Charlie Loves His Mouse

Charlie loves to play, and he has his select favorite toys that he plays with on a daily basis. I will often find these toys in various places around the house, such as next to the dishwasher, in front of the toilet, or on the bed. Today I walked into the bedroom and found Charlie sprawled on the bed; a toy mouse lay on the floor. I picked it up for him and watched him play with it. He lost it on the floor again. This time I went back to my office for my phone and started recording as I gave it back. Here is a short video of Charlie’s play session:

Isn’t he cute?

“Helpful” Cats

This afternoon I tried to practice gentle yoga for at least half an hour. All the cats were sleeping. I figured I should do yoga instead of succumbing to the cats’ charms and taking a nap with them. So I pulled out my yoga mat and started to meditate.

Then who shows up? Queen Boudicca. Talking a bit, she was very curious and slightly confused as to what exactly I was doing. She tried her best to nudge my hands into petting her and climb onto my lap.

“Excuse me, Mother, I have declared that it is time for you to adore me. Not meditate.”

I did a few poses and suppressed a giggle as Boudicca wound herself around my legs and persistently sought out my hands for pets. Do you realize how difficult it is to execute yoga when your cat is giving you a tail hug and giving you a running commentary at the same time?

Needless to say, my yoga practice was not very successful. Finally I gave in–my focus had been entirely interrupted and I could not resist Boudicca’s hopeful eyes‒and petted her. Then she presented her head for me to kiss, purring all the while. Queen B was victorious. She can only get away with this because she’s cute.

After she left I attempted to refocus and restart my yoga practice. However, the boys decided to wake up at that time and start their afternoon scamper session, which included venturing into my office, squeaking, playing, and wanting pets too. Sigh.

Do your cats try to “help” you do tasks, such as making the bed or laundry? Do they get in the way when you try to exercise or work? What do you do when they do this? Do your cats ultimately win?

Window Watching

Today was a beautiful day–a balmy 70 degrees, sunny with a cool breeze. In order to take advantage of the lovely fresh air, we opened the windows in the house. Naturally, all three cats were most intrigued by what lay outside. So many smells! Sassy birds!

Boudicca opted for a more secluded window in Aaron’s office.

Charlie found sniffing the screen a most enjoyable pastime.

Charlie watched the birds alighting on the peach tree in the backyard. As I snapped this photo, he stretched languorously.

Boudicca came to visit me in my office.

Where was Garrus during this time? He was oddly difficult to photograph. A couple of times I saw him sitting on a windowsill next to Charlie but he jumped down before I could get the shot.

Garrus seemed most content to sunbathe on this scratching pad.

I tried to get a good photo of Garrus sleeping on this blue elephant pillow. Charlie saw me and inserted himself into the photo too. Notice that he had to show me all of his toes.

“Hi Mom, you’ve come to pet me, right?”

Notice the subtle shift in expression from this photo…

…to this one. Garrus is often inscrutable but I find his expressions amusing.

As always, the boy like to enjoy a lounge together after a scamper session. Clearly they have a busy schedule.

Do your kitties like to watch the goings-on outside through windows? Are they keen birdwatchers or do they have a running vendetta with squirrels or rabbits? Do your cats find choice spots in which to sun themselves?

Mornings with the Cats

Cats are creatures of routine, and this definitely applies to my little pounce. While Garrus does not always come up onto the bed for a visit as we wake up, as Boudicca and Charlie do on a regular basis, Garrus greets us with his characteristically jaunty trot and lots of tail hugs. He habitually escorts one of us into Aaron’s office to his food bowl and waits patiently by the door. “Good morning, my caretakers! I trust you slept well. It’s time for breakfast!” he seems to say. Keep in mind that Garrus only meows (politely, mind you) when in the carrier; otherwise he does not meow, squeak, chatter, or make any other noise. Even his purr is so quiet most of the time that you can’t tell he is purring unless you feel his neck.

After we feed the cats and refresh their water, it is our routine to visit each of the cats, or sometimes, they come to us. Boudicca wakes up and joins us by the kitchen table, where she stares intently at Aaron as she attempts to execute the Schnauzer Mind Meld. (As I have mentioned before, Boudicca has not yet figured out that she is, in fact, not a Miniature Schnauzer.) Aaron sits on the Morsel Distribution Throne and has the Morsel Distribution Hand. Apparently his morsels taste better than mine. We occasionally give her tiny bits of egg (good for her coat) or meat. (There are people food items that are safe for cats.) When Aaron has waffles or pancakes, Boudicca seems to pout, since she firmly believes that all people food is for kitties and does not understand when we don’t share.

This past week, there was a beautifully choreographed kitty ballet in our kitchen whenever we gave Boudicca her medication in wet food. The boys were keenly interested in what prompted Boudicca to become such a Meower Mouth. Charlie had to contribute his two cents by squeaking. Garrus, a characteristically quiet Gentleman Cat, simply pirouetted with his tail high and a hopeful expression, “I used to eat wet food. I like it…May I have some please?” Unfortunately I was not able to get the kitty ballet on video but I did capture a short video of Boudicca demonstrating her Meower Mouth alter ego.

Usually Charlie comes to us as we wake up and happily purrs when we give him rubs. Once we wake up, he trots off to play in the living room, snuggle with Garrus on the ottoman, or hang out on his favorite platform on the cat tower. Sometimes he will stroll by the kitchen table as we eat breakfast, squeaking, polishing our ankles, giving tail hugs, and generally being cute. Incidentally, his presence occasionally bugs Boudicca, although she will ignore him if she is intent on begging. After breakfast, we stop by the cat tower, where Charlie has taken up his post, and remind him how cute he is. Cue slow blinks.

Garrus doesn’t often visit us while we eat breakfast. He tends to hang out in the living room, where his favorite spot (the ottoman) is. Boudicca meanwhile claims her spot on the couch. Garrus has a habit of following us into the bedroom–or me into the bathroom–and asks for pets. If I am standing up and wiggle my fingers in invitation, he can be convinced to jump onto the bed for scritches. His preferred spot for visits, however, is on the ottoman.

This morning I sat on the ottoman and called Garrus. He trotted over with a marked spring in his step and tail-hugged my legs. Then he hopped up onto the ottoman and rubbed himself against my back and hands, semi-flopping next to me. He started purring quietly when I scritched this side of his neck and shoulder, or when I scritched the base of his tail. (Cue elevator butt.)

Since we’ve been working on getting him acclimated to being handled, I gently picked him up and placed him on my lap. I do this regularly but he tends to jump off after about 10-30 seconds. This morning he appeared to be calmer and more relaxed because he remained on my lap for a few minutes. I gently stroked him (not too much so he would not get over-stimulated) and talked to him, telling him how handsome and good he was. He continued to purr and slow blinked. When he decided to end our lovely lap session, he did not abruptly kick off my lap but instead stood up and leisurely walked over to the free space on the ottoman next to me. Lying down, he looked up at me with those big yellow eyes and asked me to continue petting him, which of course I did. What a breakthrough!

During our visit, Charlie woke up and started playing. As per his habit, he plucked the toy mice from the highest platform, choosing one by one with his mouth or paws and deliberately throwing them onto the floor. He held the largest (his newest prize) in his mouth and carried it as he climbed down the cat tree and strolled over to me. He gave one muffled squeak, dropped the mouse at my feet, and flopped over so I could give him a belly rub. Unfortunately I did not have my camera with me or else I would have recorded it. But he was SO CUTE. All in all it was a very pleasant morning!

Do your cats like to greet you in the morning? What are your morning routines with your fur people? Are they lovey in the morning or in the evening? Tell your stories in the comments section!

Dog Spotlight: Seeing Eye Anniversary

On January 29, 1929, Morris Frank founded The Seeing Eye, the oldest guide dog school in the United States. This school is the founding member of the US Council of Guide Dog School as well as a fully accredited member of the International Guide Dog Federation. Today we celebrate the anniversary of the school’s founding and the importance of guide dogs everywhere (and by extension, service dogs in general).

What is a guide dog, or more generally a service animal? The Americans with Disabilities Act defines it as: any dog that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability, including a physical, sensory, psychiatric, intellectual, or other mental disability. Service animals are not the same as therapy animals or emotional support animals. Only service animals are protected by the ADA.

You may see service animals (dogs are the most common) working with their handlers. Remember that these dogs are working and must concentrate on what they need to do on behalf of their handlers. Don’t distract them. I know it’s tempting to want to pet such a well-behaved dog but be considerate. Some handlers are OK with people petting their dogs if their permission is asked for first; other handlers will decline and that’s fine too. Here are some additional etiquette guidelines as well as a few things that handlers want you to know.

If you’d like to learn more about service dogs, especially those assisting the blind, check out Growing Up Guide Pup and Zoe the Seeing Eye Dog.

One more thing to note: FAKE service dogs. Sometimes people try to pass off their pets, including emotional support animals, as service dogs so they can take their pet anywhere with them, enable their pet to fly for free, and avoid having to pay a pet deposit. This is a serious issue for service dogs and their handlers. Untrained pets in public areas, like planes and restaurants, can pose a big risk to those around them. Being able to spot a fake service dog and differentiate such from legitimate service animals is important. Most importantly, DO NOT misrepresent pets as service dogs. Don’t be that person. It’s not cool. Moreover, your actions can have significant consequences for those around you, especially working service dogs and their handlers.

Cat Toys: Part Two

Keeping cats physically and mentally busy can be a challenge, especially since most people cannot afford to spend huge chunks of their day playing with their cats. It is advisable to regularly spend some time, such as 10 to 15 minutes, playing with your cat, whether it involves throwing toys around (some cats will fetch), being the Keeper of the Elusive Red Dot, or dangling a wand toy.

Changing things up and giving different types of enrichment, toys, and stimulation can put some pizzazz back into your cat’s step. Giving them something constructive to do can prevent your cat from getting into trouble or growing bored. Here are some ideas:

  1. Window watching. According to The Fur Person by May Sarton, the feline equivalent of reading the newspaper is watching the goings on outside through a window. (By the way, if you have a chance, do read The Fur Person. It is a truly delightful little book.) Every cat I have had enjoys looking out the window, often excitedly at the birds on the patio or the trees in the yard. It gets very animated in the house when the birds, squirrels, and cat(s) start sassing and chattering away at one another. Boudicca does not know what to do when she sees rabbits, especially when they come close to the patio door. There are ways to maximize your cat’s ability to know what’s going outside safely and easily.

  1. Catnip. There are different types of catnip out there, and if you want, you can even grow your own. Toys laced with catnip can make your cats frisky. Some cats prefer to play with catnip toys while others go “meh”. (On the other hand, there are cats that can react aggressively in response to catnip. Every cat responds differently.) Spreading a pinch of catnip on scratching poles or sprinkled over scratching pads may reinvigorate a cat’s interest in these areas and give an added incentive to scratch where you want them to, as opposed to your furniture.
  2. Boxes. Occasionally putting a box out for your cat to explore gives them something new to do. Boudicca prefers to have one of her beds placed inside a box and likes to hang out in another. Does your cat sprawl on top of your keyboard while you are trying to work? Try putting a shallow box on the edge of or near your desk. This way your cat can have a space near you without getting in your way. Bonus: cat will be conveniently located for spontaneous rubs.

  1. Mazes. You can take giving a cat a box one step further by creating a cat maze out of boxes like Cat Man Chris did for his beautiful cats, Cole and Marmalade. You can always scale it down if you are feeling less ambitious.
  2. Structures. Unleash your creativity and make castles, forts, condos, tunnels, and other fun things for your cat to explore. You can make kitty castles out of boxes and all finds of furniture projects including a TARDIS for the Whovian feline. NB: Your cat may want to “help” you as you build these.
  3. Towers or trees. Some cats, like Boudicca, fall definitively in the box camp. The boys, on the other hand, prefer going high. Because of that, they benefit considerably from their tall cat tree. (Photo below: Within 5 minutes of the cat tree being assembled, Charlie and Garrus inducted it by playing a game of hide-and-pounce.)

  1. Puzzle toys. These can either be purchased or created DIY fashion, so there are a number of options available!

My friend Christina, cat foster mom extraordinaire and guru of all things feline, was thoughtful and generous enough to send me a few puzzle toys: two eggs and a piñata. These were originally intended to pique Boudicca’s interest and offer my senior girl some enrichment after Nala’s passing in January 2017. Boudicca wasn’t sure what to do with them when I first showed them to her. She still is somewhat undecided but will at least investigate them because she likes treats. (In this way she is rather doglike.) After we adopted the boys and they started to settle in, we introduced them to eggs for starters. Both were fascinated by the idea of a strange rattling thing that rolls around, spins, and produces treats!

What toys do your cats like? Are their toys they absolutely dislike? Do your cat play with odd things? In her youth Boudicca stole hair bands on a regular basis. Nala was a known thief of Post-Its. How do you play with your cats? If you have fun and/or creative ideas or just cute stories, please feel free to share by adding them in the comments.

Cat Toys: Part One

Although cats frequently are stereotyped as aloof and self-contained (some cats indeed are), many cats enjoy play time! Whether I bring a new toy home or simply recover one from beneath the couch, Charlie in particular reacts as though it is his birthday, Christmas, and Halloween all rolled into one because he is SO THRILLED that I am giving him a toy. Even Garrus drops his usual reserve and makes some spectacular leaps while chasing after one of his favorite toys.

Boudicca has never been a very playful cat with a high prey drive. When she was younger, she would chase the red dot and half-heartedly bat at toys, but now that she is a senior who will be 18 in May, she has lost most interest in playing. She will occasionally demonstrate a willingness to investigate puzzle toys chiefly because she wants treats. Garrus and Charlie, on the other hand, love to play. This is especially true for Charlie, who can best be described as a busy, happy-go-lucky furry toddler. (He is, after all, two years old, which makes him the feline equivalent of a college student.)

Both of the boys have their unique preferences. Garrus prefers the wand ribbon toy (I think it’s actually called a Cat Dancer but that term has always made me giggle) and the laser pointer, especially if there are treats beneath the red dot. He will occasionally bat around toys that we have lying around. (During a particularly active play session, my living room looks like a daycare center. Charlie also has developed a habit of leaving his toys in odd places around the house.) Garrus also is intrigued by puzzle toys and is generally more willing (and brave enough) to explore new things, like a big paper bag.

Charlie, as I mentioned earlier, likes to be busy. While he is not really mischievous, he very well could be if he ever became bored. This is one of the many reasons why I am so grateful that we fostered and adopted both boys. Charlie is so much happier with a cat buddy and is generally appreciative of having a playmate. In between naps and being cute, ambushing, chasing, wrestling, and playing tag with Garrus fill his daily calendar. However, Garrus does not always want to play, so when that happens Charlie has to entertain himself. While both boys immediately claimed the cat tower for themselves (Boudicca prefers boxes), Charlie regularly runs up and down the tower, either chasing Garrus or inventing a game for himself. (The rules of these new games are not always clear to me. In fact several of them appear to have fluid parameters.) Having a tower gives Charlie a place to exercise, hide in a cubby if he feels insecure or just wants a cave-like environment, a convenient perch, and his preferred sleeping spot (a high platform).

Within days of erecting the tower, Charlie tore off all three of the toys that had been attached to it. (I cut off the remaining elastic string on both the tower and the toys so that he could not chew on it.) For some reason, these are his absolute favorite: two fuzzy brown mice and a ball.

Charlie had actually left one of the mice in the bed. I moved the other two toys there to take this photo. He was very curious about what I was doing and nearly bumped into my phone and photobombed the shot.

“Hi Mama…whatcha doin’?”

My friend Tracey proposed a theory that some cats are more “birdy” and others are “mousy”. “Birdy” cats like toys that they swat or chase in the air while “mousy” cats prefer to stalk toys on the ground. This makes sense to me, and I think a fair number of cats fall into one of these two categories or are a blend of them. Garrus may fall more into the “birdy” cat category while Charlie is “mousy”. Where does that leave Boudicca? She’s in the final category: lazy and/or googly.

How many toys does my little pounce have? After fishing them out from under and behind furniture (the boys looked on, rather bewildered and intrigued), I found most of them. Although I originally bought a pack of eight springs, I only found four. I do not know where the others went. I suspect gnomes kidnapped them.

Note that I do not have any feathery toys in my collection. I don’t have anything against feather toys; some cats like them very much. However, Mr. Charlie demonstrated that he will eat the feathers and that makes him sick. The vet told me no more feathery toys for him.

Garrus stared intently at his wand toys as I lay them out for the above photo. He was totally game to play. So we did. Charlie joined in as well.

Here Garrus pauses before he executes his trademark swat and pounce move. His face is a study in concentration.

Because we have all these toys, we collect them and put them on the platforms the cats generally don’t use. This habit started inadvertently; I believe I needed to vacuum the living room and the toys were everywhere, so I put them on one platform to get them out of the way and apparently forgot about them for a bit. Charlie, however, discovered them as soon as I put away the dreaded vacuum monster. I watched him fish out toys he wanted to play with and either swat them to the floor or carry them in his mouth. (Garrus has selected toys using his paws this way but does it less often.) Charlie does this very consistently with his fuzzy mice and ball, which I now put on the uppermost platform. I cannot tell if Charlie is slightly offended when I put them up there or just feels strangely compelled to throw all his toys onto the floor. Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to catch Charlie doing this with my camera yet but I will keep trying. It’s pretty adorable and usually involves a squeaky commentary.

Toy shelf #1

Toy shelf #2

Charlie danced all over the platforms, trilling and sniffing all his toys intently, as though personally checking that I returned them to their proper spot.

Stay tuned for Part Two!