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. 😉 

Crawling spiders and Google Search issues

I created my first blog, the health blog, in 2007. My co-administrator/site manager, a fabulous generous person!!!, did most of the truly boring (read: technical) stuff for me, such as setting my blog up with Google Analytics, getting it to be indexed properly by Google, and so on. I never asked her to show me how to do any of that stuff. I thought I’d never need to know.

My blogging assistant…

But now, here I am, years later, with a second blog. This time, I’m going to give all this technical setup stuff a go on my own.

Now, since my blog still doesn’t show up in a Google search, I need to learn how to get my blog “indexed” by Google, a very complicated procedure for someone who barely knows how to turn on the computer and freaks out when her new kitten turns off the sound (how does he do that???), and she can’t figure out what he did and how to undo it…🙂 

At any rate, this morning I did a few (read: many) searches on Google where I found this, er, explanation (?):

For content to show up on Google Search, it has to go through spiders. No, not real spiders, but a program called spider. The spider will start with a link, which it will then crawl through the content. If they see another link embedded in the content, they will crawl it too, and the process repeats. Crawled contents, or web pages, are then stored in Google’s index. When a user made a query, answers are pulled from the index. So in order for your content to show on Google Search, you have to first make sure your website is crawlable by Google’s crawler called Googlebot. Then you have to make sure it’s indexed correctly by the indexer which is called Caffeine. Then only will you see your content or website appearing on Google Search.”

“Crawling spiders”????? Couldn’t Google have come up with something cuter, such as “Purring kittens”? Oh well.

I just installed the Google Analytics plugin, and now I need some, er, Caffeine. Off I go…By the way, if you have any suggestions as to how I can get my blog crawled by Google, I’d be glad to receive ’em! 😉 

The great thing about having a cat blog

Pixie, July 2019

The great thing about having a cat blog is that if you don’t have time to write a post, or don’t feel like writing a post (today, it’s the latter), you can just publish a photo of a cat.

I decided to publish a couple of photos of our Pixie today. I took the first one, on the right, last summer…the second, just a couple of months ago.

Pixie has just turned 3 years old and is one of the sweetest kitties I’ve ever had.

She also does some really funny things, like lie on her back with her paws waving in the air.

Pixie, June 2020

I have heaps of photos of her in this position.

She often falls asleep like this, too, on our bed, paws frozen in one position.

Sweet, adorable Pixie!

Cats like potato chips?????

When I first glanced at this article (see below link to the Fully Feline blog), this is how I read the first sentence:

“Apparently, cats like potato chips.”

“GIVE ME MY POTATO CHIPS…NOW!!!!!!”

Wait, whaaaaaat? Cats LIKE potato chips??? Impossible! I began having visions of feeding potato chip as treats to my cats… 😯

Oh, wait, no, phew, my mistake.

The sentence actually reads as follows: Apparently, cats are LIKE potato chips…In other words, if you have one cat, you must have another, and so on. Okay, that makes total sense (writes a woman who has SEVEN cats…).

And, in fact, the article states that most people have at least two cats…2.4 cats to be exact (a bit scary to imagine what that .4 cat looks like, eh! Just kidding!).

Okay, enough with the silliness…

The “Fully Feline” article tells us about the social behavior of cats and offers some good advice for people who have more than one cat.

Now, since I don’t have much time to write today, I’ll just go ahead and post the link to the article and hope that you’ll find it interesting, too:  https://fullyfeline.com/cat-behavior-harmony-in-a-multicat-home/

Photos and grief

The other day, while looking for older photos of Pavarotta, I found some photos of the cats who are no longer with us. I managed to finish and publish the post…with photos…but…

…simply put, I was overcome by sadness. Grief. All over again.

Piccolo (left) and Puzzola, 2007

It doesn’t matter how many years go by, how many other cats come into your life: you will always grieve for the ones who died. I’ve read that the grief you feel after losing a beloved cat, or a pet in general, is similar to that of losing a close family member. There are many articles online on this topic, including this one: https://www.vet.cornell.edu/departments-centers-and-institutes/cornell-feline-health-center/health-information/health-topics/grieving-loss-your-cat

In the time that Stefano and I have been together, we have lost:

  • Keshé, my Canadian cat, who was with me in grad school and who traveled all the way from Toronto to Italy only to die a few months later (this must have been in 2001) from undiagnosed renal failure. She was only 5 years old. (No digital photos of her, unfortunately.)
  • Puzzola, who died in June of 2014 at the age of 16-17, was the first cat that Stefano and I adopted together after moving into our new home in 2001.
  • Piccolo, my sweet boy, who died a few months later, in September of 2014, at the age of 14.
  • Priscilla, who died at age 14.5 in January 2020. Her death was totally unexpected…hit us like a ton of bricks…

    Priscilla, 2018

I was particularly attached to Piccolo. I just did a search of my health blog to have a look at the post I wrote about Piccolo after he died. (https://margaret.healthblogs.org/2017/09/08/piccolo-2003-2017/)

Oh no, big mistake. Tears began running down my cheeks, and I got very upset (stuffy nose, too!). As time goes by, you may think you’re over the pain, or you can deal with it, but it can come flooding back when a memory pops up or, as in this case, when you read something you wrote about your cat. That’s why Stefano never wants to talk about the kitties that are “gone,” and that’s why he will probably never read this post. Too painful.

I do, however, want to write about this topic at some point. It’s important for people to know that it’s okay to grieve after you lose a beloved pet. And those who don’t have pets have to respect that grief and be supportive.

Whenever one of my cats died, I remember wanting to “share” my grief with some of my closest friends, but they just didn’t understand. They didn’t have pets, and animals were just animals, bluntly put. In the end, I simply hid my pain and pretended that things were okay, even though they weren’t.

But that’s enough for today. I’ll write a happier post tomorrow or the day after…my Peekaboo post! 🙂