Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Cat Tales

We got a cat! E had NO IDEA a cat was even a possibility. We totally surprised him.

B had been saying no for so long, I didn't really think it would happen. I don't think I ever wrote about it but he'd said yes, like two years ago, but then pulled back just as I was about to go meet a cat down in Philly. I had been hoping for a Russian Blue and they had one at a shelter down there. Then, B, E and me were all at Houston's where B dropped the bomb- "Sorry, I can't do it". And that was that. He was worried about the cat smelling, hair all over, and the expense. He also just isn't a cat person. He's always had dogs. 

Our lifestyle doesn't lend itself to having a dog. We never go away, but in the summer, we'd been spending our Saturday nights sleeping over my cousin's condo down the shore, to go to the beach on Sundays. You can leave a cat overnight without a problem, expense, etc. You can't do that with a dog. We also don't have a yard at home, really. Not one a dog could just run. It's just not fair to the dog. Because we also don't have the time to be going to dog parks or whatever. The dog would be alone way too much. I had a hamster, when I was in middle school or early high school, I think. I wasn't getting involved with a pet that I had to clean out a cage. That would bring me NO joy whatsoever. I had enough problems with that damned Betta fish and the tank. What a PAIN in the ass.

You might say, "yeah, but what about a litter box? You have to clean that!". A litter box is NOT a cage. A cage has to be washed out and it's trapping stink in there. I can't explain it but even with a regular litter box- just a plastic box with litter, it's still different than an enclosed cage of what hamsters and guinea pigs live in.

Especially because I got the Litter Robot III - Open Air. This thing is like the egg from Mork & Mindy. It's huge. It's so cool. Basically, the cat goes in, does it's business, then depending on the time set- mine is the factory setting of seven minutes- the globe rotates, sifting out the pee and poop, and the waste falls into a drawer that has a bag/liner. There's a light indicator when the waste area is full, but I've been emptying it every or every other day. You just open the drawer, close up the bag and throw it away. I asked my cleaning people if they smelled cat and they said no. They said they do go into houses that stink from cat. So I'll take their word for it. I also have a baking soda box thing near the Robot. And B of course filled the house with his Vanilla Plug-Ins. Litter Robot

Acorn took to the Robot immediately. She likes to watch it cycle.

**I do want to add that our power went out this past Sunday morning. I'm kind of glad it did, because I realized- Omg, what am I going to do about the litter stuff?? Apparently other people have considered this because the Litter Robot company makes a back-up batter for it. Of course it's like $70 but I just bought it. Better safe than sorry. I got my Litter Robot on eBay for like a hundred dollars less than it costs retail so I felt like I could buy the back-up battery without feeling totally taken on this expensive poop house. Litter Robot Back-up Battery

The cat- Acorn. She's four. The rescue lady told me she's three, but clearly in her paperwork, she's four. Also, looking in her paperwork, apparently her name was Baby until she was surrendered. Then she was named Acorn. E took to Acorn so it stuck. I was thinking her name should be Hillary. As in Clinton. Since the only reason B really relented was because we were shell-shocked by the election and I was in a full on Ativan-taking state of depression. We were at work the next day, and in my listless haze, I saw a different cat (that turned out not to be available) that he agreed to let me get. Anyhow, Acorn stuck.

Acorn and the D-K family had some early growing pains though. Acorn is front declawed. (WE DID NOT DO THIS. My friend Coley told me not to tell people she's declawed. But- we didn't do it, and wouldn't do it. When they're surrendered, especially not a kitten, they still need a home and have a hard time getting one. No reason not to take one that already had this horrific surgery. It's not their fault). I don't know if it's because she's declawed, but she bites. The animal hospital tech where I met and picked her up from told me she does "love bites". But overstimulate her or who knows why else, she had been hiss/biting. Not to me though. It was like a horror movie, like The Bad Seed, where all these awful things are happening behind the scenes, but the main character is not seeing it. She didn't hiss/bite me, but she did it to E and B. It was bad.

E's hand on top, B's on bottom
I read in her paperwork that she bit the original owner in aggressive play and she was hospitalized with cellulitis for five days. Okay, well, seniors get cellulitis, so that isn't the bad part. But I couldn't have my husband and son scared of the cat. Especially since we got the cat mostly for E. I wasn't sleeping or eating because I was so stressed out. If I finally fell asleep, I was waking up in the middle of the night traumatized by it. The biting was mostly unprovoked. Yes, it could partially be because it's a new place, new people, and E was basically Lenny from Of Mice And Men with her. In her face.

You don't realize how much you don't know about cats until you get one. While I was up all night, I'd be reading cat information and blogs. I didn't know you have to let a cat come to you first- so they think it's their choice. I've been around cats, plenty. I just never really thought about it. With Cohen's cat, Maximus, he just immediately comes to me. I don't have to go to him. Acorn is ours though, and a new focus, I guess, and we go to her because she's there and it's a new thing to have a pet there. She also seemed okay with us touching her belly, but then she also bit B and maybe E for doing that. I then read that belly touching, even if they turn over and show it, is a real no-no. Who knew?? She's showing her belly- so you assume, that like with a dog, she wants you to touch it. Not so.

*See blog post about the cat belly- https://gocatgosf.com/tag/cat-belly/

The above link is written by a friend, Dan, that I've known since I was in middle school. He was my best friend's brother's friend so I saw him at her house all the time. He's a cat behaviorist. I know that sounds funny- not because I think it's funny, but everyone I've said this to thinks it's funny. It's real profession and for people with cat problems it must be a necessity. He's out in San Francisco though. But I needed help. I contacted Dan and he was going to do a Facetime/Skype call with me to discuss these behavior things.

*Dan's main page with a blog and other useful cat information, including his services, fees, etc:
Go Cat Go!

I was at my wits end. I had picked Acorn up on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving (November 23). She hid under this gross couch in the basement, that came with our house, for two days. We didn't even know if she was alive or if this was normal (It is.). Then when she did come out, she'd be loving, then bite. I started calling her Cujo.

From the jump, I'd thought the whole process was too easy. The first time around when I was looking at cats, and I'd contacted rescues, I had to fill out extensive paperwork, I would need references from friends, family, vets. I practically had to sign in blood. With Acorn, I asked if she was good with kids, good for a first time cat owner. Rescue lady said "the cat is very sweet and gentle. Seems unfazed by dogs and cats. Always friendly to anyone who meets her".

She wanted me to set up a visit to meet. I chose two days later on a Saturday. Rescue lady told me she was away, and it "gets busy" on Saturdays, but I could visit Acorn where she was staying. I didn't know what busy meant. Like, if someone else came before me and wanted her, would they get her? I left my house at 8:15a so I'd be the first person there when they opened. When I went to visit her, the people there thought I'd take her right then if I wanted her. I was surprised- I thought this was just to meet her and see her temperment. I told them I wasn't prepared yet, but I wanted to come back that Wednesday, which was four days after I met her.

I still thought I had to be "chosen". I'd emailed the rescue lady that I wanted her but didn't hear from her for two days. I called the place Acorn was staying directly and they said I was set for Wednesday. My friend Alex and I went and picked Acorn up, got no information, and I was on my way with a cat. I didn't hear from the rescue lady again until Wednesday November 30th! I think that's a long time to check-in, when she knew this was our first cat ever. I've never had a dog either. I told her about the biting that day and she got back to me on December 2, in the afternoon.

She said, "Sorry for the delay". Yeah, me too Lady. She pretty much said that cats sometimes bite, she just needs to get acclimated. I sent her the pictures of E and B's hands. She said, (paraphrasing), that if it doesn't work out they take their animals back. I told her that I wasn't up to that yet- but I felt like I had no support, so I was going to a vet, have the behaviorist appointment set and I'd get back to her after. I didn't want to give Acorn up- when she's not biting, she's great. However, I was on the verge of tears every day and didn't know what to do. I'd point blank asked Rescue Lady if the cat was good with kids. I'd read in the paperwork after I took her, that the cat lived with a senior woman. How the hell would she even know if Acorn was good with kids?

I went to Dr. Dennis Sepulveda at Veterinary Wellness Center on Rock Road in Glen Rock. I can't rave enough about them all, especially the doctor. My appointment was for 4p. I'd had a difficult time getting Acorn in the carrier, and once I did, I ran out the door, with Acorn and E. It was 3:45p. I'd stopped at the bank across the street to activate my debit card because I didn't know how much it would cost. Of course my card wouldn't work. No time to fix it then. The vet's office told me the appointment would be about thirty minutes. I thought that was plenty of time to get E to swim practice in Ridgewood by five thirty. 

By the time I got to the vet at like 3:50p, I was already super emotional. This was a nightmare. I told them at the vet earlier, when I made the appointment for later, that I was just really upset and gave an overview of what was going on. When we got there at 4p, they took us in an exam room, and listened to my story, in depth. I went to show the pics of the bitten hands, but I couldn't find my phone. I thought maybe I left it at the bank or in the car, but I couldn't think about that at the moment.

The doctor came in, showed me all his bites and scratches, told me had six cats, and immediately put me at ease. Acorn was happily resting on the exam table, of course, not hissing, biting, or doing anything. The doc looked her over, said she has good teeth, and said she looked good all around. He told me about cats acclimating, gave me tips, printed some information out for me, answering questions I had that the rescue lady didn't bother to answer. Dumb questions, like do I leave lights or music on for her when we're not there. Is she going to eat my make-up if we let her all over the house? Then the techs cut her back nails and cleaned the wax out of her ears. Biting or hissing at no one. All in all, I was there until after five o'clock. The doctor spent a ton of time with us, making me feel like I didn't have to give Acorn back. That everything would be okay.

I went to pay and they said it was on them. IT WAS ON THEM. What? I've been to twenty doctors for E's tics, they spend very little time with him, and then charge me my fifty dollar copay, seeming like they don't give a crap. I was so overwhelmed with gratitude and hopefulness, that I just started bawling. Literally. I couldn't stop. They definitely earned my trust, respect, love, gratitude, etc. I highly recommend them. You know they have you and your pet's best interest at heart. My friend Carolina happened to see me, clearly crying, through the window of the vet and waited until I came out. I couldn't even tell her what was going on because E was going to already be late for swim practice. *Sorry Carolina. I told you I'd call you, but clearly, I've had a lot going on. 

Veterinary Wellness Center

I ran the cat in the house, didn't even look around, then took off toward the Ridgewood YMCA. Normally I could get there in like seven minutes or so, even at the five o'clock hour. BUT EVERY ROAD WAS CLOSED ON THE WAY. It was Ridgewood's Tree Lighting. I still didn't know where I left my phone. I dropped E at swim, then without even telling him, I left, went to the bank, went back to the vet (who probably thought I totally lost my mind), and still no phone. I stopped home, went to the basement, where the cat was living, and there was my phone, on the chair, where I left it when I was trying to get the cat in the carrier. Yay for no lost new iPhone, but my nerves were shot, man. SHOT.

I cancelled my appointment with Dan because I felt like I got all the information I needed for the time being. But, like I said, his blog is a great resource too. Part of me wanted to keep the appointment just so I could write about it. I have a lot of curious friends who were waiting to hear about it. But I really couldn't justify the expense when I have the vet right here to help me. At least for now.

Update: Acorn is doing better. No more hiss-biting. She's still doing the love bite thing. She's still nipping. For instance, she likes to climb up on me, sniff in my face, maybe lick my face and lay on me like a baby, with her head above the crook of my arm. But then I put my hand near her face, which she normally loves, and she went to bite at me three times this morning. It didn't seem like it was mean or angry biting, and had she connected, it may not have hurt, but it seemed like more than the love bite thing, and biting is biting. It's scary! And she's the one crawling and laying on ME. I didn't just grab her and put her there, so it is definitely confusing.

The problem is the unpredictability factor. Like, I don't mind her in my face at all, but I can't say I'm not afraid she'll bite me in the face. But it's only been two weeks. We're taking our time to get acquainted.

She's ventured upstairs now. Today was the first day I gave her the run of the house while not there. Just not our bedrooms. The doors are shut. Yesterday was a complete clusterfcuk. The cleaning people were coming for the first time since she moved in. The cable guy was coming too. They both needed to get into the laundry room where we are not allowing her. Too many places to hide where we couldn't get to her. And that's where all the cleaning supplies are. I'd thrown out my back and I had to keep following both the cleaning people and the cable guy around every time they went to the basement to make sure while they did what they needed to do, she didn't run in there while no one saw and locked her in. I ended up locking the cable guy in there at one point because he was so quiet in there, but that's another story. And only for a few minutes.

She was strutting around like she owned the place this morning. When I left she was under the couch in the living room. I guess I will see if there was any mass destruction or anything when I get home. Just like with kids, it's always the stuff you don't think about.

**Update #2- I'm home, she was under the couch in the living room where I left her at 10a. But she must have gone down to the basement at some point. She came out when E and I came home. Then someone rang the doorbell and she booked downstairs. 

***Other cat accoutrements that have made my life easier***

Pet Feedster Plus- https://www.petfeedster.com/

I'm only feeding dry food which I got the okay for from the animal hospital she was staying at, and the vet here. I'm using Wysong Vitality which the doctor said was a really good choice. This feeder is programmable for up to 10 meals in a day, I think. I only use two meals but I guess if you have multiple pets? I don't know. It's easy to program and holds ten pounds of food. 

Pioneer Pet drinking fountain- https://www.chewy.com/pioneer-pet-stainless-steel-drinking/dp/49052?

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