A cat in the White House

Well, this bit of news is simply lovely, I must say. In addition to their two dogs, the Bidens are apparently going to adopt a kitty, too, when they move into the White House.

Um, obviously, the White House cat will NOT be the kitty in the photo on the left: that’s my six-month-old Potter. who weighs almost five kilograms (11 pounds). Yes, he’s a BIG boy! In this photo, he’s quite sleepily cuddled on my lap…

Anyway, here’s the article from the New York Times: https://nyti.ms/3o8fKR8

 🙂 

Slow blinks

Pandora trying to fit inside a small cardboard box…Okay, no blinking, but it’s a cute photo, hehe.

Have you ever tried blinking at your cat? I imagine you have, even without really knowing why.

Anyone who lives with cats cannot help but notice that sometimes they tend to narrow their eyes and blink at you. Or, if you blink at them, they will blink back. It’s impossible not to mimick the gesture. I myself have spent several minutes playing the blinking game with my cats, as follows: you blink (slowly) at cat. Cat blinks back at you. You blink again at cat. Cat blinks back. This game could go on for a while, until (usually) the cat gets bored, climbs into your lap, or wanders off to check out the food bowl. I have blinked at unfamiliar cats, too, and have at times received interesting reactions, all positive, of course.

Ah, I should explain that this “blinking” post was inspired by a very informative study I read today on cat-human blinking, a study carried out by a team of psychologists at the University of Sussex. You can read about it here: https://bit.ly/2H8Vqyy

It turns out that “slow blinks” is a way you can communicate with your cat on many levels…and even establish a bond with an unfamiliar cat. For a cat, apparently, blinking is like smiling. That, I did not know…

The University of Sussex study also shows that cats can tell if you are unhappy, and they will rub against you to make you feel better. I would add that cats become very loyal nurses when you are ill.

So much for the myth that cats are insensitive creatures! Hah!

Cute animals decrease stress and anxiety

Watching cute animals is good for our health. We probably already knew that from personal experience, but now science has confirmed it…once again, I should add…I mean, I’ve seen similar studies before.

A new study, recently published by CNN, in fact shows that “watching cute animals may contribute to a reduction in stress and anxiety.”

Here’s the link to the CNN report: http://cnn.it/2G2hfjt

And so, here’s a photo of baby Pixie, who was little more than two months old in this photo. Incidentally, I don’t touch up my photos, so it’s a bit on the dark side, but still…how adorable she was (and is), don’t you think? Awwww…

An excerpt from the article: “In all cases, the study saw blood pressure, heart rate and anxiety go down in participants, 30 minutes after watching the video.”

The study found that videos worked better than still images. Hmmm. I’ll have to learn how to upload some of my cutest cat videos. Yeah, I still don’t know how to do that…It will be a project for the near (I hope) future…! 🙂

Plitch, plitch, plitch!

Do your cats (or cat) do what this cartoon cat is doing? Well, there are actually reasons for this type of behavior (I looked them up!).

Three of my kitties are “water kitties”: Pinga, Pandora, and Potter.

Potter and Pandora both seem to enjoy dipping their paws in the water bowl, turning them over and licking their pads, especially if I have just changed the bowls. 🙄

I don’t think they’re really thirsty when they do that. They’re just playing around.

While Pandora rather daintily just does a quick dip, dip, dip in the water, Potter is a messy boy. He will run right up to the bowl but usually isn’t able to stop in time–he’s still a baby, after all (a BIG baby…He’s growing leaps and bounds!)–so, most often, he ends up with his front paws inside the bowl, splashing water all over the place, including himself.  😀 

He will also sometimes lie by the bowl and lazily immerse one of his paws into the water, keeping it there for a bit, seemingly for no reason. His fixation with getting a bit wet stopped surprising me, though, once I read that Maine Coon cats love water, and their fur is water repellent. Aha! Okay, so he’s just playing…

Pandora isn’t a Maine Coon but also plays a bit with water, a bit like the cartoon cat. When she isn’t playing, though, and actually wants a drink of water, she will delicately dip her paw into the bowl, stopping just as it touches the surface of the water. Only then will she put her head down and drink. I read that this is because the close-up vision of cats isn’t very sharp. Moving the water bowl or somehow making the water move is therefore a clever way for them to check out the level so they won’t get water up their nose or whatnot. Actually, come to think of it, Pavarotta does the same thing, sometimes. Smart cats!

Pinga drinking from the bathroom faucet

As for Pinga, ahhh Pinga, she loves drinking water more than any other cat I’ve ever known/had (with the exception of Priscilla, whom we lost in January 2020). When I go into the kitchen first thing in the morning, she’s usually sitting right by the water bowl, waiting for me to change it.

And, if I let her, she will happily drink straight from the faucet. The problem with that is that she likes drinking very close to the spout, so much so that sometimes she even licks the spout, which I don’t find hygienic at all (our drinking water comes from the same kitchen faucet).

At any rate, if I turn on a faucet, any faucet, and leave the water running, she won’t stop drinking, just like a camel (did you know that a camel can drink 200 liters, or 53 gallons, of water in three minutes?  😮  ). So I have to be careful and make sure she doesn’t turn into a camel.  😉  And no, she doesn’t have any kidney issues. She just loves water, which is, yes, unusual for a cat…P.S. I haven’t found a better photo of her drinking from the faucet, sorry about that!

Speaking of faucets, there’s a reason why cats are attracted to the sound of running water. I read that it dates back to when they had to hunt for food and water, that is, way before they became beloved household pets, and it makes sense that it was easier for them to find (noisy)  running water compared to still water. Cats also knew from experience that running water probably wasn’t contaminated, the way still water can be. So it’s their “wild” DNA that kicks in where drinking water is concerned. An interesting little cat fact, don’t you think?

Peekaboo drinking from the plastic Drinkwell fountain

Okay, so running water is fresher than water that’s been sitting around in a bowl, even if you change the water often enough. Speaking of fresh, just a quick note: don’t use plastic water or food bowls (see drinking fountains, below)…

Ceramic and, in second place, stainless steel bowls are the most hygienic, thus the safest…

Moving on…A good way to provide your cats with running water is a water fountain. We have tried many different ones over the years–from the well-known Drinkwell ones to handmade ceramic ones.

Our first fountain was a plastic Drinkwell (see above photo with Peekaboo). In the beginning, it was perfect. The cats absolutely loved it. But then I read an article showing that plastic fountains can harbor potentially nasty bacteria in the crevices and scratches that form over time. Yikes!

And in fact I’d noticed that some disgusting slime (the technical term is “biofilm,” but I think slime suits it better, yuuuuuck!) had formed on the bottom of the fountain and near the filter, no matter how much I cleaned it and changed the water according to instructions.

In that same article, I read that this slime can eventually create a potentially icky health problem for cats: CHIN ACNE. Aha! Some of my cats had the beginnings of chin acne, but I hadn’t made the connection between the acne and the fountain.

The plastic Drinkwell was packed up and thrown away immediately.

No more plastic for my cats!

The ceramic fountain

I eventually ordered an attractive, ceramic,  handmade fountain (see photos), accompanied by a certificate guaranteeing that the glazes used contained no harmful minerals (very important!), and that worked really well, except that it was quite heavy and had no filter, which meant that I had to change the water every day and wash it every other day, at least. That became a bit of a task, I admit.

We finally found and bought a Drinkwell fountain made of stainless steel. Much better…it has a filter and isn’t as heavy at the ceramic one. I’m still a bit concerned about the bacteria buildup, but at least this fountain isn’t as heavy as the ceramic one. And, no slime, so far.

Funny thing: I can’t, for the life of me, find a photo of the kitties drinking from the stainless steel fountain! How odd. I know I took hundreds of photos when we first set it up, as I always do. Oh well, I’ll have to take some new photos as soon as we set it up again. I’ll just have to remember to have my camera nearby! 🙂

Flying cats

In July 2020, soon after Potter joined our family, I got a urgent call from the Maine Coon breeder, my friend Ale’s cousin. With a very somber, almost trembling voice, she exclaimed, “Margaret, I have something to tell you. Something terrible has happened, but I don’t want you to be alarmed” Dramatic pause. Well, duh!, I was alarmed, very much so. Before she went on, I had time to think, “Oh no! One of Potter’s parents has been found positive to some terrible, deadly, HEREDITARY disease…!!!”

She continued, “This morning, Potter’s brother fell out of a third-story window and is at the vet’s right now.”

Okay, I admit, I was relieved. I mean, it didn’t concern Potter directly…I asked her what had happened.

Apparently, the brother’s new owner had opened a top floor window and then had left it unattended. The kitten had gotten up on the ledge and had spotted someone or something in the garden. So he went for it. He jumped. Luckily, his fall was broken by a small covering over the garden door. But it was still quite a fall. Right under the owners’ eyes.

Luckily, the vet found that he didn’t have any injuries. Phew.

Ale’s cousin told me to make sure that Potter wouldn’t be allowed near any open windows or terraces located on a top floor. I reassured her that that would never happen. All of our windows have screens. Besides, I’m always in attendance whenever there is an open window, after what Pavarotta did…and also…

This incident reminded me of something that happened many many years ago, when I was in my early 20s. It was summer, a very hot summer at that, and I had gone to an outdoor evening concert on the outskirts of Florence with a couple of friends. As we were making our way across the field to find a good place to sit down, I noticed a German shepherd running around and barking loudly at a bush. A group of children began screaming that he was going after a kitten. A KITTEN??? I jumped to my feet and ran over to the bush. I eventually managed to grab the terrified, tiny black kitten hidden inside, and then I held her high above my head so the dog couldn’t reach her. The dog gave up, and I walked away, tucking the tiny furball safely under my sweater, where she meowed desperately for a while, then fell asleep, exhausted. (For the record–see my post on outside or inside cats–I didn’t see a mama cat in the area.)

My friends and I obviously didn’t stay for the concert. They dropped me off at home, and I remember sneaking into the apartment, trying to be really quiet so as not to wake my parents who didn’t want any more cats, but Mom heard the kitten meowing (from hunger, poor dear) and came into my bedroom. I told her what had happened at the concert and reassured her that within 24 hours I’d find the kitten a family. Well, I did find her a family: our family!!! From the very start, in fact, it was clear that she was going to be our forever cat. Micia, an affectionate Italian word for “female cat,” remained with us, much beloved by all, until her death at age 16.

But now let’s get to the pertinent part of the story. At the time that I rescued Micia, we were living in a top floor apartment near the center of Florence. And remember, it was summer, beastly hot during the day, so we used to open the windows in the evening, and keep them open until morning, to try to get some relief from the heat.

We were careful, though, to keep the windows shut whenever Micia was around. We’d noticed, in fact, that Micia loved climbing up on windowsills and watching pigeons fly by, or insects, or whatever. We knew that an open window would be too dangerous for her. So we made sure to close the windows if we weren’t going to be in the room. Well, one day that little kitten made a beeline for one of the open windows, right in front of me. She almost managed to fly right out of it, too…I caught her just in time, just as she was spreading her “wings” (paws). Almost gave me a heart attack.

Needless to say, we spent the rest of that summer with the windows shut tight. I don’t know how we survived the heat, but survive we did. And so did Micia.

Cats are not acrobats. Yes, they are athletic, and they have a great sense of balance, but that doesn’t mean that they can’t fall off a terrace. They can. All it takes for a cat to lose its balance is a moment of distraction–a sudden gust of wind, a bird flying by the window, an insect…It doesn’t take much.

It’s fine, of course, to let your cat out on a terrace, but the terrace needs to be surrounded by some sort of protective covering.

Just in case…!!!

A story of loyalty

Now for a bittersweet story that I just read in an online article (in Italian): https://bit.ly/2ROsUVd

When you think of loyalty, you associate it with dogs, not with cats. And dogs love their owners…cats do not. Right?

Indeed, a common (superficial and truly annoying) assumption, which I have always fiercely disputed, is that cats are selfish, unfeeling creatures.

Well, today’s story is similar, in many ways, to the well-known story of Hachiko, the Japanese dog who waited for NINE YEARS at a train station for his deceased owner to return home.

Except that this is the story of a cat named Lilla, and we’re in a different part of the world–the Republic of San Marino, a small State completely surrounded by north-central Italy.

Like Hachiko, this San Marino cat, an 11-year-old female, has been waiting patiently every day, all day, in front of the supermarket where she used to go with her owner…who unfortunately died months ago.

Lilla was adopted by her owner’s granddaughter (Note: I’m translating from Italian, and in Italian “nipote” is both granddaughter AND niece, so this could be her niece).

But Lilla is still looking for her previous owner, the woman with whom she spent most of her life and to whom she was completely devoted. And so she waits for the supermarket doors to open…and for her owner to come outside…

Now who is going to tell me that cats don’t care for their human friends?

The lockdown eye

On March 12, 2020, I came upon Prezzemolo playing in one of the cat tunnels and managed to snap this cute photo before he decided to exit the tunnel and do something else.

The date is significant (for me), because Italy had gone into a complete lockdown, due to the coronavirus, just a couple of days earlier.

Hence, the lockdown eye…

Orange paw

Do your cats jump onto the table while you’re eating? Some of our cats do…Not all of them, usually just Pandora and Potter, and sometimes Pixie who, however, just wants to be with us and doesn’t care about the food we’re eating.

All the other cats have better things to do, like sleep. 😉

Pixie and Potter on the dining room table (not during a meal)

Well, for yesterday’s dinner I’d prepared herb chicken, and the sauce was a lovely reddish color because of all the paprika I’d used. This will be an important detail for later in the story.

Stefano and I sat down to eat, with Pandora and Potter on the table, watching us closely, just waiting for a false move on our part.

At first, we managed to fend them both off. We’ve become quite good at keeping sneaky cats at bay by building barriers in front of our plates, using all sorts of things, covered pans, wine or beer bottles, and even my huge bottle of curcumin.

Pandora finally gave up, moving to a corner of the table and lying down…with her eyes still on us, though. You never know, right?

But Potter stood his ground.

He even ignored all the beer caps (his favorite toy) that we sent flying over his head to get him to jump off the table. This time our strategy didn’t work. He was focused.

All of a sudden, like a cobra striking its prey, Potter leapt forward and dipped one of his front paws into the chicken pan, which had been left slightly uncovered, by mistake (our fault for relaxing a bit).

Potter gave a quick lick to the sauce on his paw, but evidently he didn’t care for the taste of paprika. He had to get rid of it ASAP, right? And so he began madly shaking his paw in various directions. Sauce droplets flew all over the place, hitting us, the tablecloth, and, worse!, the WHITE wall behind the dining room table. Aggghhh!

Waiting for dinner

Stefano and I jumped into action like two ninjas. Stefano ran into the kitchen, grabbing paper towels and various sorts of cleaning liquids. He then tried to clean the spots on the wall, but you can still see them this morning. Oh well…

Note: from now on, Potter will be known as Jackson Pollock (Harry) Potter.

As for me, I grabbed Potter before he could do any more damage, rushed him over to the kitchen sink and put his still-smeared-with-paprika-sauce paw under the running water. Luckily, Maine Coons like water, so he let me rinse his paw, which, however, is still a bit yellowish today…

Okay, fine, all set, we’re back at the table to finish eating.

But then, later on in the meal, incredibly!!!, as soon as Stefano had gone to the kitchen to get I-forget-what, Potter grabbed a piece of Stefano’s chicken and pulled it off the plate before I could stop him…I mean, he did that right in front of me, and I was watching him like a HAWK!!!

Potter drinking water from my glass after dinner. I’ll try for a better photo next time!

Wow, he’s good.

Before Potter’s arrival, we thought we’d reached the height of expertise in Food Defense, but the game has changed, evidently.

We’re going to have to learn new skills now that the new Master of Food Thievery has joined our family…But, gee, he’s just a KITTEN! I tremble to think what he will be able to accomplish in the years to come. Mamma mia.

Note to myself: I need to have my cell phone with me even during dinner so that I can record these incidents. I have no photos from yesterday evening! Oh well.

If you have a similar story, I’d love to hear (read) it! 🙂

(Here’s the link to a cute Simon’s Cat video, more or less on the same topic: Simon’s Cat. Fast Food)

Indoor or outdoor cats?

Back in June, I came across a post titled “Saving or capturing?” in an Italian Facebook cat group to which I belong.

I wish I’d never read beyond the title, but, unfortunately, I did.

The anonymous author, evidently connected to one of the local cat shelters here in Florence, perhaps a volunteer?, claimed that if you are out and about, and a seemingly healthy kitten runs up to you and looks lost, you should not presume that its mother isn’t nearby, you should not pick it up, you should not take it home with you…

You have to leave it where it is.

Now, that would have been sort of acceptable had the author stopped there.

That didn’t happen.

Happy cats, the author rambled on, are only those that are free to roam around outside. The worst thing that can happen to a cat is to be taken home by some perhaps well-meaning person and turned into a housecat. Not all cats, the author argued, like to sleep on a couch all day (I actually agree with that statement: my cats like to sleep on our bed…on a variety of armchairs…in hammocks hanging on the cat towers…on the dining room table while we are eating, and so on… 😉 ).

Keeping cats indoors, the author continued, is like sentencing them to prison for life.

The post-writer further illustrated her (I have the feeling the post was written by a woman) point by comparing the life of an “imprisoned” housecat to what we humans went through during Italy’s lockdown period (March-May 2020), when we were all forced to stay indoors…for obvious and very good reasons, I would like to add (note: the post author chose to ignore those good reasons…).

In short, the author believes that the only happy cats are cats that live out in the open.

Apart from almost of of  its content, one of the problems I had with this post were some of the words used, which were unnecessarily aggressive, such as “capture, condemn, eternal imprisonment.” Really? Eternal imprisonment? Is the life of a housecat that bad?

The author of this post treated us (humans who live with cats that don’t go outside for a variety of reasons) with complete disregard and disrespect, as though we were crazy, serial cat hoarders patrolling the streets in search of kittens and cats to capture, take home, and condemn to a life of misery.

Potter, August 2020

I was offended. I was angry. And I was not alone. My irritation was matched by that of other group members who, like me, live with indoor cats and have rescued many from certain death. In the days that followed the publication of this superficial (at best) post, a bunch of us wrote comment after comment, expressing our displeasure and requesting that the post be taken down (it hasn’t, for the record. I checked just a few days ago).

I would like to point out that the “other side” remained silent, yet she must have read our comments. That’s another thing that I found incredibly irritating. I mean, if you truly believe that YOU are right, and that WE are wrong, then defend your position, for crying out loud. Or say you are sorry, if you realize that you made a mistake. None of that happened.

I guess it’s obvious that this “indoor-outdoor” topic is close to my heart. I’ve thought about it for years now. Of course, if I could let my cats outside into a safe, protected environment, like a catio space, I wouldn’t hesitate to do so. But our garden isn’t set up for a project like that (we’ve looked into it). So, they stay inside.

And now I would like to list many of the dangers that cats encounter in the outside world and that can easily shorten their lifespan, sometimes in horrible ways:

  • diseases that cats can get from other cats, such as Feline Leukemia, Feline AIDS, abscesses, and upper respiratory infections
  • ingestion of toxic plants (poinsettia, lilies, etc.), toxic substances, rat poison, slug pellets, etc.
  • dogs
  • injuries sustained by miscalculating a jump or whatnot
  • cars, traffic
  • getting trapped somewhere, in a basement or a car engine
  • exposure to parasites
  • extreme cold, extreme heat
  • hunters, predatory animals

I think my list is self-explanatory, but I do have a few more remarks.

Statistic: housecats can live to the age of 17, on average, whereas outside cats live only 2-5 years. With all the above-listed dangers, it’s no wonder why…

My next-door neighbor, whom I love dearly, has three male (uncastrated) golden retrievers, whom I also love dearly. Wonderful dogs. Wonderful…except that they go absolutely bonkers whenever they see a cat. Luckily, my neighbors are very careful, and all these dogs can do is bark at cats. But my neighbor told me that they would kill a cat if they had the opportunity. Now, with that knowledge, how could I possibly let any of my cats go outdoors, free to roam around the neighborhood? One mistake, one little mistake, and they could end up in the jaws of these dogs…I don’t even want to think about it.

I have a recent story concerning toxic substances. One of my best friends, who lives in a top floor apartment here in Florence, has a young cat who, a couple of months ago, seems to have swallowed some sort of toxic liquid on her roof terrace. The kitty stopped eating and was clearly in distress, so my friend didn’t waste any time but took her to the vet clinic where she remained for weeks. We weren’t sure she was going to make it. The vets couldn’t figure out what had caused all these terrible problems, which ranged from mouth and throat ulcers to gastritis. She nearly died…luckily, she didn’t. And yet this is a cat who is let out on my friend’s roof terrace only during the day. But even in that relatively protected space, she managed to injure herself very seriously. The only reason she didn’t die is because she lives with my friend (who, btw, was horrified and devastated by what happened and still cannot figure out what her cat swallowed even after examining every inch of that terrace…). A stray cat, however, one of those “free and happy” cats described in the post, would certainly have died an agonizing death…

Traffic. Someone I used to know kept adopting one cat after another throughout the years. Inside-outside cats. Her garden led down to a terribly busy street that her cats liked to run across. Well, they were all regularly run over and killed. When I adopted my Canadian cat, Keshé, from a cat shelter in Toronto, and kept her indoors, this person told me I was cruel.

Do people really believe that we are cruel not to let our cats go outside?

Oh, and I haven’t even mentioned the topic of BIRDS (Stefano and I are birdwatchers, whenever possible) and all the creatures that cats, even well-fed indoor-outdoor cats, kill out in the open…

I think I’ve made a good case for keeping cats indoors unless you have a protected catio space or live in the countryside where there are no dangers around (the above-mentioned hunters and predatory animals…Years ago, one of my aunt’s cats was shot and killed by a hunter who had trespassed on her property here in Tuscany)…

But it isn’t as easy as it sounds. Cats are not objects. They are very curious animals…They need to play, run aroundm, climb, interact with their humans, with other cats, etc. In short, they need to be stimulated and entertained. To be honest, it would be easier for me to have indoor-outdoor cats/catio. In that case, all I’d have to do to keep my cats entertained would be to open the door and let them out. Much easier.

Well, I’ll get to the topic “how to entertain a housecat” in another post. This one is already way too long. 😉