Back to: Eyeballs | Forward to: Books I will not write #5: Floater in the Sea of Time

Zombies at the door

Working at home has some unanticipated side-effects. Forget the irregular hours, short commute, informal office dress code, and potential distractions; I'm being haunted by the sound of shuffling zombies.

Or, zombie singular.

Nearly eight years ago, we acquired a pair of cats from the local sanctuary. They were evidently friendly, and had been brought in by the home help of an old lady who'd died, and who had no local relatives. She'd been mobility-impaired and the cats were indoor-only. This was probably a good thing for them, as she evidently had weird ideas about how to feed them — they were morbidly obese and in need of dental care, but otherwise in reasonable shape. Some vet-provided dentistry and six years on diet food later, and they're in good shape for their age ... all things considered.

These cats are my office co-workers. Or co-sleepers. Or something. Screen-break enforcers, I guess (which is not an unimportant role if you work at home in front of a keyboard). They're elderly — precise age unknown, but somewhere in the 14-16 range — and they sleep a lot and have the sort of health issues you might expect.

Frigg is a black cat. She was extremely shy, and showed signs of abuse when we took her in; not so much the long-healed bad break at the base of her tail as her behaviour. (She hid under the bed for three days, then, after a couple of weeks, decided to accept me as her personal human, but for the first couple of years found people standing up and walking towards her incredibly frightening.) The combination of the badly broken tailbone and being obese for half her life took its toll on her joints, and the result is osteoarthritis, especially in her hind quarters.

I take Frigg's pain control seriously. A cat who experiences pain on urination or defecation associates the pain with the place, and goes somewhere else. (And when Frigg's cranky, she can piss for England.) So I've got the cats trained to expect a bowl of wet food in the morning, in two separate places — Frigg gets fed in my office, and Mafdet (who is unmedicated) in the kitchen. Frigg's meds are mixed in with her food, and she's quite capable of wolfing them down.

However, we're talking about a cat, aren't we?

The hall floor between my study door and the kitchen is laminated with wood effect boards. Frigg's claws need trimming. And because of the arthritis, she shuffles along slowly, making a noise eerily like a slasher movie zombie lurching past my office door.

This morning, Frigg has so far given up on her food and shuffled arthritically towards the kitchen three times. Evidently she's under a compulsion to consume Mafdet's brains food, which is clearly superior to her own (for some reason only known to cats: both bowls came out of the same pouch of mechanically reclaimed fish giblets). Three times I've had to rush to get ahead of her and move Mafdet's food to a place of safety then plonk Frigg's own medicated food down in its place. Each time, I have failed to convince Frigg that the bowl of food she really wants to consume is the one with the pain killers and glucosamine in it. And just now she attempted to use the litter tray, under-medicated, with predictable results. Lucky I had the foresight to install a cardboard splash-guard ...

I mentioned the cat-enforced screen breaks, didn't I?

136 Comments

1:

NB: The +5 Electric Cattle Prod of Polite Remonstration is charged up and awaiting the first person to suggest euthanasia, a change of pets, or trying to squirt the meds down Frigg's throat (been there, tried that, learned better).

2:

Have you tried dissolving/mixing the meds with some whiskas cat milk and feeding it to her a drop at a time? Not the ideal solution but could work in the short-term until you can figure out something better...

3:

And I'll hold them down for you.

4:

We until just a couple of weeks ago had a cat of similar age, although with different health problems. We found that feeding him boiled fish (the most enviro-friendly cod we could find locally, in our case) worked much better than the pouch stuff. Yes, boiling it is extra work -- but given that he just ate it all up at once and didn't throw it up again, overall it was less of a bother.

5:

Unnecessary: she loves her wet food and will wolf it down. The only problem is when she decides that the Other Cat has better food today, and makes a bee-line for the wrong bowl.

She's a persistent little critter, once she gets an idea lodged in her wallnut-sized cranium.

6:

German covered litter tray with odour filters. A god-send when you have two cats indoors.

(Our small black cat is nicknamed Nibbler, for his ability to consume vast amounts of food, while excreting only tiny but very potent dark matter. He's also never really got the concept of burying - but he knows he has to kick the litter all over the place).

7:

BTDT. Even tried the Littermaid robo-trays. (We've got something like thirty cat-years of management experience between us.)

8:

Presumably her food, or her bowl, smells wrong to her today. You could try switching bowls.

9:

That's a good point -- F and M's metal bowls look identical to humans, but may be non-identical to cats. I may have got them "wrong" (in cat terms) this morning. I shall have to figure out some dishwasher-proof way of marking them ...

10:

You could presumably put glucosamine in both bowls with no problem. How bad would it be for Mafdet to be on pain killers also? My knowledge of feline analgesia is sadly lacking.

11:

If Frigg is on the same stuff as my Chino, she has to have regular blood tests to check that her liver and kidneys are coping with it, so not a good idea to give it to Mafdet.

12:

Expensive. (Frigg's med bill works out at around £60 -- that's US $100 -- a month. I don't want to double it! Also, the painkiller in question, Meloxicam, is a powerful NSAID; capable of destroying her kidneys if we accidentally overdose her. Not A Good Idea to let them play mix'n'match with two cat-sized doses -- what if one cat manages to munch both cats' dose one day?)

Incidentally, here's a picture of Evil Zombie Cat Plotting Evil:

13:

I for one welcome our new Zombie Feline overlords.

14:

/me ponders a cat-litter tray covered with Germans

15:

Lasers still on charge! ;-)

More seriously, if the cat bowls are metal, could they be engraved? Not necessarily professionally; a friend with a Dremel and an engraving bit could do something suitable.

16:

Charlie @9:

Etch an "F" and an "M" on the bottom of the appropriate bowls with a nail?

17:

we sporadically have the same problem with two of ours, there's mornings where each thinks the other's breakfast is far more appetising. Which is bad as Fox needs special we food on account of his renal problems. Is this an ongoing problem? With ours, hey were like that for a day or two before reverting to their normal behaviour, so it might just be a temporary thing.

PS where can we obtain a +5 Electric Cattle Prod of Polite Remonstration, there's some political trolls I want to have a quiet word with.

18:

Having lost our 17 year old last year (Moses looked very much like Trigg), I know the hours and heart that go into caring for our elder kitties. Before her (yeah, Moses was named by someone who didn't bother to check gender while lifting the little kittie from a basket in the bamboo in front of our landlady's house in Santa Monica), we had Virgil, who graced us with his presence for 21 years. This type of longevity takes care in their geriatric years, and I applaud you for doing this loving work.

We now have (as of mid-June) two amazing kittens who have turned 6 months this 01/10. We are in our 60s and are glad we didn't adopt the three litter-mates, keeping it to two because all of our arthritis, back spasms, etc. are amplified by two little critters who are pretty good at sharing us, the litter box, their two food bowls. What we did find, though, was that the cover on the litter box, German or otherwise (I think Chinese in our case), had to go because Cleo (named for Ms. Cleo Laine, although she does have the Cleopatra eye markings) would not use the box and needed to mark everywhere Moses had been so many months ago. Miles (Mr. Miles Davis - named for his jazz patch beard) is not any trouble at all, as long as you have a lap, a free hand and a brush. So, now, we both have screen break enforcers. Sorry, for the length. Geez, we just get on about our fur friends, eh?

19:

Stories like this are why I don't understand the concept of pet ownership

20:

Fine; leave it to those of us who do.

21:

I work at home as well, and the first thing I thought of when I read the title was those people who ring your doorbell to share their version of god with you just as you're deep in thought. (Both the LDS and the JW are seriously active round here.) The thought of "Zombies for Jesus" turning up on your doorstep is very Laundryish.

22:

Like most things in life, there are both costs and benefits. This is a story about a cost - don't assume that that means there are no benefits.

You are perfectly entitled to consider that for you the costs would be more than the benefits. In return, do allow us our contrary judgements.

23:

@ Charlie - "squirt the meds down Frigg's throat"

I could never make that sort of thing work, or popping pills down.

One cat of mine, who lived to be 20 and was normally very biddable and mild-mannered, gave fizzing angry-fur grief to the vets when she went in even at a very advanced age; they had to put her in one of their multi-zip cat-restraint bags to start messing with her.

24:

No need to engrave letters, just dent/scratch/mark one bowl and not the other.

Also, you could try feeding at different times, though that does require sequestering one cat temporarily.

At least you don't have to administer daily injections of insulin to them...

25:

not sure I can suggest anything about the cats eating one another's food, but as far as litterbox splashgaurds go, we've had good luck with domed litter-boxes. Our cats like to dig to china before and after use, and when we had traditional litter boxes, that meant litter (and stuff) would end up on the floor outside the box.

26:

BTDT. These two are indoor cats, for values of "have never been outside". They don't understand cat flaps and they don't use covered trays. (We've tried.)

27:

OK, here's the solution. Temporarily lock up Mafdet, and put meds in both dishes.

28:

This story is adorable, but also a perfect illustration of why I don't intend to keep pets in the near future. Pot plants it is for me.

29:

i'm morbidly obese and have dental problems - can i come and live with you...

30:

Hm. No useful advice from this regular reader, other than to (maybe) second the sequestration advice. I am very lucky that my Totoro is healthy and young (6 years), but he is often loath to eat if I am watching him - maybe stick the medicated food and the feline what needs to eat it in the same room such that the other feline cannot get to it? It sounds like chasing kitty with food and drugs is not your desired way to spend a day...

That said, Totoro started investigating a vase of flowers in the apartment at 0645 today, which preempted the need for an alarm. Eh, I can live.

31:

What does "ghosttie" have in common with a broken pencil?

They're both completely pointless!

I don't have any pets because I'm single, sometimes have to go places and/or work overtime at short notice and they're a tie in that situation. That doesn't mean that I can't understand, sympathise with, and try to make helpful suggestions to friends that do.

32:

I'm not sure either way about "cat sequestration". It might work, but only if Frigg can be relied upon to always eat quickly, and then if Mafdet won't kick up stink about one or both of being sequestered and Frigg being fed first every day. All of which points require a better knowledge of these specific cats than I have to address.

33:

You do have to be careful of cat's kidneys. I had one in Spain who died after two days illness. The vet said it was because she had eaten too many grasshoppers and her kidneys couldn't take it.

Have you tried adding a bit of fish oil to the food? Sounds crazy but the commercial fishoid lumps may not have enough in. My Mum swears by it for her joints. She was just telling me that glucosamine has been recently tested and found wanting.

34:

Bowl-marking MAY be as simple as slipping different-color anti-skid bases on. From memory, they're silicone and manufacturing one should, at worst, be pretty simple. Otherwise, a quick scratch with a screw-driver may be enough to make it obvious what bowl is whose.

As far as ensuring only one cat is medicated, I think the policy of feeding them in different places, dosing just one bowl is the least horrible, all round. If she's OK being given suitable liquid (say lactose-free milk with the meds dissolved) from a bottle or syringe, that MAY be an option, but I suspect you've already tried and discarded that option.

One of ours need occasional medication, but it's infrequent enough that "one person holds, the other blasts lactulose into cat with a syringe" is, just about, manageable, but if she needed it more frequently than she does, we'd probably have to consider another way of administering it.

Of course, the cat who needs occasional lactulose was fed through a tube for 3-4 months and after the tube was removed needed another week or so before she realised she could eat on her own again. But food was much (much) easier than medication.

35:

"The vet said it was because she had eaten too many grasshoppers and her kidneys couldn't take it."

Holy smokes. Eating Grasshoppers can kill your cat? My cats catch grasshoppers all the time. Thanks for the info.

36:

You do understand you'd be put on diet food and sent to the dentist, don't you?

37:


Any chance Frigg is rejecting the taste of the meds themselves?

Our cats' enthusiasm for various food flavors can change suddenly, and we respond by trying new random samples until a new favorite is found.

Have you tried splitting Frigg's food into two piles, one with glucosamine and the other with the NSAID? If she only rejects one, you may have narrowed down the problem.

38:

Hey Charlie, you've got the pharmacy degree, right?

I don't need to know what Frigg's painkiller is, but most of them are bitter, and some come with side effects such as stomach upset. Similarly, it's not clear that glucosamine works well on human arthritis.

I'd suggest not giving Frigg her meds, on an experimental basis. It may be her food is unpleasant to eat, and she'd rather eat normal food for a bit.

I doubt you can use operant training with painkillers (yes Frigg, you feel better when you take your meds. Get it?), but I'm not sure I'd discount her avoiding her medicated food. She may be attempting to avoid side effects or overdosing.

Another option is to switch foods on both cats, temporarily. My mom discovered the hard way that the cat food she was feeding wasn't complete nutrition for her elderly cat, and she now supplements that diet with fresh, cooked chicken and beef (not much). That cat always liked yogurt (lactose tolerant cat, amazingly), but occasionally she has to give full-fat yogurt, instead of non-fat.

Frigg might not be getting complete nutrition. Her body's telling her she needs something that's not in her bowl, and she's trying to find it elsewhere. If this is the case, switching her food up, or buying some fresh cooked chicken thighs and adding them to her bowl, might get her to take her meds.

39:

Don't know if this works for cats, but every time we need to give a pill to one of our two Boston Terriers, we simply hide it in a piece of "dog" cheese. ("Dog" cheese - Kraft singles).

40:

@38: "That cat always liked yogurt (lactose tolerant cat, amazingly)"

Speaking as a lactose intolerant human, yogurt (the real stuff, not the nasty cheap stuff in dayglo colours) is fine, because although it's got some lactose in, it's also got loads of lactase from the bugs that convert milk to yogurt.

41:

I don't need to know what Frigg's painkiller is, but most of them are bitter, and some come with side effects such as stomach upset. Similarly, it's not clear that glucosamine works well on human arthritis.

Frigg doesn't normally have a problem with her food; she's a small, furry bulldozer. This is just an occasional nuisance, and the possibility that it's just that I've handed her a bowl that smells of $OTHER_CAT so she's going in search of her own bowl matches the evidence (and therefore needs rigorous testing).

(In addition to the wet food -- the flavour of which is varied daily -- there's a permanently-overflowing bowl of cat kibble, plus daily cat treats.)

42:

"Stories like this are why I don't understand the concept of pet ownership"

Cats don't have owners, as this story should make perfectly clear. They have staff.

43:

It's either some cat politics thing or the medication smells/tastes in ways not perceptible to humans giving the food weird seasoning...

44:

I used to have cats when I was younger, but I've found I got alergic to them when I got older. Now even a 6 week old kitten in a fairly large apartment is enough to cause my eyes to start running :-(

One thing I learned from my girlfriend's cat, though, is to be careful about them eating normally. Her cat stopped eating for a while (vet assumes a transient pain) but this went on for long enough that the cat's liver started failing which caused a lack of appetite which increased the liver problems... Solution was to have a tube installed and inject food directly into the cat's stomach until he recovered enough to eat properly himself.

That cat earned himself the nickname of "solid gold cat" because the cost of the treatment was almost the same as his weight in gold :-)

45:

You can try the "Reverse Iocaine" gambit: put only a small bit of unmedicated food in both bowls, but be ready with a batch of the medicated stuff. Once Zombie Cat decides on the "right" bowl for the day, put the rest of the medicated food in. Once a consistent pattern gets reestablished, you should able to go back to just putting the medicated food in the same place.

46:

Could the grasshoppers in question have been sprayed with pesticides?

47:

A cat-owning relative of mine swears by putting crab paste on any tablets she wants her cats to take.

48:

Those who fail to understand pet "ownership" (which has always seemed to me more like partnership) may have other terminal emotional failings as well. I tend to avoid such folk. Older cats may be aware that they need assistance with some things but, much like older humans, they are usually loath to accept it. After parting with three dogs and a cat in the last few years I find myself emotionally unable to take on another pet right now but the empty space is still there. Caring for the medical needs of an animal who does not regard the noises you make as any form of intelligent communication can be frustrating but ways are there. My own experience makes me agree with the "wrong bowl" theory. I used stainless steel bowls to feed all my pets and thought that they couldn't be identified as distinguishable items but dogs and cats alike had their favourites and gods help you if you dared to give them the wrong one. The best you could hope for was that they just wouldn't eat - if they were particularly offended the contents of the bowl could be distributed far and wide.

49:

When given his evening kibble, our cat demands that we move the kibble bowl from the kitchen to the master-bathroom. We're not sure why this is, but after 8:00pm, kibble needs to be in the bathroom the be delicious.

50:

I can easily imagine why you don't want to do the squirting meds thing - the closest I've come to this is trying to force-feed baby snakes; they didn't have claws (or teeth worth mentioning), but by the time I'd done it three or four times I was exhausted.

With cats I would probably also be in extreme pain...

51:

Our vet, who treats cats only and specializes in difficult cases, says that glucosamine works better in cats than in humans or any other kind of animal. Our thirteen year old Japanese bobtail showed immediate improvement when we started treating his arthritis with glucosamine.

Last year our seventeen year old diabetic cat died of congestive heart failure. We had spent seven years taking his blood sugar four times a day and giving him multiple shots of insulin per day. He was well worth the effort. I still miss waking up with him snuggled in my left arm pit.

52:

30-ish years ago, before we understood that my wife was egregiously allergic to cats, our tom was an outdoor cat. He got an infection from a fight and our vet (a small-town large animal vet, to be sure,) told us that we had to take his temperature daily until it reached a certain point, at which time we could stop giving him his meds. He gave us a bottle of pills, a rectal thermometer, and a pair of long leather gloves.

Be grateful of the advance in animal medication. I still bear scars... :)

Mike

53:

This has worked for us on and off. We've inherited various felines inherited over the years (mostly "defective" thanks to my wife's association with the CPL).

Some cats really, really, REALLY like certain foods and this can be used to "sort" which cat gets which medication by coating/hiding the medication.

Things to try include Marmite (yeast extract), yoghurt, tuna(just dip it) and salmon (for the really refined taste) which have all worked for us at various times.

The aim is to find one food the target likes and the others don't (current favourite of target felines is sliced ham for Amber, Tuna for Poppy and Katie can be pilled of I wear suitable protection......).

At the other extreme we did have one cat who almost OD'd on yeast flavoured vitamin suppliments which were sealed in foil. He really had a thing for marmite, twiglets, etc.


Of course you aren't always lucky and just have a bunch of feline dustbins.......

54:

Best of luck, but we need a recording of the zombie sounds on freesound.org

My cats have tended to be the outdoor, independent, come back when they need bits sowing on variety.

55:

This has probably already been tried, but is worth a mention. Cartrophen Vet is one of the most effective anti-arthritis medications currently available. It is injected at varying intervals and has had amazing effects on our arthritic dog (it also works on cats, horses and probably humans)
It causes the synovial fluid in the joints to thicken and provide more cushioning to the damaged joints.

56:

Cats are much easier to force-feed than snakes. (I've done both. Never baby snakes, for which I'm grateful -- the things are too blasted small!) Cats are social, been selected for laziness over a couple of thousand years, and are generally raised to be submissive to the food apes. Snakes... not so much.

(For real fun, try giving medicine to a 5' monitor lizard, with razor-sharp talons and fangs. And enough intelligence to figure out what you'll be doing after the second time.)

57:

Something I have seen in the vet's examining room that gives me nightmares:

Cat enemas.

'Nuff said.

58:

If it really is a zombie cat, spreading the meds-bearing food evenly over your cranium should work a treat. What could possibly go wrong?

59:

oof. You've my sympathies Charlie.

FWIW, I agree with you about NOT squirting meds down the cat's throat.

We did this with my father's 16 year old tom with feline leukemia. That cat needed two people to hold it down, another to force open his jaws and the fourth to pop the pill down.

And he regularly drew blood on us from this.

60:

I've got two 6 week old [originally*] feral kittens in my apartment right now. So, the normal noise is patter-patter-patter-patter *pause* patter-patter-patter-patter *pause*, repeat until naptime. They both had cat colds when we captured them, so my wife and I have been giving them eye cream to control their eye goobers (common cat cold symptom). Anyway, the stuff worked miracles, but poking a wild kitten in the eye is a great way to find out that they are quite capable of drawing blood.

We've been going the "wrap the darling in a towel" route. My wife calls it a purrito. Then they cannot get away or claw you. Watch out for the teeth and squirming though. Also, you get about a second to get away before they realize you've opened the towel to let them go.

I second the mark the bowl with a nail idea. Instead of scratching the surface, I'd take a hammer and beat a pattern of dots into the rim of one bowl. If you want to get fancy, you could put the morse code for M and F on their respective bowls. But a few dots on one and figure out which cat that bowl belongs to should work well.

* They're not so feral anymore. One of them is on my lap napping right now. She's twitching her legs. I can only guess what she's dreaming about. The other one is more skittish, but doesn't hiss at us anymore. Not even when we're being mean and waterboarding^Wbathing her or giving her her eye goo.

61:

To mikeb, the stab at emotional problems and not understanding pet ownership is backwards. I myself own a cat and am quite happy with the arrangement, but I am also a butcher at an organic meat co-op and let me tell you crazy pet people are some of the most emotionally disturbed people I have ever met. I do not count Mr. Stross as one of them, and his story is just fine, but to think that people who don't understand the pet thing are emotionally weird is wrong. I consistently deal with customers who dont think anything of dropping extravagant amounts of money on their pets who would be more than happy to kick the homeless person on their way out the door. Also some pet people are very rude and demanding for their so called pet "friends". I sometime imagine them at home talking to their pets, "Oh Mr. Pebbles you wouldn't judge me like those mean people would you, no not you, you love me so much." When in reality Mr. Pebbles would have no problem consuming the owners dead body were they to die and their lonely apartment.

62:

Our 14-year-old diabetic kitty has peripheral neuropathy, causing him to also sound like a zombie while thumping around the hardwood floors (computers are in the basement, so the sounds come from above). Though their dishes and contents are identical, the old cat will devour the younger's food as well as his own, given the chance. Our solution is to feed old kitty on the floor and young kitty on the dining table (as true geeks, we eat at our computers).

Older kitty also has cataracts that have impaired his night vision, so he won't use a covered litterbox. We've put motion sensors and rope lighting on the stairs for him and nightlights near litterboxes. Oh, and we built a ramp so he can get into bed with us.

If that seems indulgent to our feline bosses, you should see what we've done to keep the parrot happy!

63:

We will sometimes use cream cheese around the pill to get Jack, our finicky Persian, to take his medicine. A very thin layer completely surrounding the pill does wonders. We try not to make a habit of this because Jack has a tendency to put on the pudge, but when he just won't take it in his food (about twice a month) we let him have the cream cheese.

64:

I know the towel technique. Alas, when you're dealing with an elderly cat with arthritis, physical restraint is a really easy way to hurt the cat. And as cats aren't very demonstrative about physical pain, I won't know about it until afterwards (when she pisses in a corner because her joints ache when she tries to climb in the litter tray).

65:

That's definitely true for elderly, arthritic cats, and even with the kittens we're being careful (they're small, and their bones are delicate). I think I had an offhand clause about the technique being best for younger, healthier cats, but it didn't survive my edits.

66:

I see a real market for something that automatically dials the police and tells them..."My pulse has just stopped, so please hurry so my pet doesn't decide to make me his next meal..."

67:

"Cat enemas."

Well sure, but you have to start with a single kitten and work your way up to cats.

68:

There were venomous centipedes, black widow spiders and mega wasps around the farm as well. Lots of strange little wildlife like the praying mantis. The vegetation had a few peculiar poisons that the grasshoppers could have eaten as well. It could have been many things, she didn't last long enough to find out for sure. :0( The one thing we can be certain of was the total absence of pesticides.

69:

Charlie, both our dogs have to take pills twice a day (antihistamines for both, and prozac for Spencer, the Terrier, to keep him from barking all day long at people walking past the house), and Jemma, the Lhasa Apso, needs to be on a diet because she won't control how much she eats. So they have to have different kinds of food, and it turns out just to be easier to give them the pills separately. I roll each dog's pills in a spoonful of wet dog food (it's a lot cheaper than those pill pockets the vet sells) and they gobble them up (I do have to be careful not to let Jemma bite my fingers in her excitement). It only took a few days for the pills to become a regular part of their daily routine, and it's a lot simpler than having to guard their food and make sure neither one gets the other one's medication.

70:

You've told me all about the weirdness associated with rescue cats of dubious background.

I apparently learned nothing of this and find myself with rescue dog of dubious background that's likely similar to Frigg's and Mafdet's; abuse with breeding for profit thrown in prior to dumpage.

I'm leaning towards the problem being the wrong bowl too. I usually don't have to deal with the wrong bowl issue, I get bed warfare instead. Would a nail polish marker on the bowls survive the dishwasher?

71:

I give Junie her meds with pillpockets (she's stronger and faster than I am, and will bite and scratch), but I don't know if they're over there. Spirit will take her meds right down in her throat, but it helps that she's toothless.

The vet said I needed to get two pounds off Junie and Loki and add pounds to Spirit, but when I decreased the food on the dish the big ones shared, they just went and ate Spirit's (she lives under an end table -- long story). I bought a programable food dispenser so the big cats share a quarter cup every eight hours and that seems to work. Spirit's dish is almost always at the right amount of food, and she's gaining weight.

72:

Charlie, I understand entirely, i am taking care of my arthritic 17 year old blue tick hound. hand feeding and yes picking her up and carrying her up and down stairs. She played frisbee in her younger years, scrapped in the park and is a little rough for wear now but as long as she can experience joy in that dog fashion, i will stand by her. Take care

73:

Apropos of nothing, I must say that Frigg the cat looks like it has a double entendre in it. Nice name.

74:

Lordy, I so feel for you.

Ms. Angelina is 19-ish, and prefers wet food probably because the dry food is harder to eat, though she will go slumming and eat a mouthful or two if she feels she is starving

Because the young cats are so assertive, we give her two daily meals of wet food (split in two sessions each to avoid too-fast consumption and then the 'uneating' part of it....) in the 2nd floor bathroom, which has a door that can be latched shut. (I live in a 1912-built house, several of our interior doors do not shut right>0

All the current cats are healthy, Angelina is ancient compared to the 'kittens' (3-y-o) but she keeps trucking along. She HAS gotten the memo that if a cat needs pills, they will get them no matter what they think. I have my ways. The first time I had to pill a cat caused a bit of consternation because I grew up with Great Danes. Wanna give them a pill? Shove your whole hand with said pill down past their spit-out reflex and let it go. Cats' mouths are SOO TINY comparedf.

Best wishes for your kids, you're a good cat daddy.

75:

A cat person? Plus. Saved cats from euthanasia? Double plus.

76:

I work from home where our 3 cats provide plenty of "screen interruptions". However they are mostly let me out to sun, let me back in for shaved beef treats, your lap looks warm!, etc .. Prior to the young 3rd cat addition our 3rd cat at the time was a 22 year old who would wake us up in the middle of night screaming for food or because he needed fluids injected.

Pills meant eyedropper down the throat with 2 of us holding him, while he usually managed to spit it all back up anyway (tooth infections).

The biggest issues with working at home with 3 cats is in the Winter as my 5 30" LCD displays seem to attract a cat or 2 in front (typically the one I need to look at...), or fighting for who gets my lap. A few times I have had to remove their belled collars during conference calls as they know exactly when its my turn to lead discussions (MUTE--> de-bell cat --> UnMute and apologize). NOTE: two of them are belled to prevent them from sneaking up to surprise the one with poor eyesight

One cat in particular likes to assist me in building electronic circuitry by smelling each chip or popping out chips from the breadboard when I turn my back. She has also assisted me in building several of our home computers, and when any is opened, must be present to stick her head inside to make sure things are done properly.

77:

As someone who as been accompanied / owned by a cat since 1952 ....
Well, Charlie, is there an easy way I can e-mail you photos of our two? (Birman & Birman/Norwegian Forest respectively)
20+ years ago, there was: HERMANN - 1/4 Siamese, and regarded all dogs, irrespective of size, as wind-up clockwork toys, especially for his benefit. Mind you, if you were dealing with 8+ kg of stripey killer, you could do that sort of thing.
Our youngest, Ratatosk (the lilac-point Birman)relys on being unspeakably cute, most of the time. Although he's nearly 3 now, he's just starting to get his head around "fierce" - oh dear.

78:

We used to have a rescued cat who could exercise some serious paranoia when he chose to. He wouldn't eat food that tasted or smelled of "pill", and that included food that you'd touched after touching "pill" (and would probably hide for a week if you tried to force-feed him).

The upshot of this: I discovered that it's possible to insert a pill into the middle of a chunk of cheese without touching the outside of the cheese with either the pill, or "pill" fingers. He'd eat that quite happily, then look at me with some suspicion.

79:

#66 - It could be done with existing technology, as long as you can persuade the (probably elderly, possibly senile) person being monitored to wear the pulse monitor 24/7.

#73 - I've a notion that Frig(g) was the name of one of the Gods in one of the variations of German/Norse mythology.

80:

Come on, that's just teasing. Enquiring minds *need* to know the parrot procedures.

The whole thread makes me think fondly of the internet versions of "How to give a cat a pill" that was doing the rounds before the last ice age.

81:

Both our cats (one of which is a plump middle-aged lady given to crankiness) occasionally go the "this is not my bowl" route and refuse to eat/try to eat the other one's food. We've found that it's a good idea to have two sets of bowls, so when one is spoiled for the day, we just place the food in the other set and everything goes back to normal.
However, since we also have a dog, we've found that the best way to make the elderly cat eat anything is to put it in the dog's bowl. (The dog is around 40 pounds, but he knows who's the real boss in the house.)

82:

Regarding grasshoppers, appetite, etc, it strikes me that cats are so hyper-optimised - like a little eurofighter wrapped in fur.

83:

You're assuming the meds come in pills. The NSAID (the important one -- pain killer) comes in syrup form in a dropper syringe, and (for a miracle) seems to be of a flavour acceptable to cats. But the other two come as powder in human-sized hard gelatin capsules! There is no point expecting a cat to voluntarily swallow something that is in human-equivalent terms about the size of an iPod. So the capsules need to be split and the powder sprinkled over then mixed in with her food.

84:

My father had his wrists opened up (although fortunately not his veins) by our Siamese, who had decided "guard cat" was a good job, and would always check out callers at the door.

Having restrained an unexpected dog at the front door, he tried to pick up the cat to get him out of the way. Cat was not having this, and objected with extreme prejudice.

The "guard cat" only went into attack mode one other time; but then someone trying to do unannounced door-to-door sales, at night, on an Army housing estate, in Northern Ireland, during the Troubles, while having his mate stay in the car with the engine running, is obviously very lucky not to become a candidate for the Darwin Awards... (the front door didn't get opened until after said potato entrepreneur had discovered that armed householders also have back doors)

Said shovel-mouthed moggy had other attractive habits like waking the staff up in the morning with a gentle bite to the chin ("get me breakfast"), and sitting on your shoulder like Long John Silver's parrot... I miss Tigger.

85:

Yes, very. They seem to occupy pretty much the same ecological niche that Velociraptors occupied 65-and-yadda million years ago -- ambush hunters with good binocular vision, sharp fangs to grab the prey's throat and clawed hind feet to disembowel with -- only updated with mammalian-grade brains (that ongoing 450mY predator/prey intelligence arms race) and homeothermy.

Basically, they're machines optimized for turning meat into cat shit, and if anything gums up the processing line everything goes to hell in a hand-basket. Because they're obligate carnivores they evolved to handle a protein-rich diet, which puts huge stress on their kidneys -- kidney failure is your classic feline check-out mode, much as heart failure/infarction/CVA is in humans. And their nervous systems are wired up weirdly compared to us apes -- most of our medicines have wildly different effects on them.

86:

I remember the fun of trying to feed one of our cats beta-blockers (yup, the human ones). Of course, he's not the smartest of cats, so just dropping the drugs near his food was acceptable. The problem was chopping a small pill into 8ths, and keeping his sister away (of course, if it's 'special food' for one cat, the other will decide she wants some).

Fish oils are good, the oldest cat I knew lived her whole life on a fish farm, and ate trout every day (and the occasional mouse/rat/small dog for variety). She lived into her 20s and was still an unholy terror to anything canine until her last week.

Also, why bother engraving the bowls when you can just hit one hard against something to cause an obvious dent, simple and cheap :)

87:

Our cats are generally named after deities or characters from folklore with feline characteristics. Frigg is the English form of Freya, basically (I've had a Freya in the past).

88:

"Eurofighter wrapped in fur" - but the only kind of Eurofighter you want to get cozy with. Reminds me of the various "cutting tools turned into pets" in Elizabeth Bear's Dust/Chill series - definitly cat-like.

89:

I've used nail polish to mark my silverware and mugs at work, and it's survived many dishwasher cycles.

So, did feeding the cats go better today?

90:

Yup, seems to be back to normal. (I made sure to give Frigg the same bowl she's had for the past couple of meals. Whatever was putting her off it appears to have passed ...)

91:

Thanks. Of course, you realise that I've now got to ask where Mafdet comes from as a name, because I genuinely can't place it?

92:

Funny. Wikipedia mentions the name.

93:

Don't want to derail the thread, but you asked. Having just won (temporarily) the "yes, I really do need that perch/left hand to type" battle, I can give a brief idea of what life is like as a "parront."

Papaya's a 10.5 y-o Hahn's mini macaw who weighs about 10 ounces but has ruled this roost since the day he entered. We don't clip his wings, so he's freeflight in the house and loves it. The pterrordactyl stalks his prey from on high and swoops in to attack contractors, sisters-in-law and cats (who wonder with confusion why "lunch" is attacking). He gets "slammered" when important people visit, but if the SIL or other undesirables return he's welcome to go for the jugular.

He has four cages, two travel carriers, multiple "play centers" scattered through the house, and has taken over the guest bathroom. He likes to fly in there and hide in a drawer, laughing at his stupid humans when we need him to cooperate. Parrots are very catlike in that regard: Sick sense of humor and far more intelligence than the uninitiated would expect.

Opinionated, inflexible in schedule, and loud enough to be heard throughout the rain forest/block, his preferred hangout is a shoulder or hand. Fortunately, he's taught us his "potty dance" so we can get him over a "splat shield" instead of perpetually changing shirts. He must know everything that's happening, and activities that are not parrot-approved can bring quite painful punishments.

We've learned how important birds are to the ecosystem, too, as he is determined to "plant" his food by scattering it everywhere. And his favorite food is "whatever my parronts are eating." Apparently PopTarts and cheese grow on bushes in the Amazon and are perfectly natural bird foods.

94:

We had Pixel -- the lamented -- who in his later years 18/19 got the idea that while his litterbox was okay, the floor-set heating vents were much warmer on his little aged behind and legs. Even our vet suggested euthanasia, but you don't do that to a family member just because he's got erratic. I expect to get erratic eventually and I hope the boys don't do that to me. So I just got REALLY good at cleaning the floor vents. Then there was DT who after 19 (she lived to 21) thought it would be much more convenient for me if she just did her business under my desk. Right there and easy to clean, right? Warning -- NEVER lift a cat who has started peeing. She can't stop. The result is much like sky writing, only not sky-writing but desk-writing, including books and notes for the current novel and NOT with smoke. (I regret to admit I didn't write out anything.)

However the worst are what I'll delicately call The P*ss Wars going on between alpha male one, D'Artagnan and alpha male two, Havelock, RIGHT on our sofas. This last has caused us to have to give them and beta male Euclid (who has decided to add his spraying just to show willing) the kitty equivalent of prozac every evening. It's an exercise program -- spirited chases through the house -- combined with a mental puzzle -- where did they hide this time. (Tearing a hole on the underside of older boy's box-spring and hiding in there takes the cake so far.) Also D'Artagnan, who is slinky and evil, has (I SWEAR) developed cheek pouches. No matter how long you hold him, the minute you set him down he spits out the tablet, somewhat more manky for the wear.

So, I sympathize and hope she eats her food next time. (Pete, also the lamented, used to eat his food and leave whatever parts were contaminated with crushed tablet.)

95:

About the nervous system, any examples?

96:

Our pedigree British-Blue/rip-eared tabby stray cross nearly made it to 18 yrs, and for the last few of them she was on small pills for thyroid problems.

Used to give the pills before she got her real food - just a small chunk of Ardennes or venison pate from the supermarket deli did the job every time - wrap it round and it sticks well, and the flavour seemed to do the job.

97:

That is a short piece of truly epic comic prose.

98:

Well, it would be funny, except that I can usually place characters from myth and legend from memory, rather than resorting to Wikipedia; so usually in fact that it didn't occur to me to use Wikipedia this time!

99:

And, replying to myself, the Wikipedia article explained why I couldn't place Mafdet; her cult was replaced by the Bast cults.

100:

"little eurofighter wrapped in fur"

Thanks for reminding me -- next time I'm Japan I must visit the Yamato Museum again. The gift shop there has Mitsubishi Zero plushies.

101:

That is awesome. Mind you, it's no weirder than having both teddy bears and a model Avro Vulcan in your bedroom.

102:

@ 84
The aforementioned HERMANN opened up the Vet at age 16!

As for rats (we had some dodgy neighbours in the late '70s) .... don't ask.
After a couple of months - no more rats, but DON'T EVER try to take one away from him - or you're next on the list.
Even cute Ratatosk is accumulating a steady check-list (we still don't know where he got the Gerbil from) and we think squirrrel is going to be next up.

103:

we think squirrrel is going to be next up.

Wouldn't that be cannibalism?

104:

How about a Scooby Doo pyjama case, a talking Dalek, a couple of Nissan Skyline R34 GT-Rs...? ;-)

105:

Your point is well taken and mine was perhaps taken too seriously but each to his own. Pet ownership is not an automatic ticket to craziness. Membership of the human race isn't either but who knows?

106:

The Yamato Museum is in Kure, just down the coast from Hiroshima. The mushroom cloud after the nuclear bomb was dropped in August 1945 was apparently visible from the port there.

Did I mention the gift shop also has the Revell kit of "Enola Gay" on sale too?

107:

our old cat Pippi hated , err, everything I think, Half siamese. One day going down the garden I see the cat lying peaceably alongside another cat
It wasnt a cat, it was a rabbit.
the psycho had caught a rabbit from several doors away carried it over 5 foot fences -that one thought it was a leopard.

108:

When I was young, we had a cat that seemingly lived on rabbit. Wild field rabbit that is, not the overgrown lumps that some people have as pets, but she was quite happy to hunt them.

Her technique was to have our Rottweiler go crashing along a hedgerow. Startled rabbits would bolt away from their burrows (which were in the base of the hedgerow) into the long grass of the pasture. Hidden in that long grass would be the cat.

Half to the dog, half to the cat. The cat's latest half was often heard being crunched under a bed.

She lived to a good age, despite her tendency to be overly territorial. We once had a complaint from someone walking their German Shepherd along the footpath past our house, complaining that their dog had been terrorised. With cats, don't assume that being a pedigree means they're not tough bastards. They're just elegant tough bastards.

109:

All our cats have unfortunately gone to cat valhalla whilst trying to fight cars. Would a make shift barrier or big encyclopaedias and things help?

110:

to mikeb,
thanks for the civil reply, I agree that pet ownership neither implies nor excludes craziness to the human condition. Pets give us what seems like love and affection, and who knows at some level it may be, but it also could be our own vain attempts to humanize things which are certainly not humans.

111:

I forgot to mention that I apologize if my message was hostile, not my intention. I just helped one to many overly demanding 'pet people' yesterday.

112:

Keeping them indoors would help.

113:

Interesting - although I remember from my summer of reading drug submission documentation for Glaxo that there's a cat-based model for migraines ... I wonder if that was based on a true similarity, or just some ailurophobe who liked subjecting cats to clinical trials

114:

Trying to squirt antibiotics down my cat's throat with a needleless syringe is probably the closest I've come to crying in frustration as a result of my cat.

115:

Ah, mythos names are always a favorite for the felines. We picked up our first pair about a month ago. Only convinced my better half on one mythological name - Bast. Merlin was voted down for the shelter-provided name of Sterling for the male. Alas.

Hopefully your kitties continue to enjoy a wonderful, happy life with you both, gracious host and hostess.

But as was already suggested, audio capture the zombie kitty sounds and post the here or on freesound. Inquiring minds must know!

116:

Charlioe @ 103
Erm, err .....
Raratosk has VERY sharp teeth & claws, but most of the time, he relys on being UNPSEAKABLY cute ......
I think you get the idea.

117:

A neat piece of irony there. It would only be topped if this is the ex-Monogram 1/48th scale kit, which includes replicas of both "Little Boy" and "Fat Man".

118:

The senior cat (A "Maine coon") at my place is multiply named, the significant other calls him "Kitty", my daughter calls him "Muffin" and I call him "Hazard to navigation cat", or "Fleabaggus maximus".

119:

A failed attempt by my parents to get the cat some feline company didn't quite work (the upstart was at risk of "sleeping with the fishes") and so the kitten went to friends whose cat/dog had recently deceased. Along with a new puppy. Soon, the cat had discovered the joys of judo.

Grab dog on underside of chin using teeth; retreat between dog's front paws, with dog's head following; observe the critical point at which the dog overbalances, rolls forward, and lands on its back. Ippon...

120:

"Katze" (yeah, that one was named cat, as "Katze" is cat in German), our late cat, also had this tendency to terrorise big dogs. And cuddle with human beings and babies. Very small, rather thin - and transformer into angry monster seeing a dog.

121:

... Ippon - Full Point!!

122:

@ 120, Till.
How did you get that small picture posted?

123:

Short answer: using the Flickr-Share-This-Functionality, Thumbnail size (it's from my Flickr stream)

Slightly longer answer: our gracious host's blogging system allows <a> and <img> tags; the resulting posts land - in my experience - in the moderation queue.

124:

Mafdet is a minor Egyptian goddess, though our Mafdet is more a killer of cat food than snakes.

125:

Thanks again. When I eventually Wikipediad Mafdet, I realised that all the accounts I'd read had airbrushed her over with Bast.

126:

They seem to occupy pretty much the same ecological niche that Velociraptors occupied...

Does this mean the victims in Jurassic Park could have survived if they had YARN?!?

127:

I apologize for having mis-read Frigg's name. I guess this should come under the Trufocal topic. My progressive lenses just don't always do it for my 20/1300 vision. I'm glad she is now eating regularly again.

128:

[Geekier than usual]The "velociraptors" in "Jurassic Park" were actually Utahraptors. [/end]

129:

on cat vs dogs--
pippi decided that the new dog would be a good victim,
so she crept up and gave the dog a facefull of claws, which just got snagged in the dogs fur.
the dog , probably misunderstanding the intent , decided to flatten the cat to the floor with a paw and begin a thorough wash... the cat's look of pleading was hilarious,.

130:

They were filling a cat with Kaboomium? Oh dear...

Chris.

131:

There's probably a much closer local source for this or a similar item, but for marking stainless, you want something like the tungsten-carbide version of the Starrett scriber:

132:

Aoife won't use covered trays either, and she digs, but I've found the cheap interlocking squishy foam floor sold for toddler playrooms is effective at catching any splash from the pan. It's intended for slightly different kinds of abuse, but it's pretty tough and also ultimately disposable.

133:

Thing is, you don't have to force the jaws open. You don't even have to go for the blow-in-the-ear trick, which works on cats and dogs but which pretty much all of them actively hate.

Cats have a diastema between the canines and the premolars; grease the pill with bacon fat (or butter, or salmon belly fat, or... you get the idea) and it will go through the diastema. (If it won't, it's too big to swallow.)

You then inject from a wee 2ml syringe enough *warm* water through the diastema to make the cat swallow. Ideally you do this with the cat flipped on its back; this really limits their traction options if they object.

It remains a whole lot better if you can get the cat to eat the meds voluntarily, but the whole pry-the-jaws things isn't required if you have to pill a cat, and you can avoid trauma for all parties if you don't do that. (If you can get the meds in fish oil, you don't need the pill step; you can just use the syringe.)

134:

Ideally you do this with the cat flipped on its back; this really limits their traction options if they object OTOH, it does enable them to deploy all 5 pointy ends at once.

135:

That cat can claw the up all it wants; if you're sitting, and the cat is on your lap, on its back, aligned with your femurs, there is surprisingly little it can do, even if you're leaning over to pill it, without rolling over. This is one of the good things about a towel over your lap; the cat will have _way too much_ fur/towel traction.

And, really, a cat that's resorting to feline swear words and springing away is one thing; a cat that's in full-blown panic is another. Full blown panic is grounds to try another method.

136:

Second the recommendation for the pillpockets. They're more effective at masking the taste of the pill than doing your own ad-hoc pill wraps, possibly because the pill never contacts the outside of the thing where a bit can rub off. And so far, most of the cat owners I know who've tried them report that the cats do like them as a treat -- especially if occasionally fed one just as a treat, without the strange filling.

My cat and I developed a fairly effective pilling technique, when wrapping the pill didn't work. Start with cat facing to the left. Right hand drops gently over cat's head; thumb and forefinger land on either side of the muzzle. Tilt head gently back so cat is looking upward -- if you try looking directly up yourself, you'll find that your jaw and tongue tend to drop a bit, and this happens for the cat too. Left middle finger comes down onto lower lip and pulls jaw open a bit further; left thumb and index finger drop pill into mouth. Release lower jaw. Odds are that the pill will have gone back far enough that the cat will swallow it; if you've got one who will wait to spit it out, stroking the underside of the chin a few times can encourage swallowing. Release cat. The nice thing about this approach is that it can generally be executed with (relatively) little wrestling.

Then again, I admit I was dealing with an indecently cooperative cat.

Specials

Merchandise

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Charlie Stross published on October 5, 2010 10:11 AM.

Eyeballs was the previous entry in this blog.

Books I will not write #5: Floater in the Sea of Time is the next entry in this blog.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.

Search this blog

Propaganda