Friday, January 28, 2011

A Plea For Help

Hi, everyone -

I have a plea for help.  There are two Pittsburgh kitties who desperately need a new home.  Their names are Copernicus and Galileo.  Despite these names, these two lovely ladies are actually sisters.
Lovely Galileo, who looks shockingly like my Romeo.

Their owner is in the military, and has shipped out. He for obvious reasons can't take care of them, and unfortunately, their current living situation has fallen through and they will in very short order be homeless.  Friends have tried to rehome them to no avail, and not a single no-kill shelter in this area or the surrounding areas are willing to take in pet surrenders right now.

Can someone find it in their hearts to take these lovely ladies in?  Friends would prefer that they stay together, since they've been together for their entire lives, but for the right homes, would consider splitting them up.  All of us would prefer to keep them out of the open-door shelters if we can help it.  I have spoken to several of the excellent volunteers in these places, and know that they would try very, very hard to find them homes, but we all know how over-burdened these places are with unwanted cats.

Copernicus, taking a little nap.

I have met both of these cats personally, and have had one of them completely take over my lap after having known me for all of thirty minutes.  They're both sweet girls, and would quickly adapt to any home that offered them love and attention.

Here is what my friend, who spends much more time with them than I ever have, has to say about them:

"They're not loud in general, talking very little unless they need something (usually food).  Copernicus should probably be put on a set amount of food per day, rather than free feeding.  They're very affectionate and once they get to know you, are completely laid-back.  Galileo likes high places; Copernicus makes an amazing lapcat, often volunteering herself for the service whether you wanted a furry lump in your lap or not. Galileo takes a bit to come around, but she will, once she trusts you, throw herself across your lap and demand petting.  Copernicus plays fetch with foam ping pong balls.  Galileo falls off of tables because she's so busy rolling around being cute to impress you (and convince you to pet her) that she forgets where the edge is.  They're both cheerful purrers."

I know that many of my readers are not in the Pittsburgh area.  However, don't let distance discourage you - we may be able to work something out.  Maybe a relay, depending on where you are and how many people that I can enlist to help.

If you think that you can offer them a home, please, by all means, let me know, and I will put you in touch with the friend who is working so hard to place them.  She can answer additional questions about their temperments, likes, dislikes, etc., much better than I can!

Copernicus - I chose this picture because it shows her lovely eyes.
Galileo, providing commentary of some kind.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Fat Cats

So when I came downstairs this morning, the husband told me that I should go in and say hi to Romeo, and while I was at it, take his picture.  I gave him a really strange look, since that does seem like a strange request.

But this is what greeted me when I walked into the living room.

SOMEONE has an enormous belly.

Which brings me to the topic of my post.  Pets and dieting.

How do you do it?  I've had to focus this year on taking Argos the other way - he needed to gain weight, and it took quite a long time to get anything to stick to those ribs!  Two of our cats are still in the normal weight range.  Really, only Romeo and Charlotte are pudgy, and we're just going to let Charlotte be because of her medical condition.  Romeo is the only one that needs to go on a diet.

We knew this when we got him from the shelter in May.  In case we didn't figure it out for ourselves then, our vet told us the same thing.  But the diet that she recommended didn't work very well.  She recommended that we feed him 1/2 can of the gluten-free Fancy Feast canned cat food, twice a day.  We tried this...  and he inhaled the food each time, but then was hungry and crying for more.  I would come home from work and he'd have shredded and eaten large portions of the newspaper, and once he shredded and ate the monthly mortgage bill.  (I'm guessing that "my cat ate it" doesn't hold water with mortgage companies, else I'd be applauding his effort.)  Then he developed a bladder infection, partially due to stress, so we took him back off of the diet and let him go back to kibble. After we cleared that infection up, we put him back on the diet, only to have him start to get diarrhea and throw up.


So I admit it, we haven't tried to do much since then, especially since he at first was so unhappy about the other cats.

However, I think we've turned a corner with him.  Yes, he still has to be kept away from the other cats in general, but he has the entire first floor of the house to himself, and seems to be very happy with that arrangement.  He's affectionate with us, and tolerates/bordering on likes Argos, so those two get to "hang" together if we leave the house.  He gets to spend time with us when we're eating, watching t.v., relaxing in the living room, and he exercises a bit more since he has more space to move around in.  Just this week he became interested in playing!  (I never could get him to do it before, but now he likes playing with dangly toys.)  We let Charlotte downstairs a couple of times a day so that he does learn to deal with other cats, just for short amounts of time, and definitely not Bit, his primary tormenter.

So.  I feel like it's time that we put him back on a diet.  It's for his own good; I know that it isn't fair to let him remain obese.  So, any recommendations?  I'm willing to do the Fancy Feast diet again if we have to, but I'm guessing that for a kitty his size, a can daily was just not enough.  I'm open to suggestions!

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Adopting a Special-Needs Pet

Every shelter has them - animals that would be perfectly good pets, except that they need a little extra care above and beyond what the average person wants to do.  It can mean anything from the need for daily seizure meds, insulin shots, to a pet recovering from an illness, to one having a permanent handicap.  Sometimes it's just because the pet is considered to be elderly, needs a special diet, or even has some behavioral issues due to mishandling in the past.

These animals need homes too - and it's not fair to simply euthanize them just because they present a few more complications (provided that they can live an otherwise happy, pain-free life.)  I firmly believe that if we as a society let companion animals "happen" due to our lack of spaying or neutering, then we as a society are responsible to find them good homes, even the ones that are a bit more of a challenge.

I've always felt that way on a theoretical level, but I freely admit that I was a little more wishy-washy when it came to MYSELF, and to the idea of ME adopting a special-needs animal.  "That's too hard," I'd think.  "Those animals need someone who doesn't work outside of the home to be with them."  Or, "I don't have the time to do that."   And these are legitimate concerns for some people - I am not trying to judge anyone who has made a different decision.

And then came Charlotte.  I didn't know that she was going to be a special-needs pet before I got her.  My guess is that if someone told me from the beginning that I would need to medicate her twice a day, every day for the rest of her life, that I would have decided against adopting her.  However, a few months after her adoption came the diagnosis for congestive heart failure.  I was attached to her by then.  When we were told that we could keep her alive and in comfort for at least a little while if we were willing to give her medication, we never even thought twice about it.

And I realized something.  It is not that bad.  It just becomes part of your routine, right along with feeding the animals, brushing your teeth, scooping the litter box, taking the dog out.   Forgetful?  I am too - we have alarms on our phones to remind us when we need to give out medication.

The only difficulty that arises is a minor one - it's difficult to spontaneously go out of town for an overnight trip.  We have to carefully plan for leaving town - usually arranging for Jeff's mom to come over and feed, water, and dole out meds, but we could board her at the local boarding kennel if need be. But really, is it that much different than having other, less needy animals?  We could never leave Argos unattended in the house for that long either, and would have to make special arrangements for him as well.

The purpose of this post is not to point out how great and selfless I am, because I'm no different than anyone else.  The purpose is to suggest that adopting a special-needs animal may sound daunting, but if you have it in your heart to be that animal parent, it's doable.  I know that Charlotte is probably easy compared to some special-needs animals.   And you definitely have to do this responsibly instead of just responding to an emotional plea - if you truly, truly do not have the time or resources to do something like this, then of course it isn't the best option for you.  But I'm guessing that a great many of us could take one in with little or no "ripples" throughout the household.

I know people who have diabetic cats that must receive insulin.  People whose dog needs seizure medication daily.  People who keep semi-feral cats, even though they'll never be completely socialized, just to give them a place to be, and to let them live out their days in comfort.  People who adopted an elderly, toothless greyhound who was dumped with my rescue group when she got to be too inconvenient for her previous owners' "lifestyle."    And the funny thing is - not one of them regrets their decision to take on one of these animals.

So if you can, I highly recommend it.  Oh, and so does Charlotte.

Adopt a special needs cat and you might get one as awesome as me!

Saturday, January 22, 2011


I decided that I wasn't giving a very good impression of Bit, our little gray kitty, since most of the time when I mention her name it's because she is tormenting Romeo.  So...  it is time for a spotlight post on Bit.  Because yes, she does pick on Romeo, and has needled him past the point that he wants ANYTHING to do with her, but she still is, most of the time, a very sweet cat.

Many of you have heard the story of how we adopted our first three cats.  We'd been without pets in our lives for so long that we went to the local shelter to get cats after we'd only been moved into our house for a few days.  We got Charlotte and Bit on a Monday, then went back on Thursday to get Annie when I couldn't stop thinking about her.  Well, Bit was our first "pick."

There were so many cats in the shelter that it was heart-breaking.  I doubt that any one of us likes seeing those sad, scared faces in cages, uncertain of their future and not understanding what is happening to them.  I'm not sure of why, but the cat area was PACKED with people that weekend.  It was difficult to navigate through the rows of cages there were so many people...  and I do know that is a good thing!  The shelter volunteers and staff were baffled, but of course pleased, as well.

Jeff noticed Bit, at that time 3 months old, in a cage by herself, so we put her on our list of cats that we wanted to meet. She was so tiny and cute and lost-looking... and he noticed that she was polydactyl!   I was chosen by Charlotte almost immediately, evidenced by the fact that she reached through the cage bars, hooked me with her claws, and yanked me towards her.  So Charlotte went on the list.  I knew that we were probably going to take every cat that we met, so I insisted that we not add any others to the list unless one of these two most definitely did not work out for some reason.

Unfortunately, as I mentioned before, the cat area was totally crowded with people anxious to adopt, so there were no cat meeting and greeting rooms available.  The staff hesitantly suggested that we use one of the rooms on the dog side of the shelter, and to get things moving, we readily agreed.

They brought Bit in first, and before I'd even sat down in the provided chair, she'd darted out of the volunteer's arms and climbed up onto Jeff's shoulder for protection... the barking dogs had her very unnerved.  I remember meeting Jeff's eyes from across the room and knew that there was no way in hell that he was NOT going to take her home.  The following picture wasn't taken at the shelter, but shortly afterward.  Jeff's shoulder was one of her favorite perches until she started to get too big for it.

She was, and is, daddy's little girl.  We also call her the "pretty, pretty princess," because that is what she so clearly thinks that she is.

That is not to say that she doesn't enjoy some good "mommy time" as well.  She tends to prefer to snuggle up to me at night... my theory is that I tend to pick a position and stay in it for the rest of the night, while Jeff thrashes about sometimes.

As a kitten, she was alarming to me.  It had been a very long time since we'd had cats, but for me, even longer since I'd had a kitten in the house.  I'd completely forgotten how much chaos one can spread in her wake...  There were many reasons that we went back to get Annie that Thursday.  Mostly because I had done some research and found out that Annie'd been at the shelter (with stints out in a foster home) for over a year, and I started to feel bad that she wasn't getting chosen by anyone.  All because she was shy with strangers, not because she was a bad cat.  But another reason is that we quickly learned that Charlotte was NOT going to tolerate any kitten shenanigans, thank you very much, and did not want anything to do with Bit.  But if Charlotte wasn't entertaining Bit, and we couldn't, due to work, chores, or whatever, who was going to keep her out of trouble?  I knew that nothing was guaranteed, but Annie's description on the shelter's website said that her former foster mom had said that she was good with the other cats.

Luckily, Bit and Annie became best friends, and almost immediately.  Annie was considered a "young adult" at the time, since she was not quite two years old yet, but she still had enough of the kitten in her that she wanted a playmate.  And yet most of the time, her comparative good sense kept Bit out of trouble.

Most of the time.

A friend of mine had recently taught me how to knit, and I had a project that I was working on.  I tended to lay it down on the edge of the stairs when I needed a break, so that I could later either grab it and take it upstairs with me, or easily get it to put in my work bag.  The knitting project lay there, safe, for the better part of two weeks.

Bit found it one fateful day, and ate almost two feet of yarn, swallowing it whole.  We didn't realize it had happened until later that night when I saw about a foot of it hanging out of her rear end.  So off we went to the all night emergency vet.  The vet was able to... ahem...extract the yarn without resorting to surgery, and sent us home with instructions to just make sure that she continued to eat, drink, and eliminate properly.

Lesson learned.  I picked up my yarn, and did a sweep of the house to make sure that I didn't have any other yarn remnants lying about.  Then all of it got dumped into a big tupperware box with a lid and put into the back of the closet, with the door closed.

But a month later, Bit managed to find, up in the attic (which has easy access to the cats, alas) a ball of string/twine stuff inside of a box, on a shelf.  She drug it out of the box and proceeded to strew it all over the attic.  And eat about a foot of it, of course.

Back to the emergency vet we went... again without having to resort to surgery.  But this time, the vets were looking at us kind of oddly.  One kindly suggested that we might want to try to keep her out of yarn and string.  Umm... yeah.  I think that I was paranoid about her getting into some kind of string that I'd completely forgotten about for MONTHS afterward.

 As she gets a little older, I worry about her less.  She seems like she might be growing into her common sense.  I don't invite tragedy by leaving yarn lying about, but I don't worry that she's going to magically open one of my drawers and eat something that she shouldn't.

We think that she has some Maine Coon in her, though of course there is no way to really be certain.  We have no idea of how she got to the shelter, who brought her in, or why.  But I did see a picture of a Maine Coon that could have been Bit, in the face.  And after some research, we learned that her kittenish behavior (even as an adult), her trilling noises, even her tendency to flop over onto her side without looking at what she is flopping on to (with some hilarious results, I might add) are all traits shared by many Maine Coons.  That and the fact that she's polydactyl.   She's kind of small for one - at a little over age 2, she is still only a little over 8 pounds - but we did read that Maine Coons don't reach their full growth until around age 5.  Maine Coon people, is this true?

When I had my gallbladder taken out a year and a half ago, she was my constant companion.  I can't think of too many times that she wasn't perched on my lap or at least next to me while I was recovering.

She's an awesome cat.  My only complaint about her is that she is so bent on making Romeo's life a misery.  As long as we keep the two of them separated, she's an affectionate, gentle, compliant cat (well, as compliant as cats can be.)  I look forward to hearing her excited trill when she first sees me when I come home from work.  If she's TRULY excited to see me, the trill is punctuated with her bushy tail shooting straight up into the air like an over-caffeinated exclamation point.

So now you've gotten a glimpse into our lives with Bit.  It's never, ever been dull.  For those who read my previous post about wallpapering and cats, yes, she is the kitten in question.  She's so very sweet...  I think that I'll go in and pick her up for cuddles now.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Instructions For Removing Wallpaper

I was looking back through the notes that I'd made on my Facebook page, and found something many of you will think is funny, and I'm going to make a bet that many of you have gone through some variation of this yourselves!  

How to Remove Wallpaper 

1. Move the furniture to the center of the room. Fill a bucket full of hot water, get a sponge, and start soaking down the wallpaper. 

2. Scrape away. Little bits of wallpaper go flying, when they...

3. Attract the attention of the kitten. She starts to happily eat them.

4. Realize that your kitten probably should NOT be eating strips of wallpaper with God knows what kind of adhesive on it. 

5. Attempt to catch the kitten to take wallpaper bits away from her.

6. Chase kitten throughout entire house, getting your husband in on the act.

7. Finally chase kitten under the bed, which is impossible for anyone that is not a cat to get underneath.

8. Lie on stomach, watching kitten happily nomming wallpaper just out of reach.

9. Resort to using the very string that put the kitten in the emergency room the night before as a dangly lure to get her to run out. 

10. Finally catch her, and eject her from the room.

11. Shut the door, and attempt to continue scraping wallpaper.

12. Listen to kitten's mournful cries on the other side of the door.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Happy Gotcha Day

A year ago this weekend, we decided to take the next step in selecting a greyhound by driving over to meet a large red fawn boy named "Willie."   And once we met him, and looked into his big brown eyes and saw him hesitantly wagging his tail at us, unsure of who we were or what we wanted with him, we fell in love.

Kind of like this expression...  this is a photo of him the very afternoon that we brought him home.  I can definitely see his uncertainty in his face, for all that we had just introduced him to his first toy ever! Look at his just-off-the-track ribs!

They actually let us take him with us, with a muzzle, to introduce him in our home to our cats, since we were of course very concerned that he be able to get along with them.  We did this, and Jeff said that he knew the moment we put him into our car that he was ours.  So did I, really, but I wasn't letting myself get my hopes up yet.  I feared falling too far too fast and then having him turn into a cat-eating machine as soon as we brought him into the house.

But obviously, that never happened.  He was fascinated with our house, and wanted to sniff everything in it, except for the cats.  He didn't look at them or react to them in any way, even though they were following him around hissing at him constantly.

We only took him back so that we could fill out the paperwork  (we'd already passed muster and had our application for a dog accepted, so by then it was just a matter of choosing a dog.)  Maybe someone a little more sane would have taken him back, thought it over for a day or two, then agreed to take him, AFTER getting doggy supplies, but no, not us.  We signed all of the paperwork, and then had to immediately go to Petco to buy everything, and I mean everything.  Bedding, food bowls, brushes, shampoo, food, toys, you name it...  We were given a crate on long-term loan from Steel City Greyhounds, so didn't need to worry about that.

We renamed him Argos.  I've never looked back, and of course do not have any regrets, even when the doggie is trying to coerce me into taking him outside into a snowstorm so that he can pee.  (meaningful stare at said dog.)

And here is a photo of a considerably fattened up, satisfied-looking hound!

It doesn't seem like we've had him for a year...  I can't remember what life was like before.  There was actually a time that I wasn't greeted at the door by a whirling dervish every time I came home from work.  Never looked into his eyes while I scratched him under the chin and listened to his teeth clack in happiness.  Never listened to him stretching out on the couch or on his dog bed, groaning as he relaxes.  Never saw him running with joy across the backyard. How sad!  (Not that I knew what I was missing.)

Argos has definitely made a convert out of both of us. I daresay that there will not be many times in our lives that we are without a greyhound in our house.

So, Argos, m'dear, Happy Gotcha Day!  2010 was so much brighter because of you!  And may we have many more of these celebrations together.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Trusts and Estates

In the course of my normal day-job, I was researching various types of special trusts.  One of the ones that I stumbled upon, unrelated to what I was actually working on, was a special pet trust - that is, setting up a fund, and at least one trustee, to look after your pets' welfare in the case of your death, in addition to a caretaker, who would be overseen by the trustees.   Now, I don't know about you, but I do not have the money to set aside into a trust fund for my animals, as much as I might like to.  So I'm not sure that the whole trust idea would work for me.

But it did make me start to think.  What WOULD happen to our animals if something, God forbid, were to happen to both my husband and I?

I've heard far, far too many sad stories about animals at the shelter,  in which a cat or dog wound up homeless because their owner died or had to be put into institutionalized care, and relatives didn't want the animal.

And that may well be what happened to me - there might be a couple of select family members that would take in one or two of my animals out of respect for me, and one would probably happily take in ONE of the cats, but other than that, I don't know that any of them would want or need the added responsibility.

Argos is taken care of, of that much I am certain.  Steel City Greyhounds would take him back and then rehome him.  He would never be deprived of care, and I am certain would find a loving home again.

It's the cats that I am concerned for.  (And yes, I realize that if the cats outlive us, our deaths would be VERY untimely, but it does happen.)  I'm at a loss.  Most, if not all, of the cat people that I know are "full up" meaning that they all have four or five cats already.  They would be insane to want to add to that number.

So what measures have you taken to make sure that your pet is cared for after your death?  Any wisdom, thoughts, suggestions to impart to me?

And...  speaking of the unfortunate need to rehome pets, I know of two kitties - sisters - six years old, who are in desperate need of a home.  Friends are trying to place them directly so that they do not have to go to the shelter and compete with kittens for adopters.  Does anyone know ANYONE within a reasonable distance of Pittsburgh, PA, that might consider taking them in?  They do not have any "bad habits" that I know of, and I know that one of them is even a lap-kitty, once she gets to know you!

Monday, January 3, 2011

My First ManCat Monday

It occurred to me that I do have a ManCat now, which makes me eligible for ManCat Monday.  :) .

Romeo, being handsome in the papisan chair.