The Adventures of my FurKid – part 4

The Adventures of my FurKid – part 4

We moved out of the townhouse in December 2015, into a house with a garden. Pringles was very skittish for the first few weeks in the new house, which was understandable, and all he wanted to do was get out into the garden so that he could hide underneath the house. We kept him locked inside for a week, just to be safe, we didn’t want him running away and we finally let him out for the first time a few days before Christmas.

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The house has a rainwater tank (we aren’t connected to council water supply) and I was woken up early one morning (just before sunrise) during our first week in our ‘new’ house, with Pringles yowling “Mom, Mom!”. It’s his ‘rescue me’ meow that sounds exactly like a small child calling for mom! I went outside armed with a torch (it was still dark) and a tumbler of water to find Pringles sitting up on top of the water tank and the other cat sitting on the ground at the base. Pringles saw me and suddenly got all brave because he now had backup, jumped off the water tank and chased the other cat over the grass, down the garden and over the fence onto the golf course before he came sauntering back as if to say “Did you see, Mom? I chased him!” I haven’t seen that cat in our garden again but its so funny how Catty needs backup before he gets all brave.

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That summer was particularly warm and the cicadas were out in full-force, signing their deafening song and flying around all over the place. I was getting tired of catching the cicadas that flew inside the house and putting them back out the window. Pringles was busy sunning himself in the bay window one morning, when a cicada flew in. He had no idea what it was and as usual, just ignored it. I had something in mind, so I called him and and used the words we’d trained him with to indicate that there was food or a snack. Well, he pounced on the cicada, played with it for a while and then ate it.

The next cicada that flew in didn’t stand a chance! As soon as he heard the flapping wings, he dashed across the room, pounced and ate it. He obviously likes the taste of cicada. One year later, he actively hunts then in the garden, listening for the noise they make, creeping up on them and either pouncing or jumping up to knock it off a branch, if it’s sitting in a bush. We no longer refer to them as cicadas, they’re now called “Catty snacks”.

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Not long after we moved in, Pringles decided that our garden wasn’t a big enough territory for him, and he took to roaming the neighbours gardens as well. He soon learned (by accident) that the one neighbour has a small dog. One morning, he came leaping over the 6ft fence, as fast as he could go, with his tail all puffed up and eyes as big as saucers. The dog must have snuck up on him (they’ve told me he’s “cat-friendly”) and Pringles must have been caught unawares because usually he’ll stand up to a dog if he feels the dog is in ‘his’ territory.

Since then, he seems to only roam our garden and the neighbours garden on the other side. Thankfully, the neighbours don’t mind my Catty going to visit and my “lion” can often be found lying in a sunny spot at the bottom of their garden or ‘supervising’ the gardening and ‘overseeing’ other odd jobs.

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Pringles loves attention and will often seek it out, especially if he hears voices out in the garden. There have been mornings when he’s been lying peacefully at my feet while I work, only to suddenly disappear out the cat flap to go and see who’s in his extended territory (the neighbours garden). Often when I pop out out to run errands he’ll wait a few minutes before hopping the fence to go for a cuddle or to sit on the neighbours windowsill. He’s never done this with any of our other neighbours in the past (we’ve never encouraged it) and he’s even followed a door-to-door salesman from our house to theirs, just like a dog!

At least I know where to look for him if I can’t find him at home and I know that there’s often someone keeping an eye on him, if I’m out for the day. I don’t have to worry about him wandering off around the neighbourhood, as he tends to stay between the two gardens.

We do still lock him in at night, purely for my own peace-of-mind. We live on a busy road and I’d hate for him to be run over at night. It also stops other cats from coming into our house and protects the wild hedgehogs in our garden (and any other nocturnal creatures).

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Catty is very happy to finally have his own garden and is still very playful for his 10 years. We’d warned the neighbours that he is a “cat-burglar” (see part 2) and it was almost as if Pringles heard me! A few days later, he brought a rag in through the cat flap. I returned it next door and the next day, it was back. This backwards and forwards game with the cloth continued for a week, until it was knotted to the railing and the little rascal couldn’t pull it loose.

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Winter arrived and we got to use our fireplace. This is the first time we’ve ever had a fireplace and Pringles had no idea what it was. It went from being extremely scary (with him hiding under the bed), to being tolerated from across the lounge, to becoming his best friend!  By the end of winter he could seem get close enough.  He’d also sit in front of it and wait for us to light it, giving us disgusted looks on nights when it wasn’t cold enough for a fire!

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We recently went away for a week and a few days after we returned from our trip to Gisborne and Rotorua, Catty woke me up unexpectedly. He’d waited until hubby had literally just left for work (at 6am) before waking me up with this deep, guttural “rowr, rowr, rowr.”  Still half asleep, I wondered if the cat was meowing because he hadn’t been let out yet and it was only when he made the deep-throated meow again, that I realised it was an “I’ve brought you a present” rowr and not a “let me out” or “feed me” meow!
I turned the light on in the bedroom and there on the carpet was this large Weta. At first I thought it was a huge spider and started to panic, but then I saw the feelers and realised what it was. For those of you who don’t know what a New Zealand Weta looks like, it sort of like a large cricket on steroids and about 6cm long (click on this link to read more about Weta). This was the first weta I’ve seen up close and I just wanted to get it outside before the cat ate it or it crawled into a cupboard, so I didn’t get a very good look at it. I’m not sure if it was a ground weta or a treeweta weta, I just grabbed a tissue, picked it up in and wanted to get it out the window as fast as possible before I got a serious case of the heebie jeebies.

 

Murphy’s Law, while I was carrying it from the passage into the lounge (to get it to a window the leads out to the garden), I dropped it! It was still fairly dark, so I fumbled around trying to find the right light switch for the room, hoping that I wouldn’t step on it in the process (I was barefoot) and once I got a light on, the weta had simply disappeared! Now, I knew that it wasn’t possible, for something as large as a weta to just vanish into thin air. I had dropped it mere seconds ago and it was in an open carpeted area. Where could it be? After a few minutes of looking around, I glanced at my leg and there it was, clinging onto my pyjama pants! Eeeek! And this thing just wouldn’t let go! Eventually I pulled quite firmly and the weta let go and out onto the outside windowsill it went. The last I saw of it, it was crawling along the side of our house above the garden, fully intact and unharmed as I’d manage to rescue it before Catty decided that he wanted the gift back to play with or eat as a snack!

I’ve learned over the years that when Catty brings me a gift, it’s usually caught and carried inside very carefully and is unharmed when he delivers it. If I’m going to rescue the ‘gift’, I have to move quickly, otherwise he changes his mind and either starts playing with it (which leads to his claws coming out) or he delivers a fateful bite that usually signifies that he’s going to eat it and leave a mess on the carpet.

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Christmas Eve … he’s eager to open his presents!

I’m sure there’ll be a part 5 in a year or two’s time, as Pringles is always up to no good and seems to love having these little adventures.

The Adventures of my FurKid – part 3

The Adventures of my FurKid – part 3

A few weeks after I’d posted Part 2, we were rudely awoken at 2am one morning, to the hair-raising sounds of a catfight taking place in our lounge. I thought this was rather odd, as we lock Pringles inside at night and I wondered if I’d forgotten to lock the flap. I slowly crept down the stairs, torch in hand, hair on my neck standing on end yet ready to break up a cat fight.  I got downstairs and turned on the light, only to find my dear pussycat in a full on yowling match with his own reflection in the lounge window! The heavy blackout curtains and bright streetlights were enough to create a perfectly clear reflection of himself in the window. Silly cat.

Using his scratching log as a pillow

After frustratingly trying to teach Pringles how to use the new cat flap (he’d used one in South Africa, so this wasn’t a new concept), the silly sausage still hadn’t figured out how to go outside. If I let him out through the front door and then closed the door, “locking” him out, he’d come in through the cat flap quite happily but he just couldn’t seem to wrap his head around the fact that it worked both ways and wouldn’t go out the house via the cat flap. He’d sit there scratching at the window and waiting for someone (usually me) to hold the flap open before leaping through. He had free reign of the townhouse’s small garden during the day but did get locked inside at night, not only for his own safety and my peace of mind (I don’t want him being run over or getting into cat fights) but also for the safety of the NZ noctural wildlife.  I don’t want Pringles hunting and bringing in innocent creatures during the night. He seemed to get used to being locked inside after a few weeks, he began coming in on his own as soon as it started getting dark and would curl up in his bed, quite happy to settle in for the night.

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Sneaking into our bed, when he has a perfectly good cat bed of his own!

One chilly winter’s evening, we were sitting watching something on TV. Pringles was curled up in his cat bed with his soft baby blanket draped over him, and there were soft snoring noises and grunts being emitted from the depths of the bed. Dear Catty must have been fast asleep when all of a sudden he shot out of the bed, levitating about a metre off the floor, he went higher than our coffee table!  He landed on all four paws and immediately levitated again before sitting on the floor next to his bed. He looked at his bed, looked at us and had this really confused look on his face before acting all sheepish. He must have been having a nightmare and his bed suddenly decided to “eat” him. It really was funny and we couldn’t help but laugh at him. Unfortunately, it’s one of those had-to-be-there moments that I wish I could have captured on video. We still laugh about it, years later!

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We went to South Africa for 3 weeks in May 2015 to attend a family wedding, visit friends and do a bit of sightseeing. Upon our return, we collected Pringles from the cattery that we’d put him in and they warned us that they’d had a few sneezing cats the week before and that we must just watch him in case it’s cat flu (which is highly contagious). We got him home and he was fine that day and was very happy to be home, full of purrs and constantly wanting love and to be scratched or petted. There was the odd sneeze but nothing that I was worried about.

The next day he sneezed a lot! I started to think something was wrong but it was Saturday afternoon and the Vet had already closed for the day, so I had to wait until Monday morning before speaking to them. Pringles kept us up that entire night with a runny nose and loud sneezing fits. By Monday morning, he was so blocked up that he had to breathe through his mouth and he kept waking us up every 2 hours (at night) with continual sneezing fits, coughing and a blocked nose. He even stopped eating and drinking. It was like having a sick baby in the house!

Off to the Vet we went, only to be told that he did have the dreaded cat flu! There are three types of Cat Flu; one viral that doesn’t respond to antibiotics and two bacterial types that can be treated with antibiotics. As it turned out, he had the horrible viral kind, the one that is really bad and cats can die from it if not treated in time! The poor little guy was running a very high fever (40.8°C, normal for a cat is around 38°C) but thankfully the flu was limited to his nose and throat and hadn’t gone into his chest yet. We’d managed to catch it early. The vet gave him painkillers and an antibiotic injection to prevent him from getting a secondary bacterial infection and I paid my hefty vet bill before taking my poor kitty home and tucking him up into his bed. I felt helpless, there wasn’t much that I could do to help him, he just had to fight this off on his own.

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One very sick kitty

I had to dose him up once a day with painkillers, as well as a precautionary antibiotic and he got half a L-Lysine tablet crushed and added to his food. Thankfully I keep an L-Lysine supplement in my cupboard for when I get a coldsore, so I had some already. The viral cat flu causes coldsore-like blisters on the soft palate in the mouth, inside the nasal cavaties and in the throat. It’s no wonder my poor kitty didn’t want to eat! It was so bad that I had to force-feed him food and water with a syringe for two days and he finally “asked” for breakfast after being on the meds for a few days, which was great! It meant that I was able to medicate him in his food, without me having to force-feed them to him.

Poor Catty sounded awful! I had to lock him inside as it was far too cold outside for me to let him out, there was a chilly winter wind blowing and I had to prevent him for developing a further infection, pneumonia or from infecting other neighbourhood cats. I had placed his bed next to the window, in the weak winter sun, to keep him warm and tucked him up in his bed under his baby blanket. Unfortunately, he had to get used to using his ’emergency’ litter box until he got better, he hates having to use an undignified litter box and prefers to go out in the garden.

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Unfortunately, we just had to sit and wait it out. Poor Catty’s nose was so badly blocked, yet it kept running at the same time and breathing was really difficult for him. If he wasn’t trying to breathe through his mouth, which cats hate to do, then he was trying to breathe through his nose and was constantly sniffing, sneezing and coughing. The vet said it could take anything from three to fourteen days for it to clear. I felt so sorry for him, there wasn’t much that I could do to help alleviate his symptoms. I did try to “steam” him twice a day to try clear his sinuses and would run the hot water in the shower until the bathroom was all steamy (just like you do when a child has croup) and then I’d carry him into the bathroom and stand there holding him in the steam for a few minutes until it sounded like his breathing got a little easier. At night, I just put him in the bathroom with me when I had a bath or shower and he would simply sit there and breathe in the steam all by himself. It did seem to help a little and he got into a routine where he would follow us upstairs whenever one of us went to bath or shower.

A few days later, he still wasn’t eating properly and I had to force-feed him his meds as he refused to eat his breakfast and the painkillers and L-Lysine are mixed into his morning food portion. “It’s easy and very simple to force-feed him his meds in a syringe” the vet said. “Just mix a teaspoon of wet food with a teaspoon of water and add his meds. Put the 10ml mixture into a syringe and just trickle it into his mouth. It’s easy.”, he said. Hahaha, I wonder if he’s ever actually tried to force-feed an ex-feral adult cat with a syringe?

Selfie!  (with bald patch on his front leg from his anaesthetic two weeks ago)

Eventually, he started to come right but then we had another set-back and he wouldn’t eat or drink. After trying to get Pringles to eat by himself and him not being interested, I tried for ten minutes to feed him with a syringe and he wasn’t tolerating it! Catty was growling at me, squirming and scratching my arms, cat food was going everywhere and I was getting really frustrated. I had managed to feed him with a syringe the night before I’d taken him to the vet, when the cat flu had first flared up, but he must have felt really miserable at that stage because feeding him then was a breeze; he just lay there and lapped it up! Eventually, I gave up and had my own breakfast. An hour later, I tried again. I had better luck the second time but he still wasn’t a happy Catty. Fifteen minutes later, his medication and food mix had been (frustratingly) administered, after which dear Catty decided that he was now hungry and went and sat by his food bowl, waiting for some more food! Why???!!! *Sigh* Why wouldn’t he just eat his meds and then get his “fishy” afterwards without all the fuss? Sometimes it’s just like having a naughty toddler in the house!

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Playing Hide-‘n-Seek … he’s not so good at hiding

I hated force-feed Pringles. I knew that I was trying to help him but in his eyes, I just seemed to be a big, bad meanie that was trying to shove unwanted stuff down his throat! His blocked nose still sounded really awful but it finally felt like his fever had broken, as he wasn’t feeling as hot as he had been. What really irritated me about this whole episode was how blasé the cattery was about it. Cat flu is serious and highly contagious, cats die from it. It worried me that the carrier or sick cat may still have been in there, hadn’t been quarantined and that other people’s cats may be being infected too. At least my Catty was out and I was doing the best I could to nurse him back to health. I just wished that there was more that I could do for him. It’s so hard to describe how awful he looked and sounded. He lost a total of 500g, not a lot to most people, but to a 6.5kg cat, it’s a lot! Just to give you an idea of what he sounded like, it was as bad as a human adult with a really bad case of the flu, without being able to blow his nose.

To make matters even more frustrating, I only noticed after the force-feeding episodes that the critical care food the vet had given me to mix with his medication was chicken & pork flavoured and my fussy cat doesn’t like eating anything that’s not fish flavoured! I then had an idea and wondered if I mixed his meds with fish flavoured cat food if he’d happily eat it, saving both him and me the trauma of the force-feeding, and it worked! You’d think that after having had him for so many years that I’d know this and think to check food flavours first. Well, after 3 days of force-feeding, he happily ate his meds all by himself and all the (unnecessary) stress had been for nothing, all because his food wasn’t fish flavoured!

Chilling on the deck

Pringles was really ill with this cat flu, it took four months for him to fully recover from it and there definitely were times when it was touch-and-go and we thought we were going to lose him. Unfortunately, now that the virus is in his system, he has it for life and as soon as he gets a little stressed out, it flares up again and he starts sneezing. The virus remains dormant in the body in the same way that the coldsore (herpes simplex) virus does in humans. Giving him L-Lysine in his food when he starts sneezing does help to suppress the virus and so far, we haven’t had another full-on bout of cat flu. Hopefully we never have to go through that again!

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Part 4 of The Adventures of my FurKid (which contains more funny stories, like in parts 1 & 2) is now available, click here.

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Asking to be dried after being caught outside in a sudden rain shower

 

The Adventures of my FurKid – part 1

I am “Mom” to an orange ‘FurKid’ called Pringles.  Yes, just like the can of chips and no, I didn’t name him!  Unfortunately, he came pre-named.  He’s a 100% pure ginger Mackerel Tabby – even the tip of his tail is a pale shade of creamy ginger.  He has no white on his chest or tummy either, just light and dark ginger spots.  Now those of you who have ever seen Pringles will know that he’s quite a character and immediately knows that if he’s being called “Pringles” instead of “Catty”, that he’s in serious trouble!

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My FurKid was born in February 2007 and the first few weeks of his life were rough.  He was found in the bush on the Bluff (in Durban, South Africa) behind his first adopted family’s house, along with a few of his siblings.  The kitties were only a few weeks old and were all lying next to the dead mommy cat, who they suspected had been poisoned.  The family took pity on the little kitties, taking them home to bottle feed and hand-raise.  Once the kitties were weaned and old enough for new homes, they were given up for adoption, but they chose to keep Pringles.

When he was one-and-a-half years old, his human family decided to emigrate and an ad for his adoption was put out.  I’d always wanted a ginger cat and saw the ad on our work noticeboard.  I asked my hubby nicely if I could please get this kitty and when approval was granted, I went around to meet the family and see Pringles for the first time.  There had been no one else interested in adopting him and he was now desperate for a home!  I agreed to adopt him on condition that he was neutered, microchipped and vaccinated.

Three days later, his ‘ex-Mom’ said her goodbyes, dropping him off at the Vet in the morning to have all of the above done.  Later that afternoon, I drove to the Vet and collected a very groggy, sleepy kitty.  Our first night together was strange – for both of us.  Hubby was away competing in the Fish River Canoe Marathon and I’d never had a cat before.  I had no idea if he knew how to use a litter box and being an ex-feral, he was used to just doing ‘his business’ in the garden.  He was still very wobbly from the anaesthetic and wouldn’t eat or drink.  I kept waking up every couple of hours during the night to check on him and would gently carry him over to the litter box and then across to his water bowl and eventually, in the early hours of the morning, he finally drank.  The following day he used the litter box for the first time and all was well, but this was only the start of the adventure! Image003 We lived in a first floor flat, but there was easy access to the garden from our level, as the building was built below street level and the pedestrian walkway entered the building right where our flat was.  A week after he’d first arrived, he still didn’t want to go out into the ‘big, scary garden’, preferring to rather hide inside.  Catty (as he was now known) often used to sit on the lounge window sill that faced out to sea and on this particular day he had other plans and decided to jump!  It wouldn’t have been such a problem if we were on the ground floor, but being on the first floor, it was a long way down to the grass below.  I was sitting in the lounge reading when I saw movement out the corner of my eye.  I looked up in time to see his little furry bum and tail disappearing off the window ledge!  My heart hit my stomach.  I couldn’t believe he had jumped!  My first thought was that my kitty had broken all his legs.

I fearfully looked out the window, only to find him trying to come home the same way as he’d left!  The silly sausage was fine, but ended up going into our downstairs neighbours lounge window.  Unfortunately, (or fortunately, depending on which way you look at it) they weren’t home.  It took me another half hour to coax Pringles out of their flat, using catnip and calling him.  I ended up leaving a note in their postbox explaining why there were sandy cat paw prints all over their window sill and over the following years, their little daughter and her friend (who also lived in the block) would become good friends with “Sprinkles”.  I’d often find one or both them waiting for me in the evening when I got home from work, only to have them ask if they could come feed “Sprinkles” or if I knew where “the Orange Cat” was hiding.

Looking for birds After his flying leap, we soon realized that my Catty was ‘special’.  Not only did he get up to mischief during the day, but he insisted on keeping us up at night! For the first 6 weeks, he woke up us every night, at least 3 to 4 times per night, meowing for no apparent reason. We began to feel the same way that new parents must feel when they bring a new baby home … extremely tired and horribly sleep deprived. But thankfully, the sleepless nights eventually ended once Catty had settled down and adjusted to his new home.

Things went great for a few months, until just before his second birthday, when he developed colic!  So, off to the Vet we went and I was told that the colic was caused by him eating the head of a particular type of Gecko (a lizard).  To this day, my Catty is still a hunter, but after suffering for a week with colic, he seems to be more careful.  We would often wake up to find “Tops ‘n Tails” (the head & back legs) of the previous night’s snack in our passage or on our doormat!  At least he’d learnt his lesson and now avoided the things that made him sick.

His “teenage years” presented with severe acne under his chin.  This lasted about 4 months and cleared when I changed his water bowl from a plastic one to a stainless steel one.  But this was not the end of our troubles.  Up next was a bout of bladder infections that led to some serious depression!  Most ginger cats are male, but you do get a few rare ginger females. The one problem with ginger males, is that these cats are prone to getting crystals in their urine, which then cause recurring bladder infections. And my kitty was no exception.

After three bladder infections in less than two months, numerous Vet visits and medication, the Vet finally put him onto prescription cat food. Pringles still came and went as he pleased and had free reign of the garden. The kids in the block would play with him during the day and I’d play with him every evening and out in the garden on laundry days, but the bladder infections and stress from the Vet visits and medication had obviously taken their toll on his little body and he became horribly depressed (to a point where he wasn’t eating, would hardly drink and didn’t want to play anymore).  The Vet put him onto anti-depressants – three times a day for two weeks, which meant me driving home during my lunch breaks to go and medicate my Catty!  I don’t think I’ll ever live that one down.  I still get teased about owning a cat that has had depression. IMG_1080 Being a domesticated feral, his skin is thicker than a normal domestic cat’s skin and our Vet often struggled to give him injections.  During our very first Vet visit, I noticed the Vet having difficulty getting the needle in.  The Vet asked me if Pringles was a feral and when my response was yes, he told me that I may want to look away.  This was when he violently ‘stabbed’ the needle into Catty’s neck with a soft popping sound, as the needle penetrated the skin.  I soon became used to this rather “violent” application of his injections, but I think my Catty has softened up a bit after many years of being spoilt.

He may be rough and tough, but he’s definitely a “Mommy’s boy” and often comes off second-best when fighting with other cats.  More often than not, he’s the one who starts the fight and his favourite trick is to yowl and meow until I go outside to investigate, only to have him then hide behind my legs!  It’s almost as if to say to his opponent “Ha ha, I’ve got back-up”, as I’m usually armed with a tumbler of water to toss on them.  It’s the easiest way to break up a cat fight without getting scratched to pieces.

This is only the tip of the iceberg … It gets worse, way worse! Read part 2