Tabby Is the New Black

WHAT WE’VE BEEN UP TO:

Hello faithful 2 Blogging Cats fans. Lola and Sasha have handed the reins over to their cousin cats across the pond this week, as they are busy at the salon getting pedi-claws.

For those of you who don’t remember us here  is our back story.

Us in happier days before Nym went to the Pokey, the Slammer, the Crowbar Hotel.

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We have again asked our faithful servant (Auntie Hanne) to use her human paws to type this document.

I, Dimitri Smirnoff Stalin, have turned amateur detective and solved the mystery of A Study in Scarlet. Our wretched humans abandoned us to starve last month. Yes, starve! They deserted us for a romantic week-end getaway.

They left on a Friday and came back on a Sunday which if you do the math means we were forsaken to fend for ourselves for at least one full day.

Here I am searching high and low for clues:

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Yes, she filled our to overflowing with bowls with kitty pet food. Yes, she filled 4 bowls around the house with water. Yes, we might have managed to put on a few pounds while she was gone. But….we were starving we tell you.

Strange when our human left she was carrying a Scarlet duffel bag with her human essentials. When she returned the bag was gone but we sensed some resentfulness in her attitude and smelled a faint perfume of old cat urine wafting through the air.

I hope you learned your lesson Nymeria.

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Apparently an anonymous feline peed in her bag as she was preparing to leave the house. She only discovered this on the train. Odd. Don’t you think?

I turned to Nymeria and squawked “J’accuse!” which is the French equivalent of “Not it!”

Uh oh, she looks mad!

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There you have it, mystery solved and perpetrator behind bars.

FUN FACT:
If there is one thing that us humans and cats agree on it is that watching birds from our dining room window in summer is more fun than winter. We are still waiting to spot our returning ruby throated hummingbirds. According to reports they are already in New England but we have had an inclement spring. These tiny pugilistic birds can travel thousands of miles from their winter habitats in Panama and Mexico to their northernmost summer homes.

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A Tail of Two Kitties

WHAT WE’VE BEEN UP TO:

We have been busy helping Zoe run lines for her Christmas production so her cousin cats from across the sea have volunteered to stand in for her this week:

Hello gentle readers,

The cousin cats have asked me (Auntie Hanne) to do the actual writing as they are afraid they will build up calluses on their tender paws if they type it themselves.

Deep in midsummer, three years past, when the boisterous roses bloomed and the sweet peas twined, a grey cat appeared in the garden. Like a princess bereft of crown or throne she walked aristocratically among us with paws turned out like a ballerina, grey sails ears billowing, and a ridiculously long tail. She sat by us in the dark night as we roasted marshmallows over the fire and wreathed about our legs the next morning as we drank our coffee outside at the adirondack chairs.

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Aylam (my son) to gave her water, but before taking a single sip she ran back to Aylam, placed her forepaws delicately on his leg and gazed into his eyes with a kitty thank you and then did the same to me before drinking. The manners of a princess,

I do not want another cat, I murmured

Later that day as I sat on the sun warmed steps with Livy (my daughter) and the cat, Liv said “Aylam named her, she has a name now. Her name is Nymeria.” Once named a cat can not be turned away. She was our cat now. And that is how Nymeria Gloves came to live with us. Her full name is Nymeria Jihadi Gloves. We call alternately Nim Chow (spring roll), Nimbus 2000 (Harry Potter). Nim-skull, Nym-compoop. How she suffers with us Cretans.

In the depths of last year’s winter I dreamt a dream of a fluffy white cat, named Lemon-drop. This dream was so mundane that when I awoke I had a yearning for a new cat. Learning that black cats are the most often euthanized in shelters I only looked at black cats. Olivia expressed a strong desire for a Maine Coon cat, the king of cats in size and spirit (with a princess cat among us already this made sense).

I received a call late one night from a cat-foster-mom, explaining about a local cat that was in dire need of adoption. He was a 4 month old, black (✓), part Maine Coon (✓) but completely feral kitten who had been in two foster homes but had not tamed up in the least. His sibling had been adopted but he was as wild as the day he was brought in. They were at their wit’s end and were considering euthanizing him or setting him free. She begged me to give him a chance. How could I say no?

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The kids pow-wowed and came up with the name Dimitri Smirnoff Stalin.

We followed taming protocol, swaddling him when out of the kennel, he spit and snarled and when a paw was freed, drew blood. After a week he began to tentatively purr, after 2 weeks he began to groom both himself and me, after a month he played with a toy while we held him 1/2 swaddled, after 2 months he no longer cowered and hid when I opened the kennel but leapt to my shoulder and nuzzled my chest.

He roams the house freely now but is still a ‘fraidy cat when it comes to noise and movement.  His favorite spot is on my shoulder and he meows enticingly to get me to bend over so that he can leap into my arms begging to be brushed.

He has even morphed into a right good cup holder.

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FUN FACT:

Kittens less than eight weeks old, even though born to a feral mother, can usually be socialized within a matter of days. Beyond that age, socialization becomes a longer and more uncertain process with each passing week. After reaching four months old, a kitten will likely retain some typical feral characteristics for the rest of his life, such as fear of strangers or change.

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A Chat with a Cat Behaviorist

WHAT WE’VE BEEN UP TO:

We have been talking to Certified Feline Behavior and Training Professional Dr. Marci L. Koski!

She helps people with their cats or rather, helps cats with their people. Wink wink ;-).

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Marci: I have been trained in how cats can be taught to adjust their behaviors from something that their humans find annoying (like scratching up a couch) to something that allows them to express a natural behavior in a more desirable way (like using a scratching post).

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Marci: Very similar, yes, although I don’t have a camera crew following me around!  I’ve been watching Jackson Galaxy for a long time and I really admire his compassion for cats and their people, and his desire to improve the quality of life for everyone.  He is an excellent behaviorist, too!  I also visit cats in their homes, and work with their people to resolve behavior issues.

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Marci: The most common behavior issues are (1) litterbox problems, and (2) aggression between cats.  These seem to be the two problems that impact peoples’ lives the most, and can result in cats being sent to animal shelters.  It’s my goal to resolve those behavior issues so that cats can stay in their homes and away from shelters!

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Marci: Most “cat behaviorists” are certified through programs that are specific to cats; I was certified through the Animal Behavior Institute, but you can also get certified through the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants and other organizations.  I’ve received two certifications in feline training and behavior, which involved taking classes in animal development and learning, feline nutrition, normal cat behavior and training techniques for cats .

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Marci: Many cat behaviorists come into the field through the veterinary route and have a medical background.  I came into the field through a different route; I have a doctorate in Fish and Wildlife Biology, and my approach is to look at cat behavior as a function of feline evolution and their environmental needs. I’ve always loved cats and can’t remember a time in my life when I didn’t have at least one…so I’ve also spent a lifetime learning about them, which definitely helped me when it came to getting certified and working with clients!

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Marci: This is a GREAT question!  Very little of what I do involves actually working with cats themselves.  I mostly educate their people to change their behavior and their environment so that it is more suitable for cats!  Sometimes people do things that aggravate or stress cats and they are completely unaware that they are doing it, or have no idea of the impact it is causing.

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Marci: I had one client whose cat was not using his litterbox, and when I took a look at her home, it turned out that all of the litterboxes had been blocked with baby gates to keep the dog from “foraging” in the litterboxes.  This meant that the cat had to jump over the baby gates every time he wanted to go to the bathroom!  My client didn’t realize that her cat, who was getting older, was having a hard time jumping over the barriers (or simply didn’t want to), but when the baby gates were removed and we made some adjustments to keep the dog out of the litterboxes, things went back to normal.

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Marci: One of the most common things I see with clients is that if a cat does something “wrong”, they will either yell at the cat or squirt her with water.  Punishment really doesn’t work with cats – yelling and squirting with water creates more stress, and can damage the relationship between the cat and human.  Either of these things can cause more behavior problems.

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Marci: Absolutely!  I built my own business to help cats and their people.  In my previous career, I felt like I wasn’t using my creativity, passion, education, or skills to benefit anything, or anyone.  I decided to become a certified cat behaviorist with my own consulting business so I could do just that.  I do classes and workshops for animal shelters and other cat-friendly businesses (like cat cafés and cat hotels) so that everyone can learn more, regardless of whether they can afford a private consultation.  I love knowing that cats’ lives are improving as people learn more about their needs!

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Marci: Of course! Cats can be trained to do tricks like giving high-fives, jumping through hoops and that sort of thing, which is really fun!

Thank you so much for your time Marci! Now we know who to call if Lola’s OCD gets out of hand! HEY!

Anyway, check out Marci’s website here: www.felinebehaviorsolutions.com

FUN FACT:

The furry tufts on the inside of cats’ ears are called “ear furnishings”.

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Guest post: Johnny, the cat

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WHAT WE’VE BEEN UP TO:

We’ve been attending to Zoe, who is sick with a cold. Her mom told Zoe this story as she lay on the couch this morning, sipping tea with honey, lemon and ginger:

“When I was little I lived on a  Greek island called Hydra. It was very beautiful and there were no cars. To your Auntie Hanne and me it was paradise. Well, you’ve been there and you love it too.

My family left in 1972 so I could go to a ‘proper’ school in America. I’d been going to a one-room Greek school in the village. I was about seven years old. We took our cat Johnny with us.

Johnny was a stray we had adopted. She – yes, Johnny was a she, not a he – was a very common type on Hydra. She was a tortoiseshell cat, like Sasha and Lola, but her fur was longer. She had loads of personality.

Before going to America, we went to Denmark, to visit my Aunt Helle, my namesake, and her husband, Uncle Torben. My mother hoped to deposit the cat with Aunt Helle, whom we called Big Helle since I was Little Helle.

We had Johnny in a cardboard box on the boat and the plane and in taxis. She was very well-behaved throughout the trip.

At Big Helle’s house, the box was put on the table and Big Helle opened it. The cat was revealed and came as a complete surprise.

Big Helle and Uncle Torben had hardly taken it in when I burst out, “And she’s pregnant!

I was beaming with excitement, pride and generosity.  I could not imagine a more wonderful surprise present to give (or receive!) than a pregnant cat!

Fortunately, Big Helle and Uncle Torben were willing to keep Johnny and she soon won their hearts – and very big hearts they had, too.

Johnny became a well-known character to all the neighbors on that gravel road in the woods by the fjord in Denmark. She was very much an outdoor cat and this was the perfect place for her.

When she came inside after one of her long outings, exhausted and ravenous, Big Helle and Torben would shower her with affection. Johnny would sleep and sleep and eat and sleep and eat and … Finally, having rested up and filled her stomach, she would be off again into the woods or down to the seashore and not come back for a few days.

Here is a picture of Johnny and Uncle Torben napping together:

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Johnny had her kittens. (After that she was sterilized.) Big Helle and Torben kept a female kitten from the litter and found good homes for the rest. The cat they kept was Ingeborg, who was sleek and black and was also much loved, although not by Johnny!

Here is a picture of Ingeborg, in Big Helle’s knitting basket, on the dining room table:

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Johnny could not stand her own daughter, Ingeborg, who was finicky and not very fond of the outdoors and who demanded human pampering 24/7. Johnny, who was very low maintenance herself, thought Ingeborg was ridiculous. Johnny seemed embarrassed to have brought such a creature into the world. Big Helle and Torben thought Ingeborg and her prissy habits were adorable.

Johnny decided she needed to put some space between herself and Ingeborg so she moved out. She took up residence at another house in the neighborhood. Big Helle and Torben were friends with the owners of that house and they knew that these neighbors were glad to look after Johnny. As I said, everybody on that road knew Johnny and was fond of her.

After she moved down the road, Johnny visited Big Helle and Uncle Torben from time to time for a dose of their very special affection, which, as Auntie Hanne and I have told you, was very wonderful indeed. After checking in on Big Helle and Torben, Johnny would take off again, to her second home or to the forest for more adventures.

When we visit Hydra now it’s funny to think that some of the cats we see there must be relatives of Johnny and Ingeborg. It’s also funny to think that there may be cats in Denmark today whose ancestor was the famous adventuress of Toppen Lane – Johnny. She had started out as a hungry, homeless scrap of a kitten on a little Greek island more than 40 years ago.”

FUN FACT:

Three-toed sloths can turn their heads almost 360 degrees.

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Presenting … Drum Roll, Please …

WHAT WE’VE BEEN UP TO

This week we’ve been persuading Zoe’s Auntie Hanne to do a guest post for us. So here it is … drum roll, please…

This week Bella [Zoe’s cousin’s pitbull dog, featured in this earlier post ] received the best gift of her life, even better than the guaranteed unbreakable toy that she destroyed in 12 minutes.

Sterling Archer, 8 weeks old.

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Bella can’t stop smiling. No, really she can’t stop doing that pitbull ear-to-ear grin

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For now the tiny tot spends most of his time sleeping, peeing, eating and pooping. Sometimes more than one of those at once.

When he is awake he is exploring the world and snuggling. This little guy vanquishes every foe (or toe), as you can see in this picture of him conquering my son’s foot.

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After a little play time with Bella…

…it’s nap time.

Sterling: We can share, right?

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FUN FACT:

Bumblebees only store a few days’ worth of honey because if they live in a cold climate then only the queen survives the winter, using her fat supplies. Therefore there is no need for quantities of food  to support a whole colony like with honeybees.

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Thank you so much, Auntie Hanne!