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.