Pansie, My Tabby Cat Retriever

One of the greatest joy of being a cat parent is when your cat discovers a new trick. We all know that a cat have a world of its own. They do as they please. They usually (if not all) naturally have attention deficit disorder :).  In my case, it is almost close to impossible to teach any of my cat in this household to do some fun tricks I would love them to do (e.g. wash the dishes, clean their own poop box :P). Kidding aside, I felt like a proud parent to discover that Pansie, my tabby sweetie cat learned how to retrieve – without my intervention!

She loved her mousy toys, specially this particular mousy toy which was originally part of a stick toy she decided to rip off. She loves carrying the mousy around and make weird noises as she roamed around the house with it in her mouth. One day she came to my husband, with this special mousy toy in her mouth, and dropped it in front of him. My husband thought what would she do if he throws it away. And so he did. That’s the beginning of an awesome surprise!

Pansie went off and ran to the mousy, picked it up, and brought it to my husband. We can hardly believe it, we had to do it a number of times to confirm that she’s really retrieving it. And she did! We practice with her everyday now and had a chance to film the trick. Enjoy!

Sylvia’s Rescue Story : The Banker Tabby

My husband and I were walking back to our house after dinner when we met this tiny, skinny kitten, about 2 months old, sitting quietly on an air vent of Banco de Oro building.
We approached her and she doesn’t seem so friendly. She was very timid and a bit scared. I pulled out cat food I always have in my bag and offered some food. Apart from being skinny and dirty, she doesn’t look sick. We waited a bit to let her finish her meal, making sure no by-passer would disturb her dinner or scare her away.

Sylvia, about 3 months old. She was skin and bones when we first got her.
Sylvia, about 3 months old. She was skin and bones when we first got her.

There are tons of stray cats in the streets of Manila (in the entire Philippines for that matter) and if we pick up everyone we come across with, we will have hundreds in a matter of days. As much as we wanted to help every stray cat in the city, we can’t take them all. What we did is to join an animal welfare organization, supported and participated in their various projects such as adoption events, education, spay/ neuter programs. That way, we can still help even if we can’t actually take the cats in. We then just moved to a more pet friendly condo where Nishi and Patrick were no longer a secret and can live their lives normally and comfortably.

So going back to the tabby by the bank – we thought she doesn’t exactly need our immediate help. Having 2 cats in a 65sqm condo feels already crowded, so I thought we can’t bring her anymore. But as we spend more time watching her finish her meal, I thought that place wasn’t safe for a kitten. The building is in a very busy road. Sooner or later, she will starve and will be desperate, she will cross the street and will get run over. Run over cats are very common sight on the roads of Metro Manila. I can’t remember a day of driving without seeing one – which of course, always upsets me. We were thinking to relocate her at some park in the area, but it isn’t really a permanent solution. Besides, if anyone sees us, they might think we are dumping the cat. It is not illegal but I do not want to show a bad example to anyone. I hate people dumping animals with passion! So guess how it ended up?

Sylvia spent a few nights in the vet clinic to make sure she's healthy before she socialized with other pupicats.
Sylvia spent a few nights in the vet clinic to make sure she’s healthy before she socialized with other pupicats.

We took the little brown tabby with us and had her checked by a vet. We said we will make sure she’s free from any disease before we bring her home and then work on just getting her adopted. We isolated her in a make-shift cage for a few days to be certain she doesn’t have any dormant communicable disease before we let Nishi and Patrick socialize with her. Nishi wasn’t very happy about it, I tell you. But she can’t do anything :P.

DSC_5338We fell in love with this brown tabby and named her Sylvia. My husband said she looked like a “Sylvia” to him. She has grown to be a very sweet, affectionate girl. She’s also a born hunter – by far the best hunter among all my cats. But careful, she’s very tricky. She’s a professional escape artist. It’s not that she’s not happy, but she just loves adventure. She has beaten every cat proofing system my husband built to keep them within our balcony and away from our neighbors. Eventually I found a fool proof way that kept her inside.

Sylvia Today
Sylvia just turned 4 years old. She’s very beautiful, a sweet slime ball happy and active cat. A proud member of the Pupicats :).

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Is Your Cat Ready for Spay/Neuter?

I recently posted an in-depth information on spay and neuter and was thinking to make it more simple, if you just want to determine if your cat is ready for the spay/neuter procedure. I prepared a short presentation with a quiz to help you determine if your cat is ready.

Just a disclaimer though, this is just based on my experience and the questions that vets have asked me before I had my cats spayed/neutered. This should only give you an idea whether your cat is qualified for spay/neuter procedure as these are the common questions vets ask before your cat can undergo the procedure. I will still defer to your vet’s professional advice :).

Spay Neuter Wizard

Bird Watching Made Safer

Back in Manila where we used to live in the 5th floor, I always worry about my cats getting carried away by their bird watching and fall over the balcony. One time I woke up with a “present” that I wasn’t really very happy about. First, I don’t like dead animals and insects. Second, since Sylvia caught this bird, the only way she did is by jumping around and getting off to the extension of our balcony that is really dangerous. And though we already cat-proofed the balcony, I ended up making more reinforcement to keep them in and safe – which in return, turned our balcony to look like a prison.

Now in Berlin, we have a small balcony but we do not let them out because they might jump to the neighbor’s property. So for their bird watching pleasure here’s what we came up with:

Cats birdwatching through a beamer.
Pupicats birdwatching through a beamer.
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Bird watching through a beamer is safe for both cats and birds. No more unwanted “presents”.
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Not only that it is very entertaining to the cats, it is 100% entertainment guarantee to the hoomans.

 

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Pikachu Rescue

Pikachu the rescued cat.This is Pikachu. We found him in an island at the center of a busy street in Makati’s central business district, taking shelter inside a covered spotlight that is used to light up the monument standing in that island. My husband spotted him when he crossed that island walking back to our house from the mall. And as always, we have no idea how he managed to get himself at the center. My husband imagined that it will only take a little time before the kitten becomes desperate for food and water that it will dare to cross the busy street with lots of speeding vehicles, and then get hit and die. This kitten was very challenging to catch. The first time, it wouldn’t come out behind the spotlight so it was quite difficult to get to him without hurting our eyes. We can’t exactly see where he is hiding so my husband just left food and water for him to get through the night – and day for that matter, because the second attempt was the next evening.

The next evening, I came with him to help again. We tried to lure him with food, and eventually he stepped out. As soon as we grabbed him and tried to put it in the cat carrier, I don’t know how he did it but he somehow escaped my hand and jumped out – went back to the spotlight. That’s when we realized, we should call him Pikachu, from a Japanese anime Pokemon – because he’s a pain to catch. Again, we left food and water to get him through another day.

And so the next evening again, we came back with the hopes that he is still there. This time, it was still quite early in the evening so we kinda attracted some attention from security men roaming around the area. They were wondering what we are doing in the monument. Fortunately, after explaining that we need to get a stray kitten out, they tried their best to help out too. They even tried to check if they can radio someone who have access to the spotlight, since the spotlight is enclosed and is locked. They weren’t successful in unlocking it, but at least they were there to give us moral support. Eventually, Pikachu came out to get his food and we were able to catch him.

Pikachu sleeping

He was scared at the beginning, but it took only a little time before he was able to socialize with our cats. He immediately became friends with Sylvia. Other than being dirty and dehydrated, Pikachu was a healthy kitten. Eventually, we found him a good home to care for him. He is now living with other cats in a farm.

Pikachu and Sylvia chilling out on bed. This photo was taken the day Pikachu was adopted. Just like our other rescues that's been adopted, we miss him dearly. But we are happy to know he have a family to care for him.
Pikachu and Sylvia chilling out on bed. This photo was taken the day Pikachu was adopted. Just like our other rescues that’s been adopted, we miss him dearly. But we are happy to know he have a family to care for him.

 

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Traveling with Your Cat: From Philippines to EU Part 3 – Basic Airline Requirements and Choosing Your Airline

(Quick links to Part 1 and Part 2)

Now that you have prepared the document requirements and tests to get your beloved cat in European Union, the final step is how will you fly them out.

Although I read about pet shipping services, I chose to fly with them in the same aircraft. The first thing I researched is for a reputable airline. Here are some factors I considered when I chose the airline to travel with my pets:

  • Choose an airline that has good reviews in terms of pet handling.
  • Choose an airline that has more direct route to your destination. In my opinion, I’d rather have them move once to the aircraft, and then disembark only once, rather than have a number of connecting flight which means they will be moved/handled more than once that can cause more stress for the animals. This also makes me paranoid of losing them, like how you lose baggages.
  • Choose an airline with a comprehensive pet policy. This was very important for me to see how much documentation they have when flying with pets because this kinda gives me a feeling that the airline really cares and is serious of the safety of your pet while in transit. This gives me peace of mind.
  • Be prepared of the costs. The cost depends on the destination. But from Philippines to The Netherlands, I paid $200 per pet.
Lottie on top of his airline approved carrier.

I chose KLM Royal Dutch Airline because by far, they have good reviews in pet handling, as well as they have the most comprehensive pet policy I’ve found in the web. They even have a video about how they take care of the pet in transit and their pet hotels if you have a long lay over before your next flight. Besides, I’ve been a KLM customer and I’ve never been disappointed by this airline. I was happy with how organized the staff were the moment we stepped in to the airport till our destination.

When you get your airline figured out, make sure you understand their policy to avoid delays. It is very important to read the airline’s pet policy to avoid delays and further stress, so make sure you comply with everything they have stated in their pet policy documentation which should cover everything that you need. Some pointers:

a. Prepare your documents. Photocopy them beforehand. I made 2 copies of each document so that there’s no need to get them photocopied in the airport to avoid delays. Contact your airline for how many copies you need to make things faster when it’s time to fly.
b. Keep your original copies with you. Photocopies are left in a pouch attached to your pet kennel.

It is also important that you call your airline to make the arrangement for your pet prior to your flight. I did the arrangement a month  before our flight to make sure that they have a reserved space for my pets. Most airlines have limited slots for pets so it’s better to get them reserved.

Note that there are airlines that allows pet in cabin, and some that doesn’t. If you plan to take your cat in the cabin, check if the airline allows it. Usually, if they allow pet in cabin, the requirement is to have a carrier that can fit under the seat. There is also a weight requirement which should be stated in their pet policy documentation. If your pet is big, you might want to consider checking in your pet as a baggage because it’s not only that the airline will reject the pet in the cabin, but it will also be uncomfortable for your pet to stay in a small carrier for a long flight.

If you are checking in your pets as a baggage, there are also a number of things you have to comply with. To give you an idea:

a. Your kennel/carrier must be made of rigid plastic with a metal door.
b. If your kennel have wheels, you have to remove it.
c. There should be 2 bowls attached in the carrier, or one bowl with 2 compartments for food and water.
d. Your pet must be able to stand with head erected, and can turn around comfortably inside the kennel.
e. You need an absorbent material on the flooring of your carrier such as news paper or a small blanket. I used dry pads (like flat diapers) so in case they pee, it will be absorbed.
f. The door locks must be secured, but padlocks are not allowed.
g. Don’t sedate your cat/dog.
h. 1 pet per kennel.
i. Kennel must be properly ventilated, with small holes on the sides (which normally pet carriers have anyways).

The airline-approved pet carrier we used to transport the Pupicats to EU. It's made up of rigid plastics with a secured metal door and screws.
The airline-approved pet carrier we used to transport the Pupicats to EU. It’s made up of rigid plastics with a secured metal door and screws.
Pan trying to model how perfectly and comfortably fitting it is inside her carrier.
Pan trying to model how perfectly and comfortably fitting it is inside her carrier.

I got this information from KLM Royal Dutch Airline website. Please feel free to visit their site by clicking this link for more detailed checklist.

I’m extremely happy that I was able to get all my 6 cats safe and sound to EU. Like I always say, it is indeed a lot of work, but it doesn’t need to be stressful. If you have an ample time to plan, and you are equipped with the information you need, it will go smoothly. All it takes is determination :). As for me, my  cats are my family. I love them to death and they are worth all my hard work. I could not imagine myself leaving them behind, get them adopted or whatever, all because I need to move my life some place else. They are part of my family now, and you don’t leave family behind. I’m all they’ve got. We now continue our happy lives in a lovely city, Berlin.

Spay and Neuter Up Close : An Overview of the Procedure And Its Benefits To Our Pets

A spayed cat is a happy cat.
A spayed/neutered cat is a happy cat.

I’m a strong supporter of spay/neuter programs. For a developing country such as the Philippines, spay/neuter is a concept that is surprisingly not too common to the people. Taking the breeders out of the equation, based on my observation, there are 2 major reasons why this practice is not deemed common in the society. One is religion. For some people, it doesn’t feel right to desex their pets and taking their rights to reproduce.  And secondly, its just that not a lot of people know about it. I was even surprised to meet a person that thought spay/neuter only applies to dogs – but not cats. It is the lack of education on responsible pet ownership.

On a brighter note, spay/neuter is increasingly becoming popular in the last few years due to huge efforts of several non-government animal welfare organizations, funded by private citizens and volunteers. Ever since I rescued my first cat, Nishi, I have been a strong supporter of spay/neuter campaigns. I encouraged everyone that I know and acquaintances to the best that I can, to spay/neuter their pets, to the point that I have sponsored several people that I have convinced, and some that just didn’t have the means to do the operation in their beloved pets.

Setting my moral reasons aside why I support spay/neuter programs, I’d like to shed some light in the procedure itself, based on research and vets that I have consulted. There are a number of people that are hesitant to do the procedure to their pets because they do not have a clear idea what they are putting themselves, and their pets in to. I felt the same way too when I had Nishi spayed. I was afraid because I didn’t know. But knowledge is power, and gave me peace of mind. So here’s spay/neuter in details.

Nice to Know : Neuter or Cat Castration (for male cats)

  • Castration or Neuter procedure is performed when the cat is at least 5-6 months old.
  • Operation is performed with general anesthetic.
  • Pet is given an injection of antibiotic to prevent infection, and also a dose of pain killer.
  • Pet wakes up withint 30-60 minutes after the operation is finished. Note that they will be groggy and sort of disoriented – but worry not. This is a normal reaction. They will usually be groggy for the rest of the day.
  • Neuter procedure is a common procedure. You can bring home your pet and care for him the same day of the operation.
  • In rare cases, the vet will not allow you to take your cat home if your cat is still too sleepy and you may be asked to have your pet stay in the clinic overnight for observation. Your cat has too be 100% awake and responsive.
  • Your pet must be confined in the house for a few days to recover, until he’s fully coordinated. Neuter healing process is quite fast, to be honest. The cat is usually back in his old self as early as in 3 days.
  • After the operation, just offer small amount of food and water to your cat. Some animals may vomit after anesthetic, so just give them small amount of food until the next morning.
  • The cat will just have 2 small incisions and there will be small swelling around this area.
  • Your cat will want to lick the wound, but prevent it as much as possible as it may bleed. If it’s uncontrollable, put a cone of shame (Elizabethan collar).
  • You can clean the wound once a day with betadine or saline (1 tsp salt + cup cooled boiled water), and then let it dry.

Nice to Know : Spaying (for female cats)

  • Spaying operation should be performed when the cat is at least 5-6 months old.
  • It is recommended that your cat is spayed before it hits her first heat cycle. It is best to perform the operation on immature stage.
  • It is not recommended to undergo spaying procedure when the cat is currently in heat. Heat cycle usually last for a week, so you need to wait until the cycle has passed before you schedule a spay operation.
  • Procedure is performed under general anesthetic.
  • The vet will make an incision either on the side or on the abdomen. The most common practice is in the abdomen.
  • In a spay procedure, the ovaries and uterus are removed.
  • The incision is closed usually by an absorbable sutures in the muscles and under the skin, and non-absorbable sutures on the skin. The sutures are usually short and small, not too scary.
  • Pet is given an injection of antibiotic to prevent infection, and also a dose of pain killer.
  • Pet wakes up withint 30-60 minutes after the operation is finished. Note that they will be groggy and sort of disoriented – but worry not. This is a normal reaction. They will usually be groggy for the rest of the day
  • Spay procedure is a common procedure. You can bring home your pet and care for her the same day of the operation.
  • In rare cases, the vet will not allow you to take your cat home if your cat is still too sleepy and you may be asked to have your pet stay in the clinic overnight for observation. Your cat has too be 100% awake and responsive.
  • Your pet must be confined in the house for a few days to recover, until she’s fully coordinated. Avoid jumping and strenuous activities for a week. Unlike neuter, spay procedure is more delicate that requires more recovery time for female cats.
  • After the operation, just offer small amount of food and water to your cat. Some animals may vomit after anesthetic, so just give them small amount of food until the next morning.
  • There will be swelling around the sutures which is normal, and may sometimes induce inflammatory reaction. As long as there’s no discharge or puss, and your pet have a good appetite and in her normal behavior, there shouldn’t be anything to worry about.
  • Your cat will want to lick the wound, but prevent it as much as possible as it may bleed and remove the sutures.  If it’s uncontrollable, put a cone of shame (Elizabethan collar).
  • You can clean the wound once a day with betadine or saline (1 tsp salt + cup cooled boiled water), and then let it dry.

Some information and advantages of neutering/spaying your pet:

  1. Neutering your cat will prevent unfavorable behaviors like spraying urine and marking territories.
  2. Spaying your cat will avoid the messy heat cycle. Your female cat will no longer annoyingly meow ever so loudly to call for mates attention.
  3. It prevents aggression with other cats.
  4. Eliminates the possibility of having breast and ovarian (female), prostrate or testicular (male) problems that can lead to cancer.
  5. The desire of getting out and roam will be lessened because there’s no more urge to find mates. Thus, there will be less chances that your cat can get lost, get in to a fight outdoors, or worst, get hit by a car.
  6. Neutering/spaying your pet doesn’t alter his/her personality.
  7. Neutering/spaying your pet doesn’t make your pet fat. It’s always the diet that makes the cat fat. Applicable to humans. True story.

Special thanks to Ms. Rhea Asumen of VILLAGE VET Veterinary Surgery and Services in Sta. Rosa, Laguna, Philippines, for providing the information shared in this blog entry.

 

The Story of Patrick : The Cross-Eyed Tabby

After Nishi’s rescue, I have become more compassionate towards strays. In a few months of raising Nishi, it felt like the experience have opened my eyes in such a way that I see the strays more often than I used to. I know they were there even before, but I was disconnected then, and oblivious to the stray population problem.

My husband is a runner and usually does his training in the middle of the night when road traffic dies down and crowd has mellowed. One night he came back saying he heard a crying cat somewhere along his route but couldn’t find where it’s coming from. He said he just gave up because it might be inside a building or a compound where he couldn’t access anyways.

The next evening, he trained again and went to the same route. Surprisingly, he heard the same cry. The cat has been crying for 24 hours now. He tried to look for it once more, as it bothered him so much that this cat has been in the same spot in the last 24 hours, miserable and crying. Finally, he found this little gray tabby kitten at the corner of some Jewish church. He called me up and I immediately went with food and water.

Patrick was confined in the vet clinic. His eyes were filled with mucus due to a respiratory infection. He couldn't open them up.
Patrick was confined in the vet clinic. His eyes were filled with mucus due to a respiratory infection. He couldn’t open them up.

The kitten’s eyes were shut and full of discharge. It was also skinny and very filthy. It was a very scared kitty. I offered it some food. We couldn’t make up our minds what to do with the kitten. Obviously, in his condition, he will not survive on his own. The condo we were living in doesn’t allow pets and Nishi is already a secret. It is also close to impossible to sneak the tabby kitten because it just won’t stop crying. But we also did not have the heart to leave it like that, knowing that he will never make it by himself. We ended up driving to the 24 hour vet clinic and had the kitten treated, and then boarded him for the night.

It was St. Patrick’s day, and so we named him Patrick. It turned out that Patrick is suffering from a respiratory infection. After a week of being confined and treated in the vet clinic, we smuggled Patrick in the condo. We figured, Nishi could use a company. It wasn’t easy introducing the two to each other, but eventually, they loved each other.

We isolated Patrick for a few days just to make sure he's free from infection. Nishi tirelessly guarded this "new creature", watching its every move.
We isolated Patrick for a few days just to make sure he’s free from infection. Nishi tirelessly guarded this “new creature”, watching its every move.
Patrick and Nishi
Nishi was jealous for quite some time but eventually grew affection towards Patrick. To this day, Patrick is the only cat that Nishi will play with. Nishi doesn’t like cats so much, but Patrick’s an exception.
Patrick the beautiful boy
With lots of love and care, Patrick grew up to be a sweet baby boy. His eyes are so crossed he looks so adorable.
Pattyboy
Patty is a gentle and a very smart cat. He loves to talk too! He would talk to you when you call his name – even when he sleeps.
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Patrick, trying to be a model.

Cat Eating Grass/Plants – Is This Normal?

I’m sure you have wondered at least once why cats like to nibble on green leafy plants. Cats are known to be obligate carnivores, but sometimes, they just have cravings for something fresh and greeny.

Sylvia, eating my skinny flowering plant in the balcony.
Sylvia, eating my skinny flowering plant in the balcony.

My mom said that cats (and even dogs) eat grass when they feel indigestion or abdominal pain. She said it’s their form of self medication. Reading through a number of articles online about cats eating grass or plants, it seems that my mom’s theory is very close to what cat experts say about this cat behavior.

While it may look weird that your cat likes to be a goat at times, it’s totally normal for cats to nibble on plants or grass. There are theories that when a cat have indigestion, they eat grass or leafy plants. Cats don’t have the enzymes to break down vegetables (explains why they are obligate carnivores) so by eating grass, it sort of invokes vomiting and thus removes the undigested items in their digestive track. Eating grass also helps them puke out hairballs.

Eating grass does not only benefit the cats by puking, but also helps cats remove undigested particles that has already passed the stomach and is in their intestines  – a form of laxative to poop them out.

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Up close and personal : Sylvia enjoys green leafy snack.

So in general, if your cat likes to nibble on plants or grass, you need not to worry – this is perfectly normal. Just be aware that there are plants that are toxic to cats. If you have cats who like to nibble on plants, make sure you keep plants at home that are non-toxic. You can get a comprehensive list of what are the toxic and non-toxic plants for cats from ASPCA website. It would also be beneficial if you get them their own “cat grass” so they stay away from your beautiful indoor plants :).

grass