Thursday, December 30, 2010


Romeo made me get all misty-eyed today.  I crouched down to pet him, and he made a mrrring noise in welcome and walked over to me, to twine around my ankles.  He's never done that before!  I was just considering this morning that he has obviously become much happier with us this past month.  And it shows.  His demeanor is much better; he's more inclined to purr when we pet him than to bite us, he's getting some exercise, and his litter box habits are starting to improve.  We still have a lot of "misses" with the litter box,  but I've seen a strong improvement.  The other night, he was scratching at the floor as if he was going to do his thing there.  All I had to do was quietly say his name in a chiding tone, and it was like he shrugged, then went to go IN THE BOX.  And as long as the box is completely clean, I think we have a near 80% "hit" rate.  If he or God forbid one of the other cats has soiled it already, our chances go down by over half.  But for the first time in awhile, I feel like I'm not completely failing the guy.

Romeo's increasing happiness made me start to think.  How do animals let you know that they are happy? All of mine do, but in different ways.

Argos dances for joy when he first sees one of us,  wagging his tail like a crazy man, but how I know when he's really content?  When he sacks out, usually on my lap, but possibly in his crate at night, he will stretch out and groan, really loudly.  It always makes us laugh, but I have never heard such an eloquent expression of contentment.

Annie will jump up to announce herself, and purr, non-stop, while we are paying attention to her.  She also covers my hands with little kisses and licks.

Bit trills.  She pounces.  She shakes her tail as if she is a rattle-snake.  When you reach over to pet her, she promptly falls over onto her side.  I haven't quite figured that one out yet, but it's very clear to me that she's happy.  Sometimes I'll wake up in the middle of the night and she'll be curled into a tight little ball against my chest, and will be quietly purring herself to sleep.  Can anyone say awww?

Romeo makes a mrrring sound, and will start rubbing his face on everything around him.  His eyes roll back in his head in near-ecstasy if you take the time to scritch the areas right above his eyes.

Charlotte purrs when petted, but how I know she's really happy is when she follows me around the house, making bossy little noises at me.  If Charlotte is "directing" me, it's her way of showing that she's happy, and happy with me, her minion.

How do your animals express their happiness/contentment?

Tuesday, December 28, 2010


My blog went on an unintended hiatus while I waded through the insanity that was December.  The holidays are a good time, but there is so much packed into those days!  We're all doing well, though, so I thought that I would get on and wish everyone a happy holiday, and give a status update on the furry ones in my life.

Argos is being such a good dog this season... though he IS the reason that we didn't get a tree this year.  I was uncomfortable with the idea of leaving him alone in the living room with a decorated Christmas tree; I was afraid that the strings of lights and the shiny ornaments would be too much temptation for him.  And since there was no way to shut him out of the living room without sticking him in his crate all day, I just decided to do without the tree.  I pulled out a little table-top tree on Christmas Eve, so that we could put presents around it, but by then Argos wasn't going to be left alone.

Here he is, reluctantly modeling his new fleece coat.  His pleading look is begging me to hurry up with the pictures so that we could take our Christmas evening walk.   This was a big one for him - it was his very first Christmas inside of someone's home.  He was perplexed, to say the least, when we started opening presents and throwing wrapping paper around.  And then intrigued.  Eventually, I had to try to distract him so that he didn't eat all of the wrapping paper.  And of course, he received a couple of squeaky toys.  One he chomped a hole in within about 20 minutes, which was unfortunate, but at least he had fun doing it!

Try as I might, the cats were simply not getting into the Christmas spirit this year.  I tried to put the santa hat on all of them, and was rejected time and time again!  This picture is the closest I got to getting them to wear it.  As you can see, there is not much wearing going on.  Instead, Romeo has a smug, mean look about him that suggests that he's belching and commenting, "Tasty elf."

Though he has been showing some progress on other fronts.  I mentioned in my last post that he was frequently failing to use the litter box.  That seems to be getting better...  maybe?  Like I said before, he has good days and bad days.  We've tried to liven up his routine to keep things interesting for him, as well as make sure that he's getting enough attention from us.  So some days he gets to stay on the first floor of the house, which gives him access to us in the evenings, and gives him some of his favorite perches.  Other days we put him in our bedroom with us, which means that he gets to sleep on the bed with us all night.  He seems to enjoy mixing it up.  He gets more exercise when he's downstairs, which is a good thing, since he definitely needs to lose some weight!

Bit is still herself... which means that she is being a sweet, gorgeous, lovable airhead most of the time.  She's the most playful of all of our cats.  First, she is the youngest, but second, we're convinced that she has some Maine Coon lineage in her.  That is supposed to be a trait of the breed.

She's the only one who will play with the cat toys that they got for Christmas.  I find them in strange places all over the house.  The latest finding was a little stuffed toy, which was artfully tucked into the toe of my boot.  I was wondering why it was so hard to pull on!

Sadly, she still has a particular hatred of Romeo.  At the moment we're not even giving them the opportunity to interact.  We believe that Romeo needs to become more confident in himself before we try that one again.

Annie is, I am firmly convinced, trying to be the best cat in the entire world.  Sometimes, I think she overdoes it a bit, but she is determined to show her affection.  She attends me while I'm in my bath, sits with me when I'm reading, purrs if I even look in her direction, and wakes me up if it looks like I'm going to oversleep.  She licks the back of my hand, or if that's not possible, she's even been known to lick the top of my foot.  She's even being better about Argos!  (She is the one who will smack him for no reason whatsoever, just because she can.)  I feel lucky to have such a delightful cat, but sometimes feel bad for her; her affection seems to be somewhat desperate sometimes.  I lavish attention on her, so I'm not sure where all of that is coming from.

This picture is the best that I can do for her.  Her particular brand of affection makes it really difficult to take a picture of her; when I back off a few feet to snap the picture, she follows me!

Which leads me to the last of the critters, my darling Charlotte.  Who you will note does not have a picture on this post.  This is because, despite the fact that she has  been affectionate with me throughout the entire season, she has absolutely refused to pose for any pictures.  It's as if she sees me bring out the camera, and decides to leave the room, with one disdainful flick of the tail.  So.  No picture of Charlotte.

She is doing well, though.  She is still in good health, and is actually turning into quite the winter dumpling.  I know that some of that is her winter coat filling in, but that's not all fluff!  The lady has some pudge.  I love to see it on her, since weight loss can only mean that her condition is worsening.  So yes, for once you're going to see me cheering an overweight animal.

And that is that...  I will try to make another posting soon.  I am not going to become a once-a-month poster, I promise!

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Winter... and Romeo

I know that winter doesn't officially start until later in the month, but it is in reality already here.  It was cold and blustery every day last week, and we've already gotten three (light) snowfalls.  I've had to break out the sidewalk salt.  So yeah, it is wintertime, no matter what the calendar says!

That doesn't mean much in the grand scheme of things.  Life goes on whether it's freezing cold or swelteringly hot, but there are some changes.

We still take Argos outside for walks and to run around in the yard, but now he has to wear his heavy fleece coat.  I don't think that he appreciates it very much - he tries to shake it off frequently when we're walking.  The yard is a little less fun for him right now; the snow has melted, but the ground refroze.  In all of the spots that I have failed to get grass started, the ground is rough, and since it's frozen, I'm sure those rough spots seem kind of "spikey" to walk across.  I noticed that he doesn't run around as much...  it makes me wish that I'd forced some sod in earlier in the fall, even knowing that it probably would not survive the winter!  Dead grass is still more of a cushion than no grass...

Bit didn't have much to do with me over the summer, probably because she was upset about Romeo being here.  But the cold is enough that she is willing to seek me out.  I might be annoying her by letting Romeo stick around, but I do generate body heat that she can take advantage of!

The cats have remembered that the radiator covers get warm in the wintertime, so it's rare to not have at least one of them perched on top of the radiators.  Sometimes there is one cat per radiator per room!

Winter is not my favorite season, and it never will be.  It is, I admit, made marginally better by having the kitties be more willing to snuggle up with me.  And Argos keeps me honest - I have to take him outside no matter what I feel like, which is keeping me true to my daily walking exercise.  I can guarantee that if he wasn't here, there is no way that I would be dragging myself out for walks, so having him around is clearly good for my health!  (At least, it is until I slip and fall on the ice outside, LOL.)

And now onto the topic of Romeo.

I haven't been talking much about the difficulties that we're having with him because it seems somehow disloyal to talk about a member of our little family... but it is getting frustrating to keep it to myself.

I don't know how many remember the story about how we got Romeo, but to refresh memories with the "short version," he had been surrendered to the animal shelter because he'd stopped using his litter box when a new baby was born in his previous home.  When we first got him to our house, I was pleased to see that he used his litter box regularly.  But as time went on, he started to slip up in his habits now and again.  (It was always with poo.  Thank God he pees in the box faithfully.)  Then it became less of an occasional slip-up and more of a regular habit.  He has good weeks and bad weeks, but unfortunately, it seems like we're having an awful lot of bad weeks.

I am almost positive that this is tied with the OTHER difficulties that we're having.  Not really with Romeo, but it concerns him...  the problems are with Bit.  She is simply NOT accepting him.  We cannot have them in the same room together, because she will single-mindedly try to make his life miserable.

We try to be equitable about giving everybody the same amount of attention, but it's hard.  Romeo stays in our bedroom most of the time now (although he has the entire first floor of the house today.)  It means that to pay attention to Romeo, I have to not pay attention to the other three cats, and sometimes Argos.  But then I feel guilty when I leave him alone to go spend time with the other animals.  I think that I probably still manage to spend more time with my animals that I give myself credit for, and I don't notice anyone "pining" for additional attention, so I'm sure that I'm just guilt-tripping myself here.  I'm bad about that.

I'm pretty sure that Romeo's litter box problems are largely a territorial thing.  We've tried so many other things...  new litter boxes, tall litter boxes, covered litter boxes, low walled litter boxes..  we've tried different kinds of litter:  regular scoopable, pine, clay...  We even bought the expensive Cat Attract stuff which is supposed to be guaranteed to make cats use the litter box.  We've tried placing the litter box in different areas, to give him access to more than one.  We've tried covering the floor around the boxes with newsprint. I've tried ignoring him when he's using the box, I've tried praising him when he uses is properly.  I've tried to build good associations with using the box properly, such as using his favorite brush on him afterward.  But the end result is frequently the same:  he'll poop on the hardwood floor.  Always close to the box, but never in it.

And yet he's become so loving with us.  He usually sleeps with us, using my legs as a pillow.  He is a very affectionate cat, and I think that he really likes us.  He does NOT, however, like the other cats.  And they don't like him.

I don't really know what to do.  I feel like we're failing at giving him an environment in which he can be truly content.  I'm not giving up; I am not the kind of person who abandons an animal just because they're having some difficulty.   My husband and I are both very attached to him, for all that he's making us want to pull our hair out.  We'll do whatever it takes to get him (and Bit) past this...  I just wish that I knew what that was.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010


I've deliberately waited to write anything about Michael freaking Vick because I wanted to get over my frothing-at-the-mouth-ragefest before writing something that could be read by anyone who happened to stumble upon my blog.  For those of you who have been reading my blog, I don't think that you have to try very hard to guess that I am...  not happy... with Michael Vick.

I'm not happy with the Philadelphia Eagles for signing him, either.  Nor am I happy with the NFL for allowing him to be signed.  Nor am I happy with his fans, who seem perfectly content to forgive him a lifetime of wrongs against animals just because he's having a good football season.  But when I heard about his dramatic entrance onto the field surrounded by fireworks and hailed as a hero, I'm pretty sure that my head exploded.

Michael Vick is NO HERO.  Sure, he might be able to play football, but that does not mean that he's a freaking hero, it does NOT mean that he has redeemed himself, and it does NOT mean that he's changed one little bit.  Yes, I believe that he isn't involved with dog fighting anymore, but for more self-serving reasons than "I just one big happy dog lover now and would never hurt a sweet innocent pup."  No, he's just smart enough to know that getting caught a second time would be very, very bad for him personally.

I have a tough time believing that his little tiny prison sentence made him realize the error of his ways, as he is claiming.  I'm pretty sure he sat there behind bars wondering why everyone was picking on him, and why we were all so meeeeeean to him.   I do not have a tough time believing that he felt some regret, but only regret that he got caught.  Because if he hadn't gotten caught... you'd better believe that he'd still be fighting dogs, and yes, killing dogs.  And he wouldn't be feeling any remorse for it.

I find myself appalled at the numbers of people that will defend him.  Granted, I think I put one or two of them off by my foaming at the mouth last month,  and maybe they felt compelled to defend him against someone who was obviously crazy.  I've heard lots of arguments for why I shouldn't hate Vick, and that I should forgive him.

1.  They're just animals.  You eat animals, so you're no different from Vick.   I will admit that I am very conflicted about this.  In some ways, I have to agree with the argument.  I do eat meat.  I feel horribly guilty about it, and try to keep that to a minimum.   Setting that aside for the moment (something like that could take up an entire blog post by itself)  I still do not believe that eating meat = torturing and killing dogs.

2.  He's served his time, so leave him alone.  Yeah, he's served his prison sentence, which I don't think was nearly long enough, or harsh enough.   All this  means that he has satisfied the LAW, and does not have to be incarcerated for his crimes anymore.  This does not oblige every manjack one of us to forgive him as well.  And it certainly doesn't oblige us to be happy that he's making an ass-ton of money and getting treated like he's the only guy who's ever been able to play football.

3.  He's working hard to redeem himself.  Even the Humane Society has forgiven him!  And for the life of me, I do not know why they have.  I'm not saying that it's a bad thing that he's going around warning people away from dog fighting, but the cynic in me thinks that he's just doing it to repair his public image. I don't think that he is truly remorseful for his actions, but I do think that he's sorry that he lost favor with the public.

4.  He's not the only public figure who ever did something bad!  Don't hate!  Um...  there is plenty of hate to go around.  I hate Vick, I hate every public figure who ever abused their fame to be able to hurt someone else.  Whether that's hurting and killing dogs, raping women, killing to cover something up.  I can surely state that I hate Michael Vick without listing every single other person that's ever done something equally bad or worse, right?  Because that would be completely stupid, and none of us could ever have a conversation about ANYTHING without having to list out every single conflicting factor first.

I find it terribly sad that we are so starved for heroes that we are willing to embrace anyone who shows any modicum of talent playing a game.  I lost a lot of respect for the NFL over this and other recent incidents with other players, and am really struggling to be able to sit there and smile blandly when people are cheering and exultant over football games.  (In the interest of full disclosure, I have never been a gigantic football fan.  I watch it sometimes when I feel like it, or when my city's team makes it to the Superbowl, but you're never going to see me hurrying home just so that I can turn on the t.v.)  That being said, I haven't been able to make myself even want to watch a game this year.  I think that I've gone from bemusedly indifferent to feeling nothing but contempt and animosity.

So...  even though I live in a huge football town, and even though I doubt very much that the NFL gives a crap about little me, I refuse to watch a game this year.  I especially refuse to watch any game that includes the Eagles.  Will it make a difference?  I doubt it very much - I'm not exactly going to be trying to convince people to go along with me.  I don't have anything against anyone else who likes to watch football, I don't have anything against any Philadelphia Eagles fans out there.  But this little boycott of mine is the only way that I can feel at ease with my own conscience.  I will not support an industry that supports the likes of Michael Vick.

That is all.  Rant off.