Tag Archives: pets

Grasshopper Hunting

Davis and I have developed a ridiculous new nighttime routine. It begins when we hear the chirping of the nocturnal, basil-eating grasshopper just outside the patio door. Davis runs to the door and I scoop him up and take him out on the patio. There we scout the garden and the neighboring bushes, waiting for the next chirp or waggling of antennae to give away the basil-eater’s position. Then comes the ridiculous part. The grasshopper is revealed! Davis bats frantically with his paws while I wield him this way and that, lifting him and aiming him towards the fluttering grasshopper as it darts about, trying to escape.

Davis seems to understand that the grasshopper is located too high for him to get from the ground, and so is perfectly fine being hoisted all around through the air while he tries to catch the culprit with his paws and teeth. The neighbors may think us crazy, but so far we have managed to capture one grasshopper with this method (it was subsequently brought into the apartment and devoured – I’m usually a live-and-let-live kind of person with bugs, but grasshoppers that eat my basil are a different story).

Walk musings

When Mr. Davis and I go on our walks, we sometimes spend most of it standing idly next to parked vehicles while Davis sniffs them. He has a fascination for license plates and bumpers, and will drain away the minutes sniffing and sniffing with deep intensity. Then we’ll move on to the next car and he’ll repeat the process. I thought this might have been a quirk particular to Davis, but when leaving work tonight I noticed one of the local feral cats strolling through the parking lot doing the same thing. The kitty was so intently sniffing a license plate that it didn’t even notice my approach, which is unusual for the ferals since they tend to be wary and keep away from people.

What is it that they are smelling? What is so compelling a scent that gets stuck to car bumpers? Squished bugs, perhaps? Do dogs do this? Mysterious.

Meanwhile, I’ve started using the time on our walks to practice standing with good posture. It is…difficult. I’ve found that when I stand upright without slouching and hold the position for any length of time that it becomes painful to breath. Maybe this will get better with time and when my back muscles strengthen, depending on if I can keep this up.

Cats and Dental Issues and Pain

Mr. Davis had to have 3 teeth pulled today. He’s doing fine right now – he’d ripped the bandage from the catheter off of his paw before we even got home, and he’s currently grooming with vigor. The story goes like this:

Davis had seemed a little off for the past couple of months, but in tiny ways that I didn’t give too much notice to. One day last week after his breakfast, I noticed that his jaw was popping oddly when he licked his lips or yawned, and I caught him pawing at his face once or twice. I brought him into the vet that morning to get him checked out, and while his jaw seemed fine and nothing appeared out of order, the vet decided to do a thorough mouth exam (because Mr. Davis is so well-behaved about having vet hands all up in his grill. It’s really amazing!)

They found a localized spot of pain at one tooth, but nothing was visible on the surface that would cause it. The only way to see if there were lesions in the root of the tooth was to do an x-ray that would require Davis to go under anesthesia. I decided to go ahead and do it because:

1. Any sort of dental issue in cats can be really, really serious

2. Lesions in cat teeth are actually pretty common, so there was a good chance he would need the extraction

2. He was due for a cleaning this year anyway, so I already had a good chunk of that money saved up, and since that also requires anesthesia I got it all done at once (plus apparently it was Pet Dental Month, so, yay discounts?)

After I’d scheduled the cleaning/potential extraction, I started to think about the minor “off” things I’d seen in Davis and wondered if they were actually pain symptoms. More on that later.

So it wound up that there were lesions in 2 bottom teeth, and they also took out a top tooth that had shown the beginnings of issues during his last cleaning and was in “keep an eye on it” mode for the past 2 years and had also developed a lesion. They found a lot of infection at the lower extraction site, so it is a very good thing I had this taken care of now (they also did a deep cleaning on the other side of his mouth to try and clear up anything that might lead to the same problem).

Now, as for the issue of pain in cats, anyone who’s ever owned a cat probably knows that it’s very difficult to tell if kitty is in pain. They are solitary predators, and so in the wild any revealing of a problem or weakness makes them vulnerable to attack. They are naturally predisposed to be stoic.

To see what I mean, just look up “symptoms of pain in cats”. You’ll get stuff like:

  • Is more active than usual
  • Is more lethargic than usual
  • Craves attention
  • Wants to be left alone

They may as well say “behaves as a cat behaves.” You have to be sharp eyed and very in tune with your kitty to notice something is amiss, and sometimes even then you miss stuff.

So, here are things that I had considered “off” about Davis that may or may not have been symptoms of his dental pain.

  • Would often stop in the middle of walking and crouch down. I thought that the abruptness in this was always odd, but I thought maybe he was just offering a trick (it’s the way he lays down for the “lay down” command)
  • Yawned a lot. This one’s weird, right? Cats yawn. But I recall thinking a couple of weeks ago, “Davis sure does yawn a lot”
  • Went on shorter walks. I usually allocate an hour a day for walking Davis, but I noticed that for the past month or so, he was only going out for 15 or 20 minutes before heading back in. I’d thought this was because he’s a SoCal cat and maybe he didn’t like the “cold,” but could it have been a pain symptom?
  • Was not as enthusiastic about breakfast in the mornings. He’d still eat, he just wouldn’t gobble everything down all at once. He’d eat a few bites, go do something else, and finish up a little at a time later. He only really did this for breakfast.

As to whether those were pain symptoms, I have no way of really knowing. I guess I’ll see if he still does them after he recovers from his extractions.

My biggest clue that he was in pain, though, was how quickly he learned what pain medicine was. When I’d first taken him in, the vet gave me some pain medicine for him for the weekend until his surgery. It was just a small amount of liquid in a syringe that I’d squirt in his mouth.

The first time I gave it to him he resisted, as cats do when you try to shove anything in their mouth. But the second time, when Davis saw me carrying the syringe, he ran up to me and meowed, like he was about to get a treat. Did he really so quickly make the connection between the syringe and pain relief?

Anyway, I guess the lesson learned is that you shouldn’t take any sort of dental issue lightly in cats, and that they’re really tricky about pain. Send Davis kitty prayers for a speedy recovery and no post-op infection, and I’ll give him lots of snuggles and love. He’s already meowing to go out on his walk, though, so he must already be on the mend!

Ants and Aphids

There’s a short wall behind my apartment complex where Mr. Davis likes to perch, and there’s often a line of ants coming and going up and over it that I like to watch.  Today, as I watched the ant line disappear under some ivy, something caught my eye.  It was several ants tending diligently to a flock of aphids!

Now, I’d known before about the relationship between ants and aphids, and seen it before on nature shows, but somehow stumbling upon it in my back yard made the phenomenon 100% more awesome.  I watched with wonder as the ants harvested honeydew from their aphid herd in wee little droplets.  Nearby, a large group of baby aphids was clustered on an ivy stem under the shelter of a leaf.  At the base of the stem, two ants were just hanging out, which was weird to see as one tends to encounter ants on the go.  Guard duty, I suppose.

Meanwhile, during my observation, Mr. Davis had hopped down and found where the line of ants picked up through the grass.  He was lapping them up by the tongueful.

Petting a New Cat–A Guide for Cat Noobs

Mr. Davis is quite popular with the neighbors when we go out on our walks, and when people come to pet him I can always tell right away if that person is experienced or not in dealing with cats.

For my friends who are inexperienced with cats but still would like to pet them, here are some tips for cat-petting to make a better experience when meeting and greeting a new cat for the first time.

1. When you meet a new cat, let him sniff your hand before you pet him.  Stick your finger out towards his nose, stopping a few inches away, or offer your hand palm-up for him to investigate (coming in palm-down can seem threatening to some cats.  Dogs, too, for that matter)

2. Let him finish sniffing!  This is often where I see people mess up.  I feel like the “let a new animal sniff you” rule is pretty commonly understood, but lots of times a person will offer their hand, then after one sniff immediately go in for the pet.  Usually the cat is still trying to sniff, and cranes and arcs his head accordingly so the person can’t reach to pet.  It can be very awkward.

Just be patient.  The sniffy investigation can take several seconds, even longer for wary cats.  Keep holding your hand still and wait for the signal.

Cat has initiated sniffing. Let him finish! Be patient!


Not finished yet!!

3.  After a thorough sniff, the cat will generally give a clear signal on how to proceed.  If the cat backs away or does not move towards you, he doesn’t want to be petted.  Don’t press the issue, maybe next time.

Cat is not interested, do not proceed with pet.


Other times he will initiate the pet, which is very easy to follow up.  He may rub his face against your outstretched hand or finger, which which case, just scratch that cheek or under the chin.  Just make scratching motions with your hand and hold it in place, and the cat will apply the appropriate pressure that he wants by how forcefully he pushes his face into your hand.

He also may move towards you and turn his side towards you, in which case this is a good signal to stroke his back.  It may be helpful for inexperienced cat petters to keep the strokes short across the shoulders or at the base of the back near the tail.  Like the cheek rub, most of the time the cat will lean into your hand at the part that he wants to be petted, just pay attention.

4.  On petting the head: I find that most inexperienced cat-petters want to pat the cat on the top of the head, like you do with dogs.  This can be fine, but I recommend avoiding going in to pet the head straight in front of the cat.  Having your arm looming right over the cat’s face and obscuring his vision can put him on the defensive.  Instead, go in from the side of the cat’s head, or from behind, over the back.

When petting the top of the head, avoid going straight in over the face like this

Go in from the side, like so

5.  Look for the signal to stop petting.  Mostly this is just when the cat moves away from you, but sometimes a cat can be mischievous and get riled up by prolonged affection, leading him to view your hand as a play toy.  Watch for a vigorously swishing tail, or for the cat to start sharply turning his head towards your hand, or for his eyes to get really big.  Those are generally signs to stop petting.

That’s all for now!  I hope this guide is helpful.  I feel like a lot of these can apply to meeting new dogs as well, but I am most familiar with cats so I’ll stick to that.  Good luck!

Catwalk Story

Tonight on our walk, Mr. Davis got himself stuck. He’d squeezed through the railing and ended up on the wall next to the stairs that go down into our parking garage (there were some dogs in the courtyard and he was avoiding going around them through the gate).

He found himself perched on the very corner edge of the wall on the outside of the railing. It was too high for him to jump down, and too narrow for him to back up or turn to go back through the railing, so he meowed pitifully. I stood below him and reached my hands up, telling him it was okay and to come on. I honestly wasn’t sure what he would do.

Mr. Davis looked at me for a moment, then jumped towards me and freefell. I caught him awkwardly and we moved on, but I was rather amazed that he didn’t even try to jump *on* me, he just jumped and knew that I would catch him.

It’s a nice feeling when a pet shows that they trust you.

Where to Board Mr. Davis

Tonight I booked my flights for the Christmas Holidays, and now it’s time to figure out where to board Mr. Davis while I’m gone. The place where I normally board him unfortunately has closed down, so I have to pick someplace new. I’ve narrowed it to two candidates, but am having trouble choosing between them.

Option A: The first place operates under the philosophy that cats who aren’t from the same household never are allowed to free roam together, for a lower stress experience. They have great big tower kennels there, bigger than the ones at the last place I boarded, but since they don’t let stranger cats out together, I imagine each cat only gets a couple of hours of out-and-about time outside their kennel each day.

Option B: The second place is the complete opposite. While they do have private rooms for non-social cats, their main boarding areas are large open community rooms, where cats can socialize together. This means that the cats have way more activity going on each day, as they hang out and play with the other cats.

Now, I liked the old place because it was sort of a mixture of the two. The cats each had their own big kennel, but were let out in groups for long periods of time.

I’m not sure what is best for Mr. Davis. Even though he doesn’t like seeing other cats on his walks, he does fine with them in “neutral territory” environments, like the boarding house, and the shelter where he lived for a year which let their cats free roam. I’m still not sure about Option B, though, because there seems like fewer opportunities to mitigate in a situation where particular cats might not get along. At least with Option A, he could interact with other cats through the kennels when he was out during his roam time, I just worry he might not get enough of it every day.

Right now I’m leaning slightly towards Option A, though i’m going to contact them and ask how much out time each cat gets every day when they are booked full (which I imagine they will be during the holidays).

Any Cat Behaviorists out there?

So, just about every day, Mr. Davis and I go out for a walk. The routine goes like this: arrive home, snuggle time, cat gets dinner, I make him sit on his perch while I put his harness on, and then we go out. On weekends I usually take him out in the mornings, but the same thing, he has to “up” to his perch to get his harness on before we go out.

Most of the time he does this just fine, he will jump up right away and sit patiently while the harness goes on. However, every now and then, for several days in a row, he will not comply to this. He will fuss and meow at the door and window and pretty clearly wants to go out, but he will not obey the “up” to his perch. Sometimes he’ll do the up but then jump right back down and continue fussing. On these days, we either don’t go out, or I wait for him to settle down and we go out later in the evening, when he obeys his “up.” Either way it means I have to sit and listen to him fuss until it nearly drives me crazy.

Then, after a few days of this, he will mysteriously slip back into his normal pre-walk behavior and not give me any trouble.

Any ideas on what is going on? I thought at first that maybe when he does this, he just doesn’t want to go outside, and instead wants to play or more snuggles. But all the evidence, mainly the meowing and pawing at the door, and ignoring attempts to play, tell me otherwise. Could it be that he’s just trying to test his boundaries and see if he can get me to let him out without the harness?

Now, sometimes in the morning before work I will hold him outside on the patio for a bit, and I thought maybe THIS was what he wanted. However, he will not come to be picked up, so maybe not.

What could Mr. Davis be trying to tell me?

A Year with Mr. Davis

As of March 19th, Mr. Davis has been with me for a whole year! Time certainly flies! I remember how excited I was when I first brought him home from the shelter, and a little nervous about how he would settle in. Now I can’t imagine life without him as a part of my family!

Here’s a recap of Kitty Stats for the year:
– Mr. Davis’s clicker-training repertoire now includes the following: Sit, come, stand, high five, jump up (stand on hind legs and touch my hand with his paw), up (onto furniture), down (off of furniture), paw (shake), jump over, go underneath, and spin (turn around in a circle once).

– Click tricks we’re currently working up: climb up the carpet wall on command, and chase a ball on command

– He sleeps next to me every night, sometimes getting fussy if I stay up too late. I now understand his “come to bed” meow. He wakes me up in the morning by kissing me on the forehead

– We go on a walk just about every day, unless it rains. My neighbors love to say hello to him. One said he was the most famous cat in Burbank

– When he gets too lovey or riled up he is prone to chomp, but we’re working on this with training. Petting sessions do not begin until I make him do a trick, and he must come and sit in certain places before being fed or having his harness put on. All play, petting, and clicker training have definitive end signals (clapping, showing him my empty hands, and saying “all done”)

– Nick is Mr. Davis’s favorite person in the whole wide world, and when he comes over, Mr. Davis can’t stop rolling over and begging to be petted.

– Mr. Davis does not like seeing neighborhood cats, but he’s made friends with 2 cats in my complex, and he meows excitedly and runs up to see them every time they appear on the balcony or at a window when I’m out on my walk.

– He may be a fusscat sometimes, and sometimes he’s too cool for school, but more often than not he’s a big ole sweetheart and I’m so happy and thankful that he’s part of my life!

I’ll leave you with a few of my favorite Davis Photos

From Birthday Cat

From Birthday Cat

From More Mr Davis

From More Mr Davis

From Mr. Davis Lounges

From Walking Mr. Davis

From More Mr. Davis

Cat Field Trips

I need ideas for field trip locations for Mr. Davis

When Josh’s cat-allergic roommate was in England for months and months, I used to take Mr. Davis over there for day trips. He enjoyed it very much, and I think it started the trend for his thinking of “car trips are okay.” But alas, Ryan has returned to the states, so a new venue is in order.

I did take him to our soccer park once, but he did not like the wide open space, and we crossed the street to the residential sidewalk instead. I’ve also taken him on a few errand car rides (he’s a star in the In-N-Out drive through line when we go for milk shakes).

He does pretty well in the car, but he seems unsure of how he feels about it from time to time. Often he’ll stay up in the front seat, paws on the windowsill, watching outside. If I leave his crate open in the back seat, he’ll sometimes climb back there and do repeated short, soft meows. I’m not sure what they mean, they aren’t his “scared” meow. Josh’s theory is that he wants me to know where he is.

Anyway, I’d like to keep up the trend of car trips, just because exposure to new places and people and experiences is good for him. Any ideas? Anyone want a cat visit?