New mattress!

My dad called me Friday night to see if they could stop by on Saturday because they were going to be in town. Sure, no problem. What I wasn’t expecting was that they had a surprise.

I’ve had an antique 3/4 bed, halfway between a single and a double, for as long as I can remember – since I was a kid, anyway. My mom put a huge amount of work into sanding and repainting it. I’m extremely attached to it, and it seems to be the only place I can really sleep properly. It’s soft (no box spring), and just the right size for me and assorted felines. The problem is, finding mattresses for it is, to say the least, hard.

Dad and Kimmie showed up to tell us there was a mattress waiting, we just had to call the furniture store and okay the delivery, and they’d even take away my (extremely battered) old mattress. This one is an awesome high-quality pillow-top one with a ten-year warranty, so I’m set for a long time!!!

How do the kids feel? Well. While I was attempting to strip the old mattress, Cory, who was lying in the middle of it, calmly watched me freeing the corners and moving the pillow and the books that had collected in the inner corner and all, without ever moving – I had to physically remove him. Trick decided that the old mattress, at an angle while being removed from the frame, was a really neat place for a stroll. Poor Freya, who was hiding under the bed because company makes her nervous, was spooked out and ran for a new hideyhole. Bringing in the new mattress freaked all of them out.

However, once the dust settled (barely), exploration began. Followed promptly by attempts to add as much kitty cheek-rub-scent and kitty-fur to the new addition as possible to make sure that it’s clearly marked as “approved.”

This bed is Angel-approved!

Click for more pics! —>>> Continue reading

Playtime Videos

I have NO idea how I failed to get these onto this blog. I’m pretty sure I shared them on Facebook, but I seem to have missed a step!!!

Happy Freya

Happy Freya by prysmcat

Freya playing – Tunnel of Fun

Freya – Tunnel of Fun by prysmcat

Cory vs the Martians

Cory vs the Martians by prysmcat

Cory vs the Martians, the sequel

Cory vs the Martians, the sequel by prysmcat

A very brief Public Service Announcement – Cory demonstrates why NOT to let your cat play with plastic bags unsupervised.

Cory and the Plastic Bag by prysmcat

Angel’s Progress

As of this morning, Angel has had seven injections of insulin and I’ve lost count of how many cans of Fancy Feast pate. We figure less-than-ideal wet food is better than either kibble, which is higher in carbs, or not eating at all, so we’re letting her have as much as she wants. We’re sticking with pates, since they don’t have all the wheat gluten and all that the flaked and chunky and sliced ones do, but she seems fine with that. She’s unthrilled with wet foods that have better quality protein in them, but we’re still trying. A couple of friends have suggested a raw diet, which is still on the table as a possibility, too. Diet is hugely important, but with cats, sometimes you make compromises.

She’s doing great with the injections. Mostly, Seanya gives her rough-ish ear-rubs and snuggles, and I give her the injection. She’s more annoyed by the process of trying to get a grip on a fold of skin and find the skin under the fur than she is by the injection itself! Nicewitch suggested warming the filled syringe in a hand for a minute before the injection, something her human doctor told her would keep the cold insulin from stinging, and it seems to make a big difference – before that, the only moment she winced was when I actually pressed the plunger in. We make sure she’s just had a meal beforehand, so we know she ate, and she gets lots of cuddles afterwards.

This morning, after all the usual morning stuff, I opened the knee-height window to the balcony enclosure – it’s chilly these days, but they still like going out for a few minutes. Angel hasn’t wanted to be out for more than a few seconds in over a week, I actually can’t recall the last time she wanted to be out for long after spending pretty much all night every night out there all summer. This morning, she walked away from a fresh bowl of ice water, and all but shouldered me aside to go outside! None were out all that long, but she was the last one in. We’re taking this as a good sign that she’s feeling better. Various friends with experience, including a human diabetic, have assured methat yes, it is possible for her to be feeling better this quickly. As my human diabetic friend says (Ohai, anni!!!) “With too much glucose in the blood, she would have felt sluggish, tired, thirsty, unable to see as clearly as usual and possibly nauseous. I had most of those symptoms – but once I was on a sensible diet that reduced the blood glucose, I was fine – didn’t even need medication for several years.”

With today the anniversary of Nermal crossing the Bridge, it’s encouraging to think of Angel having a promising future with her diabetes caught early and controlled early. I can’t change anything that happened with Nermal, but I can be glad of what I learned from it and that it’s helping my Angel-grrl!

Haven’t forgotten you, Nermal

Tomorrow, November 17th, makes nine years since I lost my best friend to chronic renal failure. On top of the timing, it was my first experience with a cat with chronic health issues – he was diagnosed as diabetic some years before. But we caught it later than Angel’s, and even a decade makes a big difference in treatment options.

Since the letter I wrote him has been pretty much off the web for some years now, I thought I’d repost it here. There are more pics of Nermal under “About the Cats” at the top of the page.

Loki has since crossed the Bridge as well – but Trick made an enormous difference in Loki coping with Nermal’s loss.

Letter to Nermal

January 28, 2003

Last night, I watched you glance out a window and turn away without interest to face towards the room to catnap.  I couldn’t help but wonder how much you could even see outside, with gradually worsening cataracts and the scarring on one eye.  And I thought of how different that single action was, from when you were young, and always insisted on having a window to sit in, open at least a little, so you could see and smell and hear what was going on in the world.  So very much has happened since then.
Continue reading

Angel and Diabetes

It’s been a busy… wow, three months! While doing well over the summer and off all anti-depressant meds, I accidentally founded the site Cheezland, which has been taking up quite a bit of my time since. Trick went to the vet for what I thought was a gum abrasion, which turned out to be no less than three dental neck lesions (cavities) in 3 quarters of his mouth, two of which had broken off – and while I was feeling terrible for not noticing that, we discovered he had a very severe bladder infection he’d probably had for some time, with no sign of it (no litter box use change at all), and that took two courses of antibiotics to treat, along with food for the crystals that had formed. Cory was plucking his own fur out and creating bald patches, which appears to be an allergy of some kind – and the last time he was on steroids, the usual allergy treatment for cats, he gained a huge amount of weight rapidly. Nonetheless, he’s been on low-dose steroids for some time, and while his weight has gone up a bit, that combined with an antihistamine and a topical goo applied similarly to Revolution (the omega-fatty-acids food supplement gives him diarrhea *sigh*) he’s not itching currently. If, when his steroids run out around the end of November, he resumes itching and plucking, then we’re going to have to conclude it’s a food allergy rather than an environmental one, and he’s so fussy about food with such a sensitive tummy that it’ll be a nightmare.

While we were trying to get the pet insurance company to usefully help out (dental isn’t covered, prescription food isn’t covered, I was starting to wonder what IS covered), Angel started urinating more and drinking more. She’s had issues with food for as long as she’s lived with us, she gets crazy-anxious if there’s no food available and then gorges herself as soon as it’s back; even though we’re careful to avoid that, and found a way to keep her from gorging (forage balls or food balls, which I keep meaning to do a post on), she’s still a big girl, just a shade over 8 kg (17.6 pounds), some of which is devastatingly strong muscle and some of which is floof and some of which is fat. Suddenly, though, her borderline desperation for their once-a-day wet food went up dramatically. Continue reading

Feline Diet

Just a caveat: make any changes to your cat’s diet slowly and gradually, and if your cat has any health issues, talk to your vet first. I’m not a veterinarian or a vet tech, I’m basing this on a one-year program as a vet assistant (one step down) and on a long history of research due to cats with special needs. I’m hoping this is helpful and to the best of my knowledge it’s accurate, but your mileage may vary.

It should go without saying that diet is immensely important in making sure your cat stays healthy. Poor-quality diet can lead to deficiencies or excesses causing a variety of conditions. Obesity can lead to diabetes and heart problems among other things — a fat cat (or dog, or any other animal!) is not cute.

One factor to consider is how much your cat should be eating.

The kilocalories listed on the cat food bag/box/can are the same as the calories we think of for humans. It should say it has X kilocalories per ounce, cup, or some other measurement.

Approximate recommended (by bodyweight)

Age kcal per kg kcal per lb
10 weeks 250 115
20 weeks 130 60
30 weeks 100 45
1 yr+ active 85 35-40
1 yr+ inactive 70 32
Pregnant 100 45
Nursing 250 115

If they’re getting less than that, they’ll lose weight. If they’re getting more, they’ll gain weight (obviously). Active cats use more than sedentary cats; young adult cats use more than middle-aged or senior cats; cats with health issues usually have special needs; cats that are outdoors a lot or otherwise exposed to seasonal changes will usually need more in colder temperatures; there are other factors, but they’re all pretty common-sense.

What do you do with this? Brace yourself for a little math, but if you go step by step, it isn’t really all that difficult. Make sure you have your cat’s weight, to start with (weight in kg = weight in lbs divided by 2.2; weight in lbs = weight in kg multiplied by 2.2). Then multiply the weight by the above numbers to find out how many kcal your cat should be getting in a day. For example, a 1.8 kg (4 pound) kitten who is roughly 12 weeks old should be getting 450 kcal per day (1.8 kg x 250 kcal per kg = 450 kcal per day).

If the food is 300 kcal per cup, she should be getting 1.5 cups of food (450 kcal needed / 300 kcal per cup = 1.5 cups).

If it’s 100 kcal per 85g/3oz can (Fancy Feast sized), she should be getting 4.5 cans per day (450 kcal needed / 100 kcal per can = 4.5 cans).

If you want to combine them, then, say, two 3 oz cans of food at 100 kcal each would be 200 kcal of her diet (100 kcal per can * 2 cans = 200 kcal), leaving 250 kcal to be supplied by the dry food, so she’d need 0.85 of a cup of dry food (250 kcal needed / 300 kcal per cup = .833 cups) (that’s slightly less than 7/8ths of a cup).

Another factor to consider is what’s in the food you’re providing.

Just like with human diets, the value of those kcal varies. You can get a thousand calories easily at MacDonalds but they aren’t going to have a lot that you’d want to give a growing kid or that would be healthy maintenance for an adult. Corn and wheat are cheap fillers in cat food, mostly providing carbs, not the kinds of meat-based nutrients that a cat’s body needs.

Cats, unlike dogs or humans, are obligate carnivores: their digestive system is evolved in specific ways to deal with a meat diet exclusively. Cats also need almost twice the protein, on average per weight, that dogs do. As examples, their bodies cannot turn linoleic acid, an omega-6 fatty acid common in some vegetable oils, into arachidonic acid, essential for cell membranes and in the brain; they cannot convert beta-carotene, found in plants, into vitamin A, which is found in animal tissue. They need to get both arachidonic acid and vitamin A directly from meat sources.

A lot of what they need comes from what we consider by-products – internal organs, for example. However, in cheaper foods, ‘byproducts’ can be some pretty vile things (I won’t get into the details here) that are either hard to digest or not from healthy sources, and ‘meat byproducts’ is about as vague as you can get; you could be getting pretty much anything, and the cheaper the food, the less actual useful value there’s likely to be in it.

It is, realistically, a pain in the tail trying to get a fussy cat to eat what you want them to eat instead of what they like the taste of. It’s ALWAYS most important to make sure that a cat is eating SOMETHING. Extended fasting, especially in overweight cats, can lead to liver issues that can be fatal. In underweight cats, well, they just don’t have the resources to go without eating. So ultimately, it’s a hard ideal to try to reach. One of mine will only eat a single flavour of a single brand of wet food and it isn’t a quality I’m happy with, but since I want him getting some kind of wet food, I compromise.

Basically, if you can afford it, I really recommend foods with low or no grains, especially corn and wheat; low or no unspecified byproducts, or at least byproducts from named animals; high-quality digestible meat proteins. They do tend to be more expensive, but there’s a substantial body of evidence that it can prevent (expensive and stressful and possibly terminal) health issues later in life. Many pet stores offer free or inexpensive sample sizes of various foods, so you can find out if your cat is interested without spending  a fortune. If you do happen to buy a larger bag and your cat decides not to eat it, check for local feral colonies, they may be happy to accept it as a donation even if it’s open.

Wet foods help supply water, which is something cats do have trouble drinking enough of – their kidneys don’t concentrate it very well, even when healthy. The water does tend to decrease the kcal the cat gets per serving, though, so they have to eat more volume to get equal nutrition. This is a good thing when you’re trying to help a cat lose weight, but not so good with an underweight cat. Any cat that will eat wet food at all, I’d suggest they get it as at least part of their diet.

And, the really obvious stuff: lots of cool fresh water that’s changed at least once a day if not more; change food gradually so there’s no GI upset; make sure the food you’re using says it’s formulated as a complete diet and not as a supplement (unless you are, in fact, using it just as part of the diet, in which case go to it).

Incidentally, I’ve observed, and have talked to others who have observed, that the better quality the food, the less waste the cat passes, because more of it is actually being used instead of just passed through as indigestible.

If I Had a Million Dollars

Actually, it would take more than a million to not only build it but to maintain it, but hey.

The general idea is of a cat hotel, especially for people who have sudden emergencies and need a safe place their furkids will be loved, combined with a no-kill cat sanctuary encouraging people to come in and spend time socializing with the cats before adopting one – or just come hang around, if you can’t adopt. Second floor would be an apartment for Seanya and I and our own furkids.

If the money ever appeared, which seems highly improbable to say the least, nothing would be done until after I talked to a vet tech with considerable experience dealing with rescue situations, and a green-friendly architect to make it as efficient as possible! But I wouldn’t want it larger than this, I think, there’s no way I’d be able to keep up with it.

Sorry about the bad artwork – I’m a writer and a crazy cat lady, not an artist! Should get the general idea across, anyway. (Click for full-size)

Prysma's Cathouse Dream - Floor Plan

Edited to add:

A friend on Facebook sent me this link as a comparison: http://www.catsmeowinn.com/ This got me thinking, because these are seriously luxury accommodations for cats! But there’s a lot there that makes me uncomfortable – all that wood, the outside runs being unfinished wood at that, would be hard to keep clean and unscathed with possibly stressed cats around, to begin with. The need for a minimum stay of 3 days, longer at some times of year. The need for reservations. The statement that they will do flea treatment with Advantage without getting your consent first. The need for vaccination documentation – yes, contagious illness IS a hugely important issue, but there’s some serious doubt about the possibility that we’re over-vaccinating our cats to a destructive degree. Having cages right at floor level with cats taking turns running around free worries me. So does the fact that they have a goose/duck pond/marsh… and outdoor runs that would look like a mosquito buffet. Yep, looks like an amazing place, not putting it down – but very different basic concept.

I think my target for the boarding side is less about luxury for cats whose humans are off on cruises, and more as immediate loving safe care for cats whose humans’ lives have been disrupted by sudden hospitalization, their own or family members, or by fire or flood or other household crises, or the other million and one things that arise unexpectedly. There’s no time for reservations, for vet check-ups, and a high probability of extremely distressed cat(s). Mine would, I’m afraid, incorporate more sealed-and-painted cement, tile, and even linoleum than it would wood – with lots of rugs and things that can be picked up and cleaned between residents.

Reflections on the Nature of Being Broken

Usually, these days, I fall asleep pretty much instantly, but for some reason last night my mind was running thinking about this. Promising myself I’d write it down and share it was  enough to let me sleep. Let’s see if I can put a lot of disjointed thoughts together into a coherent form that maybe people can make sense of.

It occurred to me that ‘broken,’ which is mostly how I feel these day, is a relative and situational concept. And I think maybe it’s less that I’m broken than that much of the world is and I’m just not coping well with that.

That said, I’m not claiming the world is broken for not matching what I think it should be. I do my best to see things from other perspectives. But sometimes, I just can’t.

Quick bit of background so the rest makes sense: I’m almost 40, and I’m on provincial disability for depression and anxiety. That depression/anxiety combo has been turning up with increasing frequency through my entire life, I figure it started around 16 or so even though it wasn’t properly diagnosed until much later. For a long time I was on welfare, then combined that with a couple of retail jobs, then finally mustered the courage to go to college and take a 2-year medical office admin program. Three years of happy and productive work in a hospital psychiatry clinic, but my job was becoming seriously insecure, so I jumped to the other local hospital to take a transcription job that should have been awesome, and would have been just fine without the incredibly poisonous atmosphere created by co-workers. Eight months of my entire life I’ve had an actual full-time job, and it was that one – and it led to a massive emotional crash. Off work for a while on work-related disability and then unemployment and my poor credit card, then back to school to take a vet assistant (not vet tech, a step down the hierarchy) program so I could pursue one of the things that matters most to me: helping cats. The program whitewashed a lot, and the local shelter really didn’t let me know what I was in for until I was actually working there instead of taking classes there or doing my work placement; I walked out one day after maybe six weeks.

I think this is the core of why I left the local “humane” society with mental and emotional scars approaching PTSD (and I’m not going to give details of stuff I saw, I promise) and why I look around the world and want to crawl back into my own room, my own stories, and hide:

To me, everything living deserves to be treated with respect and compassion. To me, we’re here to try to reduce whatever suffering we can – I even move worms off the sidewalk after rainstorms, which I used to feel very self-conscious about. People are not numbers to be shoved into someone’s mold of what they should be and who they should love and what they should believe (monotheism baffles me utterly, I confess, but hey, I know very good people who believe in it, so I’m not going to question it) – they are individuals who each have feelings and have the same right to make choices I do. Animals are not numbers or statistics either to be counted as so many useful resources or so many problems to be dealt with, they have feelings and make choices. Neither one, to me, can ever have a dollar value, their right to life and to quality of life is more important than anything else, period. Living things are not disposable or interchangeable. They are not rungs on a ladder to one’s own success.

That said, I’m perfectly happy with deworming and defleaing pets, with antibiotics at genuine need, and with killing mosquitoes – and I have no problem with eating meat per se, only with factory farming and associated practices.

So – if I had a shelter or rescue to work in that actually valued the cats, I could work just fine. I could, I think, even deal with the nightmare situations that come up sometimes, not easily, not without crying and emotional scars, but at least doing something that would make a difference would be enough. I can deal with death. I just have trouble with suffering and with being helpless to do anything about it, or worse, having to be a part of it. I have not only good office skills but good cat-handling skills and good language skills. That there isn’t a place out there for me maybe isn’t so much a failure in me…. I mean, I DO have mental health issues, and the thought of moving outside my territory scares me, and so on, but still…. Am I perfect? No. Could I be a valuable part of a team? Yes, for a given definition of team. Does that mean I’m not disabled? No, I don’t think it does – I do have a narrower range of what I could do, emotionally speaking, despite a pretty reasonable range in terms of skills. It just isn’t a zero range.

Unfortunately, so far my attempts at getting to a place within that range has generally meant worse consequences each time, and I admit, the thought of trying again scares the carp out of me. (Although the vet assistant attempt did lead to Eva-the-Diva and my crazy attempt to save her even when no one there seemed to think it was much worth the try, and to my Cory-Bear, and then to my tiny tireless tabby Freya who makes me smile and/or splort-from-cuteness daily.)

It’s not just about working, though.

I go through periods when I hide from the world. I stop checking news, because the endless horrible things people do to each other and other living things and to the planet that is our ultimate mother just hurts too much, I’m too empathetic to be able to read or see any of it without feeling it from the victim’s perspective.

(Worse, I stop keeping in contact with my friends and the very few family members I ever keep in touch with. Not because I don’t care about them, because I have the world’s most awesome friends (truly!) and an amazing dad and mom (even when they don’t think so), and I miss them all badly. I start hiding because I don’t feel like I give back as much as I take when I’m in a down cycle, and so, I feel like I don’t deserve my friends and their bottomless love and support. I’m pretty sure, though, that they don’t see it that way. This one, I think, IS about me being a tad broken, as far as my own perspective.)

Immorality, to me, has nothing to do with loving relationships, or consensual sex, or which deity, or gender roles or identity, or what job you do, or where you live, or what you eat, or what you wear, or what you download. Seeing people suffering so much over things like this, or seeing people and animals suffering at the hands of the ones who should be protecting them, the people they should be able to trust to help them, that makes me feel broken and helpless and sick. Immorality, to me, is all about inflicting suffering on other living things, including the Earth herself. It’s greed and ignorance and cruelty and selfishness. It’s considering money or power or one’s own beliefs more valuable and more important than lives.

And because so much of our society is so used to this stuff, we can’t escape it – co-workers discussing it, magazine covers in the grocery store, books and movies and TV shows that effectively glorify true crime and war (and yet, bare skin and healthy sex are obscene?). The only way to not see it is to turn hermit. Which blocks out the good with the bad. But is it really being broken to be unable to face this stuff without an emotional reaction? Or is the broken-ness in people who can? Or is neither aspect really broken-ness, only difference, but one’s not socially accepted and the other is?

And how much more of my being ‘broken’ is like that? How much of my currently bottomed-out self-confidence is internalizing the idea of being broken and of being a failure because I’m ‘too sensitive’?

How much of my being ‘broken’ could be fixed, not so much with antidepressant meds, but by finding the right place in the world to be, where the close-at-hand good could be a counterweight and antidote to the farther-out badness?

How many more people in the world feel broken, and just aren’t in that right place?

Just my thoughts, and if you read this far, thank you. Love you guys, y’know….

We’re NOT Together

Although they are  not physically joined  … they are often very close.  Even in summer heat … the four “kids” are usually found fairly close to each other.

Trick shows us his warming up pose …

… then he turns himself inside-out to cool down.  Being computer geek, I always say that his tummy hairs are very much like a heat sink – allowing heat to find a way from his self.

Freya showed up during Cory & Trick’s nap, although it took nearly 15 shots to get a picture of her that was not just a blur!  Even though she goes goes goes … even Freya needs to stop for a break.

After a quick break, she is ready to play [and be off to cause all heck] again – while the boys are still napping on the futon about 2 feet from her.

“PLAY WITH STRING?!?”

-Freya

Hope you enjoy these pics!

-Seanya

Presents from a friend

I’ve been making lots of kitty toys and sending them to friends, and loving the pics and vids of happy kitties. Today, my furkids got a present, from spotstarmom! So, of course, we took pictures.

Hello, What’s this?

 

Hey, what’ve you got? Let me see!

 

Nooo! My toys!

 

Come on, let me see! Mom!!!

 

Ha, got one all of my own now.

 

Oooh, I like this!

 

MINE!

 

Don’t care if you hog the rest….

 

Angel, speaking for herself

Trick, who is less sensitive to catnip than honeysuckle, observed with interest and investigated one.
Currently, Cory is wandering around the apartment cheek-rubbing EVERYTHING and purring madly, and both girls are sound asleep. LOL