Wednesday, February 18, 2009

moving cats

turns out moving cats is a little like herding cats. We currently have three cats that live with us full time (Julia, the cerebelar Flopsy Mo, and the ancient Nando) and three foster cats (Coco -aka Beech; and the adorable Siam one and Two aka Frankie and Lil Sis). We boarded most of them for the weekend move; keeping only Flopsy with us as she would have panicked at the vets and brought them to the new house. They are all interested in exploring the space but quite happy to see us as well.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

not about cats ... but another legend is gone

how much death; how much cancer; will colour my life?
too much of both recently -that's for sure

bet you never knew a rabbit could be a legend huh? 12 years ago last Labour Day weekend a man was sitting on his lakeside cottage deck reading the paper and absorbed by it when he felt a gentle pat on his legs. He looked down and leaped to his feet in shock as a large white and black rabbit sat back and stared right back at him. He was not an animal person at all but after making inquires at local cottages realized that the bunny had probably been turned loose to fend for herself over winter. This man was most impressed that the rabbit just hung out peacefully in his living room while he tried to find its home. He realized he could not turn her loose to die alone in the woods so he put her in his car and drove her to an animal control near where his city house was. The shelter was ill equipped to handle large rabbits (they use guinea pig pages for all small domestics) and they had 2 large rabbits. They called me. I was able to take both the big bunnies to school with me. They got lots of out time while I went through the process of having them spayed and starting the search for forever homes. While both were wonderful bunnies (Midnight in fact went to a home and learned bunny agility) Pongo's personality was obvious from day 2. I decided that for the short term I would start working with her to be a humane education ambassador. Well truth be told I could not have had a better ambassador. She would patiently sit on a mat on one side of me while I spoke to whole school assemblies (with one of my humane ed dogs on another mat on the other side of me). It was a toss up as to which animal the students enjoyed watching more... all certainly provided entertainment!Her real excellence shone through in smaller settings though. With little children I would have them sit in a circle (knee to knee) and let Pongo hop around at her own pace to visit who she wanted. She NEVER once missed a child. Teachers regularly commented to me that she usually chose the most "special" " angry" "sad" or otherwise exceptional child to spend the most time with. She lived at a shelter I worked at for a couple of years (when when of the staff at my school decided she was allergic to her - despite never coming in my room). She got fed too many treats there though and had to come to live with me at my house. She lived free range for many years (mainly choosing to rule the very large laundry/furnace room). Eventually I gated her downstairs when we weren't home or awake (as she LOVED phone cords and I got sick of replacing them when they weren't put up out of reach). She had a lovely time terrorising any foster bunny and watching the ins and outs of my crazy house. I'd often find her cuddled up to a cat or dog, just one of the gang. She retired from formal humane education work about 4 years when I realized she was much older than most rabbits ever are.She was at least 14.. and quite possibly older. Last summer she came to our weekend place with me and loved being able to be out with her new friend in a huge dog run during nice days - she ate clover and dandelions and just enjoyed life. She was obviously an older girl - she was losing a little weight, she didn't jump or bink as high but her coat was glossy and she loved attention.On Wednesday at 4 I put a load of laundry in - she came up for cuddles - normal - I went down to trade loads at 7 and she came up for cuddles - lame. Eating drinking but a little sore. Rabbits hide things well so I was quite upset. At midnight she was a little more sore. I didn't sleep much and called my clinic first thing in the morning.Xrays revealed the bone was nearly eaten away at the joint by a tumour. A full body xray showed some shadowing in the lungs. The really odd thing is this legend was supposed to be going away for the weekend while we moved. With her usual grace and timing Pongo picked when and how to tell me she was ready to go. Can you imagine if I'd sent her away and the leg had fractured on the poor friend who was taking her for me? I can't imagine how that would have affected our relationship. The big bunny that could.. I will miss her a great deal.

Ode to a Pre-Loved Pet How can it be that Someone else didn't want you? What an idiot. --- Melanie Lee Chang

Sunday, February 1, 2009

no word pro available ..

so what do I do - I blog.. at least that way I get a spell checker ;)

When cats are raised in a multi-cat household, do they develop a hierarchy like dogs? And, if so, is it important for the humans in the house to take on the leader role? Or do cats care about any of this?

This question provoked a great deal of discussion, even within my own home. Cats mostly certainly are aware of relationships both between each other and with humans. Their hierarchy is looser than dogs seemingly. Cats change their place depending on the moment. In the same group of cats one might get the "preferred seating" while another may eat first and a third may drink first.

There can be some positioning around the use of litter boxes as well. The easiest way to prevent problems is to provide plenty of boxes (at least one more than there are cats) and use whatever litter the cats prefer most. Dumont was our fussiest cat and controlled the type of litter we used quite effectively!

When cats are stressed by overpopulation there can be problems. Aggression, inappropriate toileting, drastic changes in behaviour or eating are not uncommon. One cat may find living in a large group easy, another may find the addition of a third cat stressful. One way to reduce stress is to provide lots of vertical space. Cats at the top of the order in the house will often sit up high and survey the rest of the house. A multilevel cat tree can help keep peace in a multi cat home. I have lived with two cats who enjoyed the top of the fridge as their vantage point. One reason cats often knock things off mantels and shelves may be they are seeking some height and status; providing them cat appropriate seating may reduce that problem.

Cats generally seem quite able to differentiate between cat/cat relationships and human/cat relationships. Humans don't really need to assume an alpha role with cats but can focus on a positive relationship of whatever sort they desire. (In fact many positive dog trainers would say dogs don't either!) Cats are much more more trainable than most people realize!

Felines certainly can adapt to multi species relationships well. Dogs and cats, cats and rabbits will enjoy each others company and seek it out. Julia, one of our permanent cats prefers the company of dogs to the other cats and certainly chooses to play chase and chase me games with the dogs over any game with a cat. A friend of mine swears her hamster likes giving her Siamese a massage by clambering around on his back (she does supervise this interaction carefully mind you!)

The final question "do cats care about any of this" really depends on the cat. Some cats, just like some people, value and seek out more numerous and more in depth relationships than others. Some cats are loners - quite content to spend time alone - perhaps watching the world go by. Other cats thrive on attention .. Nando is only content if he is in contact with someone feline, canine or human!

Living in a multi cat house provides a great opportunity for observation and pleasure. It should be thoughtfully done though with provision for a slow gradual introduction and for plenty of space for each cat. Watching the changing nature of cat relationships is often quite entertaining!