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27 November 2010

Cats Facts - Tongues and Whiskers

Ed drinking

Since the 1940s when an engineer at MIT filmed a cat drinking, we knew that cats lap water by entending their tongues straight down toward the bowl with the tip of the tongue curled backwards, so that the top of the tongue touches the liquid first. Recent slow-motion video from researchers at MIT, Virginia Tech and Princeton shows that the tip of the tongue barely touches the surface of the liquid before the cat draws its tongue back up. As it does so, a column of liquid forms between the moving tongue and the liquid’s surface. The cat then closes its mouth, just in time to capture the liquid before gravity pulls it back down. This style of drinking is very neat. Water doesn't get on the cat's chin and isn't splashed all over (like dogs).

Many people think the little barbs on a cat's tongue help it drink. But the new video shows just the tip of the tongue touching the liquid. You probably know from your cat licking you that the tip of the tongue is much smoother than the center, and doesn't have the big barbs. The tongue barbs are used for grooming and eating, and they may also help the cat keep the liquid in it's mouth. But that part of the tongue isn't dippped into the water when the cat drinks.

I've also read, and observed in my cats, that they swallow after every 4 or 5 laps of water.  Lap, lap, lap, lap, swallow.  Lap, lap, lap, lap, swallow.  It's very rhythmic. This behavior makes sense as the cat gets enough liquid into its mouth to swallow and not have it drip out as it tries to lap up more water.

Another interesting thing about cats and drinking or eating is that many cats do not like to eat or drink from bowls that touch their whiskers. Small round bowls or bowls that are too deep can cause a lot of bending on the whiskers when the lowers its head to eat.  This is one reason why some cats will paw the food out of their bowl or will tip their water dish.  If your cat does this, try a shallow oval-shaped bowl and see if your cat is more comfortable with that bowl.  Kitty may still play with the food or water, but then you probalby just have a playful kitty. At least you know it's not becuase his whiskers are getting squeezed by a small bowl.

26 November 2010

Black Friday at the Animal Shelter

"Black Friday" means a shopping frenzy to many people. To me, it meant spending time at the animal shelter with my black, white, gray, cream, orange, and calico friends. Here are some of the crowd I socialized with at the shelter today.

Two of my favorites, Twiskers and Aurora were very happy to get some attention. Aurora Twiskers is as sweet as they come. A quiet, affectionate boy who enjoys being cuddled. Aurora has the cutest round face you can imagine. She's still learning how big the world is, but was very calm when I held her up near the window and let her see the staff who were cleaning the loudly woofing dog kennels.

LindyJosephineLindy and Josephine were glad to get a few moments away from each other. Kittens can be so trying, expecially when you're cooped up with one 24/7! Lindy was glad to have time to run around the room, chase some toys, and get a good stretch. Josephine is still a little shy, but she's coming out of her shell. And it's a beautiful, fluffy shell. She must have 2 inches of fur coving her little kitten body! Since they're together in the same cage, Lindy must be Josephine's mom, and I'm just trying to imagine what dad looked like for gray, short-haired Lindy to create such a colorful fluffball of a kitten.

RenoirRenoir was the Black Cat for Black Friday.  There are always plenty of black cats at the shelter because their adoption rate is lower than other cats. Superstition, no cute markings, whatever the reason, it seams odd to those of us who love cats and appreciate them for their unique personality that anyone would overlook or decide against a cat just because it's black.  Renoir got some good lovin' today, and some extra quiet time while Alberto had a turn out of his cage.

Alberto

Oh, Alberto. You big, affectionate, vocal boy. You're not a little kitten any more and you're growing into a handsome young man. I know you wish you could have all the attention instead of having to share the volunteers with the other kitties, but you just go ahead and meow and tell us your story!  Then come out of your cage and give us your loving head bumps and body rubs. You're so handsome and loving I know you'll find a home. We need a better photo of you because your gold eyes are stunning. You just need to catch the eye of the right visitor so they can see what a wonderful boy you are.

Then there were the big kids in the multi-cat habatat room. 

SiskiyouAslanSiskiyou is just the sweetest and most handsome lover boy you can imagine. He enjoys getting his head petted and he lifts it up against your hand to be sure you know how much he appreciates the attention.  The big fluff cream tabby Aslan tried to keep nosing in on all the petting. He's so gorgeous and friendly it's hard to give him a little nudge away so the other cats can get some attention. I guess this was my Black Friday "pushy customer" and it was my pleasure to be pushed by this big ball of fur.

ButternuttAnd then there was Butternutt. Like many of us, Black Friday meant nothing to him.  He was content to stay curled up in his favorite sleeping spot.

I know I got the best deals this Black Friday. For just the cost of my time, I received love, affection, and the appreciation of animals who are patiently waiting for their forever home.

Remember your local shelter this holiday season, whether it's to adopt, volunteer, or donate.

25 November 2010

Happy Thanksgiving

Sammi & RavenIt's Thanksgiving Day and time to be extra thankful for all the wonderful things we have. As Indulged Furries, we have full bowls of healthy food, warm beds, toys, veterinary care, and owners who love us. We know we are fortunate to have so much.

Today, we're extra thankful that Raven was not seriously harmed last week when she ate a long piece of yarn. We were very lucky that it passed through her system with the help of medications and she didn't need surgery. She has returned to her playful, affectionate ways.

We're also thankful that Sammi's health continues to be good. She has absolutely no problems being a three-legged kitty and her medication & special diet keep her digestive system working properly.

I spent a couple hours at the animal shelter early this morning. They're closed for the holiday but the staff & volunteers were there making sure all the animals' cages got cleaned and making sure everyone had food, water, and clean bedding for the day. I will be back at 9am tomorrow to help out again, and I can't think of a better way to spend a day off from work. Helping care for shelter animals with other dedicated animal lovers is infinitely more rewarding than jostling among crowds of people at a shopping center.

The turkey is in the oven and the house is starting to smell like a holiday feast. There will be plenty for everyone.  We hope your holidays are as bountiful and love-filled as ours.

23 November 2010

We dodged a bullet

Raven We’re meticulous about not leaving string, teaser toys, rubber bands, or little objects for our cats to get into. Over many years and 7 kittens/cats & a dog we’ve never had a problem with the animals getting into anything…..until now.

The other night Raven started vomiting violently. A small hairball came up, but not one I would expect to cause so much vomiting. The next morning she’s still vomiting, not eating, and not looking good, so I take her to the vet. The vet suspects she got into something and we went through the list: new food, human medications, holiday decorations, new toys, household cleaners….I couldn't think of anything. A few minutes later I remember I was trimming the edge off a fleece blanket and ended up with about a 15-inch strip a little wider than some yarn. Raven was laying on it and maybe I forgot about it when I picked up the trimmings. I would expect her to play and tangle herself in it, but I never imagined she would eat it. The vet was a bit skeptical too but says it’s something to keep in mind. He gave Raven medications and instructions for me to observe her carefully.

After 7 days of making 2 trips to the vet for lab tests, X-rays (showing her intestines were enlarged), medications to stop vomiting and keep her g.i. tract moving, sub-q fluids and at-home care with more medications and monitoring, Raven finally “produced” and I found the fleece!  I did forget to pick it up, and she did eat it (I still find it hard to believe she ate it). I’m just thankful she didn’t require surgery to correct an intestinal blockage and my mistake didn’t have more serious consequences.

This is my first, and hopefully last experience with a cat eating a foreign object. Raven is ok, so it will be a Happy Thanksgiving at our house.  She might even get to eat a little piece of turkey.

Please take a few extra minutes to go through your house and make sure it's as safe as possible for your pets. And remember with the holidays coming with all the extra decorations, ribbons, packing peanuts...that you take an extra look for items you never suspected your pets might get into.

18 November 2010

Time flies at the shelter

Last week, there were about 150 cats available for adoption in our shelter. About 50 are lucky enough to be in one of the multi-cat habitat rooms where they have a little space to walk around, sit on a chair, or climb a cat tree. The remaining cats are housed in cages, either alone or with some littermates. My main focus in volunteering is to socialize the adoptable cats who are housed in the cages. 

Last weekend I spent 12 hours at the shelter - 6 hours both Saturday and Sunday. I spent 3 hours cleaning & helping with laundry, and 9 hours socializing with the cats. When socializing, I try to spend 10-15 mintues on each cage - and that cage may have just 1 adult cat or may have 4 kittens. If a cat seems stressed by the interaction, I may spend only 5 minutes petting or just talking to it while I clean up its cage. But a cage of rambunctious kittens may need 20 minutes of play time to burn off some kitten energy.  Sometimes there's a cat I take a liking to and spend a little extra time with.  But I try to be "fair" and give all the cats the same amount of attention.  

Along with socializing each cat/cage I make sure they have a clean cage, fresh water, food, and a clean litter tray.  This can take a few minutes for each cage, especially a cage of kittens who spilled their food and tipped their water bowl.  So, all-in-all, it may take 20 minutes to take care of the cats in each cage.

One of the things I do to try to prevent the cats from getting frustrated about not getting attention is I socialize in only 1 room at a time. Our shelter is set up with 10 cages per room. Realistically, it takes at least 2-1/2 hours to get to all the cages in that room because of the time spent cleaning, helping a shelter guest, or getting side-tracked with something.  Then I move on to the next room.  In each room, the cats seem to realize that they will each get a turn out of their cage.  I find it heartbreaking to go into a room, take some of the cats out, then leave others disappointed that they didn't get a turn.  Their life is already so difficult that I don't think it's right to add any type of disappointment to their life.  There are days when you get a little off schedule due to spending extra time cleaning or potential adopters needing the room to visit with a cat. Then the last few cats in a room may get short-changed on their time. If this happens on Saturday, I try to make up their time on Sunday. If it happens on Sunday, I don't sleep well.

I wish I could spend at least 20 minutes with each cat, but there are simply too many cats and not enought time. But this weekend it was gratifying to know that working together, the cat volunteers were able to give almost every adoptable cat some attention! That's an amazing feat considering the limited number of volunteers and the abundance of cats.

08 November 2010

Update on the "almost" momma kitty

The kitty I wrote about in October who was in the shelter and pregnant has been adopted!  She was spayed on October 21 and just last week she found her forever home. Hopefully her new life will bring nothing but warm, cozy nights with a loving owner, an overflowing food bowl, and lots of toys and love.