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Archive for the ‘critters’ Category

Nobody has moved into any of my fence birdhouses yet, alas. I will try putting a few up under the eaves in the shade. Cornflowers came up nicely this year, though!

We had another of our spring heat waves this past week, with daytime temps in the high 90’s (F) and daily watering to try to save young plants. The timing was spectacularly bad: traditionally US Mother’s Day is the time to set out tender plants like tomatoes, peppers, and eggplants. Many seedlings had only a few days in the ground before the heat slammed into us. This meant that their root systems weren’t necessarily developed sufficiently to support the plant during a time of great stress.

More seedlings waiting for kinder weather, or for me to finish preparing the other beds.

I had to spot-water my teensy pepper seedlings in the mornings all week, and hope that providing water directly at the plant would provide a margin of safety. I lost a couple of them anyway, but the majority are good so far. The peppers I transplanted a few weeks earlier into my hydroponic trays, however, adored the hot weather and doubled in size during the past week!

A pair of sweet pimiento peppers flank a ping tung long eggplant.

Other heat-lovers included the basil in my new blue herb planter. It’s an ordinary strawberry pocket planter, which I populated with kitchen herbs rather than strawberries. I moved it into ‘bright shade’ during the heat wave, as the herbs were planted only a couple of weeks ago and I wanted to be sure they didn’t cook in the planter. I really recommend making a planter like this, so you won’t have to constantly police your herb bed to keep some of the busy herbs like sage or oregano from crowding out and overshading others. My tiny 2 square feet of herb bed had sprawled to over 9 square feet through the fall and winter, and I had to cut it WAY back a week or two ago to get good access back to the fence.

Dual pockets of basil, plus sage, marjoram, italian oregano, and a crown of english thyme.

Normally I’d have beans by now, but I was late to the game and didn’t plant my usual Monte’s Italian heirloom (a variety of borlotti bean). The pill bugs, aka “The Eaters”, have been wreaking havoc on bean seedlings of all kinds, eating away parts of the stem until the leaves hang by a tiny thread. Of a dozen bush bean seedlings, only two have survived so far, and they seem to have gotten 4 of the 6 Monte’s Italian that I planted a week or two ago. I need to get some diatomaceous earth and hope that slows them down. I should also be ‘baiting’ with melon rind, or a saucer lid, or other thing they can hide under so I can remove them. Gotta get on that!

At least my painted lady runner beans came back on their own, an annual that goes perennial in this mild climate. They stopped setting flowers during the week of insane heat, but should get back to it now.

It wouldn’t be a garden update if it didn’t have a shot of our Garden Helper, usually found napping on the job. It’s better than sitting by the bird watering area, thinking impure thoughts, so I won’t complain.

Hey, when you’re this gorgeous, you need to really max out on the beauty sleep!

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Plz! No paparazzi at naptime!

Our bestest buddy the Booster is doing really well and has regained much of the weight she lost this past fall, when we feared the worst. None of the tests we ran turned up anything: she was pronounced incredibly healthy for a 13.5 year old kitteh, but she was growing noticeably skinnier and I could feel more bones along her back.

I started reading the labels on the canned food, the treats, and dry food in the pet store. The dry food has 2 to 2.5 times the protein of the canned stuff, and more carbs, and the treats were similar. I wondered if the canned food was simply not providing enough protein and carbs to maintain Boo’s muscle mass and keep her warm during the colder fall/winter weather. I got some high-quality dry food and started offering them free-choice dry food again. They were all over it with great enthusiasm.

When I listen to sidewalk, I can hear ocean! … What you mean, no?

Within the week, Boo stopped losing muscle mass. Her hind legs, which were getting so thin that I could feel the tendons near her paws, plumped up again. She’s regained all her muscle mass, though not much fat, and her neck and back are noticeably more muscular. I’m really shocked that high-end canned food made with good ingredients is not enough to keep her healthy. I am very glad that she is fine again, and kind of shocked and scared that I could have been accidentally starving her! OK, not *starving*, the vet said that she was a far cry from that, but it was a startling change in Boo that I picked up on pretty quickly.

All’s well now, but I wanted to post about it in case other folks’ aging kittehs are starting to get bony. Don’t just chalk it up to the aging process. See if different or better food, or combinations of food, will work. Feed high-energy treats like Greenies, bits of cheese, etc, to help your fuzzball build up strength. And don’t give up! I look forward to many more happy years with the Booster Bunny. They don’t stay with us forever, but we want them with us as long as possible, as long as they are still enjoying being here. She’s back to her sassy self!

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Booster Update

Boo is 13 now, and will be 14 in June.  She’s been losing weight noticeably.   We had blood work done, and it came back with all ok– not thyroid, liver function, or diabetes, any of which can cause weight loss in older cats.   Meanwhile, her coat is still thick and glossy and soft, and when she was in for her annual in September, the vet and the techs all said she seemed like a much younger cat than her age.

I took Boo in for an x-ray today.  She’d lost another quarter-pound, in just 2 weeks, but nothing obviously wrong on the x-ray.  The doctor will call me tomorrow (her regular doctor wasn’t in).

The vet-tech said that she is not bony; she sees really emaciated cats and Boo is nowhere near there.  Boo was 13+ pounds over a year ago, and her weight has been slowly and steadily coming down since we took them off dry food entirely after the big pet-food recall.  It may just be that she’s been doing the equivalent of South Beach or Atkins for cats for close to a year now.

No need to panic unless the doctor comes up with a reason tomorrow.  We need to remember that Boo is not a huge cat, at least as far as bone structure.  Snark’s fairly muscular weight is still just around 8 pounds.  Boo is currently at 9 pounds, 12 ounces.

The vet-tech did suggest fewer treats so that Boo would eat her normal food better.  That will take care of itself when I am working offsite daily, I suspect.  In the meantime, I will only ‘treat’ a couple times a day, and give only 2 or 3 Greenies instead of 5 or 6.

I know they can’t stay with us forever.  Boo and Snark came to me as kittens in October and December of 1994.  Someday they will pass on, and it’s likely to be within the next few years.  Lots of domestic housecats who are primarily indoor cats live to be 16, 18, even 20 is not uncommon anymore.   We’ll just be extra-good to them and hope for the best.

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squishable.com tiger!
I just discovered Squishables, big squeezy armfuls of plushy critter goodness. They has tigers! They has monkeys! Even sheepses! Squeeeee!

squishable sheep! I predict sheep raids in the SCA will come back into fashion!

Cough. Ahem. I mean, they have a wide veriety of popular creatures, depicted as fat, fuzzy, balls of squee, err, um, as neotenous symbolic representations that invite tactile contact for primate reassurance. Huggable! Did we mention huggable!

squishable.com code monkey, err monkey!

I almost forgot the best part:

Pix 4 charity! For every picture of you smiling with your Squishable that we receive in the month of November, we’ll donate a dollar to Operation Smile. [a charity that helps children born with facial deformities receive corrective surgery-- SRC] The more smiling faces, the more cash, up to $500.

So what are you waiting for? Get out there and get your Squishable, and take a picture of you and your new buddy! Buy one for the helpdesk at your company– they need a mascot, preferably one that’s huggable, after dealing with you lot all day, every week!

Let the squishing begin!

Disclaimer: I have no affiliation with Squishables right now but I am planning to become a customer as soon as I start my holiday shopping! I know a Code Monkey or two who could use more hugs, for instance.

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We have a new October holiday, the Boosterversary. It’s a celebration of the Booster, whose photo adorns our homepage. Not only did Boo come to live with me in October (of 1994, when she was just a teensy kitunia) but last year in October, she was LOST. She was out at dusk and ran off, and was missing for several days.

I did all the usual lost-cat things: posters, going out and calling, shaking kitty-treat bags, and so on. A national lost-pet listing service gave me a unique piece of advice that I hadn’t found via any other venue: put one of your shirts outside in your backyard, a shirt that you have worn. The smellier, the better– a gym shirt is ideal. The woman who told me this said that she had, over the years, had many reports of people finding their lost pet sitting on the shirt the very next morning. She said that a persistently “lost” pet was often hurt and hiding, and not daring to come out, but that the shirt would represent your protection and safety to the pet and embolden it to remain outside its hiding place in daylight.

My husband woke up before me the next day, looked out the window, and said “She’s there! Boo is outside!” He ran to the porch and opened the back door to let her in. She had been sitting on the shirt. I called the hotline back and reported her as “found”. She had a nasty two-puncture bite that we treated at the vet’s, but was otherwise clean, well-groomed, and tidy. Clearly she’d found someplace to comfortably hide out during the several days of her absence. She had been missing at least 3 nights, maybe 4, by then.

Happy Boosterversary, Boo. Tonight, we dance the mamushka for you!

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dancing mare

Absolutely marvelous dressage demonstration; also lovely for those of us with equine or ‘taur fursonas– how do horses dance? This mare is not just doing dressage, she seems to LIKE to dance! The freeze-frames one can do from this vid are great for getting tricky leg details right for art, too!

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…it’s time to change your mind.

When confronted with evidence that recalled petfood with new UPC labels over the recalled labels was being sold in their stores, Wal-Mart had a number of choices.

  • “That’s terrible, we will check into it immediately!”
  • “We doubt it, but we will check on it.”
  • “It must be an isolated case, we would never do that.”
  • “You’re wrong, we aren’t doing that.”
  • “There isn’t any recalled pet food at our stores. And if there was, it would be somebody else’s fault.”Guess which option they picked?
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    I found a holistic cat care page with some advice, but, even though I am not a vet, my advice is different. Why? Because a lot of vets, even holistic ones, still have the ‘treat the symptom’ mentality that doesn’t always think about side effects. Do your own research, including talking to vets.

    Before going into ANY of the holistic vet advice, first I say, GET RID OF YOUR DRY CAT FOOD. NOW. Either switch your cats to canned food or, if your cats hunt or are kittens, get them started on a RAW diet. You will never regret that– they’ll be cheaper to feed and healthier cats! Mine were too old and didn’t wanna do it, but I may try again sometime. :-)

    I got my kitties off the dry food because of the petfood scare. Now that they are off it, I am blown away by the positive changes, ranging from one cat’s arthritis largely disappearing to the other cat being less skittish. Cats aren’t meant to eat lots of grain. They can if they have to, and even seem to thrive. I always got lots of complements at the vet’s on the condition of my cats, as I fed them Iam’s dry and a can of Fancy Feast daily. I didn’t know how much better they could be doing!

    It is going to be more expensive, yes. But I find that if I read can ingredients and look for sales, it’s not that bad. It probably averages about $1.30/day total to feed the pair of them, an 8 pound and an 11 pound cat. If you can’t do that, I understand– time was I couldn’t either. So do what you can, and supplement with what you can afford. It is still cheaper than the vet bills in the long run, but there was a time we couldn’t afford those, either. I know you love your kitties, so don’t get bummed out if you’re reading this and feel like you can’t do it all!

    So, on to the vet’s advice:

    If, despite your efforts, your cat does develop kidney disease, these strategies may help. Use supplements designed for humans (grind them up or puncture gel capsules) and adjust dosages accordingly.

    1. Antioxidants. Which ones and how much?
    Vitamin E (d-alpha tocopherol) – 50 I.U. per day
    Vitamin C (sodium ascorbate powder tastes less sour than ascorbic acid and is easier to hide in food) – 250 mg twice a day

    I strongly disagree. Vitamin C in excess can cause bleeding, which is the LAST thing you want in major blood filtering organs. The problem with ‘excess’ is that it’s highly individual. Now that I eat a lot of veggies from my garden, I find that if I eat a lot of fruit (like 3 or 4 peaches over the course of a day, I can get a killer nosebleed from it. I’ve had an “Emergen-C” packet set off a giant nosebleed. I never realized that I was overdosing with C until reading that as a side effect– I figured I was just prone to nosebleeds, and was getting off Allegra in case it was that. Nope! As for Vitamin E, kittygrass and good food will do that.

    2. Coenzyme Q-10 – 10 mg once to twice a day.

    Don’t know any reason to contraindicate this, though I’m wary of supplementing cats rather than bettering their quality of food. Despite the plethora of CoQ-10 supplements that are certified as egg-free, egg yolk remains one of the best sources of ubiquinone-10. An occasional raw organic egg yolk is also excellent kitty nutrition. If yours are like mine, they may need you to over-easy it and eat the white, then give them the plate and make them think they’re getting away with something.

    3. Omega-3 fatty acids may help improve kidney function. Be sure to supplement with fish oil, not flax seed oil, since cats can’t convert the linoleic acid in flax seed oil to the final form, arachidonic acid. How much? Pop a hole in a fish-oil capsule and give your cat about 2 drops daily.

    Great advice re: the fish vs flax. But 2 drops from a capsule daily? Much better to share a tin of wild-caught sardines in WATER with your cat once a week, giving the cat the juice and a sardine or two. The organs and tiny bones in the sardines are full of the goodness that kitties are designed for, and they’re good for YOU too.

    4. All nutrients needed to grow kidney tissue are found in kidney tissue, so supplementation with glandular kidney tissue ensures that any nutrients we aren’t supplying to our cats are obtained. How much? 1/4 capsule of desiccated kidney tissue, twice daily.

    Ask the butcher at your local Whole Foods for organic kidney, rather than buying the dessicated kidney pills that many holistic cat care folks recommend. Since the kidney is a filter, who wants factory-farmed poisoned animals supplying kidney, ugh?! They sell the Rocky chicken livers, but may have kidney and hearts from roasting chickens or from whole turkeys. Any of the organic organ meats are *great* for kitties if yours will eat them. Ours eat liver cooked, but won’t eat it raw, silly things.

    5. Acupuncture helps appetite and improves blood flow to the kidneys.

    Could be. I doubt that it would outweigh the trauma of transport, though– the kitty doesn’t know that she is going for a relaxing, painless acupuncture treatment. She knows that the carrier usually means a butt-probe and a shot, possibly other indignities as well. Even worse if the acupuncturist works out of your vet’s office, where the all too familiar smells and sounds will make your kitty long to be home before something happens to her.

    6. B-complex vitamins are lost with the increased urination, vomiting, and diarrhea which often accompany kidney disease. So, a B-complex supplement can help. How much? 1/4 of a B-50 tablet, twice daily. Also, anemia, often seen in early kidney disease, may respond to an increase in B vitamins, but anemia in end-stage kidney disease will not.

    If you’re not already feeding Nutritional Yeast (large flake in bulk bins at many food stores), it’s a good idea, as the B vitamins are critical in kidney health. Also, most cats LOOOOVE it, which can’t be said about pills.

    7. Supplementation with calcium carbonate may help gastrointestinal problems, acidosis, and calcium imbalance. How much? 100mg, twice daily

    No, don’t feed kitty gritty stuff that makes her like her food less. Give her more sardines, with their tiny bones, or make a bonestock for kitty by intensely stewing some chicken bones like you would for soup stock, and feeding her the broth as a treat.

    Dr. Nancy Scanlan has a holistic veterinary practice in Sherman Oaks, Calif.

    And I’m not at all casting aspersions on her abilities as a vet. I do think that many vets don’t fully consider how stressful small changes can be to cats, even ones that are well. Of course your kitty will eventually eat her food if she is hungry, and you will think “oh, she is taking the supplements just fine now!”. But it’s another little layer of stress on top of the illness, and hiding the illness (because that’s what cats DO). Also, the straight supplement path ignores the possiblity for healing synergy from complementary ingredients, such as the extra protein in fish and egg yolk.

    Good luck, and healthy kitties!! [ok to link to this, I'm keeping it public for that specifically; I am screening comments, though, as this may be a contentious topic]

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    …doing the impossible before breakfast: Mule gives birth (NPR).

    They don’t know yet whether the foal is a mule, with 63 chromosomes, or a donkey, with 62. Or a chimera.

    Maybe the little guy is the savior to the overworked beasts of burden, a virgin birth to a lowly pack mule. Born to lead to freedom all hooved mammals who labor without surcease and find their rewards to be, not retirement in green pastures, but a trip to the knackers. Orwell’s prefigurement made flesh, and Boxer the patron saint. “I will work harder.”

    Goddess grant it, in our lifetimes, eh?

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    Usually having a cat curl up next to you is a good thing. Not if you’re at this particular hospice, though, and it’s this particular cat.

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