Saturday, April 19, 2014

Kitten update

Just a few more weeks before we will be able to bring the Jellybean home. She's got to have a bit of cleanup done. She has what my mother refers to as "barn kitty eyes" - most barn kittens I've known have had it in one form or another. Usually it seems to clear up once we can get them some flea medicine, but then it may just correlate with getting them away from the standard barn dust and whatnot. It has also been a rough winter, so all the kitties are looking a bit more ragged than usual, even though the barn is heated. Ideally, we will pick her up the same day we're headed to the vet and get all that out of the way before she ever enters the house. As it stands, we have been washing hands and clothing every time we've been to see her, just in case.

Now we get to make sure Anubis is up to date on his shots, get a quarantine room ready, and figure out where we're getting Jellybean's shots and exam done (more than likely she will be taken to the humane society as they do the full testing without charging too much - assuming their vaccination clinic is open again by then).

On the upside, in spite of the eye problems, she does seem interested in playing:

Saturday, March 29, 2014


"I found you. That means you are mine now, right?"

 So... we might be bringing home a kitten.


There was a winter litter at my aunt's dairy barn just down the road from us, and the runt of the litter has done a pretty good job of getting her wee little claws hooked into my heart. (I say her, but it's only a guess - it's still a little early to be sure, they are all quite tiny still, she just looks less "obvious male" than the other black kitten.)

So far, the kitten has been dubbed Jellybean, because they all looked like wee furry jellybeans when we first walked into the barn and saw them, and it sort of stuck.

Getting ready to climb momma cat to get to me.

We got a few photos today, though not very good ones as it's raining and the barn was pretty dark. Plus the little fuzz-nugget wouldn't stop moving long enough for me to focus my camera (there is video too but my other half has to process that for me - my computer doesn't have enough memory to edit high-def video and he needs to convert the file before we can upload). But today as soon as we walked in, once our little furball heard both our voices she abandoned her lunch and started bawling at us.

We didn't stay long because my aunt was busy and it's rainy and cold today (there's a furnace in the barn but still, I didn't want to keep baby away from warm mama cat for long). But I did get at least those photos before this idiot decided to photobomb:

"What is that in your hand? That hand should be petting me."
He then proceeded to climb all over me and that sort of killed the photoshoot. (Yes, we are aware his eyes need a bit of help - my aunt has some ointment from the vet, the barn kitties have been having a rough winter with all this crazy weather. Most of it's just kitty head colds.)

But we're keeping an eye on the jellybean for now, taking some time to come to a final decision. Momma's running out of milk already, and my cousin says she's already teaching the kittens how to eat regular food, so it may not be much longer, but we want to make sure momma cat has time to teach them what they need to know before we take anybody home.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder - Or: Why I will no longer buy dragon scale bettas

Say hello to Lo Pan. (No, he has no green-eyed bride.)

In addition to my furry friends, I am also fond of fishkeeping (try saying that one three times fast). Fish were the only thing I could have in college, and with the small space, naturally bettas were my first love. I've had several bettas over the years, most of them outliving their standard life expectancy (they usually only live around five years, and most bettas you buy in the store are already at least a year or two old, as it takes a while for their full finnage to grow out, so they look more impressive once they are past breeding age). Our most recent loss, Lucius, was with us for at least six years.

My current betta, Lo Pan, is what is known as a "dragon" or "dragon scale" betta. Dragon scale bettas are characterized by thicker, more noticeable scales, which usually have a very metallic sheen. Lo Pan was the first of this type I was really drawn to - most of them are not really "my type" when it comes to looks, but this guy just had a little something extra.

Still the same fish. Every angle of the light changes his color.

It wasn't until I got him home that I noticed anything wrong.

First was that his gills cannot flare all the way. One way I check the health of my bettas is to hold up a mirror to encourage them to flare in a typical territorial display. This way I can see their fins fully. They also bring their gills forward and fan them out to make themselves look larger. (Just a note, you should do this sparingly as it does get them riled and that's not healthy if they're doing it too often.) Lo Pan, I noticed, could not properly fan his gills out. He tries, but they snap back very quickly. I am not certain if this affects his breathing - it has been a bit difficult finding much information about this, but scales growing over the gills seems to be noted by some as a common condition in dragon scale bettas.

I also noticed, once I got him into better light, that there was a scale growing over one eye. I asked about it online, and was told by another betta enthusiast that this is known as "diamond eye" and is also very common in dragon bettas. I was also told this usually becomes more prominent as the fish gets older, and most will eventually go blind, if they are not already.

You can see the scale over his eye very clearly in this photo.

Today as I looked at him, he tried to flare at me again - the issue with his gills seems worse than before.

This seems problematic to me. As beautiful as Lo Pan is, I do not wish to encourage the breeding of unhealthy fish. So he will be my last dragon scale, unless I can find evidence that there are breeders that have found a way to eliminate this problem while still keeping the beautiful scale pattern.

I can't stop others from buying them, but I can stop buying them myself. Not that I will judge people for buying these fish from stores since they are already there - I know plenty of people who prefer to "rescue" fish like this to make sure that the person who takes them home can at least give them a good life. But as for me, much like my decision not to buy fish from certain chain stores, I do not wish to encourage the practice to continue. It hurts my heart to leave them there, but it has to stop somewhere.

If anyone has more information on these issues, feel free to send links. I would like to learn more.

For those who have a betta who is already going blind, I can offer some suggestions that others have sent me: bettas can also smell their food, so if you are using pellets, you can dip them in chicken broth or (so I am told) even a little bit of garlic oil so they can find their food more easily.

Friday, March 07, 2014

Almost-spring updates

The first signs of proper greenery for the year.

Well, it's certainly been a while since I posted anything, so I suppose I'm a bit overdue for some updates.

This winter has been a rough one on everybody, and the furry kids are no exception. Our Anubis has been dealing with a lot of aches and pains this winter, so I got him a nice heated bed to try and help tame them down somewhat.
I think we can call this one a success.
He likes it so much, he spends almost all his time in it anymore. In addition to the heated bed, we also started Adequan treatments earlier this year, which have been a HUGE help. Adequan is a joint supplement that is labeled for use in dogs, and used off-label in cats. It's what Simba was put in after her injury that gave her such a miraculous recovery from her joint problems before other complications took her down. Anubis showed just as miraculous a change even after the first dose. He's through his four week course now, and the vet said he shouldn't need another dose for about 6 months or so. He's playing again, something he hadn't really been doing all winter. He's behaving on his bad-joint days like he was on the good days before. We also started setting his food up on blocks so he doesn't have to crouch down to eat. He definitely seems to like that better than all his bowls being on the ground.

Thanks to one of the Hill's Pet giveaways he also now has a Drinkwell, which he LOVES.
Pardon the offering to the floor gods. About half of his food goes on the carpet.
Of course, now that spring is around the corner, there are other thoughts on my mind. One of which is kittens. We made a promise to ourselves (and to Mr. Fuzzy) that we would start the search for another cat in the spring. He misses having a buddy, and, well, I miss having a purr pillow of my own (Anubis is James's cat, though he is happy for snuggles from me too, it's not the same). We figure a kitten will warm up to him quicker and therefore make it a little less stressful on everybody, since he was the accepting one in the equation before. Hopefully we can find somebody compatible, both with Anubis and with me. It's a big step forward, but one I think I need to take.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Empty spaces

The arm of the couch was always her spot.

I reached for her again. First time in months.

Sometimes I will still see a little movement out of the corner of my eye, and my brain tricks me into thinking there's a cat-shaped something there. But usually I catch myself and it passes before it jerks me by the heart. But the arm of the couch... that was her spot. I didn't catch myself this time until I had already reached back to pet her.

Anubis still looks for her sometimes, too. But at least now we can say her name in the house without him getting upset. He is eating normally again for the most part - from his regular bowls too. Though he is showing signs of age that we never saw before he went through the stress of losing Simba.

I still have trouble looking at the photos sometimes, though. And I haven't been able to sit through any of the videos.

Some critters just claw their way into our hearts a little deeper than others. We don't always know how or why, only that we're lost without them.

Nobody sits in that spot now. It was hers and hers alone. Anubis will not sit there, though he has taken to sleeping in her old bed. The arm of the couch remains claimed and empty.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Cat Burglar

More fun with fiction - this time one written for a friend.

Her humans had been gone for an unusually long time. Fall had thought it strange when there were bags and soft boxes she wasn't allowed to lie in being filled with clothes. But the humans had left the house just like normal, at the usual time of day, with the usual good-bye and assurance that they would return.

But they hadn't returned. It was getting dark out... they were normally home by now. It was almost dinner time, and they weren't home to feed her. Well, she thought with a flick of her tail, if they weren't going to feed her on time, she was just going to go have a nice nap on that pillow she wasn't supposed to get fur all over. Just as she was turning to wander off to the bedroom, she heard the sound of someone at the door. Aha! They were home. She began to meow with impatience, scolding them for being late, but when the door opened, she froze.

That was NOT her human.

The stranger reached out to pet the cat, and she immediately fled beneath a chair. It was not her human, but they were in her house. There were only two possible reasons for this. Either her humans had abandoned her (ridiculous!) or this was a burglar.

Fall had heard of cat-burglars before, and rather thought it was rude to go and burgle someone else's cat - whatever burgling was. But she had never expected to see one in her house. As the burglar moved toward the kitchen, Fall followed, crouched low and padding quietly. She peered around the corner in time to see the burglar rummaging in the cabinets - the cabinets with her food in it! The nerve! She watched as the burglar picked up her bowl. This was too much. Bad enough that this stranger was intruding on her house, but now they were touching her FOOD. She had to take action.

Trying to look braver than she really was, Fall puffed out her fur and leaped toward the stranger, yowling madly. The human caught her by the scruff before her claws had a chance to stick in, pulling her gently away.

"No. Bad kitty!"

Oho! So this was what cat-burglars did, was it? They go into other people's houses and tell their cats what to do, did they? This was an outrage! This was hideous! This was-

Fall forgot quite suddenly what it was exactly as the food bowl was placed back on the floor, totally full. She stared, confused, as the burglar refilled the water bowl too, then left the kitchen and headed toward the litter box. Weren't cat-burglars supposed to be a bad thing? So why was the burglar feeding her and cleaning her litter box? That didn't seem so bad...

The stranger washed her hands, dried them, and went to the door. "I'll be back in the morning."

And then she was gone.

Perplexed, Fall went to sniff her food bowl. It smelled alright... just like normal. She took a few bites. Tasted normal too. Finally she settled herself down to eat. Whatever this was, she supposed she would allow it. For now.

The cat-burglar kept coming back over the next several days, until at last Fall's own humans returned. She yowled and scolded and tried to tell them all about the burglar, but they simply petted her and snuggled her and simply would not listen to reason.

She supposed she would have to chalk it up to the fact that humans were simply very strange animals.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Moving forward

I'm blue, da boo dee da boo da...

Anubis is finally starting to make real improvement. He lost weight for a while after we lost Simba, wasn't eating his regular food (though for the first few days he had been eating like a horse). We bought a different food to see if we could coax him to eat, and now he's eating like crazy (he won't eat it from his normal bowl, but that's okay, we have other bowls). He is, quite thankfully, looking like a cat again and less like skin and bones.

He has stopped wandering the house crying and looking for her all the time. He has taken to occasionally sitting in what were formerly her spots, so he seems to be acknowledging that she isn't coming back now. He still stops to sniff now and then, but I don't expect him to forget her completely.

Biggest deal of all... he was actually purring the other night, for a reason other than begging for treats. That's a big change.

We're still giving him a few drops of the Bach Rescue Remedy with his wet food in the evenings, as it seems to have helped a great deal in helping him pull out of his depression and move forward. We want to make sure he's really over the mountain before we take that away.

But overall we seem to be moving past the kitty blues and getting to the healing stage. We were honestly terrified he was going to let himself go for a while there. But if a bit of a change was all he needed, we can do that. I don't know why he decided to shun his other food. Maybe it's a reminder that it's the food, and the bowl, he used to share with her. I know us bipedal-types get those sorts of hangups sometimes too. But at least we've got him eating like normal again.