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An Open Letter to the Roommates Watching my Cats this Weekend

My dear three roommates,

As I prepare for my weekend trip to visit friends in New York City (more than 48 hours that I will be away from our home), I feel one emotion plaguing me: anxiety. And this anxiety exists because I will be leaving you, my dear roommates, with the most important responsibility: making sure that my cats do not die.

For the nine months that I have had Chuck and Barry, I have been the sole caretaker for them. I’m not complaining about this, but just laying it out as fact: I have been the one to feed them wet and dry food every day, give them water, clean their litter box daily, take them to the vet, bring Barry to the emergency room when he was injured, buy them toys and food and scratching posts and collars and litter, brush them, pet them. That is a responsibility that I have taken on for myself, because the cats are mine and will continue to be mine when we move out.

HOWEVER, since I have been the one to do 99.9% of the caretaking (besides for the pets that you all administer and the one or two times you fed the cats when I asked you to), it leaves me a little anxious at your ability to care for the cats. Look, I know you guys are busy with jobs, schoolwork, relationships and friends, so maybe it’ll be easy to walk by an empty water bowl and not let it register that it needs to be filled by you; it will be easy to forget to give the cats their daily wet food, because “that’s Sarah’s job, not mine”; maybe it will be easy to forget that the litter boxes are overflowing, that they need to be done every day.

What I’m saying is: taking care of the cats has always been my job and my responsibility, not yours. You don’t have to think about it every day and remember to do it. So here I am, a little bit worried that you will inevitably forget. Because I love Chuckie and Barry so much, their happiness and health is my number one priority, and I’m afraid to leave it to people who have never taken care of them before.

I know I’m overreacting and that, between the three of you at least, someone will remember to feed and water the cats. However, please excuse me as I incessantly text our group chat to make sure that somebody has, indeed, remembered to do the litter boxes; please excuse me as I ask for pictures and to FaceTime; please excuse me as I ask if they miss me or are getting enough attention.

And please, whatever you do, just feed my cats. They’re too cute to let wither away.

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Love,

Sarah

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Chuck and Barry Get New Collars…With Bows!

Some moms look forward to bonding with their children, some look forward to bringing bright and forthright additions to this planet, others just have a natural maternal instinct…but I, and maybe other moms, have always looked forward to having cats that I could dress up, photograph, and post on the Internet for Instagram likes and followers.

Okay, I’m kidding. It’s no secret that Chuck and Barry are the lights of my life for more than just the couture they can wear (although, to be fair, when I was a little girl, I did have a passion for dressing up kitties in costumes, such as when I, around the age of seven, traumatized our new kitten, May, by dressing her up babydoll clothes).

However, after seeing so many cute kitties with bowties on catstagram and the rest of the Internet, the part of me that loves dressing up got excited at the idea of giving Chuck and Barry a little pizzazz. Their old collars had gotten raggedy and dirty, so I figured it was time to try something new out.

Because I have an Amazon Prime membership and Amazon Prime has almost anything you need to buy, I decided to check there first for collars with bows or bowties. I found a set of two breakaway collars with bows and bells on them. The sets came in blue and black or red and pink. The part of me raised in the American society that likes to neatly divide up gender into two boxes, boy and girl, man and woman, blue and pink, masculine and feminine, told me that I should get the blue and black set because Chuck and Barry are boys, so they can’t wear pink, but then I thought, do I really have to raise my children in these rigid gender roles (I’d say NO)? And also, they’re cats, so why am I even hesitating on this anyway? I already knew Barry would look dashing in red and Chuckie woulimg_2973.jpgd be adorable in pink, so I went with the pink and red set.

The first thing I did when the new collars came in the mail was take off the bells because the last thing I need to hear is every movement that Chuck and Barry make at every moment of every day.

Then I snapped them on.

And dang, did they look absolutely adorable!

But Chuck and Barry were not happy with the new collars at first, specifically because of thimg_2880.jpge bows. After a day or so, they managed to adjust to them and didn’t seem to give them any mind, but I continued to feel a little nervous about them. Were the bows too uncomfortable? Were they too heavy for their fragile little kitty necks and backs? Did they annoy them, restrict their movements, cause muscle pain? Would they develop arthritis, become deformed, fall and hurt themselves, get cancer, all because of these collars?

After a friend criticized me for having the collars on the kitties a few days ago, I felt too guilty and took them off. I really want to keep a collar on Chuck and Barry in case they get outside, but I’ve been stalling as I figure out what to do with the collars with bows, so recently, Chuck and Barry have been naked.

img_3050-e1493093039738.jpgOn one hand, I can’t find any literature online that states that collars with bows are particularly bothersome or a problem to cats. I even asked my vet tech stepsister and she said she didn’t see why they’d be a problem. The collars also didn’t seem to bother them or greatly affect their day-to-day activities of napping, eating, and roughhousing, either.

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But part of me – the ever-nervous, ever-worried, overly anxious, helicopter cat mom part of me – can’t help but think that it’s better to keep the collars with bows off the cats just in case. I have to get collars back on the cats so they have their name tags and my phone number in case they go missing, but can I sacrifice some cuteness for their current health and happiness? Should I head back to PetSmart and get some new regular collars?

Does anybody have any insights into putting collars with bows/heavier collars on kitties? Good/bad/personal/medical knowledge they could share? Please comment below! In the mean time, check out Chuck and Barry’s catstagram to see more pictures with the bow collars!

5

36 Times Chuck and Barry Made Me Smile

The short answer is literally all of the time, but Chuck and Barry both have such unique, adorable quirks that leave me happier than a clam. Here’s some of the things Chuck and Barry have done to make me smile:

1. The first time they snuggled with me

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It took awhile for Chuck and Barry to come around to me, and I didn’t want to pressure them. A day after I brought them home, they finally came over for cuddles, and I couldn’t have been happier!

2. Their first vet visit 

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Look how good they’re being in their cage! Not picture is the incessant crying on the drive over, but that was more adorable than annoying if anything.

3. The first time Chuck laid on my chest

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I had no idea the amount of love I was in store for, but I couldn’t have been happier than when he insisted on laying on my chest.

4. When Chuckie stood up

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Look at him!! That belly! Those awkward hands! And a sleeping Barry! Too cute, I couldn’t help but smile.

5. When Barry got stuck in the couch because he was playing too hard

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He’s so silly!

6. Snuggling with Chuck and Barry

Chuck and Barry love to snuggle up in bed with me, and it makes me disgustingly happy every single time.

7. Spooning with Barry

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Even better, whenever I’m laying on my side, Barry comes and nuzzles himself right against my stomach, so that we are essentially spooning. What cat does this?! I’m not smiling in this picture, but I am very, very happy.

8. Halloween

My little bumble bee and hot dog couldn’t have looked any cuter on Halloween! I debated about whether or not to buy them Halloween costumes, and I’m so happy I did! Although I only left the costumes on for a few minutes because they both hated them.

9. When Chuckie grabs my hand 

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Sometimes I am administering belly rubs, Chuckie likes to take a hold of my hand and hold on to it. Why? I don’t know. But it makes me smile every time.

10. Whenever they sit in bizarre ways 

I get that they’re trying to show off their fluffy tummies, but what in the world is Chuck’s pose?! And can Barry possibly be comfortable sitting like that?

11. When Chuck chewed the pen

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This picture of Chuck is literally my Facebook cover photo.

12. Box play time!!!

Chuck and Barry, like all cats, LOVE boxes, and they look so darn cute when they’re sitting in them!

13. The time they disappeared, and I found them snuggling like this on a chair

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They’re too close as brothers, but it’s adorable.

14. When I found Chuck gently resting his paw on Barry’s shoulder

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Again, very close brothers, but so cute. I smile and smile.

15. When they groom each other 

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Thankfully, they are so close that they keep each other from being dirty or smelly. So cute.

16. Whenever Chuck and Barry look for birds out the window

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I can’t help but smile every time I find Chuck or Barry looking out the window. The smile grows wider when they start chirping because they spotted some!

17. When Chuck sat in the dog’s cage

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All the dog wants is to get out of that cage, but Chuck just wants to lay in it! When I first saw this, I laughed and asked him if he wanted to be locked up in there. Unlike other cats, Chuck and Barry are totally cool with cages, including their own cat carrier. If I leave it out, they even play with it!

18. Every time they sleep and look so cute!

How do those two cute little faces not make you break out into a smile?!

19. When Chuckie got in the bag!!!

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One of my FAVORITE Chuck moments and one of the cutest things I ever saw, I was smiling for hours on the night that Chuck climbed into this green Toys R Us bag.

20. Barry’s tongue 

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Barry always has his tongue hanging out when he’s sleeping, and it always makes me smile

21. Barry during his injury

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Don’t get me wrong, when Barry had the build-up of fluid in his knee, I was an emotional wreck. However, I managed to smile as he continued to shower me with affection even through the pain, and the smile on my face got wider every day as I realized he was getting better!

22. When Barry stared at the wall 

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Shortly after recovering from his injury, Barry spent three nights in a row sitting on my pillow and staring at the wall in the dark. Was there a ghostie? A mousie in the wall? Was it the buprenorphine wearing off? Not sure. But it was hilarious and I couldn’t sleep because I was so amused.

23. Tucked-in kitties!

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Enough said!

24. Whenever Chuck plops down and strikes a pose

Chuck is a natural-born model. He knows just how cute he is, and he wants to make sure that everybody knows it, so he’s always striking a pose somewhere!

25. The time their bodies formed the shape of a heart

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Isn’t this just such a beautiful sight?!

26. Loaf cat!!

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Barry is such a good little loaf cat.

27. When they get super excited because I’m about to feed them!

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Not pictures: the bowl of wet food that Chuck is desperately trying to get his greedy little paws on!

28. When Barry climbed into the laundry basket

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What are you doing, you silly kitty?!

29. The one time I walked into my room and found them both waiting for me like this:

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Really, just sitting there, heads cocked, looking at me…waiting to get petted and photographed!

30. When Barry was playing under the doormat

I think he thinks he’s hiding. He really thinks nobody can see him. Sure, Barry.

31. Chuckie waking me up every morning

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A squeaky meow, Chuck’s face in my face, that’s how I’m often woken up early in the morning. It doesn’t even bother me. I smile.

32. When Chuck and Barry wait for me when I’m outside

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I love when they sit at the door and wait for me to come back in (except for when I have to shoo them away so they don’t run outside).

33. Everytime Barry lays on me

Barry is the ultimate snuggler. Whether I’m sitting on the couch or laying in bed, he has to make sure he’s as close to me as possible (and I’m not complaining). Sometimes he even lays on my back when I’m sleeping at night. And it makes me super happy to have my companion around.

34. When Chuck watches over us

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Since he’s a little shyer, Chuck doesn’t like to join big groups of people in the living room and dining room, so he’ll keep watch over us from the staircase. I always break out in a smile when I look over and see his little face peeking at us!

35. Our Valentine’s Day dinner together!

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They’re eating a little bit of sashimi, and a lot of wet food!

36. All day, every day

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My two little babies have me smiling all day every day!

Comment and let me know what your kitty cats do that keeps you smiling!!

2

Barry’s First Injury: A Battle with Fluid in his Knee

An injured or sick cat is the biggest nightmare of any cat parent. Recently, I had to live through this nightmare when Barry got a fluid build-up in his knee.

The Symptoms

I knew that something was up with Barry when he spent all day hiding under my roommate’s bed. “Maybe he’s just tired,” I tried to rationalize away. “Maybe he got into human food and got a stomach ache. Maybe this will pass quickly. I’ll keep watch over him, but cats are weird, it might be nothing.”

It didn’t. My fears were confounded when Barry finally came out from under my roommate’s bed. He was walking slowly, appearing groggy. When I gave him wet food, he didn’t even finish it, and he LOVES his wet food. I started to become even more worried, but he was eating, drinking, and using the bathroom, so I clung to the idea that it was a temporary stomachache and would soon pass.

Another day went by where Barry was not getting any better. I decided I would take him to vet the next morning if he was still sick. “It’s probably a stomach bug,” I thought. “Some antibiotics and he’d be just fine.” I was worried, so worried, checking on him every spare moment, but I figured it was just a normal kitty flu or something.

But everything changed when he came out from underneath my roommate’s bed on the second night of him being sick.

Barry walked out of the bedroom and attempted to go down the stairs. He made it one step, stopped, and tried to get back up the step. He could barely make it.

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Notice swelling in his left knee (Picture NSFW)

He stumbled into my bedroom, and that’s when I noticed he was limping. Badly. He wasn’t putting any weight on his left hind leg. At all. And it was swollen. Something was seriously wrong with his leg.

So I did what any loving cat parent would do when realizing their baby was badly injured: I sat down on my bed and bawled my eyes out for twenty minutes (and continued to cry on and off throughout the rest of the night). My poor little baby, injured and in so much pain. What was wrong with him? Was his leg broken? Or was it something more serious, did he break his spine, or his tail? Was it just a sprain, or something worse? Was he dying? Was he going to be okay?

I knew for sure a vet visit was in Barry’s immediate future. In the meantime, I locked him in the bedroom with me to sleep. He cuddled up in bed with me all night. I was absolutely distraught over his injury, but I felt better knowing he was trying to show me that he was alright so that I wouldn’t worry (actually, cats will generally mask their pain and hide injuries, which is an instinct from being in the wild so they do not look like easy prey, but I liked to think Barry was doing it for me, anyway). I checked up on him a few times during the night, and then the next day I called the vet.

The Diagnosis

Chuckie and Barry’s vet had no available appointments and didn’t have a working x-ray machine, so the next option was Penn Vet’s Ryan Hospital, which is close to where I live. I loaded Barry up in his cat carrier and drove him over. I had two classes that day and an orientation for an upcoming internship, but I decided they might have to be skipped or postponed. Barry’s health was more important.

Penn Vet is a great animal hospital with lovely veterinarians, nurses, and staff. Barry got a triage nurse called right out for him and went right back in to the emergency room. I waited around, nervously scrolling through Facebook on my phone. A grown man sat in the waiting room and cried, presumably over his pet, and I could feel my heart breaking over and over. Would that be me soon?

After waiting a while to be seen by the orthopedic team (who were in surgery), Barry finally got his diagnosis: a build-up of fluid in his knee that was causing the pain and mobility issues.

The doctor didn’t know what caused the fluid build up. She said it could have been from a sprain or something more serious, like septic arthritis or an infection. She gave me two options: take Barry home, keep his mobility limited, see if it gets better, and bring him back if not; or get tests done right away to check for any kind of underlying issues besides a sprain. I chose to pay for the extra tests to be done right away – I didn’t want to wait if there was something seriously wrong.

Barry was at the hospital for nearly ten hours, and finally got released around seven at night. I don’t want to get into the price of his treatment – it was quite a pretty penny – but I’d spend all the money in the world for Barry’s happiness and health.

The Treatment

Since no underlying condition was confirmed, Barry’s initial treatment was pain meds and rest. The doctor prescribed buprenorphine, an opiate, to be dispensed to Barry every 8-12 hours by squirting it onto his gums. The side effects listed on the bottle were “sedation” (which was good to keep him from injuring himself further) and “increased affection” (probably the jackpot of side effects, coming from a cat mom’s perspective at least).

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Barry sleeping after the hospital visit

If you’ve read my other blog post about my cats’ primal desire to eat all things, you’ll have read that the one thing they WON’T eat is their medication. Giving any kind of oral medication to Barry is borderline impossible. However, Barry’s injury worked in my favor since he was not as able to squirm from my grasp, so I was able to administer his pain meds effectively.

I kept Barry locked in my bedroom for as long as I could manage to keep him in there. Over the next few days, the swelling in his legs decreased and he started walking easier and quicker. After about a week, he was good as new. The doctors called and said they found no underlying cause for the fluid build up, so the most likely bet is he managed to injure himself (how an indoor cat fails so hard at being a cat that he hurts himself is my question) and he just needed to take time to heal.

And where was Chuckie during all of this? I had to keep Chuck separated from Barry so that he wouldn’t coax him into playing on the bum leg, and also so I could monitor that Barry was eating, drinking, peeing, and pooping (probably a little bit of excessive paranoia on my part, but with two cats in the room I couldn’t be sure who was eating or who was using the litter box, and I wanted to be sure that Barry was, just in case).

So, Chuckie was banned from my room until Barry was all better.

He was a MESS. I honestly think he had a harder time dealing with Barry’s injury than Barry did! Chuckie is so dependent on Barry, so he would run around the house crying and crying because he wanted to see him. I’ve never seen a cat look so anxious. Thankfully, he was a good supportive brother whenever he got his supervised visits with an injured Barry, and as Barry got better, they were able to be together again.

Dealing with Barry’s injuries was a terrible few days of worry and panic. Thankfully, he turned out okay and he is back to jumping on every available surface and eating everybody’s food. I’m glad that I paid attention to my gut when I thought something was wrong and kept an eye on him. And I’m glad my little ball of joy is now happy and healthy.

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Chuckie and Barry reunited

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Christmas Break at Grandma’s

The best part about college is the month-long winter breaks where students can travel back home and spend the holidays in peace and relaxation with their family.

Or, in my case, I loaded Chuck and Barry up into their carrier and listened to them cry and meow nonstop for two hours on the drive from the City of Brotherly Love to my mom’s house up in the mountains. Once there, I reacquainted them with their grandmother (my mother), and introduced them to their great-grandmother (my grandmother, also known as Baba) and to their long-lost furry siblings!

The Siblings

IMG_1040.jpgNaruto and May May are the king and queen of my mom’s house. Naruto is about ten years old and we adopted him from the shelter when he was a kitten. He was a small little thing at the time: snow white, bright blue eyes, and a pleading meow to come home with us that just wouldn’t stop! Many years later, Naruto is a huge, fat cat. My mom always claims that she’s putting him on a diet, but he honestly looks bigger every time I come home for a break. It doesn’t help that Baba sneaks him treats anyway.

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May is probably around fifteen. I got her when I was just a little girl, unsure what I was doing with cats. I used to lock her in the bathroom with me and dress her up in my dolls’ clothes. It’s safe to say that for a few years afterwards, she did not like people, especially me. Now she has warmed up a little bit, and she’s a cuddly little love bug when she wants to be.

I was nervous to introduce Chuck and Barry to Naruto and May. Chuck and Barry, at only six months, are rambunctious and playful. Naruto and May (not to be rude, of course) are well past their prime, and they prefer laying on the back of the chair over full contact wrestling.

IMG_1139.jpgThe Introduction

When Chuck, Barry, and I finally made it to my mom’s house, I brought the cat carrier into the living room and opened the door. Immediately, every cat in the house was on alert. Ears back, crouched low to the ground. Naruto watched from a distance and May ran from the room. Chuck and Barry sat in the carrier for a while, terrified. Finally, Chuckie started venturing out and exploring the house while an irritated Naruto watched on. Barry didn’t leave the cage for over an hour.

The cats all casted a lot of wary glances at each other. Occasionally, there was some hissing or running, but nobody attempted to kill each other!

Chuck and Barry Fall in Love

I don’t think that Chuck and Barry have ever been around another female cat, besides their mother and any female cats in the litter they were born with.

I’ve heard of female cats in heat announcing that they are ready to mate, but I had no idea that male cats make the same noises! So when Chuck and Barry started howling, my mom and I were confused — what are these strange noises coming from these two male cats? Why are they doing that?

Well, apparently, when a male cat is around a female cat, usually one in heat, they start howling to announce their presence to the frisky females. May is spayed, but Chuck and Barry aren’t (yet!), so that set off their little kitty hormones and they were going crazy! Therefore, they made noises that sound like a mix between speaking, howling, and meowing (just like the cat in this video).

Fortunately for May, Chuck and Barry were still too shy and scared of her to try and do anything besides gaze across the room. Thankfully, they never made those sounds before, and as soon as we got home to Philadelphia, they stopped.

Brotherly Love

My mom was really hoping that Naruto would warm up to Barry and Chuck and play with them. She said that Naruto needed somebody to play with, and also, that he could stand to burn a few calories.

Unfortunately, it was not to be a vacation full of bonding.

The good news is that Naruto finally stopped hissing and swatting at them whenever they came around! It was progress. Maybe by Easter break they’ll start playing together.

Grandma’s Love

My mom adored Chuck and Barry. Of course, she is the cat lady that raised me!

img_1727IMG_1710.jpgAnd of course, Grandma has to spoil her grandchildren. They got wet food for breakfast every day, a lot of treats, lots of playing time, and more cuddle than they could deal with! For Christmas, they got a lot of toys and a big IMG_1719.jpgfun tent to play in. Of course, they found their own toys to play with (or should I say in), too!

IMG_1863.jpgMy mom also gave Barry and Chuck some nicknames. She nicknamed Barry “Einstein” because of how quickly he learned how to play fetch with a tin foil ball (he really loved fetch). He even helped Grandma do laundry!

My mom nicknamed Chuck “Marilyn” after Marilyn Monroe. Although beautiful and dainty, Chuckie does not possess the same quick wit as Barry and did not pick-up any new tricks.

Christmas break at Grandma’s was a great time for Chuck and Barry! They got lots of love, affection, and treats — I know they’re already missing their grandma and kitty siblings!

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Why it’s Worth it to Have Two Cats Instead of One

When I moved into my new house and I was ready to get a cat, I had it in my mind that I was going to get one female kitten. I thought that would be the best option for me because one cat would be easier and I figured a little girl would be less trouble. However, when I met Chuck and Barry, I couldn’t resist the both of them, so I ended up with something completely different than anticipated: two boys.

Two cats means double of everything. Double the vet bills, double the cat litter and food and collars and Frontline Plus that needs to be bought. However, if you’re in a financial situation where you could afford two cats, I would suggest that you go for it.

I really think humans evolved with two arms so that we could pet two cats at once.

Along with double the price tags, two cats come with double the cuddles, double the love, and double the desperate meows for attention. When you have two cats instead of one, there’s double the chance that there’s a kitty around looking to be petted.

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If you look forward to the attention of your feline friend, just imagine how much more you’ll be getting when there’s two of them!

When I’m not home, my cats have each other – they’re each other’s best friend.

As a college student, sometimes I have to be gone all day between class, work, and extracurricular meetings. I try my best to be home and give as much attention to my kittens that I can, but sometimes I can’t always be there. Fortunately, since I have two of them, I know they’ll never be lonely.

Almost as happy as it makes me to know that my cats love me, it makes me just as happy to know that they love and have each other. They sleep together, play together, wrestle together, go everywhere together.

It’s fun to use the cat toy and play with both of them. It’s hilarious to watch them wrestle each other – and take bets with your roommates on who’s going to win (for what it’s worth, Chuck and Barry are both equally excellent wrestlers).

You get to watch two cats grow up into their own personalities. They’re so similar in some ways, but they’re both so different, too. When I wake up in the morning, I know that Barry is going to be the one laying by my feet and Chuck is going to be the one meowing in my face. It makes me feel proud that I can tell the difference between their meows even when I’m in another room.

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Ultimately, having two cats is double the cuteness.

If I had to do it again, I would do the same exact thing. I’m happy with my situation – and I do think that Chuck and Barry are happy kitties, too. What do you think? Is having two cats beneficial and worth it for you?

 

If you would like to continue reading about what it takes to have multiple cats, check out Catster and Petfinder.

 

 

4

How do I Communicate with my Cats?

I recently stumbled upon this post from the Way of Cats Blog, and it got me thinking about the connections that I have with my cats. I love this post because it gives me more insight into the way that my cats are communicating with me.

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I have very verbal kittens, and I am gradually learning what each of their meows mean. I can almost even tell the two of them apart. I know when Chuck is waking me up in the middle of the night to get pet, or when Barry is just absolutely starving for attention. I know Chuck’s little meow of approval when he’s getting petted right.

But there’s so many other meows that I have yet to understand! Why are they in the kitchen, alone, meowing? Why is Chuck crying so loudly when I am in the shower?

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Pamela Merritt highlights body language and actions as a very huge part of the way that cats communicate. For me, body language and actions are even harder for me to figure out. I still don’t know what my cats want when they jump on the table. If there’s food on there, I get that. If there’s a plastic bag, I understand that they’re on the table to play with it. But sometimes there’s nothing up there. Are they up there because they want to be climb up high? Do they want my attention, thus misbehaving so that I have to pay attention to them? Have they simply just not learned yet that I don’t want them up there? Is it just a coincidence?

I want to be a great cat mom, but sometimes it’s so hard! When your children can’t actually communicate with you, it’s up to you to figure things out. When your children are another species, that makes it even more difficult.

I’m definitely going to be using this article to help improve my communication with my cats. As a loving, doting, overbearing mother, I want to give them everything they could ever want.