Category Archives: Cats

Kitty-Proofing the Bathroom

One of my cats, Mr. Knightley, likes to destroy toilet paper and eat plastic. That meant that I had to keep my bathroom door closed to keep him out of trouble. That was not great for ventilation after showers. For years, I looked for a solution that would protect the toilet paper and discourage him from eating the plastic lining of the trash can to no avail.

I have finally found two things that helped me to make it safe to keep the bathroom door unattended. I bought a toilet roll holder from Ikea that had a cover. It was a great find since every other solution I had seen cost much more than the $10 I paid for that one. It was very easy to install, requiring just two screws.

I found the trash can solution at Target. It is a round step can by simplehuman studio. The key feature is “smartbucket”, which prevents bag overhang. It was pricey for a trash can, but the peace of mind of mind that there is less plastic for my cat to find and eat makes it worth it. I am actually going to get another one today for another room in the apartment.

I hope that information helps someone who has a cat as mischievous as mine. :)

Teach an Old Cat New Tricks

A couple of years ago, I wrote about training my then-kittens to do tricks. Now that they are 3.5 years old cats, I am writing a follow-up post on the success and challenges I have experienced in training them to do additional tricks.

I can’t guarantee that older cats can be trained. The point is to get cats to do something they would already do, except on command. The following instructions will illustrate how to turn random, quirky behaviors into tricks, but are not intended to serve as examples of what all cats could/should be able to do. The key is to use positive reinforcement to encourage them to repeat the desired results.

Say “Hello”

One of my cats, Mr. Knightley, is pretty vocal and meows a lot. One day I decided it would be cool to be able to get him to do it on command. I had to come up with a phrase to associate with the desired behavior. I started with “say hi” but my boyfriend pointed out that could be confusing because it sounded like the other trick, “high five,” especially when I praised him by saying “good hi.” Saying “good hello” is easier and less confusing.

I started the training process by saying “Say hello” to Knightley while I was doing a tricks session. He was not very cooperative but I persisted. Since he is a frequent meower, the chances were good that he would randomly meow after I said “Say hello.” Whenever he meowed after I gave that command, I would shower praise on him and say “good hello” to reinforce the word with the behavior, along with the praise. After a few months, I can get him to meow quite consistently after saying “Say hello.” My boyfriend thought (and still thinks, actually) that I was crazy to try to attempt to train my cat for that trick, but now I have a pretty cool trick to show off.

Stand

This is similar to the “up” trick that I previously trained my cats to do except that I had them stand up higher, rather than just sit up on their haunches. I put the treat high above their heads which caused them to stand up higher to reach for the treat. Eventually, I was able to get them to stand and put their paws up in the air without having to put the treat way up high.

Wave

Until my boyfriend came along, I was only able to get my cats to do tricks when I rewarded them with treats. One night, he got Darcy to give him five with no other incentive than to pet him afterward. This evolved into a trick I now call “wave.” Usually, when I have my cats “gimme five,” they’re sitting. Since my boyfriend was doing impromptu tricks, Darcy would be standing on all fours when he was asked to give five. So he would reach out his paw while his remaining three feet stayed on the ground. When he reached out without a corresponding hand to give five to, we started to call it “wave” and would say “good wave” and pet him to train him to associate the behavior with the word.

Salute

Salute was a combination of stand and wave. In the beginning, we would ask Darcy to stand and not provide any feedback. While he waited for some response from us, he would do a slight downward motion of his paw to get us to acknowledge him. That was when we discovered that this was a new trick, called “salute.” It is friggin’ adorable and is one of my favorite tricks to see Darcy do.

Gimme 10

Mr Darcy has this quirk where he likes to put both paws in the palm of my hand, which I would then kind of lift up and down a few inches. We would often carry on for a few seconds doing this. I was eventually able to turn this into a trick by associating it with the phrase, “Gimme 10.” When he gave me two paws on command, I would pet him and praise him to show how pleased I was.

Say “Good-bye”

One time, as my friends were standing at the door to leave my apartment, Mr Darcy was hanging around them. On a whim, I said, “Say good-bye, Darcy.” He stood up and waved with his right paw! I immediately praised and petted him to provide positive reinforcement. Now, whenever my boyfriend leaves and Mr Darcy is loitering, I would say “Say good-bye” and when Darcy obliged, my boyfriend and I would shower him with praise.

Key points

  • look for behaviors that the cat would do anyway
  • provide positive reinforcement with treats, petting, and/or verbal praise
  • have lots of patience

Meet Robert, My Roomba

Back in June, I picked up an iRobot Roomba 550 from Costco. It’s one of those purchases where I was not sure if I would continue to use it in the long run. After four months, I am certain that the Roomba is a keeper. My boyfriend helped me with naming it: Robert. It might sound silly to name a gadget, but it’s pretty convenient: “Oh, Robert’s cleaning”; “Robert is done”. I’m not the only Roomba owner who has a name for her robotic housekeeper. Besides, I like to name my gadgets, like my computers, GPS voice, PDA, etc.

In October of last year, I got the Litter Robot . Due to logistics, I had to place it near the entrance of my bedroom instead of in an out-of-the-way spot. When my cats jumped out of the Litter Robot, they would kick some litter out onto the carpet. I had to vacuum a few times a week to avoid having to step on litter crumbs.

The time it took to set up and do the cleaning added up, so I decided to look into getting a Roomba. My concern was whether it would be safe to have it running around in my cats’ presence. iRobot assured pet owners that the Roomba was safe for pets. I can confirm that. Not only is it safe, it has provided some great entertainment to see how my cats responded to the Roomba invading their space. They usually stay out of the way but if not, Robert is very gentle and doesn’t hurt the cats when he bumps into them. My cats haven’t tried to flip him over. They tried to chew on the side brushes but I scolded them and they haven’t tried since. I think it is important to be there in the beginning when using noisy, moving gadgets to reassure the cats that it is okay and safe.

I wish that Robert could go longer without me having to clear the brushes. I didn’t have to do that with my regular vacuum after years of use. The cool thing though is that if there is an issue, there is a voice that tells me that the brushes need to be removed and cleaned or whatever complaint Robert has. It’s a female voice, though. For people who don’t have long hair or pet fur, the Roomba could probably last longer with less maintenance between uses.

When I registered my Roomba, iRobot offered a 15% discount on an order of accessories. The hard part was figuring out what to order. I looked around for advice but couldn’t find anything that was useful. I’ll share what I have learned.

 

  • The Roomba set that I got from Costco came with the Brush Cleaning Tool. This is very useful for removing hair from the bristle brush.
  • I got a replacement order of brushes. It took a long time for me to decide on this because I could not find reliable information on how long they lasted and whether it was even necessary to ever replace them. However, I came across a suggestion that having an extra set is useful for when there isn’t enough time to clean the one set of brushes. I have had times where I would have preferred not to deal with the brushes, but didn’t want Robert to get stuck when he vacuumed while I was away. With the extra brushes, I can just remove the dirty ones and pop in clean ones when I didn’t have time to clean.
  • Filters need to be replaced every few months so I purchased extra at the time to take advantage of the discount. I read where someone would wash the filter to avoid having to replace it but the filter can get so dirty that I didn’t think it was worth the effort. But that’s just me. I’m lazy; that’s why I got an automatic vacuum cleaner.
  • I got 2 more Virtual Wall® Lighthouse™, which help block out sections of the room without needing to set up physical barriers.

 

In the beginning, I set Robert’s schedule so that he would run in the morning at around the same time as my alarm to make me wake up. After being awoken on a holiday morning, I decided to have him run after I had left for work. He runs three times a week and does a pretty good job. It’s a good idea to keep the regular vacuum cleaner around for an occassional deep clean. In addition, it makes me more disciplined about keeping my floor clear all the time since Robert cleans so many times a week.

Of course, I can also get him to run manually. In fact, he is vacuuming as I type this blog post. :)

Natural Balance Cat Food

A couple of years ago, I wrote that I am for Iams. This is an update that I am no longer feeding my cats Iams. 

My cats have had a weight problem since they were kittens. I had to put them on weight control food since they were 9 months old, and the vet still kept saying that they needed to lose weight. However, they’re not obese, so that’s good. They just needed to lose a pound or so. That might sound like a huge proportion but my cats are big cats.

Anyway, I have tried at least 5 brands of weight control food. Yet, my cats didn’t seem to make progress although maybe their weight was at least under control so that they weren’t getting really fat, and I’ve seen really fat cats.

At first, as recommended by the vet, I tried to restrict the portions but that didn’t turn out very well. My cats got so desperate for food that they climbed into a closed-lid 18 gallon trash can. Yeah, gross. My sister suggested that I try free-feeding them. That way, they would get enough to eat and not try to overeat when they did get food. This seemed to work okay and my cats ate as much as they felt but didn’t eat everything in the bowl. This worked out for when I needed to be away for more than a day.

One day, I read on a pet owners mailing list a recommendation for Dick Van Patten’s Natural Balance Pet Foods. I know, I was skeptical about cat food with the name of an actor on it, too. I gave it a try anyway. I got the Reduced Calorie Formula. My cats are not picky eaters so acceptance wasn’t an issue.

I do not know for sure if my cats have actually lost weight but they look like it. Mr Knightley feels lighter to me. I’ll have to see when they have their weigh-in in March to confirm. Their coats are beautiful and silky soft to the touch. They are about as energetic as cats can be. All the ingredients are natural with no artificial colors, and include the nutrition my cats need, and then some.

Once I get my new camera, I’ll post photos of my kitties. :)

Have a Happy Valentine and Make it Safe for Pets

V-day is coming this week and whether it is looked forward to or dreaded, those of us with beloved pets have to take some precaution to avoid having the day of love turn tragic. This information is also important to those who love pet lovers.

Valentine staples like chocolates can be delicious to us humans but toxic to pets. Certain flowers can be poisonous to cats. My favorite flower is the oriental stargazer but as a lily it’s a no-no for my cats. Oh well, the flower does not live as long nor provide the same cuddling benefits my cats do.

This month’s ASPCA newsletter contains an article with some tips and additional links, including alternatives, on ensuring a safe and enjoyable Valentine’s Day for humans and animals: ASPCA Guide to a Pet-Friendly Valentine’s Day.

Happy Valentine’s Day!