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Mommy, or Food Source? An Exploration into my Relationship with my Cats

Cat parents around the world went wild with glee when a study that stated cats are actually nice and like humans went viral. The study deprived cats of food, human contact, scent, and toys for a few hours, and once reintroduced, 50% of cats preferred human contact over all other stimuli (with 37% preferring food). Thus, the results proved that many cats prefer humans to the other things that cats are traditionally supposed to love.

But me and all other cat lovers weren’t happy about this study because we were surprised – rather, we were happy because now we had scientific proof to show all of the haters what we’d known all along: cats enjoy human attention! Our babies love us! Take that you lying dog people!

However, what about that other 37% of cats that preferred food? Were they just hungry, or do they just like humans less than other cats do?

And most importantly, where do I stand with my own cats?

My cats are hungry little buggers. Right away when I brought them home, I realized that they had one true love: wet food. In fact, my cats love wet food so much that I’ve started wondering whether cat food manufacturers put addictive substances into their canned food. Whenever it’s about time to eat canned food (and probably a few hours more), anytime I go in the kitchen, Chuck and Barry are there crying for some food. They follow me from room to room, just waiting until I’ll crack open a can and give them wet food. It’s probably their favorite part of the day.

And this hangry behavior has only gotten worse recently since I decided to stop free feeding my cats. Why? Because unlike Chuck, who has stayed thin and trim, Barry got fat. Although I find his big paunchy belly adorable, I also know it’s unhealthy, so I switched to scheduled feeding in an attempt to get him to shave some pounds.

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A chunky Barry 

So what does this lead to? Well, it leads to Chuck and Barry scratching my mattress in the morning until I wake up and feed them; when it’s wet food time, they’re just as crazy as usual; when it’s time for a little midnight kibble, they act like they hadn’t eaten in years.

What does this hunger look like? It’s them waking me up when I’m sleeping, their face in my face. It’s them kneading me and meowing until I get out of bed. It’s them crying and coming around for pats until I realize they want me to follow them to the kitchen. This increase of affection and attention from Chuck and Barry since I stopped free feeding is what lead me to really question whether they just love me for food or if they do recognize me as their mommy.

They definitely act super interested and attached to me when they are hungry. But there are other times, when there’s no way they are hungry because they just ate, that they seek out affection, pats, and love. Right now, an hour after I fed them, Barry is laying at my feet and Chuck is laying near me on the floor. There are random times when they knead me and cry for attention but clearly aren’t just interested in food.

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Chuckie starved for wet food, or starved for attention?

So what gives? I turned to some more research to try and get answers. An interview on National Geographic with John Bradshaw, a cat behavior specialist, helped shed some light on the personality of cats. One reason that Chuck and Barry might act like hungry piranhas when it’s close to feeding time is because, as Bradshaw points out, cats learn what reaction they’re going to get from certain humans. So wake me up, yell at me until I feed them? Yeah, they learned that’s when I give in and fill the food bowls.

Furthermore, unlike dogs, who see us as another species, there is nothing about cats’ behavior that indicates they recognize us as other species. Bradshaw doesn’t go so far as to say that cats think of us as gigantic furless cats, but they sure treat us like that’s what we are.

And most importantly, my favorite part of the interview, Bradshaw addresses a common cat behavior: kneading, something that both Chuck and Barry do. Kneading and purring and rubbing is something that cats usually do with their mothers. So, I wonder, what does it mean that they do it to me? Is it fair to come to the conclusion that they think of me as their mother?

So I guess now I can be honest and say I would’ve never let anybody convince me that my cats don’t love me, so maybe this blog post was done in vain. I realize that maybe they do think of me as Food Source – and that’s just one of the many reasons why they love me. They also recognize that I’ll pet them whenever they ask, clean their litter box, give them toys, and love them unconditionally. And they know that I’m Mommy.

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Chuckie’s FLUTD – Or, Why I Watch my Cat Use the Litterbox

Hairballs, litter box messes, spraying, tearing up the furniture, fleas – these are normal challenges that we expect we might experience when we get cats. So we put down some plastic covers around the boxes, neuter and spay our cats, put them on preventative flea medication and don’t become too attached to any furniture or carpet fixtures. These are the things that we do.

What we don’t expect is for our cat to suddenly stop urinating.

I noticed it by chance. It was a Saturday night a few weeks ago and I was getting ready to go play Catan with some of my friends. I was cleaning the litterboxes in the basement when little Chuckie pranced over to pee. At least, I thought he peed, but then as soon as he got back out, he entered a different litter box and tried to go again. Then again. Then again. After five or six attempts, he gave up and walked away. And not once did he pee at all.

Of course, as any 21st century cat mom would do on a Saturday night when the actual vet is closed, I took to the Internet. I sat down on the basement stairs and started googling versions of “cat won’t pee” and “male cat can’t pee.” The sites said it might be a UTI, but very likely it could be a blocked urethra – something male cats are very prone to, and something that is quickly fatal.

The websites also listed another symptom of Chuckie’s that I hadn’t realized was related to a urinary block: excessive penis licking. I had noticed him licking his penis for the past few days. I thought it was really strange because I had never seen him or Barry lick their actual penis before, but I just figured he was trying to stay clean. But nope. It was a symptom of a urethra block.

I had to make the decision: monitor Chuck for a while, or pack him up and take him to the hospital?

I took him to the hospital.

I was much calmer than I was when Barry had his injury for some reason – maybe because although I knew Chuckie might have been facing a fatal illness, he didn’t physically look as bad. In fact, he seemed completely fine – not lethargic or acting funny at all. In typical fashion, he yelled at me the whole drive to the vet hospital.

As soon as we got there, Chuck was admitted and I told the triage nurse what had been going on. I waited around a few hours until the vets were able to confirm my suspicions: Chuck had a urinary block, but we caught it early and it should be okay. He needed to get a catheter and stay at the hospital for a few days.

I got to say goodbye to Chuckie. I almost cried seeing my poor, little, pitiful, shy Chuckie sitting in his cage, facing the corner and burying himself under a blanket. The emergency room of the vet hospital was just one large room, and he was being caged next to a bunch of different loud animals. I knew my skittish little cat wasn’t happy with it at all. I told him I loved him a bunch and gave him pats and then I went home and sulked.

The vet called the next day and gave me an update – he was doing well, but needed to stay another night. I tried to visit him that night, but after waiting in the waiting room for an hour, they told me that they were too busy to get me back. I was bummed, but I understood.

The next day I got a phone call that Chuck was urinating on his own and I could go pick him up! The poor little thing had a chunk of fur shaved near his tail and also on his leg. The hospital diagnosed him with feline lower urinary track disease – which also meant that he was a great risk of his urethra reblocking again sometime in the future. Male cats are at a huge risk of FLUTD because their urethras are so thin and it’s easy for crystals to form and block them. The vet at the hospital sent me home with some pain killers, urethra relaxers, and different prescription foods for Chuck to try out.

When I brought Chuck home, I was a paranoid mess. I kept him locked in my room, away from Barry, because I wanted to make sure he was using the bathroom. Even in the middle of the night, when I would hear him in the litterbox, I would jump out of bed to stare him down to make sure he was urinating – and since he was on relaxers and had some trauma from the catheter, he was peeing almost constantly.

Chuck wanted out of my bedroom, though, so I started relaxing my watch on him, telling myself I couldn’t keep him locked up forever just out of fear he might block again. This was something he would deal with for the rest of his life, so I would have to be diligent in observing him, but he couldn’t just live in my bedroom.

Eventually, I ran out of the food that the vet hospital sent me home with (Hills Science C/D and Royal Canin S/O, both formulas specially made for cats with FLUTD), so I took a trip to PetSmart. Of course I had just gone a few days earlier and stocked up on food, so I brought that along to return.

I picked out a month’s worth of the Royal Canin S/O and brought it to the register. After I rang it up, the checkout woman asked me for my prescription card.

And here is where I made the dumbest mistake of my life. The C/D and S/O diets were referred to as prescription diets…but nobody told me I had to actually go to the vet and get a prescription. Why did this not occur to me? I have no idea! Maybe because I didn’t actually realize that pets needed to get prescriptions for food, something that seemed so weird to me. Either way, I didn’t have a prescription!

Embarrassed, I left PetSmart empty-handed. I called my vet, and they told me to come in the next day to get some dry food and the prescriptions. The next day, I returned to PetSmart to get some wet food. At the register, I proudly handed Chuck’s prescription to the checkout lady. Nope, I had to go all the way in the back to get a special PetSmart card verifying the prescription. On my third try, I was finally able to get the food to feed my poor cat.

A few weeks after his block, Chuck and Barry went in for their annual check-up and shots. The vet wanted to check Chuck’s urine for crystals, which meant I had to hold a tray underneath Chuckie while the vet massaged his bladder through his abdomen to encourage him to go. I don’t know how many times we tried – over and over – until finally Chuckie peed. The vet said the consistency looked normal, and called the next week to say that his urine still had some red blood cells but otherwise was fine.

Ever since his block a few weeks ago, Chuckie has been doing fine. His bald spot on his back still hasn’t grown in yet and I’m still following him to the litterbox whenever I notice him about to go, but it’s all the price of being a mom. Whatever it takes to make sure I have a happy, healthy Chuckie!

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6 Questions to Ask Yourself Before Adopting a Pet in College

Hi!

I wrote this article, “6 Questions to Ask Yourself Before Adopting a Pet in College” for my college’s chapter of Her Campus. You can read the article here.

I decided to write this article after discussions my roommate and I had over his decision to adopt a cat. When we were at PetSmart one day, he saw a little black and white kitty and fell in love with her. He immediately filled out a form to adopt, unsure whether it was the right choice. We had plenty of conversation about whether or not it was the right time for him or not, which is what inspired me to write this article.

The little girl’s name is Yvie (pictured below). Soon she’s going to get her own post about how she’s acclimated to our home with Chuck and Barry (spoiler alert: it hasn’t been going smoothly, but we have hope yet)!

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Book Reviews by Chuckie

Chuck takes after his mom (me) and is a total little bookworm (Barry, on the other hand, prefers sports – particularly fetch and laser pointer). Chuckie likes to keep up with the things that I’m reading for class, and has a lot of opinions on the things he’s read. So here’s some book reviews by my little literature cat.

(Beware of spoilers)

As You Like It by William Shakespeare | ★★★✩✩

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Chuck is pretty ambivalent towards Shakespeare – he neither loves nor hates him. As You Like It is Chuck’s favorite Shakespeare play (although, to be fair, he hasn’t read all that many so far in his life). He loves reading about friendships and love. Rosalind and Celia are, in Chuckie’s opinion, one of the cutest friendships in literature and he definitely ships Rosalind and Orlando as a couple. He couldn’t help laughing every time Rosalind was in disguise and Orlando didn’t recognize her. Chuckie gives this play three stars for it’s entertainment value and heart-warming scenes.

Sula by Toni Morrison | ★★★★★

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Whenever Chuckie thinks of Toni Morrison, he turns into that heart-eyes emoji because he LOVES her. Chuckie and I read Sula for my African-American Literature course a year ago, and Chuckie could not put that book down! He found Sula to be a gorgeous glimpse of a friendship, community, family, love…just life in general. There were no heroes of the book, only stunningly real characters that Chuckie couldn’t help but feel sympathetic towards. When Nel’s husband cheated on her with Sula…man did Chuck feel the absolute pain radiating out of those book pages, and he had to put that book down for a while to process that heartbreaking scene. Chuckie thinks that Sula and all of Toni Morrison’s books are must-reads for all humans and cats, so that’s why he gives Sula a full five stars.

Smoke and Mirrors by Neil Gaiman | ★★★✬✩

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Chuck is a fan of horror and obscure stories, which is why he chose to read Smoke and Mirrors by Neil Gaiman. However, he has mixed feelings about it. He actually absolutely loves the short stories in the book. He finds they have fascinating topics, characters, settings. He loves that he can divulge them in bite-sized chunks right before he goes to bed. But half of Smoke and Mirrors is narrative poetry, and for some reason, Chuckie isn’t a fan of it. Chuck actually really likes poetry, but he’s not a fan of the poetry in Smoke and Mirrors, but that might just be because he prefers his obscure fiction to be in prose instead of verse. Maybe that’s just a taste thing, but either way, Chuck gives this book three and a half stars.

“Chevrefoil” and “Lanval” by Marie de France ★★✬✩✩

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Chuckie is partial to minority writers, including women, but he just could not really love  “Chevrefoil” and “Lanval.” He believes that it might be because old British literature is just not his thing, so that might be a subjective dislike of it. He’s heard that Marie de France was one of the best women writers of early British literature, and he’s sure that’s true. To be fair, he wouldn’t rate any of de France’s contemporary writers any higher than he has rated her poems. Although Chuck is a sucker for love stories, he could not really feel any emotions towards the characters in these two poems, so he gives her poems two and a half stars.

Gravity’s Rainbow by Thomas Pynchon ★★★✩✩

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Chuckie is only halfway through Gravity’s Rainbow, but he just had to talk about it right now (if you’ve ever read it, then you get why). Although Chuck doesn’t understand what’s going on half of the time in the book, he does recognize that it might be one of the most impressive books that he’s ever read. It’s been a hard question for him to decide how much easy readability should influence the overall genius of a book. Is Gravity’s Rainbow genius even though it’s going to take multiple read-throughs to understand what is going on? Should it be more accessible? Regardless, after the first few episodes, Chuckie was able to find his groove and has gone on a roller-coaster of emotions throughout this book: pity, sadness, disgust, anger, confusion, fascination, shock, awe. So, although Chuckie understands this book is a literary feat that must have taken a lot of research and intelligence to write, and even though he generally enjoys some of the episodes and some of the characters, he only rates it three stars due to its confusing episodes.

Do you agree or disagree with Chuckie’s reviews? Comment to let us know, and keep an eye out for his next review post!

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The Top 10 Best Barry Bleps

Barry bleps. A lot. I’m always catching him in the act of it – I notice him sleeping, pink tongue sticking straight out of his mouth, and he’s completely unaware of it. I pat him lightly on the head and he wakes up – confused, he looks at me, the tongue still flopped out of his mouth, unaware that it’s happening. Sometimes I leave him in his ignorance, and sometimes I poke it, just for fun, then he licks his lips and stashes his tongue back where it belongs.

I’ve documented many, many Barry bleps. There’s nothing quite like his bleps that can get me creeping across a room, careful not to make a sound and disturb him, preparing my camera to sneakily snap a few pictures from every angle.

So I’ve decided to rank the top ten Barry bleps, from least-amazing-yet-amazing-blep to the Number One Blep.

10. Mini-blep

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Nothing too extreme – this mini-blep is definitely a blep, but a subtle one at that.

9. The First Documented Blep

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There’s nothing quite like finding out that your cat is a blepper and realizing that you get to experience in-person bleps for the rest of your life. Plus, a kitten blepping might be the most precious thing I’ve ever seen.

8. Playing Dead Blep

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Okay, maybe he’s just sleeping and not doing a trick, but check out that leg positioning, check out that chunky-looking blep. This picture is slightly unsettling and extremely adorable.

7. Cherub Mini-Blep

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Barry’s chubby and innocent-looking face in this photo reminds me of a cherub. Do you think cherubs blep? Or is Barry a trail-blazer?

6. Bird-watching Blep

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What’s better than staring at birds with your tongue hanging out of your mouth??? Barry would argue, “nothing!”

5. The Birthday Blep 

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The birthday was mine, and as a birthday present, Barry decided to grace me with one of the most intense bleps I’ve ever seen! This blep is full-tongue awesomeness.

4. Shocked Blep

What’s better than a cat looking super surprised? A cat looking super surprised with a super-blep on his face!

3. Sleeping Super-Blep

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This blep – with Barry sleeping and looking like a pure angel – is the most serene thing I’ve ever seen.

2. Hungover Blep

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So, obviously Barry doesn’t drink because he is a cat, but if you’re familiar with hangovers, then you know that this photo of Barry encapsulates the feeling perfectly.

1. The Angry Blep

This is the all-time best blep that Barry has ever done: that devilish glare, that silly tongue hanging out of his mouth. Am I supposed to be taking his anger seriously? Am I supposed to be laughing at that tongue? The mysteriousness and weirdness of this blep is why it has been awarded the title of Number One Blep.

Honorable Mention: Chuckie’s Mini-Mini-Blep 

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Chuckie never bleps, so I only have this one photo. I figured it deserved an honorable mention – although the smallest of bleps, it’s still a special blep in it’s own right.

So those are the best of the bleps! Comment and let me know if you think I have the right ranking, and show me picks of your own kitty’s bleps!

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A New Way to Workout: Yoga with Chuck

Do you feel like your fitness goals have stagnated, that you’ve fallen into a rut? Is your current workout routine just not doing it for you? Are you getting sick of the same old yoga poses (such as the – yuck – downward dog) that you’ve been doing over and over again?

Thankfully, my fitness-addict kitty cat, Chuck, has been working out a new yoga routine that you can try in the comfort of your own home! With this routine, Chuck has lost three pounds and is as fit as all of the meowdels you see on Fancy Feast commercials.

So lay out your yoga mat in a relaxing part of the house where you can’t get distracted by any pesky birds. And make sure your water is bowl is close by – you don’t want to get dehydrated!

Warm-up

So even though yoga is consists of stretching out your muscles, Chuckie still chooses to do a few minutes of warm-up stretching before he really busts out the more difficult moves. He prefers to get on the very tip of his paws and stretch his body out to it’s fullest potential while also arching his back and extending his neck.

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Pose 1: The Arm Reach

Chuckie swears that this move is the reason he has triceps of steel. Simply lay on your side and stretch out one arm as far as it can go – and then do the other. Hold each arm for one minute and repeat three times.

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Pose 2: The Half Cat Twist 

Sit on your butt and twist your body slightly to one side and raise your other arm in the air. Hold the pose for a minute and a half and then switch sides. This pose is great to prep your abs for the next pose.

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Pose 3: The Full Cat Twist

The Full Cat Twist is one of the most demanding yoga poses ever created to date. You must balance on your tail bone and twist your torso to one side – and hold it for two minutes before switching! Chuck swears that The Full Cat Twist is the reason he has that six pack hidden under his fur, so even though this one is difficult, you don’t want to skip it!

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Pose 4: The Leg Lift

Lay on one side, with your arms balanced over your chest, wrists curled towards you, with one leg in the air and the other outstretched. You might look like a cat playing dead, but what you really are is a calorie-burning, muscle-building MACHINE. Chuck even theorizes that you lose up to thirty calories per minute that you hold this pose.

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Pose 5: Upside-Down Cat on the Wall 

This is Chuckie’s all-time favorite yoga pose because he says it really gets the blood pumping to the head. Position yourself next to a wall and rest both legs against the wall while extending your arms to the maximum. Hold for one minute and then switch sides.

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Pose 6: The Lick

The ultimate goal of this pose is to stick a leg behind your head. This pose will work your abs, your glutes, your hamstrings, your quads, and even your calves.

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For those who don’t have the flexibility and muscle strength to perform The Lick, then you can perform The Lazy Lick, of which the goal is to stick the leg straight up in the air slightly in front of you instead of behind your head. Here is Chuckie demonstrating The Lazy Lick:

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After The Lick, do a few minutes of your favorite cool-down pose (except the downward dog, which doesn’t mix well with a cat’s routine).

And there you have it – Chuckie’s ultimate yoga routine! Not all routines are easy for beginners, but with enough time and practice, you should be able to purrfect most of his poses. And after sticking it to it for a few months, you’ll be as fit as a meowdel.

(Psst – keep an eye out for the next blog post: The Top 10 Best Barry Bleps!)

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A Day in the Life of a Cat Mom

Being a cat mom isn’t easy. Cats are weird little creatures, and Chuck and Barry are definitely no exception.

However, even though it’s hard work, being Chuck and Barry’s mom has made me happier than anything else – it’s what gets me through the day. Here is a day in the life of a cat mom. For simplicity’s sake, let’s look at this past Tuesday as an example:

7:00 am

It’s not yet time for me to wake up for my internship yet, but Chuckie has apparently decided it is. He leaps into my room (he literally leaps over the threshold of my doorway) and goes, “Meow. Meow. Meow meow meow,” which means, “Mom, wake up. Pet me. Wet food.”IMG_4216

My eyes are rolling behind my eyelids, but I open them and make eye contact with one of my little princes. I pat the side of my bed and he meanders his way over for some pats. I scratch his back and his chin with as little effort as possible before I roll over to go back to sleep.

Chuckie circles my head and meows a few more times, but then Barry enters the room and he gets distracted. Barry hops on the bed and walks over me to perch on the windowsill and look at birds. Then he goes and finds a plastic bag that I didn’t even know existed and starts eating it.

Chuckie walks over and instigates a fight. Chuck and Barry wrestle before sprinting out of the room and down the stairs. I fall back asleep.

9:00 am

I’ve finally gotten out of bed, and I head downstairs into the kitchen to get a yogurt for breakfast. Chuck and Barry sense my approach and they both run into the kitchen and start meowing for wet food. Chuck stands in front of the refrigerator, literally VIBRATING in anticipation of wet food. Barry rubs himself against my legs.

But it’s not time for wet food. They don’t get wet food at breakfast time, they get it for dinner. They are about 7 hours early, so I ignore their desperate pleas and tell them that they have dry food sitting right there if they are that hungry.

Before I leave the kitchen, I refill their water bowl because there’s an unidentifiable brown object in it, along with some hairs.

12:15 pm

I eat lunch at my internship and scroll through Chuck and Barry’s Instagram, missing them way too much and excited to go home and pet them.

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3:30 pm

I return home from my internship and as I open my front door, I yell out, “Kitties!!!!!!!!!”

Barry bounds into the room and hops onto the back of the couch, where it is easiest to receive pets. I give him some scratches and ask where his brother is, but I get no response.

I find Chuck in my bedroom, laying in the middle of my floor (they love sleeping on the floor). He meows his “hello” and I pet him.

4:00 pm

Wet food time!!!!!!! I go into the kitchen and start getting it prepared. Barry shows up, and I tell him to go get his brother. Chuckie appears, and they meow and circle me until I lower the plate with the crack wet food on it and they devour it like heathens.

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 5:00 pm

I’m doing some stuff on my laptop, and all I want is some kitty snuggles but they are nowhere to be found.

5:15 pm

I head downstairs for some water, and that’s when I find Chuck and Barry in the second floor hallway, just laying there (they really love sleeping on hallway floors). I pet them and go on my way.

6:00 pm

It’s laundry day, and I walk into the basement to find Barry standing on the ladder, replacing a burnt out lightbulb. No, I’m kidding, he was just trying to catch a bug and I believe that he got stuck. He scrambles off and scampers up the stairs.

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8:06 pm

On Tuesdays during the summer, my favorite television show, The Fosters, comes on. The hour that The Fosters is on is one of the most important hours of my life and it is my Me Time. It is when I get to take a break from everything, including being a Cat Mom. I tell Chuck and Barry this every week – I tell them it’s Mommy’s Alone Time, and to go do something somewhere else.

But do they listen to me? Of course not.

As The Fosters begins, Barry decides that it’s time to be overly affectionate and show me how much he really loves me. He plops down on my lap, gives me The Eyes, and starts making some bread. All I want to do is watch my show, but Barry’s so cute that I end up practically forgetting the show is on and petting him instead.

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9:30 pm 

I’ve just emerged from my shower and I enter my bedroom. Chuckie had previously been sleeping on the floor, but when I enter he wakes up and IMMEDIATELY he starts yelling at me. “Meow! Meow meow! Meow meow meow meow meow! Meow! Meow!! Meow!!! Meow meow meow meow meow meow!” He meows so fast that I don’t know what he’s even trying to tell me.

But I do know that he wants pats, so I sit on my bed, still soaking wet in a towel, and I pet him for a good ten minutes. I finally get up to get into some pajamas. “Meow meow meow!!!” Chuckie says. I sit back down and pet him some more.

11:00 pm

I’m reading right before bed, and Chuck and Barry are both sleeping on the floor in my room. I’m a happy cat mom and I go to sleep.