Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Of Cats and Daughters

The Princess turned 6 years old recently. She's an amazing daughter in every way. Sometimes amazingly difficult, hehe. But always amazing.

A few weeks ago she started being actively, sneakily mean to the cats. Like throwing a toy at them and then denying it, or swatting them for turning away when she tries to pet them. Which I guess makes sense in 6-year-old logic. Or deliberately stomping her foot next to them as she passed by to startle them away.

I had a feeling it was jealousy, but there didn't seem to be much I could do about it. I began to get very upset and a couple of times she went off and cried after I yelled at her. Then one evening she said: "Mommy, if I ran away would you look for me?"

I wasn't sure what to make of that, but I replied, "Yes, of course! But I really hope you never run away because I'd be so super sad."

"But how would you look for me?" she asked. "You have to take care of the cats."

Light Bulb.

I explained to her that there is no way I would ever not look for her or her brothers because of pets; I can get other people to take care of the cats if I have to, and they are very special but they aren't my kids, and my first responsibility is to her and her brothers, and if one of them was lost I would never stop looking until they were found.

I've been trying to make an effort to spend at least a little time reading and writing with her in the evenings now, at least the evenings when we're home. She's being nicer to the cats. I think she still gets annoyed that Smidge curls up on my twin-sized mattress with me at night, because she isn't allowed to sleep with me any more. She's not ready to accept my explanation that there is room on the bed (not really, but I can't reason with a cat) for an 8-pound cat and not for a 50-pound child. Some things will take time, I suppose. She still occasionally cries about not having a kitten, and she cried last night at my sister's house because my sister's kittens have grown up and don't like her any more (of course in reality they didn't like being manhandled any better when they were little, but they couldn't escape as effectively hehe). She still wants a pet that belongs only to her, that will fawn over her and sleep with her and follow her everywhere and let her squeeze and snuggle and love it to her heart's content. What she needs, in reality, is a fluffy dog. And I wish I could give her that, but I can't.

There is just nowhere nearly enough of me to go around, these days.

Monday, September 18, 2017

I'm a Cat Mommy with troubles! Lol

Okay, so nobody said it would be easy, right? But I still fondly imagined that giving Smidge more cozy spots would stop Kanga's peeing problem. It did seem to help, after all; just not enough.

I have rearranged furniture. I've added yet another litter box which is now totally in the way. I opened up the drafty hall closet (the one with no storm window, but it's still painted shut so God forbid you could actually make use of it for air circulation when the weather is nice; oh no, it is strictly for draining away money on the utility bill) and decided to make it the laundry closet, and added Smidge's stool that she likes, strategically placed to give her access to the shelf and from there to the windowsill. Nope.

She has taken over the new cat tree by now, and at this point to be honest I think Kanga's problem has more to do with the Princess than with Smidge. She deeply resents not being allowed to pick the cats up or invade their sleeping quarters, and she has started playing with them a lot using the wand toys. Which, by the way, are bloody expensive and NOT meant for little kids to use because they break easily. In spite of my constant nagging at her to be more gentle and not use the toy like a horsewhip, she continues to thrash them around violently. I know it's bothering the cats because they will often come running from one end of the apartment to the other, and sure enough if I go to check, she's in there swinging a toy around and insisting that "It was an accident" and "It didn't really hit her SO hard." AAAAAGGGGHHHHH!!

Since peeing on the floor in a particular area is supposedly associated with the need for a safe space, I thought this weekend I'd clean our reeking carpet - not with that foul-smelling Nature's Miracle stuff again, which the cats and I both abhor, but with essential oils of lavender and chamomile, the advertised ingredients for the expensive "cat calming" spray at PetSmart that I can't even begin to afford. To me, the Nature's Miracle smells just as bad as the cat pee. It's only advantage is supposedly leaving the carpet odor-free after the fact, but I have not found that to be the case.

The lavender and chamomile certainly did seem to, however. I was so happy last night after I finished; the room smelled lovely, the cats weren't holed up on the other side of the apartment looking miserable, and in fact Kanga kept coming in every time I shut off the carpet cleaner and lying on the wet carpet as if she enjoyed it. So I was certain of success.

Oh, and I added the third litter box the night before with fancy Dr. Elsey's expensive litter for cats who hate their litter boxes, and she used it four times in 24 hours! A big improvement over the previous litter change to SWheat Scoop. (Note to the wise - that stuff breeds meal moths. Avoid it.)

So I was extra certain of success. I went to sleep enjoying the fresh, clean smell of an apartment where cat pee exists only in the litter box. I woke up to the old stink.

Yes, she peed on the floor again. Right in front of the litter box, which she then hopped into for pooping. Gooood kitty.... *headdesk*

Someone at church told me to put black pepper into the carpet, since cats always sniff before they pee, and the pepper is unpleasant. I'm going to spot-test that theory after the carpet dries. However, since she can't climb on things, I don't want the floor to be unpleasant for her. It's the only place she can be. Somehow I have to find a way to make her feel that peeing on it isn't necessary for owning it.

And she needs her nails trimmed again. They're catching on everything already. I'm going to ask the vet about those little nail caps so she can go longer between trimmings. I'm also considering having the two most troublesome nails amputated. I know that declawing cats is a rotten practice, but these are special circumstances. Her paws are already deformed, so it won't affect her walking or balance in a negative way, and it might make her less anxious if she's not getting stuck halfway down the hall whenever she wants to get from one place to another.

We'll see what happens.

Friday, August 18, 2017

I'm a Cat Mommy!

At the end of June, I decided we needed a pet. Studies show they help with depression, and both Little Bear and I struggle with that. Besides, all three kids have wanted a pet since forever.

A dog was out of the question. We knew a couple of people with kittens, but I felt a kitten would be more expensive (even if they're free to take home) and require more attention that we could offer. Considering how little waking time we actually spend at the apartment, it made the most sense to get two adult cats who already knew each other and would keep each other company throughout the day. We also needed indoor cats because the traffic in our area has ballooned over the past decade, and cats who go outdoors don't last long.

This meant adoption, obviously. I looked at the website for the local shelter and searched "bonded pair." Smidge and Kanga popped up. Two-and-a-half year old sisters, one with Radial Hypoplasia that results in her two front legs being shortened and turned inward so she hobbles along on her elbows, and one missing a front leg (due to the same condition in only one leg). They were up for adoption together. I thought it sounded perfect. They were young enough to spend (theoretically) a long life with us, but old enough to have outgrown the destructive stage. Their mobility issues meant I wouldn't feel guilty about keeping them indoors, and also that they'd be less likely to escape. I also assumed - incorrectly - that I wouldn't have to worry about the expense of climbers and cat shelves since they would have trouble getting up and down from heights. Ahem. More on that later...

Anyway, we went to visit them, and even though Kanga was unfriendly and scratched us a few times, I had my mind made up. The kids unanimously begged for a kitten instead, but in addition to my practical reasons, I wasn't going to subject such a small creature to the obsessive, controlling snuggles the Princess dreams of giving. She has a hard time accepting that live animals - especially soft fluffy ones - aren't toys and cannot be treated as such. If it was just the boys, that would be different.

They assured me that Kanga was not herself due to the pressures of the shelter environment, which could not accommodate her deformity. She refused to come out of her box or interact at all. I felt I'd do the same in her place. My opinion was that even if our apartment wasn't perfect, it had to be better than their current situation, and they'd been there for two months. Besides, I totally fell in love with Smidge; she reminded me so much of my old cat. So we adopted them. This was their second time at the shelter since they'd been adopted the previous year (after transferring from a shelter in New Jersey) and then brought back due to electrical fires in their owner's building.

When we brought them home, Smidge came out right away and dove under the couch. Kanga didn't budge. We left the carrier open and went grocery shopping. When we came back, she was out but ran back in when we got too close. We left the room, and later when I saw her out again, I closed the carrier and took it away.

We kept them in the big room for a few days. Smidge warmed up right away; Kanga took a little time but she did turn into a very different cat over the course of a week. I noticed that a couple of her claws wouldn't retract, probably due to her deformity, and one was quite overgrown and giving her trouble when playing. It was also the one everybody got scratched with. When we took them to the vet for their initial post-shelter checkup, the doctor did a fantastic job trimming her nails even though Kanga did her best villian-from-a-slasher-movie impression. Lol. It appears her claws on those crooked front paws are hypersensitive since she immediately reacts to having them touched, no matter how gently. Because neither cat can scratch properly to keep the nails worn down, trimming will have to be a regular thing.

It turned out that Kanga was the dominant one, and it annoyed me that she insisted on eating first and would butt in if she saw me petting Smidge. I assumed that Smidge's slender build and Kanga's chunky build had resulted from food issues, especially because Smidge would gobble her food very fast as if afraid it would be taken. I also assumed that Smidge didn't settle down and let me pet her for any length of time because she was nervous. Turns out she's just hyper, hehe. She can't sit still.

The pecking order shifted after Smidge killed and ate (yuck) two beetles on our deck one night, and decided she was the boss kitty and guardian of the household now! To my surprise and distress, Kanga didn't even try to stick up for herself, but just seemed to shrink down and give up everything to Smidge; all her cozy spots and safe corners, the first turn at the food dish, etc. If I sat down to pet her, she'd keep looking nervously around and sure enough, within seconds Smidge would come running in and give her a look, and she'd move away. Grrr. She also started spraying the sofa and peeing on the floor around the litter box. I steam-cleaned the carpet with pet odor remover once, but she's kept on doing it. She began throwing up constantly and stopped eating for a few days. It seemed pretty clearly an anxiety thing, so I kept giving her extra attention and fed them separately, and it got better slowly. I rearranged some furniture and added a second litter box, put out paper bags for her to hide in, and made her a cardboard box hideaway which Smidge sprayed right away and refused to let her go into. Ugh. Smidge also tried to monopolize the new litter box, but that has smoothed over. The first time Kanga got away with using it before Smidge caught her, Smidge ran up and sniffed the turd she'd left, then promptly hopped in and peed on it. I had to laugh at that one.

Because Smidge likes to be up on top of things, I decided to bite the financial bullet and order a cat tree from Groupon. Most cat trees I found would not accommodate a tripod, since they require the ability to leap down from level to level. Finally I found one that looked pretty reasonably spaced. I've seen other tripod owners talk about placing two climbers next to each other to provide more levels as well. In the meantime I picked up a small one off of Craigslist, which neither cat will use yet - not sure why, maybe it smells like the previous owner's cat or maybe they don't like where it is - and I rearranged the closet in the back of our Ikea loft bed/entertainment center/drawer combo with shelves for Smidge to climb on. I bought a pack of sticky-backed carpet tiles at Home Depot and cut pieces to put on top of the shelves so they'd be more comfy. My plan was to give Smidge places up high where she could enjoy hanging out and leave Kanga in peace down below.

A couple of days ago I put the big cat tree together, and Kanga immediately took it over. Lol so much for that plan! But hey, whatever works for them. They do seem to get along better now; Kanga has a new favorite place to sleep during the day and Smidge is free to keep the cozy cat bed she stole, haha. I also started feeding them next to each other, instead of the original setup where they shared a dish, or the second attempt where they ate in separate rooms. Smidge would run back and forth between the two rooms and eat from both dishes to keep Kanga away, little stinker. Now they eat together with minimal fuss. Smidge also seems to have partially subsided back to her more timid self, which wasn't what I hoped for, but as long as they aren't squabbling I suppose I can't complain.

I did have to find lightweight objects to put on the higher shelves of the new cat tree, since Kanga has decided to live there, because she can climb up but not down and that presents a major safety concern. That first morning she was apparently more comfortable attempting the nearly 4-foot leap to the kitchen floor than the 16-inch leap back through the hole she had come up through, and I had to grab her and set her down because it was obvious she was about to jump, which would have inevitably resulted in injury. Just in case, I'm keeping a pizza box on the floor in front of it for now, to cushion her fall if she should attempt it again and hopefully prevent serious injuries. So far I haven't seen her make any further efforts to go up there, but my ability to observe is limited.

It's going to be a fun journey!

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Make the most of it!

There is another less-famous quote from Patrick Henry, the founding father who made the renowned "Give me liberty or give me death!" speech. After his dramatic conclusion, there was a cry of "Treason!" from one or more dissenting listeners, and he responded with "If this be treason, make the most of it!"

Patrick Henry was awesome.

That quote has been on my mind a lot lately because of this repulsive and destructive administration, but really it applies to many life situations. The past few months I've been trying very hard to make the most of everything. My new job is going wonderfully, I no longer miss my old boss in spite of myself, I tried dating someone and came to the conclusion that I'm much better off single and shouldn't mess with a good thing, and my parents expanded our apartment a bit so that we can actually have a family life now. Things are really going very well, comparatively. Financially, I have just had to accept that I will struggle for quite a few years still. Everything else is much better, so I'll take what I can get and make the most of it!

The kids' dad was moved to a closer location in January, so we can make the trip in a day now, which is very helpful. There are attractions along the way where we have free entry through our NARM membership, and I also learned of a local organization that provides low-cost entry for families on assistance to various attractions in our area. I'm thrilled! The Princess is 5 years old now, old enough to manage a good bit of walking, and now we have all these possibilities of places to go, plus I got a "new" car last month that is much more reliable. It's also a stick shift, and I love it. Yes, it has its drawbacks, since we have a lot of traffic around here. My ankle hurts from pressing the clutch so frequently. But it's a huge improvement over the old car, which wasn't going to pass inspection this month anyway. This one actually has room for my growing boys and their suddenly long legs, hehe. And I like the sound of it. I think my earliest memories of a car must have been my dad's old stick-shift Datsun, and I find the hum and shifting of the manual transmission to be relaxing. It sounds like I've always expected a car to sound.

I hope all the people I met here years ago are doing well. I miss you guys, but I expect we're all busy with better lives and brighter futures, so here's to making the most of it!