Thoughts for Thursday – If Cats Could Speak (and Understand Your Words)    

Yesterday I said, “What a different and interesting world it would be if a cat could say more than MEOW.” Wouldn’t it be fun and fascinating to hear a cat’s stories from the cat herself—where was she born, who were her parents, where did she live, how did she end up on the street (in a dumpster, under a car, in your neighborhood, in the stables, in a field, at a shelter)? All we can do is guess at where she came from and how she got there.

When you take in a cat, however, and spend every morning, noon, and night with her, you begin to understand what her MEOW means, what her looks and stance and sound and body language mean. My daughters when they were young were astounded that I knew what our cats wanted. “Oh, you want out?” I’d say to the cat and she’d walk to the door and I’d let her out (years ago, mind you—before I became a believer in the total house cat). The cat would rub against my leg while I’m in the kitchen and I’d say, “Oh, are you hungry?” I’d feed her and she would eat.

“How do you know what the cat says?” my daughters would ask me. Most of you reading this know the answer. Or do we? I always thought it was a matter of observation. If the cat is at the door meowing, she wants out, right? If she comes into the kitchen with you and engages you, she’s probably hungry. If she’s racing around the house or brings you a toy, she wants to play. If she climbs up into your lap, she wants to snuggle. It’s simple, right?

Over the years I’ve changed my mind a bit on that subject. I think there’s more to it than that. Have you ever had a cat comfort you when you’re distraught? Does your cat sometimes respond to your command or even a thought of a command? Mind-talk. I’m a firm believer in mind talk with cats—at least some cats.

How many times have you thought about going into the kitchen to feed your cat, when she crawls out from under the sofa, stretches, and either meows at you or walks into the kitchen expecting you to follow? For those of you who take your cat outside, do you sometimes just think, “I think I’ll go outside and do a little pruning,” and here comes the cat trotting into the room looking eagerly at you? Is she reading your mind? Probably.

I had a reluctant cat once crawl out from under a corner table where she was hiding and into a carrier after I used mind-talk with her. Yeah, it’s a thing. Try it. I’d love to hear your mind-talk stories.

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Wild (and Sometimes Crazy) Wednesday – Cats in the Wrong Place

Speaking of outdoor cats, as we were on Monday, how many times have you sprinkled your own outdoor cat or a neighbor’s cat while watering the plants in your yard. Oh, the look you get—like “you meant to do that.” No matter how profusely you apologize, the cat does not seem to forgive. Perhaps it’s because of your unintentional, but unstoppable snicker upon seeing the cat’s indignant “How could you do that to me” stare as he retreats back into his own yard.

Cats also climb onto and even into cars. We’ve all found muddy paw prints on our cars. But have you ever been driving someplace and suddenly see a cat appear at your shoulder. Yikes.

Cats can also (and sometimes do) crawl into an engine compartment and are harmed or worse when you start the car.

Cats have been known to travel long distances never intending to or knowing that it is happening as they’re caught inside a car or truck—even, on occasion, an airplane or in a box that’s been shipped across country.

Cats have many harrowing stories to tell. Since they can’t actually tell what happened between the time they climbed into that box or that car engine, for example, and they arrived at their destination, we do our best to speak for them.  Only it’s the details in between the here and there that are missing. What a different and interesting world it would be if cats could say more than MEOW.

 

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Newsday Tuesday – The Cat Who Came Back From the Dead, and more good cat news.

Maybe you’ve heard this story—but it was new to me. Have you read about Bart—known as the Zombie Cat—who was in a car accident back in 2015 and thought to be dead, so his owners buried him. Well, five days later, he dug out of his grave and he’s alive and well now living with a new family in Florida. Evidently there was a court battle and his former family lost custody. Wow! According to the story, Bart is now living the good life and lots and lots of petting. Meet Bart here:

https://news.yahoo.com/zombie-cat-survived-being-buried-204516789.html

I’m happy to read that there will be another cat in the White House. They say, “She’s waiting in the wings.” It sounds like they’ve already picked her out. The Bidens’ dog, Major has gone through special training to make sure he’s cordial to the new first cat. Crossing fingers.

And here’s something that might help you relax about where your cat sits. A sixth grader in Tennessee made the cat’s butt a project for school. I guess he heard his parents or grandparents or someone else complaining about where the cat sits—how unsanitary it is for a cat to be on a kitchen counter or dining room table. Well, the student performed experiments using long-haired, medium-haired, and short-haired cats, and he discovered that the “nasty” part of cats—even the short-haired cat—did not touch any hard surface it sat on. So now will you allow Fluffy on the kitchen counter? Oh wait, perhaps we need to conduct an experiment to see how much “ka-ka” is on those paws and the pantaloons after Fluffy uses the litter box.

 

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Mindful Monday – Cats Decorate My World

Some of us have cat decorations—cats made of ceramic, macramé, yarn, metal, beans, cardboard, clay, and that are painted on glass, canvas, cloth…but also real life cats that we can cuddle and play with. I love having a cat in the house and sharing my everyday activities with them, such as making the bed, cleaning out a closet, dusting, cooking—you know, hanging out with me in my office or kitchen or living room, etc. But I also enjoy seeing the cats that decorate the world outside—when I putter in the yard, look out my windows, and take my daily walk.

Have you noticed the cats that roam your neighborhood and the neighborhoods you visit? Do you smile watching a black and white cat wait patiently for a gopher to emerge from a hole in a dandelion or mustard field? Do you stop and watch as a cat preens himself in a sun chard shining through a canopy of trees? Will you pause to observe a couple of cats at play on a porch or around an abandoned swing set or jalopy? How about when you see a cat staring out a window—just hanging out on a window sill or on the back of a sofa inside as you walk by. A favorite vision for me is seeing a child sitting quietly with a cat or a kitten—just being in the moment with a cat—one of my favorite places to be—in the moment with a cat.

 

 

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Frivolous Friday – Olivia the Star

Tomorrow we celebrate Olivia’s first year. I think she’s happy with the life we’ve given her. She’s safe, healthy, and well-loved. AND, she’s now a star. She’s such an interesting being and I can see so many creative ways to expand on and exaggerate aspects of her purrsonality in my stories, that I’ve decided to create a new cozy mystery series featuring Olivia.

It all started when I introduced her in Book 51 of the Klepto Cat Mystery series, which debuted this month. It was so much fun and so well received that I’m now in the process of producing her own series—the Calico Cat Mysteries. Book One is called, Oh! Olivia and it features a gorgeous picture of her on the front of it—crossing her paws of course—one of her signature poses.

It’s been fun sharing more about Olivia this week in celebration of her first year on earth. Olivia—the cat who may have kept us from going crazy during the pandemic year, and the cat who has inspired a new series of cozy mysteries.

Happy Birthday sweet Olivia—may we celebrate many more days, weeks, and years with you, my love-love.

 

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Thoughts for Thursday –Olivia All Grown Up

She was the runt, they say. I wonder how big her siblings are because she shows some of her Maine coon heritage in her stature and size. At almost one year, Olivia weighs just shy of twelve pounds. And she continues to entertain and teach.

Unfortunately, she’s not well socialized outside of our household because of the isolation we’ve all experienced this past year. She has met people through the windows and the screen doors. She’s very interested in watching people at a distance—neighbors out the windows, people and dogs walking by… But she’s timid and seems frightened if a stranger tries to engage her.

She’s not a great eater. Food doesn’t mean much to her. She often does a Captain Pierce kind of thing with her food. (M.A.S.H) She smells it, then often walks away—maybe coming back later to eat or she’ll take a bite or two.

Dennis and I have had several cats over our 30 years together and they have all chosen a favorite between us. Either the cat is mine—they hang out with me, curl up in my lap, go to bed with me, engage me in play, bug me for dinner or they spend most of their time with him. Olivia is different. She has special moments with both of us. During the day she hangs out with me in my office, on my lap, next to me on the couch in the evenings, but when I go to bed, she’s all about Dennis. He stays up late and so does she. So we’ve both developed quite an attachment to this beautiful fur being, as you can image.

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Wild (and Sometimes Crazy) Wednesday – What Has Olivia Brought to the Household?

A bright spot in a rough year.

A delightful distraction.

A source of great joy.

A reason to laugh.

These are some of the things Olivia has brought into our lives. We have never laughed with delight as much as we have since bringing Olivia home. She’s such a character. She plops. She doesn’t lay down, she plops over. I love the way she’ll sometimes get into bed with me at night and plop over onto my face to sleep for a while.

She crosses her paws almost every time she lies down.

She plays fetch. No kidding. Some evenings she’ll bring me her bumpy rubber ball or a worn out stuffed mouse over and over and over for me to throw for her.

She comes into my office almost every day and meows and meows. She’s not a very vocal cat until she wants something—like attention—then she won’t stop meowing. I have to leave my work and toss a ball up and down the hallway for her until she’s ready for her afternoon nap. That’s not a bad thing. I should be getting up and moving around every hour or so anyway. And it’s never a dull activity. Olivia makes everything more fun.

She’s a comic, all right and entertaining. Even when she’s not engaging us, we find ourselves just sitting and watching her play or sleep.

She’s a snuggler. Olivia loves to cuddle, until she doesn’t. And don’t touch her tummy. She often lays on her back, showing off her beautiful fluffy white tummy, but you’d better not touch it or you might walk away bleeding—only a little.

Olivia’s early teen years (6 to twelve months) have been interesting. She has given up some of her kittenish ways, but she keeps us on our toes with new tricks up her paws and, happily, greater demonstrations of affection.

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Newsday Tuesday – How To Train a Kitten

Or does a kitten train you?

When you adopt a kitten, it’s a little of both. You express your expectations and boundaries and so does the kitten. Olivia came to us with the basics. She was litterbox trained and she knew something about boundaries when engaging a human in play, but she needed time and patience when it came to her social skills.

Her comfort zone during her first several days was under a dresser. I could easily reach her and slide her out from under the bed on the bare floor, but I couldn’t get my hand under the dresser to drag her out from under there—so we had to come to different terms regarding that hiding spot. Olivia stayed under there for as long as she wanted to, and I had to come up with ways to lure her out—or just be patient and wait until her nap was over. I guess she was accustomed to sleeping on hard dirt because she rejected the cozy beds we offered—even a cushy blanket to lay on.

Thankfully, Olivia loved attention, so she soon began coming out more and more often when I’d ask her to. I was glad when she outgrew that space, but to this day she still likes to hide and that’s okay. I guess her beginnings, living under that house, made her somewhat of a cave-dweller. I just have to be careful not to close the closet door and lock her inside.

Another bit of training I had to do with this active, curious kitten involved keeping her off my keyboard. I spend hours every day creating cozy mystery stories featuring cats. I still use a desktop computer and a massive ergonomic keyboard (for the health of my wrists). And since the keyboard is where my hands are and since Olivia likes having those hands on her, she would often jump onto or dart across my computer desk. NOOOOOO Olivia!!!! This became a battle that broke my heart. What to do? Close Olivia out of my office when I was working? Reprimand her many times every day? I hated both of those options. I could work stress-free only while she was sleeping. I was going bonkers trying to give her the attention she wanted while keeping her off my keyboard. (The keyboard issue is not a problem when I’m not working. I cover it with a repurposed box lid when I walk away. I’d been doing that for years. Yes, cats on the keys was not anything new—but I’d never had such a determined kitten before.)

Finally—listen up those of you with a cat-on-the-keys problem—or a cat on the kitchen counter or…) I stopped to chat with a friend while walking one day—masks in place—and told her of our delightful kitten and how much we were enjoying her, except for…

Celeste worked with a world-renowned dog trainer at one time and she told me about a technique that she learned and that she uses with her own dogs—pennies in a can. I was desperate. I hated scaring a sweet kitten—but I had to do something. Sooooo, I found one of those old style tin coffee cans in the garage with nails in it. I emptied the nails, put a few pennies in the bottom of the can, and hid it next to my computer desk.

Soon here comes Olivia. She jumped onto the desk and I said, “No.” She ignored me, so I said, “No,” AND shook the can of coins from behind her—so she couldn’t see that I was doing it. The kitten dove off my desk and ran. Soon she came back and tried again—again, the sound freaked her out. Folks, it took four shakes and Olivia no longer stepped foot on my computer desk.

Oh, she tested her boundaries a time or two after that and I’d just say “no” or, if need be, I’d give that can a little shake. She’d retreat back to my lap and settle down. Lesson learned. I’ve noticed that my “No” has more clout with Olivia since I used the can of pennies technique with her. She’ll generally stop scratching the furniture when I say no and she’ll sometimes stop climbing the blinds. I do not use the can of pennies outside of my office. I don’t want to terrorize Olivia. I figure it’s one of those things where you have to pick your battles.

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Mindful Monday – It’s Olivia’s Birthday Week

Olivia turns one year old Saturday—May 1 (or there abouts)—so I thought I’d dedicate this week’s blog posts to her.

We lost our precious tabby, Lily, at eleven years old during the year of the pandemic. (Just when we thought things couldn’t get any worse, right?) Two months later we were given a ray of sunshine—a sweet calico came into our life.

We adopted her from her photograph. I mean, look at this adorable kitten—how could we resist? And believe me, she wasn’t the first kitten picture we saw. But she was the first kitten that really clicked with us. We were so eager to bring the orphan into our hearts. Yes, an orphan. Someone found her and her siblings alone living under a house. At least her rescuers thought the larger male kittens could be her siblings, although she was tiny compared to the others—a runt, they thought.

The kittens were trapped and carted to ResQcats in Santa Barbara, where Jeffyne Telson and her volunteers cared for them until they were old enough and healthy enough to be adopted. We were excited to hear that we could pick up the calico kitten in three weeks. When the day came, we were prepared and eager to meet the kitten, who we knew only through photos and a brief video. That day, however, we learned there was a problem. One of her siblings had come down with ringworm. All of the kittens would need to be treated—a treatment that included medicated baths three times a week for three long weeks. Torture for the kitten and for us.

I couldn’t wait to get my hands on her. However, she was getting hands-on with her treatment—which as it turns out probably helped in the socializing process.

Finally the day came when we could meet our new baby and bring her home—happy dance day.

She came with a name—one of the volunteers named her Olivia. We decided to keep the name. She also came with a strong mind of her own, which she decided to keep.

She was just about four months old by then and had already developed quite a sweet and feisty purrsonality. Now the fun would begin.

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Frivolous Friday – A Cat’s PAWtograph  

Some of you know that I’ve written our calico, Olivia, into my latest Klepto Cat Mystery. What fun! And a fan thought it would be fun to have Olivia PAWtograph copies of the book. So we went to work trying to get a good rendition of her paw, and the fan carved a rubber stamp of it.

This has gleaned some publicity and I want to clarify something for those of you who plan to copy the idea.

We used a nontoxic “ink” pad to get Olivia’s print, then we washed her paw thoroughly afterward. I also trimmed the long fur on her paw for a clearer image of her pads and so that it would be easier to clean her up. In Olivia’s case, however, the fur around the pads is thick and made it difficult to get a good print. I opted not to do any more trimming. And the artist-fan was able to use what we got on our first attempt to create a good likeness of Olivia’s paw. In other words, no cats were harmed in this process, as it should be.

However, was it the right thing to do to trim that long fur from her paws? I’m not one to alter a cat’s appearance, although I sure was tempted to pluck a bent whisker from Olivia’s face when she was younger. I didn’t, of course, and it seems to have either fallen out on its own or straightened out. I read up on furry paws and discovered that the excess long fur between the toe pads (beans) of some cats is typical of the Maine coon and Norwegian Forest Cat. (Olivia does have Maine coon in her ancestral background.) This fur protects a cat’s paws when she lives where it snows, for example. But it also helps to protect the toe pads from chemicals she might encounter in the home. It’s recommended that you clean a cat’s paws every day whether they go outside or are total house cats. Well, I haven’t been doing that. But it’s also recommended that you trim the long fur that grows between the toes, especially with a young cat, so that when she is playing, she can get her footing better on bare floors. Yes, Olivia does slide and skid around here a lot, but she seems to enjoy the ride, so I think I’ll just leave those cute paws alone for now.

Meanwhile be sure to read Olivia’s debut book–Calico Calamities, A Klepto Cat Mystery. It’s available at Amazon.com in print and formatted for your e-reader and at KleptoCatMysteries.com in print. Contact me if you’d like to receive Olivia’s PAWtograph for the book you bought at Amazon.com.

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