, this is the whole point of dieting.

With cats, however, the liver isn’t terribly efficient at processing fat. Most of the fat is stored in the liver cells, and so eventually the liver fails and the cat dies. Not good.

So when Mittens wouldn't eat, I really feared for her life. Until I took over the care of Mittens, my friend's cat, I had never even heard about hepatic lipidosis.

Mittens had been wheezing for some six months. At the time, the vets had no idea what was wrong. They suspected nasal cancer.

When I took Mittens home with me, she was so scrawny she looked like a concentration camp inmate. The resemblance was even more striking because one of her forelegs had been shaved – that’s where the vet had inserted a catheter when they were testing her.

Coaxing Your Cat to Eat

In addition to getting prescription appetite stimulants for her, I tried everything in the books to coax her to eat:

Warmed up canned food (Since I don’t have a microwave, I heated up the can in hot water. Alternatively, I added some hot water to the food and stirred it into a form of gruel.)

Got some of the stinkiest, smelliest food on the market (Mittens was most likely not eating because she couldn’t smell anything.)

Tried dried bonito (tuna) flakes (Many cats love them. Saki used to go ga-ga over them. But it turns out that Mittens is rather indifferent to fish.)

Minced sardines (See above.)

Canned tuna (See above. Caution: Tuna isn’t generally recommended for cats, but when a cat isn’t eating, the most important thing is to get her to eat something, anything.)

Offered canned pumpkin (It’s loaded with vitamins and fiber. Most cats love the taste.)

Human baby food (Plain chicken, turkey, beef. Made sure it didn’t contain onions – they are poisonous to cats.)

Here are a few other things to try to resurrect your cat’s interest in food:

Watered-down chicken broth (with no sodium added)

Clam juice (Add it to the cat’s regular food as flavor enhancer.)

Tuna Dash (Dried powdered tuna)

To entice Mittens to eat, I’d put the food right under her nose – but I don’t think that she was able to smell it even then. I also smeared some food right on her nose and on her lips – sometimes on her paws – so that she would have to lick them. I spoon-fed her too, and she would eat a little then. But it wasn’t nearly enough to sustain her.

The strange thing was that Mittens acted as if she were hungry. She’d smack her lips, and go over to her food bowl – even stick her face in the bowl – and yet she wouldn’t eat.

Escaping the Jaws of Death

I consulted the vet. By this time the results of Mittens’ biopsy were in. She had fungal infection, not cancer!

The vet immediately took her off prednisone, which she suspected was giving Mittens ulcers. In addition to medication to treat her fungal infection, she was also given medicine to treat the ulcers.

In less than a week, Mittens was eating again! We didn’t have to resort to force feeding her or putting tubes in her stomach – that’s something we would’ve had to do as a last resort.

“Great job. I am so very pleased,” the vet beamed at her last check-up. “She’s twice the cat she was before.”

Indeed, we now have a pair of Mittens. Some cat she is.

And what about you? Have you ever brought a cat back from the brink of death? Or coaxed a reluctant cat to eat? Please share any stories you might have.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Animal Shelter in Japan

As I have years of experience living and working in Japan, people sometimes ask me what they might do when they visit Japan.

What I would recommend for starters is to visit an animal rescue shelter in Japan. Like ARK, acronym for Animal Rescue Kansai (the western region of Japan). ARK is in the hills of Toyono, Osaka. Even if you don’t speak any Japanese, if you can catch the founder, Elizabeth Oliver, you’ll be able to communicate with her in English. She is, after all, British.

Yes, rather unusual for a Brit to move to Japan and start a shelter for animals but that’s what happened. Elizabeth used to rescue animals on her own. She started ARK in 1990 to get more people involved in rescuing stray, abandoned and abused animals. She also needed to raise money so that she could continue dedicating her life to animals.

ARK became officially recognized as an NPO (Non-Profit Organization) in September 1999. Its goal is to form a network of people who love animals, want to share their lives with them, and work actively to rescue animals from suffering. ARK rehabilitates animals and finds loving homes for them.

After the Great Hanshin Earthquake in 1995, Elizabeth saved 600 dogs. She is also proactive in prosecution.

According to their website, ARK currently houses dogs, cats, rabbits, a pig, a chicken, a chinchilla, a guinea pig and a hedgehog.

You can see cute pics of dogs and cats waiting for adoption. Like Sow, an orange and white tabby (a stunner!) and Ron, a long-hair brown tabby (If I were in Japan, I’d adopt him on the spot!).

To give you a sample of the kind of bios they have of their animals, here’s a little bio of a white cat, copied from ARK:

“No, I don’t have big ears and a long trunk like Dumbo the elephant. I was named Dumbo because I was abandoned in a “danboo-ru” which means a cardboard box in Japanese! I love food and people. I often show off my tummy and I love to be petted! I would make a nice addition to your family! Definitely I would make a much better pet than an elephant would!”

If you can’t go to Osaka, you can visit ARK in Tokyo. Its primary purpose is to educate people about animal welfare. ARK doesn’t yet have a large shelter operating in Tokyo, but they are looking for people to join their foster program.

So if you’re going to be living in Japan temporarily, and miss having pets, you might consider volunteering as a foster parent for dogs or cats while they are waiting for permanent homes.

Even if you have no plans to go to Japan, you can visit their website – it’s bilingual in English and Japanese. It offers some information about dog and cat health, and an archive of bilingual newsletters.

Or, check out “Angels with Fur Japan,” their blog about pets and animals in Japan:

To contact ARK, email tokyoark[at] or, in Kansai, call 072-737-0712. In Tokyo, call 080-6146-3889 (English) or 080-6517-8913 (Japanese).

Friday, May 16, 2008

Jellicle Cats?

I still find it hard to believe that T. S. Eliot, the poet who penned the line “April is the cruelest month” wrote whimsical poems about jellicle cats and practical cats and what-not-cats. Here are a few lines from Eliot’s Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats (also quoted in a previous post):

Practical cats, dramatical cats
Pragmatical cats, fanatical cats
Oratorical cats, delphioracle cats
Skeptical cats, dispeptical cats
Romantical cats, pedantical cats
Critical cats, parasitical cats
Allegorical cats, metaphorical cats
Statistical cats and mystical cats
Political cats, hypocritical cats
Clerical cats, hysterical cats
Cynical cats, rabbinical cats

So, as I mentioned before, I’ve been musing about what sort of kitty category Mittens, the chocolate point bi-color Siamese living in my apartment, might fall into.

Mittens certainly isn’t practical or pragmatic, and she’s definitely not dramatic or fanatic (except maybe about food). She doesn’t meow enough to be considered oratorical, and I doubt that she’ll go to Delphi any time soon. Well, she does seem to orate a bit when she’s hungry.

Now, my late cat Saki was definitely an orator. She had a great vocal range and could meow for hours, expounding on the virtues of value-added meals and extra layers of padding around feline bellies.

Mittens, on the other hand, is more of a mime. She excels at making her point by sitting forlornly by her empty food bowls with her head drooped.

I must say that she is rather good at predicting her feeding time so in that sense she might be an oracle. Oh wait, she doesn’t actually predict—she creates her own time-table for meal times.

Mittens may be a bit skeptical, but not dyspeptic—she’s not particularly morose. She’s definitely not romantic, pedantic, critical, or parasitic -- except in the sense that she gets fed and gets all her needs taken care of without lifting a paw.

She’s shown absolutely no interest in politics -- doesn’t give a hoot about Obama, Clinton or McCain. As long as she gets her food (her current favorite is chicken with herring Wellness cans) and her treats (freeze-dried chicken meat), she doesn’t care whether it’s a Democrat or a Republican in office. (Note: Mittens has recently been re-named Muttonchops.)

Similarly, the only religion she’s interested in is being religiously fed. Like all cats, Mittens is utterly self-serving. But at least she’s not cynical about anything and she’s never been guilty of manipulating stats so she doesn’t qualify as a statistical cat.

But she does seem to enjoy dipping her paws into allegories and metaphors without getting too far into mysticism.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Cats, the Musical

Cats is an award-winning musical composed by Andrew Lloyd Webber based on Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats by T. S. Eliot. The show has been performed around the world in numerous productions and has been translated into more than 20 languages.[1]

Went to see Cats, the musical. I’ve never seen it before. Even though it was off Broadway it was still highly entertaining. No wonder it played a total of 7,485 performances in New York. Cats was first shown in London on May 11, 1981 at the New London Theatre.

The musical was composed by Andrew Lloyd Webber (he also composed The Phantom of the Opera, which I think is the longest running musical in Broadway history).

As most everyone knows, the musical was based on a slim book of poetry by T.S. Eliot, Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats. I somehow find it hard to reconcile the poet who wrote “The Wasteland” with the one who wrote these funny verses about cats. I can only marvel. I love his poetry.

Now, I’m left with the task of deciding which of the following feline categories Mittens, the chocolate point bi-color Siamese living in my apartment, falls into -- as cat-egorized by Eliot:

Practical cats, dramatical cats
Pragmatical cats, fanatical cats
Oratorical cats, delphioracle cats
Skeptical cats, dispeptical cats
Romantical cats, pedantical cats
Critical cats, parasitical cats
Allegorical cats, metaphorical cats
Statistical cats and mystical cats
Political cats, hypocritical cats
Clerical cats, hysterical cats
Cynical cats, rabbinical cats

What might your cat be? What do you think most describes your cat?

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Finding the G-spot in Your Cat

Some cats have a little “sweet” spot at the base of their tail that they love to have scratched or thumped. You might call it the cat’s “g-spot.” Judging from their behavior, I’d say that it stimulates the pleasure center in their brain. Whether the feeling is sexual or not is anyone’s guess. It’s hard to figure out what another human being is thinking, let alone a creature of another species, especially one that seems to display an array of baffling behaviors the way cats do.

Do cat lovers have an opinion about this subject? One friend assures me that the feline enjoyment of spanking is very much related to sex. That’s what her vet told her, she says. Besides, she once noticed that Carlton, her cat, had “a huge erection” from getting thumped on the rump (or “tom-tomming,” as my friend calls it). Carlton is very demanding about getting tom-tommed. He insists on it daily, regularly, several times a day—well, almost around the clock. Gets downright ornery if he doesn't get a piece of action, so to speak.

Suffice it to say that Carlton goes nuts when tom-tommed. And it doesn't seem to matter whether the cat has nuts or not. Carlton has been neutered. Mittens, my cat on loan, is female as well as being spayed. So neither gender nor whether the cat has been spayed or neutered makes any difference.

I’m not sure why male cats would find butt-whacking (or tom-tomming, or whatever you might call it) so pleasurable. With female cats, I can sort of see why they might have an instinctual predilection for pelvic presentations. It’s what females in heat do. For instance, the posture Mittens assumes is exactly that of a receptive cat waiting to be mounted. The difference is that although her tail is raised high, she doesn’t hold it to the side of the body (which is what the female does to accommodate entry by the male cat’s penis). She also doesn’t tread rhythmically with her rear legs. (I suppose I can be thankful for that.)

Enough about g-spots and cats’ mating behavior. I’m not trying to turn this into a kitty porn site!

Just for good measure, here’s another video of a cat getting spanked. No doubt about it -- cats are strange creatures.

Spanking the Cat 2

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Cat Spanking

Why do some cats like to be spanked?

I've been disabused of the notion that Mittens is a sweet, innocent girl. Even though lab analysis has certified her to be a "good girl" (the official conclusion reached by her vet from examining her cells under the microscope), she is actually a lascivious, drug-addicted, sex-crazed feline. This morning she had me butt whack her by the scratching post -- so that she could nibble on cat nip and rub her face against the tall scratching post by the bed while I whacked her. The scratching post has been treated with cat nip, and the top acts like a serving dish where you can put little snacks on it. Occasionally, I leave out cat nip there for Mittens.

"Butt whacking" is the technical term my friend John uses to describe the act of gently spanking Mittens on the base of her tail. The only reason that I know that Mittens wants to be whacked on the rump is because Pixie, her owner, told me so. And because Mittens proffers me her butt -- ever so elegantly and eloquently. She crouches down with her head down, forelegs bent, and her tail and derriere raised high to fully expose—well, let’s just say that it’s not a view that should be seen in polite company.

So anyway Mittens assumes that posture until I oblige by whacking her rhythmically right at the base of her tail. While getting spanked, she face marks the bed, the desk, books, newspapers -- anything that's near her face. All the while, she purrs and purrs and purrs. Amazing. What a kinky little kit.

The other day I was on a call with a client via Skype when Mittens suddenly landed on my computer keyboard and mooned the webcam. Luckily, the other party had just stepped away—otherwise, there might have been some misunderstanding as to what message I was trying to send!

I suppose I can take comfort in the fact that Mittens is far from the only cat to enjoy a little butt whacking. I've now talked to other cat owners whose cats have a predilection for butt proffering. Here's a video of one cat who evidently enjoys getting smacked in the rump with a paddle!

Friday, May 9, 2008

If You're Happy -- Vibrate Your Tail!

More emergency. Couldn't post for a few days, but from now on I'm going to be more consistent.

Thankfully, Mittens is a healthy kitty now. The vet was very impressed, said that we’ve got ourselves a whole new cat. Well, maybe the equivalent of 2 new cats! She looked gaunt and emaciated like a concentration camp victim. The shaved patch on her foreleg – where they inserted the catheter – heightened that impression. You’d almost expect to see a number tattooed there.

Now Mittens looks sleek and happy. She’s gained 1.6 pounds, representing a 25% increase in weight.

Several months ago I started noticing something peculiar. Mittens' tail was vibrating! At first I thought that I’d just imagined it. But then she started to vibrate her tail regularly, almost every day, and I realized that I wasn’t seeing things. My first thought was that perhaps she was spraying. A quivering tail is one of the signs of a cat that’s about to spray urine. Cats spray to mark their territory. It’s more common with male cats but females can engage in spraying behavior too.

It’s evident though, from Mittens body language that she’s not trying to practice spray painting. Every time she vibrates, she sticks her tail straight up while gazing into my face, arching her back, and emitting meows that, to my ears, sound most decidedly happy. She shimmies her tail near her empty food bowls, like an entreaty of some sort. As well as right before she's about to eat, as if she's saying grace. At times she does a quick tail burr after she’s eaten her fill and when she sees me enter the room. Like a vibro-greeting.

I asked around to see why a cat might vibrate her tail. Most people, even long-term cat-lovers, said they had no idea—they’d never seen a cat vibrate her tail in the way that Mittens does. After more digging around, I discovered that I was right, whenever Mittens burred her tail, she was expressing excitement and joy! According to experts, a cat’s tail will vibrate when she’s happily anticipating something desirable, like a treat. Some cats may also quiver their tail when they’re excited but uncertain of a situation. Apparently, it’s a way to release pent-up energy! Maybe the way kids whoop and jump for joy?

Cats have different styles of vibrating their tail. One cat might quiver the tip of her tail while another might just shimmy the base of his tail really fast—like Mittens does.

But don’t confuse the vibro-tail with a tail slashing from side to side. That’s a sign of irritation or annoyance.

Anyway, next time your cat vibrates her tail when she sees you, take that as a compliment!

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

The Animal Rescue Site

You can help feed hungry animals! Just click on the link below -- it will take you to the Animal Rescue Site. All you have to do is visit their website and click -- and you will help donate food to cats, dogs and other animals in need. I've copied below information from the Animal Rescue Site.

The Animal Rescue Site

The Animal Rescue Site focuses the power of the Internet on a specific need — providing food for some of the 27 million unwanted animals given to shelters in the U.S. every year. Over 10 million animals are put to death every year in the U.S. alone because they are abandoned and unwanted.

Mitt in a Snit

Back from Taos, New Mexico, where I attended Natalie Goldberg's writing workshop based on her new book, "An Old Friend from Far Away." Even though I was only gone 3 and 1/2 days, Mittens acted pissy when I came home. I had a good neighbor -- a cat lover and fitness instructor who lives next door -- come by every day to feed, medicate and give Mittens a bit of companionship. The neighbor reported that Mittens had diarrhea on Saturday. She's never suffered from that condition before so I'm thinking that it might be a case of nerves. Maybe she's not prepared to give a talk to real estate investors after all. I don't blame her.

Many cats seem to be unhappy with their owners after being left alone for more than a day. They probably get bored and lonely.

When I called out to Mittens, she seemed both pissed and pleased. I had to pin her down to pat, caress and stroke her. It took a long time before she started to purr. Even after all that, she continued to ignore me throughout th day.

When I stretched out on my bed to watch Eckhart Tolle's "The New Earth" (a free webcast hosted by -- Oprah interviews spiritual teacher Tolle about his new book, "The New Earth"), Mittens refused to drape herself across my lap like she usually does. Tolle says that animals are "Guardians of Being" -- because, unlike humans, they can just "be." They grace us with their presence; they are present in the moment. Some guardian Mittens has turned out to be!

She was still in a snit today. Normally whenever I try to take a nap (the operative word being "try"), Mittens will pad over and sit on my chest. She then kneads and purrs. Oddly enough, she usually leaves me alone when I lie down to sleep at night. Somehow, the prospect of my being horizontal in the middle of the day excites her. Something out of the ordinary, I guess. It pleases Little Mitt.

Finally, this afternoon, she got over her tiff. When I lied down on the floor to do my back exercise, she spotted me from afar (at least several feet away, came over and plopped herself down on my chest, slowly kneading on my belly (yeow!), purring. The corners of her mouth were turned up. She was smiling. Very pleased. As if she were greeting a friend from far away.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

World’s Greatest Cat

World’s Greatest Cat

Yes, of course, your cat is the greatest. Every cat guardian feels that way. But perhaps some cats are more equally great than others.

Certainly, some cats are rather unusual. Like Zibby Wilder’s Siamese cat, as featured in an article in the San Jose Mercury News. Knowing how cat crazy I am, friend showed the article to me.

Zibby’s Siamese cat Bo, loves cantaloupe. He’ll do almost anything to get some. Zibby says that the first night Bo came to live with her, she noticed that she hadn’t seen him for about an hour – an hour after she ate half a cantaloupe for dessert.

She called for him, and he responded immediately. But his cries were very faint. She followed the cries and thought that he had somehow crawled into the walls through an opening in an old heating unit.

After another hour and a half later and a frantic call to the landlord alerting him that she was going to take a sledgehammer to a wall in the basement apartment to rescue the cat—she opened the refrigerator door for a drink of water.

And she found the cat. Bo. He was shivering, his entire head stained orange. And sitting next to the remains of the other half of the cantaloupe that Zibby had put away into the refrigerator.

But that’s not all. Zibby has another pretty weird cat. Hopper the Gorilla Yeti. Hopper is about 5 years old and weighs 27 pounds.

Zibby, being a former shelter director, has seen a lot of different cats but Hopper is the largest that she has ever seen – and one of the most hilarious.

This big boy has a unique way of getting attention from his guardian. It’s a trick that Zibby has dubbed “Timber!”

Basically, the game of "Timber" involves Hopper either physically cutting off the target person (whoever that might be) and getting the person’s attention by making direct eye contact with the person or making a racket. Then, once he’s got the person’s attention, he suddenly swoons, falling belly up to the ground, with a very discernible “OOMPH!” Just like a tree falling. Hence the name “Timber.”

The game can happen anywhere, anytime. You could be walking down the hall, you could be watching TV, you could be reading in bed – and all of a sudden, right in front of you, on the coffee table, or maybe in the closet (knocking down shoes) – you’ll hear “OOMPH!” and see the giant cat fall.

I've said it once, and I'll say it again: Cats are strange creatures.

The Trials and Tribulations of Giving Your Cat Medicine

If you own a cat long enough, you’ll be faced with the task of medicating the cat. It’s not an easy matter, as many cat owners will attest.

I learned the best way to medicate cats when I had to care for Pixie’s cat, Mittens.

For a while there, what’s wrong with Mittens? became the rallying cry.

It seemed quite likely that she had cancer, lymphoma is probably the most likely one, the vet said.

If so, we can only give her palliative care. She would need radiation and chemotherapy, but that runs into thousands of dollars, and Pixie is in no situation to be able to pay that sort of medical bill. Then the best we could do her is give her prednisone.

Therefore, it was decided that she’d receive prednisone in tablet form.

I’d agreed to take care of Mittens so the job of medicating her fell on me.

After Mittens took prednisone for several weeks, she stopped eating altogether. The vet suspected ulcers so we had her on ulcer medication in addition to appetite stimulants. For a while there I was medicating Mittens 5 times a day!

The vet’s assistant gave me an impromptu lesson in how to wrap a cat tightly with a towel. This renders the cat immobile. Then, using your fingers like pincers you press the cat’s jaws open. That’s the theory, at least. In practice, it never worked for me.

We had to switch Mittens from prednisone in tab form to liquid because I was having the worst problem medicating her. For a cat so scrawny and scraggly, she was amazingly strong and frighteningly ferocious when she resisted. She was also extremely slippery -- her escape acts rivaled those of Houdini. Fortunately, I was unscathed but Pixie received a huge gash in her hand when pilling Mittens. My friend John, who is not allergic to cats, somehow ended up with an allergy-like respiratory attack that ended in a doctor's visit. His medical records to date list that he came in due to a respiratory distress from "wrestling a cat."

The vet agreed that some cats are almost impossible to pill. Like one of her cats. Even though she and her husband are both vets, they have to work in tandem to get the pill down the cat's throat -- and even then, they barely succeed.

John bought a syringe-like pill popper used for medicating cats and dogs, but I didn't have to resort to that after all once we switched to liquid medication. As to the ulcer meds, I just ground them up and drew the powder into the syringe when I gave Mittens her liquid prednisone.

Pixie discovered a somewhat pricey, freeze-dried chicken treats that Mittens loved from a posh pet store in an upscale neighborhood. (This cat is definitely costing megabucks.) The idea was that I would give Mittens this treat as soon as I medicated her. It worked. Since then, Mittens has been quite subdued, almost cooperative. Now, when I pull up the towel, she merely cringes a bit – maybe emits a resigned meow – and flattens herself. But she lets me wrap the towel around her neck like a bib and remain still while I insert the syringe into her mouth.

Easy breezy.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Temp Cat

So I have a temp cat now, Mittens. My friend Pixie, who is her real owner, had to sell her house and move. Plus a lot of other things happened to her and it became rather difficult to take care of a sick cat when she already has two other cats. So I volunteered to take care of Mittens. Now that Pixie has moved into her new place, she can look after Mittens, but there's no real urgency to so I've kept Mittens with me. Besides, the cat has to be medicated twice a day and it's just easier for me to do that since I have no other cats. It's really great to have a cat again.

Pixie doesn't have her cats wear collars but if Mittens is going to be with me, I prefer that she wear one in case she goes missing or something. I got her a really cool looking collar that brings out the dark brown in her fur very nicely. I also had her microchipped. I have her registered with HomeAgain.

On their web site, HomeAgain claims to be the only service that sends out a lost pet alert to vet clinics and shelters when a pet is lost, and allows for immediate access to the pet's medical information. Mittens is enrolled in this particular service, mainly because that's what she got when I took her to a local shelter to get chipped.

I doubt that Mittens will ever go missing (she's an indoor cat), however, it's my belief that it's better to err on the side of caution. You never know what can happen.

If you've got a pet, you have to be responsible for its well-being. Even if it happens to be a temp cat, a loaner kitty here to get nurtured back to health.

The Cats are Back!

It's been a really long time since I last updated this blog. Life happened, and I forgot to take back control of the helm. Illness, family death, an intercontinental move and turmoil in general just kind of got to me. But I'm back on track -- and now I've got my own temp cat. Mittens, a 13-year-old chocolate point, bi-color Siamese. I got her from my friend Pixie because she (Mittens, not Pixie) has been sick. And just like me, Mittens is well on her way to recovery.

Mittens has a rare illness for a cat -- fungal infection of the sinuses. Actually, that was great news because the vet had originally suspected cancer. I'll write more about Mittens' and other feline diseases in a later post.

Suffice it to say that Mittens got a very good recommendation from her vet when she first went in for her biopsy to determine if she had a tumor or not. I've copied the typed statement from her vet:


She is a good girl.

She did well under anesthesia.

I found a mass in her retropharyngeal region -- we biopsied the mass and the results will be back by Tuesday.

Please continue the meds you are currently using.

Prednisone twice a day and cyproheptadine once a day.

So, biopsy results show that Mittens is a bona fide good girl. Perhaps her cells graduated from "Good Kitty U."

Now, how many kitties get to be certified "a good girl"? Mittens is still resting on her laurels. Well, just resting. She's a cat, what can I say?

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Dog Misses Feline Best Friend

I this the following story offers evidence that animals can grieve for the deaths of their loved ones.

I've copied the article below, but I've also provided a link to the original article.

From Itchmo: News for Dogs and Cats

Oscar, an 18-month-old Lancashire Heeler, missed his best friend so much that he dug up the late cat’s grave and brought the body back into the house to be reunited with him.

The dog saw his owner dig a grave in the garden for Arthur, the 17-year-old family cat, and put him in the hole.

When Oscar’s owners woke up the next morning, they found Oscar curled up next to Arthur’s body in his bed.

Oscar and Arthur were the best of friends and were inseparable, and Arthur, who was a larger cat, even used to help Oscar onto the sofa.

Oscar’s owners said, “He had managed to climb out through the cat flap in the night, obviously with the intent to get Arthur back. Bearing in mind that Arthur was a huge cat, Oscar must have used all the strength he could muster. Then he pulled him into the basket and went to sleep next to him. Arthur’s coat was gleaming white. Oscar had obviously licked him clean. It must have taken him nearly all night.”

News for cats and dogs - Dog Misses Feline Best Friend, Retrieves Cat From Grave

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Learn how to blog

Okay, this post has nothing to do with cats. Not directly, anyway. Maybe obliquely.

I'm evaluating a multi-media course on blogging from the folks at Simpleology. For a while, they're letting you snag it for free if you post about it on your blog.

It covers:

  • The best blogging techniques.
  • How to get traffic to your blog.
  • How to turn your blog into money.

I'll let you know what I think once I've had a chance to check it out. Meanwhile, go grab yours while it's still free.