Need Cat Transition Advice

So… this one is going out to my cat-loving hoodies and to cat groups because I need some advice.

I am about to move to another state to pursue a PhD. I currently live in cat paradise – lots of trees, lots of wildlife, very few people and cars – and my cats have a cat-door so they can come and go as the please. They are living the very best cat life possible, in my opinion.

My new place has a HUGE backyard and a few trees but unfortunately is on a very busy road which will mean my cats will now need to be indoor-only and I am seeking advice from folks on how to help them transition from being indoor-outdoor as they please to indoor-only.

I expect it's going to be pretty rough on them. Going from having so much freedom and being able to be outside any time they want to having to be inside all the time. The whole world as their bathroom & scratching post to litter boxes and fake trees. Any things I can do on this end before the move to make things easier, like making them indoor-only now? Anything I could do on the other end to make the indoor-only life more satisfying?

Any thoughts, experiences, suggestions, words of wisdom are welcome!

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What Celebrity is your Cat

Copying BA who was copying Arbed…

What celebrity would your pet be? I'm Will Smith! Find out at Catster.com

Will Smith

Leading Man

A fresh prince in the pursuit of happiness, dunkin is megastar Will Smith!

Putting the jazz back in jazzy, dunkin is always moving and grooving to the beat of his own internal drum. Not one to settle for second best, dunkin only takes on projects that are sure to draw attention and improve his pawpularity in the pack. dunkin's broad appeal across breed, age and gender lines means that his actions often lead to his being named best in show. Smooth, suave and debonair… he's the perfect pet to take home to Mommy. Not lacking in the looks department, dunkin‘s toothy grin would send even the most furrocious group of alien invaders spinning helplessly back into space.

What celebrity would your pet be? I'm Ellen DeGeneres! Find out at Catster.com

Isabel's quirky little act get laughs whenever she's out and about… Hey! She's Ellen DeGeneres!

Turning on the charm wherever she may be, Isabel can ham it up with the best of the best. She's not afraid to stand up and be the center of attention, even if it means getting egg on her fur. Isabel will do her shtick in any size venue, from small clubs and coffee houses to large parks with huge audiences. A true lover of animalkind, Isabel generously shares what she has with her fellow furry friends. Isabel's highly recognizable vocal style is known throughout the ‘hood, and her many fans gather ‘round to hear her snuzzy tails, sure that every episode will be unlike the rest.

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Dunkin Update

Thanks to everyone for the messages and well wishes. He's home now and seems fine. Whew!

This whole episode has been really rough. I'm sure Dunkin was feeling pretty rotten in the days leading up to Sunday when I finally realized something was wrong. But cats, like my grandmother, will never let you know they are in pain or feeling sick. And true to form, Dunkin was acting perfectly normally last week.

Man, the realization that he could be suffering without me knowing, and the fact he could die and I would never have known anything was wrong, is scary. I try to be tuned into them and pay attention, but this adds a whole new level of attentiveness.

And man, I've been just wiped out emotionally. Sunday and Monday I was basically frozen – waiting and waiting and waiting to hear from the vet whether or not he was blocked and whether he would make it. I didn't want to make travel plans for Christmas because I didn't know what kind of care or planning I would need to do for Dunkin. I didn't know whether to be confident or hopeful or sad. I kept spiraling through all those emotions all day long.

Then the news came that he had blocked but it was just a bit at the tip and crystally instead of solid which was a huge relief. But when I picked him up yesterday morning to transport him from the emergency clinic to the vet, he was so sad and scared and pathetic it sent me spiraling all over again.

He had to wear a cone around his neck to keep him from pulling out the catheter or IV which essentially made it impossible for him to lie down or get comfortable. So he was hovering in a crouched position and kept shifting positions trying to get comfortable. I figure he probably hasn't gotten much sleep the past three days and we all know how much cats like to sleep. He kept shaking the paw with the IV, so I'm sure it was pinching, and he was covered in urine.

And he just looked at me with his big round eyes and cried the whole ride. The hard part was I couldn't really comfort him because I didn't want to disturb the catheter or IV and hurt him in the process, so all I could do was talk to him and scratch his head. That was the hardest thing. I knew he just wanted to crawl into my lap and get loved on but I couldn't do it.

So, after getting a clean bill of health from the vet he's back home and seems to be ok. He's a lot more low key than usual, I think he's exhausted more than anything. But he's taken well to the new prescription cat food (as has Isabel – yay! – she tends to throw up food) and has been quietly snoozing.

Isabel was really funny when Dunkin came home yesterday – it was like she had never seen him before. I laughed my butt off. She froze at first with big bug eyes and just stared at him. Finally she worked up the courage to sniff his cat carrier – very stinky. When he went over to say hi she hissed at him and ran away. That pattern pretty much went on all night. Hee hee. Poor Isabel. I think she loved loved loved being an only kitty and was not happy to have to share my lap and attention again.

So today both cats are inside and I'm monitoring Dunkin to make sure he pees. Tomorrow both cats go to the vet for their annual check-ups. After that, hopefully life will start getting back to normal.

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Owners of Male Cats – Please Read

It'll be a Merry Christmas after all but we had a pretty big scare yesterday.

I was sitting on the couch, drinking my morning quart of coffee and snuggling with Dunkin, my male cat. As usual in these situations, I have to get up periodically thus displacing the cat.

My cats and I speak a common language and there are certain phrases that we completely understand from each other. From them, jumping on the bed and purring in my face means "I'm hungry", climbing on the computer keyboard means "I'm more important than your blog, love me", and swatting the venetian blinds means "I'm bored".

From me, "Time for bed, picklehead" means, well, it's time to go to bed, and "Gotta get up" or "Gotta go to the bathroom" mean "kindly remove yourself temporarily from my lap so that I might take care of business. I shall return momentarily at which time you may resume your snuggling".

Usually, we understand each other perfectly, but yesterday Dunkin didn't budge with the usual "Gotta get up". Didn't budge with "Gotta get up, Dunkin Donut". Didn't budge with "Gotta get up, Pookie Poo Poo" with accompanying physical cue of wiggling the legs. But being as I really had to get up, I picked him up to move him and he let out a yowl and thrashed around in the air until I put him down.

Now, he was not mad at me, I could tell, and though he is a vocal cat, this yowl was more like pain. So I start cataloging possible reasons in my head and really couldn't come up with anything except that he had been tussling with another cat again. I did not find any puncture wounds or cuts in a quick sweep on his back half, but I was very concerned so I called the emergency vet (mostly for reassurance, to be honest). That phone call lasted all of 5 minutes and in 15 minutes I was in my car on the way to the emergency hospital.

The vet tech who answered the phone asked three questions:
"Is he male?"
"Where was the pain?"
"Have you seen him pee lately?"

For me the answers were:
"Yes"
"Right near his hind legs."
"No, he's indoor/outdoor and he pees outside."

They responded, "He could be blocked. You need to get him in here right away."

Oh crap.

That was most definitely NOT reassuring.

So after a prolonged battle of attempted bribes and physical force, I finally got Dunkin into the cat carrier and into the car for the trip. Now, he is very talkative as I mentioned before and gave me all kinds of not-so-nice words and cat cursing the whole way there. But I talked to him about being sick and going to the doctor and loving him so much and  wanting him to be healthy and happy.

They weighed him – a whopping 12.8 pounds – and the vet felt his bladder which she said was very small at that point. She asked tons of questions about his habits, what food he ate, grooming habits, changes in his behavior, etc. Then told me that what she was concerned about was a urinary track blockage which in male cats can be fatal very quickly if left untreated.

So, for all you Voxers out there who have male cats, and especially neutered male cats – please read this. She said this is one of the most unknown and most important medical problems for male cats and lots of people lose their cats before they even know something is wrong.

A urinary track blockage can be caused by lots of things (bacteria, virus, change in food, bad water, stress, change in environment, etc) and no one is exactly sure from cat to cat why it starts. Essentially a male cat's urethra is longer and more narrow than a female cat's and is therefore much more prone to getting clogged. If a cat experiences any of the above issues, crystals can start building up in his urine which can be irritating causing mucus to be produced. The combination of crystals and mucus form a plug which can partially or totally block the urethra limiting or stopping urine flow.

Like a bladder infection in people, having difficulty or pain attached to urinating is a horrible feeling. It can be bloody, there can be pushing and straining, and excessive licking of the genital area (in cats – ha ha) to try and clean it enough to function properly. Many people actually think their cat is constipated because the behaviors in the litter box are the same.

But unlike being constipated, if the urethra is allowed to get completely blocked, the urine backs up, the bladder gets bigger and bigger, the kidneys stop creating urine because the bladder is full and thus stop cleaning the body of toxins, and finally the bladder ruptures and urine and toxins leak into the cat's body killing him pretty quickly. It is very serious, very dangerous, and oftentimes lethal.

By some extremely fortunate circumstances, I was at home yesterday, snuggling with Dunkin, and happened to hit exactly the right place to make him yowl and raise my concern. Because it turned out that he did have crystals in his urine and though his bladder was small when I brought him in at noon, by 8:00 last night it had grown twice as big and he was only able to produce a couple of drops of urine even with the vet palpitating and squeezing his bladder directly.

By the grace of God I got him in EXACTLY when he needed to because if I had not, he most likely would have died.

That yowl is the only thing that triggered my concern. He was still eating normally, he was still snuggling and purring, he was still playing and going outside and picking on my female cat, Isabel. Except for that yowl, every other thing about him was normal and I never would have known. Cats often will not let you know anything is wrong until it is almost too late.

So last night the vet inserted a catheter both to unblock him and drain the urine. Dunkin will wear it for 48 hours to make sure he does not block again. The good news is his blockage was very crystally and right at the tip, as opposed to being much more solid and blocked throughout the whole urethra. He was expelling urine and yelling his displeasure at the vet by 10:00pm. She is also giving him IV fluids to keep him hydrated, kick his kidneys back into action, and keep him urinating under observation. They will remove the catheter and watch him for another 12 hours or so to make sure he continues to urinate on his own.

He will be home Wednesday morning at 7:00am. I am very blessed. Another few hours or if he hadn't yowled and I might have lost him.

So, everyone who has a male cat, please get yourself educated about FLUTD. Google "cat blocked urinary track" and read read read. I recommend this site because it is almost word-for-word exactly as my vet explained it to me and is in language anyone can understand.

I hope all of you are as fortunate as I was if this ever happens to your cat.
Bless you, bless your cats, and Merry Christmas.

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Biological Reason for “Cat Lady” Syndrome

So my friend Josh sent me this article from the New York Times. He swears he wasn't trying to insinuate anything just passing along information, but I don't know… Anyway, I don't think you really qualify as a cat lady until you have at least ten cats, right? That's what I choose to believe.

The ‘Cat Lady’ Conundrum

http://www.nytimes.com/2007/12/09/magazine/09_10_catcoat.html?ref=magazine

Published: December 9, 2007

Here’s a little-known and slightly terrifying fact: According to estimates from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 60 million people in the United States are infected with a parasite that may migrate into their brains and alter their behavior in a way that — among other things — may leave them more likely to be eaten by cats. New research into this common parasite — Toxoplasma gondii — may offer clues to the phenomenon known to the unscientifically-minded as “crazy cat lady” syndrome.

The basic facts: Toxo can infect many species, but it undergoes sexual reproduction only in cat digestive tracts. Once the parasite reproduces, the cat passes it in its feces, where the next unwitting host picks it up by digesting it (intentionally or unintentionally). Then the cycle starts again. In the long run, Toxo must find its way back to a cat’s stomach to survive. So the parasite has evolved a complicated system for taking over its hosts’ brains to increase the likelihood that they’ll be eaten by cats.

How? Scientists are still figuring that out. Research conducted this year by Toxo expert Robert Sapolsky of Stanford, and also by Joanne Webster, professor of parasite epidemiology at Imperial College London, has found that Toxo actually causes rats to become attracted to the smell of cat urine.

Might Toxo explain why some humans develop an unhealthful attraction to cats and apparently become immune to the smell of their urine? And might that explain the mystery of crazy cat ladies? “That idea doesn’t seem completely crazy,” Sapolsky says. “But there’s no data supporting it.”

Not yet. But Jaroslav Flegr, an evolutionary biologist at Charles University in the Czech Republic, is looking into it. He has spent years studying Toxo’s impact on human behavior. (He found, for example, that people infected with Toxo have slower reflexes and are 2.5 times as likely to get into car accidents.) He won’t have results of his study for a while and refuses to speculate. But Joanne Webster says the connection isn’t much of a stretch: “In our evolutionary past, perhaps we were eaten by cats, too,” she says.

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Mr. Lee Cat Cam

I can't believe I did not think about sharing this sooner. I was reading all the cat stories from my neighbors this morning and thinking how wonderful you all are – such giving hearts and generous souls. Especially those of you who work in the cat rescue groups. Both of my cats were strays and one came from a rescue group. It's definitely something I'd like to get more involved with.

But I digress…

The point of this is to let you know about this awesome blog. Seems a guy from Germany decided to put a tiny little camera on his indoor/outdoor kitty to see where he went. He posted a bunch of Mr. Lee's adventures on his website, someone found out about it, it became a huge media thing, lots of people started wanting to buy cat camera, and the rest is history. From the blog it seems like the guy had to quit his real job to keep up with the demand for cat cams. You can buy a fully assembled one or, if you're handy, you can get the components and put it together yourself.

People are now submitting their own cat cam adventures and there is even one dog cam out there. Awesome! I would love to do this with my cats but one won't wear a collar and the other would be a series of pictures of my bed. Well, maybe my bed, the sofa, and the deck chair.

Anyway, check it out. All you cat lovers out there will love it! Here are some of the photos to give you a taste… Remember, these are all taken from the cats' vantage point. I was amazed at how many other cats were in Mr Lee's photos. It would seem the feline world is pretty social. Enjoy!

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