St Catrick’s Day

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

Or, if you’re a cat lover, you may say St Catrick’s Day! There is no Saint Catrick (to my knowledge) but it’s a fun excuse to have a pet-themed holiday anyway!

Why might this be, you ask? Because today coincides with the feast day of Gertrude of Nivelles, who has become to be regarded as the patron saint of cats. This is a recent development starting in the 1980s. Her association with cats may have sprung from her role as protector against rodents, which dated from the 15th century in Germany, the Netherlands, and northeastern Span.

I don’t have to worry about a rodent problem in my house. Charlie’s got me covered.

Enjoy your weekend!

World Sleep Day

Happy World Sleep Day!

Guess what’s going on at my house right now? Nothing. My house is the place of inaction because there are three happily snoozing cats in it. I could nearly see the z’s floating off of them. I’ve always wondered what my cats dream about.

Being hunters by nature, cats tend to be more active around dawn and dusk (crepuscular). They sleep between 12 and 16 hours a day, with some cats sleeping as many as 20 hours a day. Kittens and older cats tend to sleep more than younger cats. Of course, we have the idiom catnap from our feline friend’s ability to snooze for brief periods of time.

Boudicca likes to snooze, birdwatch, and sunbathe on the window seat in my office. The boys like it too.

I have not timed how much my three cats sleep in a given day and night but they sleep a lot and take their sleep seriously. Everyone seems to take at least one nap in the morning and a longer nap in the afternoon, especially the boys have their 1 o’clock zoomies and scamper session. Maybe they schedule pre- and post-naps as well. I know that the boys, at least, are awake for part of the night because I hear them playing. (They often choose to bat around a jingling ball right around the time we’re going to bed.) Boudicca heads to bed the same time we do. Given her age, she does seem to rest more than the boys do but she is also always down for lap time!

Notice the layers. It is a baby pink bed with a pink blanket inside a box. I had purchased this bed for Queen B and put it on the floor for her; she refused to use it. I put it in a box and instantly she claimed it as hers. She becomes upset at me when I take off the blanket it clean it. This is her supurrviser spot in my office.

Each of the cats has a distinct preference for a sleeping spot, although each will change it up or grab an odd choice, like a scratching pad every now and then. Boudicca usually opts for her pink bed in the bedroom, the couch, her box bed in my office (see above photo), or the window seat. The Downton Tabbies have their orange bed (they like to share), the overstuffed chair, the rolling car seat (Aaron outfitted these for video game use), the ottoman, or the cat tree. During the day they sometimes commandeer the bed and snuggle. At least once a day I catch a snuggle in progress. It’s adorable.

Garrus found a meditating/catnap/sunbathing spot on a scratching pad near the sliding glass door.

Generally speaking, the cats don’t sleep in the bed with us for long periods of time. We might bring Boudicca into the bed with us for a snuggle but she usually leaves after a couple of ours. I’ve briefly woken up in the middle of the night to discover that Charlie had surreptitiously crept up onto the bed and curled up behind my knees to sleep. I find it soothing to fall asleep with a purring cat next to me. Boudicca and the boys are polite and don’t bother us by caterwauling at unholy hours of the night. Depending on your cat’s behavior and your individual sleep needs, sleeping with your kitty may or may not help your own sleep hygiene. Additionally, there are a few things to consider about pet safety.

Garrus is quite fond of his blue elephant Pillow Pet.

The Downton Tabbies lounge on the worn car seat. Their new orange bed is shown beneath.

On the other hand, there are many cats that view the night as the prime opportunity for shenanigans: flopping on your head, tearing around the house, getting into ALL the mischief, attacking your feet, yowling, playing with the loudest toys, and starting blood feuds with every pet in the neighborhood. Wild antics can disrupt even a veteran cat owner’s sleep but do not give up hope! Cats, believe it or not, can learn to sleep at night. Adding play sessions during the day can tire your cat out and thereby discourage such lively romps at night. Cats learn so much through play, including manners and boundaries; they also build trust and confidence. Teaching a cat manners (such as bite inhibition) is vital to having a well socialized companion.

Garrus and Charlie like to be high up in the cat tree. When we first put up the cat tree, Charlie spent a lot of time in the cubby; he spends less time in there now.

Sleep hygiene is important for dogs too! Given that dogs are pack animals and very different creatures than cats, their sleep needs vary. Certain breeds can develop sleep disorders, just like humans; brachycephalic airway syndrome and narcolepsy are two examples.

For many years, my family had Miniature Schnauzers as pets, as I’ve mentioned before. As you may or may not know, Schnauzers, like many other types of dogs, have a habit of “nesting” in their beds. This, and the tendency to sleep pressed very close to my parents legs disrupted my parents’ sleep so they trained the dogs to sleep in their own bed. Although it took a bit of work, we were happy with the end result. Since we lived in Minnesota at the time, during the winter the dogs were very insistent in reminding us to turn on a heating pad under the cushions for 20 minutes before bedtime (we turned it off before we went to sleep)! The dogs also liked to snooze on the back of the couch.

Now my parents have Chiquita, a Kooikerhondje, and Chiya, a Tibetan Spaniel. Chiya is not as brachycephalic as, say, a French bulldog, but she does snore a bit when she sleeps. Chiquita twitches while she dreams sometimes.

Chiquita does not believe that guests should sleep alone.

Is it nap time yet?

Silly Cat and Dog Poses

Happy World Sleep Day! Cats and dogs, just like children, sleep in the weirdest positions. I often ask myself, “How on earth can they find that position comfortable?” Evidently they can…Hence the running theory that cats, at least, are part liquid…

Here Boudicca demonstrates the classic pinwheel sleep position with the half chin twist and her hind paws perfectly posed together. She may have started to purr in her sleep while I took this photo. Adorability Score: High

Charlie flaunts his spotted tummy while he sunbathes and flirts for attention. He also demonstrates marvelous neck and core strength by not sliding off the edge despite repeatedly wiggling and shimmying all over the platform. Great demonstration of multitasking: high level of cuteness, very loud purring and squeaking, successful eliciting of belly rubs, and prompting human caretaker to squee. Adorability Score: Very high

Here Sir Garrus demonstrates a variant pinwheel with the semi-held curled tail and paws hiding the face. Normally I can see his fang peeking out. Adorability Score: High

Here is Chiquita executing a classic “I’m a good, pretty girl. Please give me a belly rub” roll. Of course she gets them in spades because she is indeed a good girl and she is SO SOFT with highly pettable ears. Look at that face! Adorability score: TKO

Garrus appropriated the topmost cat tower platform and snuggled inside. It looks a bit cramped to me but I thought he looked cute hiding his face and holding his tail like this. Adorability Score: High

“Look, Mom! I found a hammock!” “Charlie, that is not a hammock!” “But…it’s made of warm…” Adorability Score: Moderate. It’s cute yes but I don’t want him to get in the habit of lounging in the freshly sanitized Cat Genie.

I have no idea how Charlie doesn’t get a crick in his neck when he sleeps in the cubby like this. But he likes it anyway. Adorability Score: Pretty Cute

Here is Nala, may she rest in peace. She LOVED boxes, and did not care if they were far too small for her. She crammed herself into small boxes, especially those with crinkly paper inside, and snoozed very happily inside! Her happiness level went up if said box was in Aaron’s office. This photo was taken in May 2015 when Nala was 14 years old. Adorability Score: Nostalgic High

A very rare Yin-Yang display (shown with Boudicca and Nala) in 2015! They very rarely slept so close together. Clearly they were in between napping and belly rub appointments. Adorability Score: Squee!

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Chiquita asks, very subtly, for a belly rub. Isn’t she adorable?

 

Do you find your cats or dogs in cute poses, especially in sleep? Do they sleep in uncomfortable-looking positions? Feel free to share in the comments!

Boudicca’s Recheck

Over the last two weeks, Boudicca has had intermittent diarrhea and bouts of appetite loss, and recently she had been straining quite a bit in the litter box. Aaron noted that she appeared to have lost weight as well. When I picked her up to put her in the carrier, she felt incredibly light. Since Tuesday was the vet office’s surgery day, I scheduled to drop her off in the morning so Dr. R could see her when she had a free moment (Dr. R is very popular). As usual, Queen B behaved herself in the cat ward, talking up a storm and making dancy paws whenever a tech stopped by to give her any attention.

In the afternoon I consulted with Dr. R. It turns out that Boudicca actually had been rather constipated, hence the straining. This isn’t the first time that this has happened but I had been caught off guard by the diarrhea. She had indeed lost a pound since February. While she responded well to the anti-inflammatory and the vitamin B-12 injections, she did not respond to the steroid, which indicated that she did not have inflammatory small bowel disease. So that leaves cancerous small bowel disease, such as small cell lymphoma. While of course I was incredibly concerned about this turn of event, I knew that this was a possibility due to our previous conversations.

Ultimately, I DO NOT have to say goodbye to Boudicca just yet. First, we have to deal with her constipation and find a balance there. Second, the anti-inflammatory improves her quality of life. Third, she is still perky, talkative, interested in engaging (i.e. snuggling), and demonstrates doglike traits like she has all her life. If she was lethargic, withdrawn, shuffling around, and recoiling from me, that would indicate that she was in pain and not herself anymore.

Following Dr. R’s advice, we gave her ¼ tsp Miralax mixed in with her wet food (apparently Boudicca is fond of Friskies Seafood Pate) and, after a couple of doses, she is no longer constipated. Her appetite increased and she is very vocal any time she thinks we are in the vicinity or preparing to give her food. Her Meower Mouthiness cues the boys, so then it becomes a party. (“Excuse me, may we have some of whatever Her Majesty is having too please? We would be most grateful!”) We distract them with toys and/or treats so they don’t come to investigate and inadvertently make Boudicca food insecure. (We have noticed that Boudicca prefers to not only eat in private but with me as her escort/bodyguard. She will often stop eating if she notices either Charlie or Garrus nearby, even if they are just walking down the hallway.)

Nevertheless, we will continue to monitor Boudicca’ hyperthyroidism, small bowel disease, and weight. Now that she is eating kitten kibble and small portions of wet food (we were encouraged to give her whatever she would eat), perhaps she will gain a little. I want her to be comfortable, happy, and as healthy as possible. I am cherishing the time I have left with my sweet, googly girl.

Boudicca’s Story

In November 2000, I was a high school sophomore and, after discussing my desire to get a cat with my parents, decided to adopt one. I went to the ASPCA in Dallas, accompanied by my older step-sister, Krysta.

What was I looking for? In middle school my family and I adopted a markedly high-energy, extraordinarily playful, and irrepressibly naughty half-Siamese all-black longhaired cat named Misdemeanor. (Yes, her name was aptly chosen. If she had been a bigger cat, she would have been Felony. She was a very naughty girl.) Unfortunately, Misdemeanor did not stay with us for very long since she once slipped out the dog door and never returned home. After a lot of searching, we were fairly certain that, since she was a gorgeous cat, someone had taken her in. So we went several years without a cat. While I enjoyed her playfulness, I wanted a less high-octane cat. A more laid-back lap cat appealed to me most. In terms of color, I didn’t have my heart set on any particular color or breed, although I must admit that I have a definite soft spot for black cats. (Who doesn’t like having a house panther?)

The ASPCA had three community cat rooms at the time–one for kittens, one for adult males, and one for adult females. Kittens are adorable, of course, but they tend to be frisky little rascals, not chill lap cats. I hung out in the room with the boys but none of the toms really stuck out in my mind. Ultimately I spent the most time in the girl cat room. There were four black cats but all were seemingly aloof and indifferent, completely uninterested in engaging with me. (NB: This happened to be the case with these individual cats. Not all black cats are snooty and unsocial.)

Only two cats remain vivid in my mind all these years later. One of them was a slender red spotted tabby named Ladybug. I estimated her to be about six months old, certainly less than a year old, so there was a kittenish element to her. Confident, she came right up to me and wanted to play, but once I sat down she made a beeline for my lap. She was charming and vivacious so I found her quite delightful. While I was preoccupied with Ladybug, I didn’t pay attention to the other cats in the room. Distracted, I didn’t see a dark cat-shaped blur until Ladybug had been politely but abruptly ousted from my lap. The blur was a young tuxedo cat, who had daintily climbed into my lap and sat there like she owned me.

“Well hello there,” I said. “Why did you shoo off Ladybug? I can visit with you too.”

Before I knew it, the tuxedo cat draped herself across my chest and left shoulder, wrapping her right paw around my arm, leaving her back legs and tail sprawled across my torso. She rested her head on her left paw. Apparently this cat was part-Gumby, part-liquid, given the way she stretched so languidly. The whole time she vibrated with the loudest purr. This cat was also part-Velcro since she was now attached to me quite firmly.

I stood up with her draped on my shoulder; apparently me moving around didn’t bother her in the slightest. I gently detached her from me and put her down on the floor. She raced up the cat shelves and leapt off of one, flying back onto my shoulder. I put her down again and scurried out of the room to visit the boy cats and kittens again. When I returned, the same little tuxedo cat sat in front of the glass door, waiting with great anticipation of my return and giving me a running commentary all the while. When I opened the door, she leapt from the floor onto my shoulder (I was too surprised to put my hands up and catch her). Again, immediate purring ensued. She was utterly adorable.

Krysta stopped by; it was getting late and we needed to start home. “Did you pick a cat?”

“No,” I said. “One picked me!” I gestured to the tuxedo cat, whose name at the time was Minx or Mittens (I think).

Krysta laughed. “Well, do you want her? She clearly likes you and she’s lovey.”

I don’t think there was any doubt in this cat’s mind that I would be the one who would take her home, feed her, and love her a long time.

With regard to her name, I already had an inkling to call her Boudicca, which is derived from Brythonic boud, meaning “victory”. I named her after the queen of the British Celtic Iceni tribe who led an uprising against the Romans in AD 60-61. While my Boudicca was not nearly so hardcore, I thought it was a name with great character.

When I told my stepdad what I wanted to name her, he exclaimed, “What? You want to name your cat Booty Call?!” After I stopped laughing, I corrected him. My grandmother misheard me and thought I wanted to name her Botitas, or “little boots” in Spanish, considering that she had white paws. Such was my family’s reception to my cat’s unusual name.

Being a writer with a flare for names (I study onomastics as a hobby), I ended up giving her a multi-part name. First I added Queen before Boudicca in honor of her namesake sovereign. My grandmother likened her beautiful eyes to that of the seductive Mata Hari, so that was soon added. When she sat in a classic loaf-cat pose, her ears often tilted and her eyes appeared to turn green so she looked a bit like an owl and partly like Malificent: wise, content, and possibly plotting some nefarious deed…after she finished her nap. So her final name became Sophia (Ancient Greek for “wisdom”). Her full name is thus Queen Boudicca Mata Hari Sophia. The vet techs call her Queen B or Miss B. As you can probably guess, she has many, many nicknames, some of which include Boo, Boophus, Boophus Brain, Googly Girl, Her Majesty, and Pretty Girl.

This is the earliest picture I have saved of Boudicca, dated November 2011. By this time she had filled out to her adult house panther size. When I first took her home in 2002, she had an adolescent cat’s slim physique.

Caring for a Geriatric Cat

Greetings everyone! I realize that I have not updated Purry Home Companion in a while. I have been alternatingly busy with graduate school and a bit under the weather lately. Additionally, Boudicca, being a nearly 18-year-old cat, has needed a lot of care to stabilize her health (namely symptoms stemming from small bowel disease) and closely monitor her quality of life. Last week I was alarmed when Boudicca’s appetite markedly dropped and she refused to eat her wet food (which has her medications mixed in), both of which are most unusual for her. She will be seeing the vet this week for a re-check.

I had just finished brushing Queen B when she sat like this on the window seat. I liked the way the sun shone through the window and illuminated her ears and whiskers.

Given Boudicca’s age and health, I have had the difficult conversations concerning her quality of life and knowing when it will be time to say goodbye. Having these conversations and making these incredibly difficult, poignant decisions are the most challenging parts of responsible pet ownership. In 2017 I made the hard decision to say goodbye to my 16-year-old cat Nala, whose quality of life had markedly declined due to increasing arthritis, which in turn complicated her diabetes. In some ways, I think saying goodbye to Boudicca will be harder since she is my first cat who has truly been my own and, after all, she chose me to be her human. She has always been my sweet girl and I will miss her VERY MUCH. (Cue tears welling up as I write this.) Because the idea of saying goodbye sometime in the future has been in the back of my mind, I have been making concerted efforts to spend as much time with Boudicca and cherish the time I have left with my googly girl.

Boudicca and I recently enjoyed a three-hour lap time session. She has always been a very enthusiastic reading buddy, lap warmer, and snuggler. Her eyes appear very green here too!

However, as I write this, we are not quite at that stage. We figured out why her appetite decreased: she apparently decided to be abruptly finicky about her wet food. We discovered that she prefers Friskies Salmon Pate. We were able to get her to eat something else when she did not want to eat wet food, and we were able to get medication into her in order to control inflammation, nausea, abdominal pain, and keeping her regular. Her appetite has since returned and now she gets very talkative whenever either of us is in the kitchen, because she automatically assumes that we will give her more food. (Either that, or she forgets quickly that we give her wet food twice a day. She still steals kitten kibble from Garrus even though she has her own bowl.) With that said, she has had accidents this past week–so messy and so much cleaning! She is not grooming herself very well, so I brush her regularly and will have to bathe her soon.

Caring for older cats (i.e. mature, senior, and geriatric cats) involves many factors related to health and what to expect at each stage. Aging affects cats in different ways; some will be rather frail at age 11 while others are still robust at 18 or older. Behavior can change in elderly cats. In Boudicca’s case, she is fussier about food, sleeps more, grooms less, talks less, and can be insecure around Charlie, whereas in the past she was quite confident and untroubled by the presence of other cats (Nala, neighborhood cats outside) and dogs. She requires a lot more vet care and medication due to her health problems. Nala and Boudicca aged differently with certain symptoms appearing at some stages with one but not the other. Caring for a senior cat has been a learning experience for both me and Aaron through our experiences with Nala and Boudicca. We are balancing being solicitous with Boudicca’s needs while meeting the needs of Garrus and Charlie, who are respectively six and two years old and have very different energy, nutrition, and health needs.

Googly cat is quite googly!

Snuggle Now

The other day I felt a migraine coming on and took a brief nap to deal with it. I woke up to the sound of loud purring. A foot away from my head was Charlie, who purred even louder when he realized I woke up. Next to him was Garrus, looking sleepy and content next to his cuddle buddy. He might have been purring too.

But I could not move. Why? Boudicca had stealthily sneaked up onto the bed and camped out on my hip. I was not allowed to stretch out toward the boys or roll over. Instead of feline lap paralysis, I had feline hip paralysis! She did, however, graciously allow me to pet her and snap a photo.

“You will snuggle NOW and MY WAY!” Her Majesty Queen Boudicca decrees. At least she’s cute and googly in her imperiousness.

Caught between three purring cats…it could be worse.