Sunday, June 18, 2017

Great birdwatching in Oregon (even for cats)

Fergus the cat on the windowsill

Last week, I wrote a blog post about pets being named employee of the month. Popoki the cat was the clear winner, beating out her two dog siblings, and I think she was pretty darn proud of herself. (Did you miss that blog post? It's here.) In the comments, someone asked me why Fergus wasn't in the running for pet employee of the month. So I just knew he had to be the selfie cat this week. He has so many fans!

But there's just one problem: Fergus is busy.

It's the time of year in Oregon when birds are plentiful. And we've had some amazing visitors to our little suburban backyard.

Case in point: About a month ago, I heard a great flapping out the windows and saw a shadow cross the sun. I looked out the window just in time to see a great blue heron taking flight out of the yard. I've seen that same guy flapping on two subsequent mornings, so he must be fishing in man-made ponds over here. Fergus is sure he's coming back.

Fergus the cat looks out the window

And a week or so ago, we had a osprey visitor (complete with fish clutched in his claws) on a telephone pole near our house. This was cause for great clucking and clacking from Fergus, as he was interested in both fish and bird, and the two stayed in place for many long minutes until they got spooked and flapped off. Fergus has been watching for them as well.

So he has many little feathered friends to watch for, and that means he doesn't always have time for my camera and my foolishness. You can see how angry he is at being interrupted.

Fergus the Siamese cat is angry

So this might be the best we can do this week. We hope his fans aren't too disappointed!

Thanks as always to our hosts at The Cat On My Head for making this hop happen. We love it and try never to miss! You should join in. But before you go, leave a comment won't you? Love to hear from you.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Shelter cat stories: Help a Maine Coon find a home

Izzy the shelter cat

What's it like for a young cat to live in a shelter? If you're a positive, glass-half-full cat like Izzy here, shelter life is a dream. You get plenty of food, you get to meet lots of wonderful people and you get the medical care you so desperately need.

But what's better? Never returning to the shelter again for a long stay. And for cats like Izzy, that's more than a wish. It's imperative.

Izzy came to the shelter with a very severe allergic reaction. Her skin was full of sores. She was itchy. Her throat was swollen. Her lip bled.

She came to my home for foster support, so she could get immuno-suppressant drugs to help calm her system and help to heal her body. She's still on those drugs, and she is doing better. She is healing.

But she can't stay in my home forever. She needs a home of her own. And she can't really go back into the shelter for adoption and stay there for weeks, as her immune system isn't working due to the medications.

Izzy the Maine Coon

I've looked into Maine Coon rescue organizations, as Izzy is very likely some kind of Coon mix (look at that tail!). But I can't find a group close to Oregon that can take her. I'm hoping I can find someone near to me that can adopt her from my home, so she won't have to go back to the shelter, but it's hard to get the word out.

And that's a shame, as Izzy has so much to offer.

She seems wonderful with both dogs and cats, and I've introduced her to all sorts of people and have yet to meet someone she doesn't love. She absolutely adores attention, from both men and women, as this video makes clear.


Listen to her cheep!

She needs a home in which she'll get a great deal of love and affection. She is a needy little thing, so she might like to be in a home in which she is one of the only cats or she has little competition for affection.

She is 100 percent housebroken, and she is not destructive (although she could be with all of her extra toes!).

Can you help me spread the word about Izzy? She's at Willamette Humane Society in Salem, Oregon. I'm here to answer any questions anyone might have about her care. Thank you!

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Office pets: Who should be employee of the month?

Three animals in my office

All three of these animals spend the workday with me in my office. Popoki the cat, lurking in the back of this photo, is out here all the time. But the dogs come in when I head to work in the morning, and they go back into the main house in the evening when I wrap things up at night.

So technically, I guess you could say that they're all employees. They all go to work, and they stay at work all day, just like I do.

Which brings me to the question: Who should be employee of the month?

I've seen some hilarious Instagram photos in which someone in my situation names a pet the employee of the month and posts a photo of said pet on a dedicated wall with a photo. And the funniest thing about these posts is that this person has only one pet, so it's a wall of the same photos with different months.

But I have three pets, so there could be some stiff competition here.

Popoki the cat and Sinead the Boston terrier

These two are in the running for the month of June. (The pug was excluded this month for barking during the middle of a telephone call.)

Both Popoki and Sinead are very quiet while I'm at work, which means people I work with rarely know that they're in my office and sharing my space. And these two also have their relaxation skills down, so they're good to have around during stressful workdays. I can just look down on them sleeping and feel more at ease myself.

But I think this girl deserves the award this month.

Popoki the cat is employee of the month

She's managed to stay off camera during all of my video conferences over the last 30 days, and she has stayed out of my tea and coffee mugs. She's also spent quite a bit of time on my lap over the last few chaotic weeks, delivering needed purr therapy. And she whapped at the pug for being noisy a time or two, so she gets points for law enforcement.

So congratulations, Popoki! You're employee of the month.

Be sure to share a note of congrats for Popoki. I'm sure she'll love to hear about them. And be sure to join in the blog hop, as hosted by BlogPaws! Good stuff this week.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Socializing three kittens at once: Tips from a foster family

Satchmo the kitten is ready to play

Kittens don't come into the world knowing that humans are safe. In fact, kittens tend to believe that other cats are their sole source of safety. Kittens must be taught that humans are kind, loving and gentle.

Sometimes, little kittens are born into communities with plenty of loving human contact. They spend time with adult cats who trust humans, and they have their own positive interactions with humans. These little guys are socialized almost from the get-go.

But often, kittens are born into feral cat communities in which they don't get a chance to meet loving humans. The adult cats they know are afraid of people, and the people they may see aren't all that nice to them.

That's what happened to my current crew of fosters. They were found in a huddle in a feral cat colony, and they were already weaned. Momma was nowhere to be found, and they didn't need her for food. So they entered the shelter system for socialization.

Nina Simone foster kitten

Last year, I helped with a similar little undersocialized kitten I named Eartha Kitt. Her socialization program was pretty simple: She did everything with me. If I went somewhere, she went too. If I did something, she did it too. We were always together, and she learned to trust due to that constant exposure.

Having multiple undersocialized kittens is different. I can't take them all with me all the time for practical purposes. And also: If they are together, they stick together. They interact with one another and not with me. It's only when they are apart that they truly open up.

Take little Lena Horne here. I shot this video on a morning in which she hissed at me, in her kennel hiding behind her sister, for a full 2 minutes. Look how she is away from the herd.


This is a completely different little cat, full of cuddles and purrs.

My approach has been to assign each kitten a day of independence and solitude. On that kitten's appointed day, the kitten goes for walks with me, sits in a sling with me while I'm in the house, sits on my lap during meals and television time and spends all other time in a solo kennel in the living room.

That allows the kitten to break free of the siblings, and it also allows the kitten to really interact with humans.

Satchmo the kitten is exhausted

This solo working day is exhausting for these little guys. They spend a lot of it cuddled with me, but they also spend a lot of the day afraid of what's happening. I think they appreciate the two days of rest that comes after the working day. I know I would.

I've had these guys for a little over a week, and my approach is paying off. They are all at the front of their kennel when I come to see them, and they've started calling to me from their kennel when I walk away. These are socialized-kitten behaviors, and they make me happy.

But, these kittens also hiss and spit at the hubby, and they sometimes hiss and spit at the dogs. They're also terrified in public spaces. So there's more work to be done. But I feel confident they'll get there.

Satchmo, Lena Horne and Nina Simone will all be up for adoption in a month or so from Willamette Humane Society, but they can be pre-adopted from my house as well. Know anyone who would fall in love with them? Send them my way!

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Foster cats and household cats: Sharing space and finding harmony

Popoki the cat in her heated bed

The cat population in my household has nearly doubled over the last week, as we've taken in a ton of fosters from the humane society. All of the kitties we're assisting have different needs, and all of them require attention, love and support. But our current cats need the same thing. And sometimes (let's be honest), the current cats don't appreciate the interlopers.

Popoki here, refusing to get out of her heated bed for her selfies, has a well-known dislike for other cats. She lives apart from the other permanent household members, as a result. But her little apartment is outfitted with stairs and a very high loft. I thought she just might be able to tolerate littles in her space if they couldn't get on the stairs to see her.

No dice.

I had this guy (who already takes adorable selfies at his very young age) out in Popoki's space last week, and she came charging down the stairs to hiss at him.

Satchmo the kitten selfie

Satchmo and his siblings are only about 6 weeks old, so they take hissing in stride. If a resident hisses, they just hiss right back. But I still want his experiences to be positive. So he won't be out in the studio any longer.

He and his siblings are getting a lot of one-on-one socialization time (more on that on Tuesday), and I am seeing pretty great progress, particularly in their fear of dogs. Little Nina Simone here actually sat on my lap for quite some time yesterday, about 4 inches from the pug. And there was no hissing or growling.

Nina Simone kitten selfie

Nina gets along with resident cats Lucy and Maggie just fine, but she finds the rough play style of Fergus to be a little overwhelming. The girls get along because they're all very mellow and calm. But Fergus is a wild little thing. He wants to play and dominate, and they just don't appreciate that behavior. So Fergus and Satchmo have some supervised (very supervised) play sessions, but the girls choose to stay out of it.

And down below, there's one little foster that doesn't get to join in any of this kind of play.

Izzy the foster cat selfie

Izzy has been here for about a month, and her health issue has been almost certainly diagnosed as severe allergies. She's been on a very high dose of prednisone while she's been here, and her body lesions and desperate itching have resolved. Her lip is no longer bleeding, too.

But, Izzy's lip is still extremely large. And I simply can't guarantee that she wouldn't be exposed to some kind of trigger if she was free to roam throughout the house. One bite of dog food, forbidden cat food or human food might be enough to start the whole cycle again. And if she got into a tussle with a current cat, her immune system wouldn't be ready to fight off an infection.

I'm in talks with the shelter about what happens next for Izzy. She might be ready to head into a home to complete her healing, but we need to figure out how to put her in a place for adoption that is safe for her. That's not quite clear yet.

I've said this before, but if you know of someone who would be willing to adopt a 2yo Maine Coon girl with tons of extra toes and loads of personality, and who can come to Oregon to pick up, please send them to me. Wouldn't it be wonderful if we could get Izzy adopted from here?

So many selfies this week! Thanks for reading along. Do drop me a comment before you leave, won't you?

And be sure to join in the hop, as hosted by The Cat On My Head. It's so much fun. You won't want to miss it.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Strange foster cat parent outfits

Sweatshirt with cat in pocket

Oh, the things we foster parents will do for out kittens. We'll sacrifice our cleanliness, our allergies, our spare rooms and our sleep to help these littles to succeed in the world. And if we're truly crazy, we'll sacrifice our fashion sense, too.

Let's look at this sweatshirt.

A dear friend of mine gave it to me to help me with my current foster kittens like Satchmo here. It's designed to help you carry a little hissy-spitty kitty around with ease. The little kitty fits inside a front pocket, so you can take said kitty where ever you go.

Small kitty in sweatshirt

That pocket is covered with fake fur, so kitty stays warm. And there's a drawstring, so the pocket can be closed tight to keep kitty from escaping.

This shirt also helps the foster parent feel like a kitty. Note the extra padding, so the parent can feel like he/she has paws. And the hood, on the small sizes, has cat ears.

There are two drawstrings off that hood that end in little balls one could use for play. But my hissy/spitties don't play quite yet. We'll see how they feel in a bit.

This sweatshirt seems super silly, I'll admit. But seriously. This makes socializing kittens a ton easier. The little ones feel safe and secure, and since you're in a sort of costume, people come to talk with you more frequently. And that makes socializing kittens a little easier.

I've worn this a time or two with the kittens while walking the dogs, and I've had nothing but good experiences. I may look a little loopy, but the kittens get socialized. And in the end, that's all that matters.

Would you wear something like this? Leave me a note in the comments and let me know!

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Shelter cat stories: Learning more about your foster

Foster cat and her human

When you bring a foster cat into your home, the information you have on that cat's past is often sketchy or altogether absent. In the worst of cases, these cats came into the shelter because they were found homeless. They were making do on the streets somehow, and no one really knows how they got there. In the best situations, you get a page or two of notes about the cat's history, written by someone who is upset at having to leave the cat behind. Those notes can't tell you everything you need to know.

So you bring these cats into your home and hope they'll be loving, kind and nondestructive. And as a foster parent, you try to find out everything you can about these cats, so an adoptive family will know just what they're getting into when they choose your cat.

I'm going through this process with Izzy here. I know so much more about her than I did when she came into my home 2 weeks ago. But I have a lot left to learn.

Izzy the cat walking on her leash

Izzy was surrendered by her owner under very difficult circumstances, so I don't know a lot about the life she's used to. But it seems like she once had access to the outdoors. She tries to open the window in her room to get out, and when I put her on a leash for a walk, she immediately started moving at a fast clip. Most cats pancake if they've never been outside. Since Izzy didn't do that, I'm assuming she once had access to the great outdoors.

Izzy has met both my dogs and my cats, and while her medical situation and need for strict diet control don't allow for long meetings, she's handled brief introductions just fine. That seems to suggest she has been exposed to both types of creatures. She could probably handle a multi-pet home as a result.

This cat also has a lot to say.

Izzy the cat having a conversation

She chirps and cheeps and trills from the moment she sees you until the moment you leave. I can't tell if someone used to talk back to her, but she seems to like it when her calls are responded to. Anyone who adopts her must like this sort of thing, as I don't see it stopping.


When Izzy's lip is better and she is no longer on her big dose of pred, she'll head back to the shelter in order to find a home. And I will use all of my notes to write up her online profile, so she can find the right home. And I might spend time with her at adoption events, so I can talk with potential adopters about her and what she needs.

She should, in theory, be ready for adoption in about 2 weeks. I'd love to get the word out now. This foster family will miss Izzy, and we want the best for her. If you know of anyone in Oregon who might want her, send them my way.

And if you've ever wanted to make a meaningful contribution to the lives of cats in your community, consider becoming a foster family and help cats like Izzy. They need us.

Don't forget to join the blog hop, as hosted by BlogPaws! You'll love it. 

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Meet the new foster kittens!

Foster kitten with mother

My kitten fever reached a fever pitch this week, so when Willamette Humane Society asked me if I had the room to help with a few hissy/spitty kitties that needed socialization, I leapt at the chance. These guys don't need help with eating, using the litter box or with medications. They just need to learn to trust people and remember that humans don't want to cause them harm. That's something I'm well equipped to do. So let me introduce you to the crew. You'll be seeing plenty of them on the blog in the next few weeks.

The first is Satchmo here. He's a pretty grey/brown/white tabby boy you might be a medium-haired cat by the time he grows. He is the least feral of the three, as he is the most likely to ask for attention from humans when he needs something.

Satchmo the foster kitty

This is Lena Horne (can you tell that this litter has been named after jazz singers?). Lena is the least socialized of the three. She is the most likely to hiss at me when I try to pick her up and/or hold her. And she is the least likely to run to the front of the kennel for attention, even when I have something lovely to offer, like food or treats.

Lena will need quite a bit of help in order to learn that humans are awesome. I'm using the purrito move to help her adjust to being around humans.

Lena Horne foster kitten

And finally, this is Nina Simone. She falls somewhere between her two siblings in terms of friendliness. She is sometimes approachable in her kennel, and she solicits attention. But she sometimes lets her fear get the best of her, and when that happens, she snuggles with Lena for support.

Nina Simone foster kitten

There were seven kittens in this litter, and Nina is the only one in the group with long hair. I imagine that she'll be a real beauty when she grows up. But she does need to learn to think on her own two paws and accept the help humans can deliver. I hope to convince her of that while she's here!

All of these guys are about 5 weeks old, so they need about a month of love and coaxing and tenderness before they're ready for adoption from Willamette Humane Society. Stay tuned to read up on their progress!

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Leash walks for Oregon cats

Popoki the cat on her leash

Cats love to be with their humans. Don't let the critics misinform you. No matter how many times people use words like "aloof" and "loner" to describe the average cat, I have yet to meet a feline that doesn't seem happier when in the company of loving, caring, attentive people.

In the past, summertime would depress me a bit, because it meant I spent more time away from my cats. I live on the deck and in the yard in the off hours during the summertime, and since the majority of my cats are indoor-only, they couldn't come.

Leashes changed all that for me. By putting my cats on leashes, I could feel comfortable having them in the safe and secure backyard, where I spend my time. I can ensure that they're not going to be attacked or startled, and I can spend time with them.

To say that they walk is a bit of an exaggeration. Popoki here prefers to lounge on her leash, rather than walking. She picks a spot she likes, and she stays put.

But it does seem to tire her out a little. She has so much to observe when she's outside, and I know it puts her little brain to the test. When she comes inside after a walk, she heads right up the cat stairs to her perch for a rest.

Popoki the cat in her perch

She's out on her lounger, rather than in her bed or the cat-scratching house, because she's a little hot. But she loves the view from her perch, both of me and of the neighborhood, so she spends a lot of time up here when she's not in the catio or on her leash.

In that perch, Popoki also has a great view of all of the flowers blooming in the yard, like this one.

Pink peony in Oregon

I don't know if she enjoys them as much as I do. I'd like to think she does.

Thanks, as always, to the kind folks at The Cat On My Head for motivating me to write up some cat words on a sunny Sunday morning. We love the selfies hop, and we try never to miss it!

Have you joined up? You should! It's tons of fun. But before you go, do leave me a comment, won't you? I read all of your words to Popoki, and she loves the praise.


Thursday, June 1, 2017

Saving bumblebees (and protecting dogs) with smart plant choices

Liam the pug and his ceanothus plant

Liam the pug and Sinead the Boston terrier consider my backyard their exclusive playground. They race around the perimeter every night before dinner, and they cruise around the middle in the morning before breakfast. To them, it's a perfect dog paradise. But this yard isn't theirs alone. They share it with several other species, including some that need our help.

Consider the lowly bumblebee.

At one point, Oregon was simply crawling with bumbles. Those hard workers pollinated crops that are important to Oregon, including apples and cherries and raspberries. But Oregon's most common bumble was hit by a disease in the 1990s, and the colonies were almost entirely wiped out. (More on that research here.)

Without these bumbles, crops can fail. Entire species of plants can die off. And Oregon can be a much less lovely place.

Plants like this one help.

Bee on Ceanothus

This is a Ceanothus plant (also known as a California lilac). These plants are special favorites of all sorts of bumbles, although they're not big attractants for honey bees.

And that's what makes them lovely for dog gardens.

Those of us with dogs who are allergic to bee stings can be leery of planting any variety of growing thing that can attract honey bees. We're worried about all the stings these flying creatures can bring.

Bumbles, on the other hand, are much less likely to sting than a honey bee. Only females can sting, and they only do so when they feel cornered. Most of the time, these bumbles just do their work and leave any intruders alone.

Liam the pug and California lilac

My plant is only about 2 years old, and as you can see, it's gigantic. It provides a great deal of shade when the sun starts to go down, and from dawn to dusk, it's simply humming with bumbles.

These plants are also extremely drought tolerant, so they can survive and thrive even when the cost of water is high. And they're cold resistant, so they can handle tough winters too.

I don't think Liam and Sinead mind sharing their yard with a few hundred bumbles. And I certainly don't mind having something so beautiful and functional in the yard.

Want to learn more about these plants? Check out this OSU Extension Office piece. But leave me a note before you go. Love to know what you think of these pretty plants.