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Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Cyclones beat the Wildkitties!

Sorry all you pet fans but this Iowa State Cyclone fan is going crazy!!

My ISU 'Clones just beat the KSU Wildkitties (hee, hee) by 2 points. That's the second rated team we've beat in a week. Hilton Magic is baaaaacccckkkkkkk!

I'm so happy and still cheering out loud. I wonder if people outside can hear me (hmh).

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Rainbow over the Cyclones

Rainbow in 2009

I'm having conflicting emotions tonight. On the one hand, my Iowa State Cyclones took down the #5 rated Kansas J-Hawks! Yay! Go 'Clones!

On the other hand, Rainbow isn't doing so well. She's withdrawn and a little wobbly, drinking constantly and not eating very well. She's avoiding me whenever she's downstairs, probably because that's where she gets stuck with that darn needle for her fluids, but at least she still cuddles with me in bed. I just get the feeling that maybe the toxins are building up in her body causing her to be a little spacey and shaky.

I'm going to call her vet tomorrow to make sure I'm doing all I can but in the meantime please send her your prayers.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

What a bunch of hams!


Kittens grow so fast, before you know it they’re moving out, going to college and starting a family………….no, no, wrong story! They do grow too fast though. It seemed like they grew to be completely different kittens during the time I was at work during the day. I kept snapping pictures until I realized I was missing out on my time with them.

Soon I managed to arrange my time so that I could enjoy their antics and take pictures for posterity. And these kittens were extremely cooperative.

Tortie fell asleep under her cage
Taylor the glamor girl
Garage sales provided me with plenty of “stuff” to use in my photo sessions and the kittens posed like professionals. But not all of my shots were purposely posed with objects in the scene for kittens to interact with. I hung a sheet up across a shelving unit so that I would have a decent background and I just started clicking. I caught them playing with each other, with toys and even with the sheet itself.
Trucker at his cutest

Also during this time the cooperative, though still quite wild, mothers began coming out of their cages. They’d spent so much time in the cages that they had come to think of the cages as their homes. So when it came time for the kittens to go back to the cages to eat and sleep, the mothers did the same. That way everyone got some exercise and a chance to get away from each other.

Spotty getting the best of Scotty, as usual
Various cliques soon developed. The dominant clique consisted of brothers Spot, B.W. and Scotty but they were joined off and on by Trucker and Taylor. The younger kittens just couldn’t keep up with the older boys though so each evening Trucker would leave the group and get me to play with him. Then Taylor did the same but she eventually rejoined the boys just as Scotty left the other two. I don’t think Scotty liked the rougher play that developed through the evenings.

Scotty tuckered out
At this age, kittens tend to fall asleep very easily, sometimes right in the middle of their playing. I saw it many times. Two kittens would be wrestling then suddenly their heads droop and they are asleep. Other times a kitten would come over to sleep in my lap or struggle to get back to their nest to nuzzle at their moms.

Sadly this was also a period when prospective adopters came to see “their” kittens. I’d gone through this before but unfortunately for the previous kittens, I learned as I progressed from litter to litter. In ’94 I took in a large group of feral kittens, rehabilitated them and found them homes by inviting folks in to pick out their favorites. I did go so far as to have them fill out an application but I didn’t check them out or verify any of the information. Afterward I regretted that decision because I had no idea where those kittens went nor how they did in their new homes. The kittens that remained in the room after each adoption also suffered. They saw strangers come into their safe zone and when they left another kitten disappeared. By the time the last kitten was adopted he was extremely upset with the presence of his strangers.

The next litter of kittens didn’t go through that stress and I knew exactly where the adopted one ended up. Yes, out of five kittens four stayed with me. Fuzzball was the only one I didn’t bond with but a good friend of mine wanted him. Interestingly he was the only one I couldn’t find a permanent name for either. The ones that stayed were Mewdy Blue, Question, Sky Voice and Bluebird.

Tweety, always the quiet one
I had a couple of other disheartening experiences that formed my new plan. Little Boy went to a nice woman who seemed to genuinely love him but a very short time later she showed up at my door saying he bit her. You see, Little Boy had a habit of giving little love bites that might be misconstrued as aggression but he was never an aggressive cat. So he came to live with me. Then a family with a couple of teenage daughters adopted Lady Butterfly. A couple of weeks later I got a call that Lady was not fitting into their family, that she was hiding in the closet and wouldn’t come out. She is a very affectionate cat who loves people of all ages as well as dogs so that didn’t make any sense to me. She came back to me and quickly became not only a show cat but also a popular pet therapy cat. She is nearly unflappable.

With those experiences behind me I knew from the start that I had to do better with these litters. I researched contracts used by cat breeders and came up with my own. I devised a plan to find the new families for these kittens. Instead of advertising in the usual sense, I spread the word around my place of business (the College of Veterinary Medicine) figuring that I would find more fitting adopters. In addition I checked their references (their veterinarians) and I delivered the kittens to their homes so that I knew the situation the kittens would be living in.

Even with all this, things don’t always go as planned. I’ll tell you more about the separations next time.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Hawaiian Vog

Since I have a few readers who hail from those wonderful Hawaiian isles I thought I'd bring this to their attention. People have been alerted to the coming vog (volcanic fumes) this week and advised to take the necessary precautions. I want to be sure you also think of your pets during this time. Dogs and cats can suffer respiratory problems from vog and if they already have respiratory ailments like asthma, it may get even worse for them. I ran across this article with advice from a local veterinarian:

Please be safe and make sure your pets are too! Yes, even in paradise life can be complicated.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Kittens in a bigger world

Scotty preparing to leave the nest
Now, where was I? Ah, yes, the kittens were just looking to escape their cages. The first step was to get out of their “nests” which were low-sided boxes lined with towels. I set up new boxes to act as their temporary playrooms and that’s just how they used them. For the reluctant ones I used a toy, foil strands attached to a plastic wand, to attract their attention. Although they weren’t quite coordinated yet, they still had the drive to play.

At first they just watched the toy, enthralled. Eventually they’d stumble out of their boxes and into their playrooms. By this time they had also begun to play with each other, really a sight to behold. They were hilarious, tumbling about unable and not caring to maintain their upright positions.
Family Squabbles

Scotty and Tortie/Gaia
This period in any kitten’s life is crucial to developing their social skills. They learn how hard to bite without hurting by biting their littermates until they scream. One screams and walks away thus ending the play session. Playing also helps them develop their motor skills and get them ready for hunting – whether or not they’ll need that skill. For housecats it is also the time to learn how to interact with humans. They are able to see the person who goes with the voice they’ve been hearing and learn whether to trust her or not.

Some of the kittens were just too curious to remain in their cage once they left the nest. Sparks’ kittens were first, of course, even going so far as to investigate the other cage. B.W. came first choosing to investigate my feet and legs over anything else. Then Spotty followed finding the other litter to be a real curiosity. Finally Trinket, from Tourmalina’s litter just couldn’t stand it any longer. She just had to figure out what these other furry creatures were so she slipped out of her nest.
Scotty on my lap

Soon all of the kittens were out and about interacting and learning how to climb, burrow, play, and eat. I could tell right away which kittens were going to be the most social. Trucker preferred to climb and perch on my feet to playing with the others while Scotty much preferred to cuddle up on my lap. Taylor also preferred my company but she usually fought with the big boys first then enticed me to play with her. When Trucker tired of perching on my foot he’d sneak around behind me and climb up my back. Soon Scotty followed his example. That’s when they all learned about toenail clippers!
Tortie the bully and Tinkerbell

Now, I could very easily have fallen in love with any of the red tabbies, especially Trucker and his antics, but I fought to remain objective about them. You see, my best show cat, Misha Baryshnikat, was a red tabby. He was one of those “special” cats that took a part of my heart when he left for the Rainbow Bridge. I feared that I would always compare other red tabbies to him giving them very little chance to fill those paws. Sometimes, though, you realize you have no control over what happens.

I was quickly falling in love with Taylor and Scotty, however. Obviously Scotty was doing his best to further this by cuddling with me and falling asleep on my lap or in my arms every time I sat down in the room. Taylor was just becoming a beautiful little girl and I admired her toughness when playing with the older kittens. She was undaunted by anything they did to her. Those piercingly deep blue eyes just drew me in. Her lengthening fur, so creamy and soft didn’t hurt. Also, she was the only female to warm up to me. As I mentioned Tortie and I just didn’t seem to have any connection at all even though I love torties. Trinket was an independent girl from the start and Tinkerbell remained skittish. Since Tinkerbell already had a likely home, I hoped she’d calm down eventually.

You might wonder what the mother cats were up to during this time. Well, we developed a routine that seemed to suit them just fine. When the kittens first came out of the cages each day I’d clean out the cages and the litterpans, change their water and put in new food. The mother cats remained in the cages as far away from me as possible but never offering to attack me. Sparks would sometimes hiss at me but that’s as far as it ever got. They seemed to trust me to a point but I could never try to touch them. They weren’t and still aren’t willing to go that far.

As the kittens grew into their second month I began taking photos with random objects and even hung a sheet up as a background.  They were all very cooperative with that, as you will see next time.
Tourmalina and her litter

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Busch Gardens

I just had to let everyone know about this new offering by Busch Gardens.

The reason I bring this up relates to an experience I had many years ago. I was looking for a job – I needed a change after working in research for many years and wondered what it would be like to live in Florida. Knowing that I would be vacationing in Orlando in the fall, I applied for a job at Busch Gardens in Tampa.

At the time, Busch Gardens was not in need of a veterinary technician, the position I applied for, but they offered to interview me any way just in case an opening occurred in the future. I was happily surprised to learn, upon my arrival in Florida, that my interview would be an all day thing showing me what went on in the veterinary unit. We only had one car so my sisters dropped me off while they spent the day at Daytona Beach.

I felt so privileged to see what a “typical” day would be for a vet tech at Busch Gardens. Of course, typical is a misnomer. Every day is different when you work with wild animals in a public entertainment facility. First I got a tour of the veterinary facility including watching a minor surgery on a gazelle. They may look like gentle, graceful creatures but when it comes to being handled they can be quite dangerous. At any time their hooves can cut into a human leg causing extreme damage. Needless to say they also have huge, dangerous horns (or antlers, I don’t know which).

Not real animals, not Busch Gardens
Next I got a behind-the-scenes tour of the animal enclosures. I rode in a jeep (first time for that too) around a fenced-in area where the larger animals were free to run. It was easy to pretend I was on a safari far from home looking for endangered species. I saw so many animals up close, like giraffes, water buffalo, elephants, big cats, etc. – it was thrilling.

not in the nursery
Then the vet tech took me to the nursery. I wondered, if I couldn’t get a job as a vet tech at Busch Gardens maybe I could work as a nursery tech. This is where young animals who have been abandoned by their mothers go for intensive care. Or other young animals who might not be doing well enough on their own, receive special care and supplements to their regular diet. They showed me the most adorable baby chimp as his caretaker bottle-fed him. He was just like a human baby. And I watched a very young Macaw hatchling, very weak and vulnerable, trying so hard to down his food from a dropper. I could have spent all day in that nursery.

After an informal interview with the veterinarian and a closer look around the clinic, they turned me loose to spend the rest of my day in the park. The only other time I had an experience anything like this was when I visited Sea World and bought a ticket for a “backstage” tour. I’ll have to tell you about that some time.  :)
At SeaWorld, birth of new calf!

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Rainbow's struggle

I’m taking a night off from the kittens’ story because I am concentrating all of my energy on Rainbow right now. I managed to get an appointment with Dr. Tammy today and had some blood work run on Rainbow. She’s been losing weight gradually and since she is 17 years old I didn’t want to let that go undiagnosed. Unfortunately I have had to put it off several times because other cats were ill and needed workups, the latest being Bluebird. I can’t afford to take all of them in at the same time so it is a matter of “triage” of sorts.

In any case, tonight the call came in to tell me that Rainbow is in chronic renal failure. Her creatinine and BUN are really high. Both are indicators of kidney health. While she was at the clinic we also gave her a large bolus of fluids SQ but by the time of the phone call she had already soaked most of it up. That means she was dehydrated as well although that didn’t show. The only course of action at this point is to adjust her diet and give her fluids on a regular basis to help flush out any toxins that have built up in her system.

I am terribly concerned about her and feeling very guilty about having put her health on the sideburner all this time. I’ve had her since she was a kitten so we are very close. But I had no choice. I do remember when my first cat (as an adult), Gabbie started having kidney trouble, she was 13 years old. She lived to be 17 and died of bladder cancer. I can only pray that Rainbow is able to fight the worst of this off and stay with me a few more years.

How Rainbow feels about photo shoots
I’ll get back to the kittens this weekend. Thanks for following along. In the meantime I’ve love to hear your success stories of cats with kidney trouble.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Black Tourmaline

Tourmalina, new to the cage
You might wonder where the two mother cats got their names. Sparks’ is easy to explain. She has big, bright yellow eyes that just seem to cut right into your psyche. At times, when I was working with her kittens I could imagine sharp electrical sparks shooting from her eyes at me. Thus, I knew her name was Sparks.

Tourmalina is a little more involved. As I mentioned in one of the earlier posts, she showed up soon after Ozma died of multiple myeloma (more on that story at a later date) and her coloring reminded me so much of Ozma. When I first introduced Ozma into the household I had been calling her Splash because of the splash of gold on her face but I always knew that was only a temporary name.

Rainbow, when I first caught her

When Ozma was a feral kitten in the barn I first saw her sister, the most colorful kitten I’d ever seen. She was a brown-patched classic tabby and white with a white tip on her tail and brilliant green eyes. Naturally I knew that her name was Rainbow, long before we really got around to talking to each other. So later when “Splash” came into the household I started looking through my old, very old, Wizard of Oz books. I came across a description of Princess Ozma as having “lips the tint of tourmaline.”

I looked up the meaning of tourmaline and found that it is a multi-colored gem believed to have many uses and powers. Black tourmaline supposedly strengthens one's psychic energy, deflects negative energy, and treats anxiety and nervous disorders things I definitely needed at that time. And Splash was multi-colored, a green-eyed tortoiseshell with pink lips and nose pad. I felt it at once, she was Ozma, my Beauty Queen Ozma.

Then this feral, tortoiseshell cat showed up after Ozma’s death and immediately told me her name was related to her coloring. Tourmalina may not be a princess or a royal queen but she is colorful and will hopefully be a sweet, loving cat someday in the future.
Tourmalina now at home

Thursday, January 12, 2012

World's Tiniest Frog

I am intrigued by this frog, the Paedophryne amauensis. Have a look at this article:

They have a great picture showing the frog sitting on a dime! I wondered how in the world they found these things but that is explained in the article. I'd love to be the one who found something like this.

My family has always been interested in archeology, probably influenced by my mom's interest in Egyptology. Well, finding new species is a little like archeology, looking for hidden treasures. Kind of like a mystery to solve, too. Once you find something you have to find a way to explain its existence and meaning. That's just so cool!

Kittens with personalities

B.W., Spot, Tortie, Scotty
Sparks with Tortie and Spot
Ever conscious that all kittens need early socialization to help them learn how to function in a world filled with humans I regularly visited the kittens from day one. At first I just talked to them so they’d recognize my voice later but when I judged that the mothers would allow it I reached in and touched them several times a day. I never trusted the mothers. Instead I fashioned a shield of sorts out of a box. I left the bottom and one side open and lowered the open bottom over the kittens blocking mamma kitty from my hand. The only time the mothers had any complaint about this method was when I started to pick up the kittens and they would “mew”.

Even before their eyes opened the kittens were developing unique personalities. Taylor, for instance, hissed every time she heard my voice. When I touched her she even spat at me – before her eyes were open! Scotty was the most outgoing of his litter coming forward on his own toward my voice.

When it came time for their eyes to open it seemed like it happened in an instant. First I noticed Spotty’s eyes, just a slit but opening just the same. Next came B.W. and Scotty. Gaia was a little harder to tell because she liked to hide in her mother’s fur. As soon as their eyes were completely opened Tourmalina’s kittens eyes seemed to just pop open. And Taylor’s tirades continued.

Scotty's temporarily folded ear
This is when the names started coming. First it was Spotty and B.W., obvious names for black and white kittens. They were only temporary names, after all. Taylor’s name just came to me. I guess it was that mysterious connection again. I kept calling her Taylor Dane for some reason. When Scotty’s ears suddenly folded one day, he had his name, a nod to the Scottish Fold breed.

His tortoiseshell sister already had a home waiting for her so I didn’t even bother giving her a very imaginative name. I simply called her Tortie. She and I never did really have any type of a connection at all. Perhaps it was because we both knew where she would be going. My home was simply a kind of kindergarten for her.

Trucker's first venture out of the nest
It wasn’t long after their eyes opened that they started leaving the nest. One of the red tabbies came barreling out of his nest but then turned around and slipped back in. He wasn’t quite that brave yet. But a short time later he did it again. This time he came all the way to the door of the cage. He was truckin’ so I called him Trucker. Trinket, the brown-patched tabby, was next. She meandered about the cage and found the water bowl. She wasn’t interested in me at all. Taylor took charge and quickly came out of the cage toward me. She climbed up on my legs and made herself at home telling me all about her day. She was a talker just like a Siamese but with long hair.

The other two red tabbies weren’t interested in anything outside their nest. Finally I decided to pull them out myself and get them introduced to being held. One turned out to be a female, a surprise since most red tabbies are male. I thought Tinkerbell would suit her. Then, since all of the others in that litter had names starting with “Ts” I stuck the last red tabby with the moniker of Tweety Pie. I hoped that he turned out to be a sweetie. I received an email from a retired English professor (ironically one of my instructors from the past) that she wanted a red tabby female, so Tinkerbell was tentatively spoken for.

Soon the room was full of kitten bodies that at first stumbled about investigating their world. They quickly developed their sense of balance and made the room their own. Meanwhile the mother cats grew accustomed to the regular routine and gave me no trouble. As I cleaned their litter pans they stayed at the opposite end of the cage. When I fed them they waited until the cage door was closed to attack the food. We had a great arrangement.

Next time I’ll tell you what it was like to have 9 kittens running around a single small room and two wild mothers who cooperated while retaining their wildness. For now just remember that if you have kittens that need homes:

1.     Socialize them early
2.     Begin looking for homes as soon as possible
3.     Use photos – they really influence the soft-hearted
Outgrowing the nest

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Kittens, kittens, kittens......................and kittens

 In addition to the senior citizens in my household I also have the two feral cats, Sparks and Tourmalina (somewhere around 5-6 years old), and four of their progeny (now almost 4 years old). How did this happen? I ask myself that question every day.

Beauty Queen Ozma
It started one winter night when I spied a young tortoiseshell cat (Tourmalina) outside my garage. I had just lost my sweet Ozma rather suddenly in dramatic, heart-breaking fashion. This new girl was strangely colored. Ozma was also a tortoiseshell but she had a gold splash on her face mostly on one side. The new girl had a gold splash on the opposite side. It was spooky.

Then I started noticing other cats showing up, four total. Even though I couldn’t get close to any of them I could tell that two were females and two were males. The females were this tortoiseshell and a calico (Sparks) and the black and white bicolored males were “well developed” and obviously boys. I also noticed that one of my neighbors had started putting food out on her stoop.

I’ve worked with feral cats before and hated the thought that these cats might start their own colony at any time so I determined to do the right thing. Eventually I caught all of the cats using a humane trap. The males I had neutered, vaccinated and then released them again. I had no intention of keeping any of them (famous last words, right?). Unfortunately the females were already pregnant. After much consternation I decided to let them have their kittens and find homes for them afterward. I would then have the females spayed, vaccinated and release them too.

Sparks was first. I set up a large cage with all the accouterments and waited only a day before she gave birth. The very first kitten came out head first, his black nose shining amid the rest of his white coat. Before she’d even cleaned him up completely I knew I’d be keeping him (Mulberry Spot). I really didn’t need any more cats, what was I thinking???
Sparks and her brood, 4 days old

The second kitten was another black and white. How could I pass up a pair like that? Of course I kept him too (B.W. Huckleberry). The third and fourth kittens came out rather quickly so I’m not sure which was first but one was a tortoiseshell (Gaia) and the other was a brown mackerel tabby and white (Scotty/Toby, I’ll explain later). I gave Sparks a day to recover then I started spending a lot of time in the room with them, talking to them and eventually petting the kittens all in an effort to make sure they would be socialized from the start.

Next came Tourmalina. She was the last to step into my trap at a time when I’d almost given up hope of ever catching her. Luckily I had one more cage though I had to run out and buy the supplies to make a floor for it. Like Sparks, Tourmalina took only a day or two before she too gave birth. It was quite a sight; this little ex-bedroom had become a temporary cattery for two wild cats. The two cages were large enough that they took up most of the space in the room.

Tourmalina's brood, 1 day old
Tourmalina’s litter began with what appeared to be a white kitten (Taylor) but right from the start I didn’t believe it would be white. I grew up with Siamese cats and knew that they started out white/cream but then in a week or more their points slowly fade in. I can’t tell you why but I was sure that’s what would happen with this kitten. She was followed by one red tabby, then two and finally a third red tabby (Strawberry, Gooseberry and Tinkerbell). I thought she was done so I moved over to Sparks’ kittens to take more pictures and give Tourmalina some privacy to clean up her babies. But when I glanced back her way I saw another kitten; a brown patched tabby (Trinket). Don’t ask me why, I just knew she would be patched even though none of her cream/red coloring was showing yet. I just seemed to have some sort of connection with those kittens.

Most importantly I immediately went online and spread the word to everyone I knew as well as on the website at work that I had kittens that needed homes in a few weeks. I am proud to say I had several homes lined up for some of the kittens before their eyes were even open.

I spent the next many weeks getting to know the kittens and their mothers and enjoying the time I had with them. I just figured that I might never again have kittens in my life so I might as well have as much fun with these babies as I could. Even more fun was the fact that I had my first digital camera during this time so I snapped zillions of pictures as they were born and as they grew.

Mulberry Spot
I’ll tell you more about the kittens in another post. Stay tuned to meet the berries!

Thursday, January 5, 2012


Well, tonight I finally managed to get Tourmalina, the other "feral" cat, into a carrier. It wasn't easy but it's done. I first trapped her in the bathroom then spent at least 1/2 hour in there doing everything I could to convince her that the inside of the carrier really wasn't that scary.

Meanwhile outside the bathroom door I could hear the whining of the dog and scratches from the other cats. Everyone was curious about the noises coming from the bathroom. Given that Tourmalina was mewing quite a lot, I'm guessing that Blizzard (the dog) had a little of his protective side pushing him. He doesn't like it when the cats "disagree" and usually tries to break it up. This time he couldn't because the door was shut.

So, hopefully, tomorrow Dr. Tammy will be able to fit Tourmalina into her schedule. She'll need to be sedated before receiving her vaccinations and a good physical just like Sparks did a few weeks ago. Wish us luck!