Dances with Kittens

May 31, 2017

Have you ever looked closely at a veterinarian’s hands and arms? If you have, you would see tiny lines of scars on them, a memory of the cats that have scratched them. I myself have plenty.

I have two scars that I actually cherish. When Cowboy Joe was coming out of anesthesia, he was a little goofy, and raked the back of my wrist with his back claws. There are two long, thin scars, memories of a strung-out kitten. It’s a memory from a cat I dearly love, so I am happy to look at them. At the time it happened, 2004, I was not amused. Since my cat was loopy, I understood.

The other scar I treasure was put in place by Pruney, the cat of my life. While living at home with my mom after college, I decided that Pruney, an inside/outside cat, should wear a collar. Many cats wear collars just fine. Pruney-not so much. She managed to get the collar stuck in her open mouth, and when I got her off the window screen where she hung onto dear life, she raked the same wrist with her two canine teeth. After over 40 years, I can still see the reminder that not all cats can wear collars. The last cat I tried a collar on was Kitty Alexander, our 20-pound tuxedo, who promptly got hung up on a door hinge. I had to unhook him. Now, I know how collars should fit on animals. No mistakes there. It’s part of what I teach my clients. These were just two freak accidents, and since Pruney was my last outdoor cat, there really is no need for collars on my cats. And a heads up to our humane society, I don’t license them, either, when they get their rabies vaccinations. Bad Mary.

In practice, my favorite part of well kitten visits is to educate people about how to care for their cats properly. The most important part of this lesson is, “How Not to be Killed by Your Kitten.” You see, people like to have Kitty chase their fingers across the room, or wave their hand back and forth on the carpet. It’s so much fun to see him get so riled up he can’t think, and runs around the room like he’s possessed. Bad idea. Kitty gets the idea that, 1. It’s OK to bite the finger when he catches it, which is instinctual, and 2. It’s OK that human body parts make great chew toys. They are not. NEVER use hands to play with your cat or kitten. Instead, have a toy or string that they cat catch and play with. For strings and similar items, be sure to put them away when you are finished playing, as the strings could be swallowed by an unsupervised cat and wind up stuck in his intestines and will have to be surgically removed.

The same play rules are true with human feet, except Kitty will add hiding for pouncing on and biting the feet. If you like being attacked by an unseen ball of fur, by all means, go for the foot fetish. It can, however, be very painful in the sensitive area of the top of the foot. Picture Tiger lying in wait until you come home from work, looking at the mail when, WHAM! You are attacked from below-a direct hit to the ankle.

Also be that cats like to climb things, like the drapes. Bad Kitty. This behavior is reinforced by thinking it’s cute for Kitty to climb up your pants with his razor sharp claws.

So what to do if your cat is the Kamikaze who actually gets to you even after you stop playing with hands and feet? First, don’t physically discipline an animal, ever. The cat is only acting on its instinct of preditory behavior. Second, you have only three seconds to react until the devious act is out of Kitty’s mind. Fill an empty soda can with small rocks, and have it ready to shake at Kitty when he is bad. Making a hissing noise is cat talk for “Look out, I’m going to get YOU”! You can also turn and walk away, play time is over, period. Be strong, even if he wants to start playing with you again. Nope-game over.

What’s more fun than playing with a kitten? Nothing! But be aware of safe ways to play with your little furball so no one, you or Kitty develop bad behaviors and gets hurt.

Hey Lady! It’s a DOG Park

May 16, 2017

I am wary about dog parks. They are great business for veterinarians. This mean that dogs can get hurt at a dog park. Yet I serve on the Parks and Recreation board (16 years total so far,) and when we build a new community or large park, we include a dog park. That’s what the people ask for in a park.

I cringe whenever I see a dog off leash. I live next to a dedicated prairie, the Cathy Fromme Prairie, dog laws strictly enforced. But still, every time I walk Ivy on the paved trail, some yahoo has his or her dog off leash.

One dude on a bike was running his mutt off leash while he pedaled in comfort. I asked him to please leash his dog. His reply, “Oh get over it.” Oh well, there are only so many park rangers, and they are usually elsewhere.

On the prairie, there are an uncountable number of rattlesnakes in the grass. Want to see one in the heat of the day? Surprise one. It doesn’t want to eat you, you are too big. So is your dog. However, the coil and strike maneuver is the snake’s defense mechanism. I’m teaching Ivy the word, “sidewalk,” so she knows not to yaw off the trail. If you want to go and look at a snake, go in the early morning, when they are basking in the warmth of the pavement after a cool night. When it warms up, the snakes retreat to the cooler underbrush.

The dumbest thing I’ve seen on the prairie was a grown woman with a black Lab, and a tennis ball launcher. She actually was going to have her dog chase balls through snake-infested grass. Oy.

In my old neighborhood made up largely of college students, I asked dog walkers to please put Fido on a leash. Their retort: “This dog is on voice command.” Sorry, dudes and dudettes, there is no such thing. Sure, your dog may come with you and be good for regular  or boring things, but if it sees something exciting like a racing bunny rabbit, pause for mental image of a racing bunny, voice command is no more.

So today I took Ivy to the dog park. It’s on the east side of town. I live on the west side. I go to this park because it is not frequented by students and their largely untrained dogs, who prefer the west side dog park at the very end of Horsetooth Road. We people know each other, and our dogs know each other as well. A lady came in with her doodle-it’s fun to see an adult version of my Ivy-and promptly yelled at a man with what she called an aggressive dog. He wasn’t aggressive. He met dogs with a bark, and maybe a chest bump. Then he settles in to play. She took her dog to the end of the park. She stayed there. Her “dood” came back to the other dogs to play.

Just as there is no voice command, at the dog park, there is not much obedience. The dogs are there to run and play. If we leave them alone, they work it out. Once, I was there with just a few people. Two women came in with a truly aggressive dog, the women oblivious to the sign prohibiting them. The dog went after our little cadre of mutts. We nicely said that her dog was aggressive and should be removed. Totally different behavior than the man’s dog who settled down. This dog didn’t, and attacked again. The ladies got the message and left.

Ivy loves the dog park, and she is a popular figure to see. It’s kind of like the TV show, “Cheers” where everyone shouts, “NORM” when he enters the bar. She knows how to play appropriately and socialize, which will serve her well.

Go to the dog park, don’t go to the dog park. It’s entirely up to you. But before you go, read up a little on canine behavior, OK?

Doodles Make You Smile Every Day

April 27, 2017

Ivy the Goldendoodle puppy is looking at seven months more like a dog than a puppy. I am starting to leave her loose in the house for longer times. This evening, I attended our monthly Parks and Recreation board meeting. When I got home, Ivy didn’t look guilty at all. She must have been sleeping by her door to her pen, but she was sitting at attention, straight as a four star general.

The filth from this morning’s jaunt to the dog park was mostly gone. Just my luck to get a white and tan parti color girl with sable ears and green eyes. Her eyelashes are 3″ long.

Since her Canine Good Citizen class doesn’t start until June, we go to Canine Learning Center for drop-in obedience. She’s the youngest dog there, definitely not a show dog, but for the recall exercise, I leave her in a sit stay (sometimes she will stay,) walk away and call, “Ivy, come”! She leaps into the air, runs like lightning, and leaps into a sit at my feet. The other ladies laugh hysterically because Ivy is so stinkin’ cute. This week, she knows how to “finish”, i.e., go back into the heel position. I taught her that last week for the price of one Cheerio. She will do anything for a Cheerio.

As her drop-in teacher, Julie Yamane, likes to say, “Mary, Doodles make you smile every day.”

The Barrier Has Been Breached!

March 30, 2017

Ivy the Golden doodle puppy has managed only to go into the basement once-she has a barrier. That’s where the cat food and kitty litter boxes are. I gave her a new Bully Stick, which she chewed, and left the loft. Too quiet. I went looking for her, and there she was, on the other side of the baby gate which has the door to the basement keeping the door wide enough for the cats to get in.

Ivy ate all the cat food-that’s dinner for tonight, and diarrhea for tomorrow, but left the kitty logs alone. Ick.

My book only has one chapter to finish editing. Ivy isn’t in the book. She’s only 6 months old, and I think now a teenager. With a walk this morning, and the dog park this afternoon, she should crash shortly for the night.

What a great cat

May 2, 2010

Matthew has been driving me crazy, making me wonder how I am going to study starting in July.

I set up an office where my laptop is as I write this. Since I have always been a dining room table studier, that’s set up also. Printer in each room, WiFi in the house.

With the laptop on this desk, a roll top, he’s been jumping up on the desk and putting his paws on the keys. I think he sent an email to the Dean about how stupid I really am and why did we move to Texas. When I speak to him to get down, he goes behind the computer in the recess of the desk’s top and hunkers down. I’ve had to physically drag him out of there to deposit him on the floor. I’ve come close to throwing him out the window, but he’s an inside cat.

A couple of days ago, he nearly jumped from the floor to the keyboard. Not cool. I got really mad at him, scruffed him, also not cool, and closed the door with him on the other side. When I opened the door, my littlest but toughest guy was lying right outside the door, waiting for me.

A few more times I came in here that day found Matthew waiting outside the door, whether I remembered to close the door or not.

A few minutes ago, I started to use the computer. He started to jump. I asked him to leave, then closed the door. When I opened it, he was resting on some plastic bags. I told him what a good kitty he is, and promised him that I would put a kitty cup there so he could wait outside the door for me.

Matthew has been amazing during this last horrific year. He has been my male protector, keeping close by my side as strangers come into my new house, moving from room to room with me, Frank and Cowboy Joe. I’m going to hold my tongue when he does something wrong, and change MY behavior. He’s just doing his job of being my Velcro cat; protecting me, comforting me, keeping me company and, most of all, loving me.

The black hand

April 3, 2010

Matthew is the top cat, meaning he is the ruler of the feline world in our home. He bosses the brothers around, and generally watches over me, protecting me from harm.

This morning, while doing my morning stretching, I saw Matt attacking the dust ruffle on the bed. I thought he was going after the pens and pencils, but that really isn’t his thing. Cowboy Joe and Frank carry those items all over the house. Then, I saw a black arm (excuse me, Dr. Kainer, forelimb) protrude from underneath the bed. It was Frank, teasing Matthew to attack it. Matt went after Frank’s paw, with a great deal of hissing and growling from Frank. They repeated this over and over. Frank never came out from under the bed until Matthew got tired of the game and left.

I love to watch cats play. Who doesn’t? Frank and Joe get into it as kittens do, the full body armor type of play where they grab each other and pounce on each other like world champion wrestlers. Their play with Matthew is entirely different. It is cautious and from a distance, with much chasing and diving into safe places.

Frank and Joe also mutually groom each other. Matthew relies on me. He also has to help me eat breakfast, and at this moment, is draped over my left arm as I type. His meow to me right now is the “I’m just a little kitty” meow. My tough guy is a mush cat at breakfast. I’ll groom him, but he can be brushed. I refuse to lick his fur.

Attention to detail

August 6, 2009

At the beginning of our ride yesterday, Scoot gave a little buck. Scoot does not buck. Last week on Timber Trail, he kept shaking his head. I finally looked at his head to see the chin strap on his bridle unhooked and flapping. I got off and fixed it. His attention to detail was better than mine. I thought he had spotted a big, big kitty.

The reason for the one buck yesterday was that the D-ring on my saddle came off causing the breast collar to come undone. It was tangled in Scoot’s feet. I dismounted, took it off, and returned it to the trailer. We then continued an uneventful, lovely ride.

Horses tell you in their own way that something is amiss. It is up to their humans to pay attention. The saddle, which is 30 years old, is now in the shop. This is OK, because the Cubs are in town for four whole days to play the Rockies. Oh joy.