A home cat sitting visit in Sunderland

Wondering what your cat sitter actually does while you’re away? Well, we try to make sure that our visits are fully focused on your cats (and don’t worry, they make sure of this too!). Let’s use the lovely Thomas as an example of a normal cat sitting visit to a one-cat household in Sunderland (NB: A ‘normal visit’ is one where we don’t need to administer medication, rush to the emergency vets, clean up any spills or accidents, call a locksmith when the key snaps, spend 30 minutes just FINDING the cat, fixing anything broken, calling an out of hours plumber…)

Thomas and me

When I arrive at teatime, Thomas would have already heard the gate open and be sat at the door meowing loudly. I let myself in and edge around the door so he doesn’t run out – cue Tom-cat winding himself around his legs until I sit and give him a proper fuss. Then I’d pick up his black and yellow string (with a bell on the end) and we’d head round the house together closing all the blinds and curtains. We then have a bit of a play around until…

String with a ring

Thomas leads me back to the kitchen where he would let me know that it’s FOOD TIME. I collect up all his bowls and glasses (Thomas likes to drink out of a tumbler in the living room) and give them a good clean. I decide whether it’s normal tea – or special treat tea – leave him to tuck into dinner.

Yom nom nom

While he’s chomping, I’d go to the conservatory to water the plants and and refresh his litter tray and pop out to the wheelie bin. Sometimes Thomas couldn’t make his mind up whether to eat – or come and play with me so to put him at ease I’d write out his diary and sit near him. This means he isn’t yo-yoing between the two getting indigestion!

No Rachel, play with me!

When I first meet a client and their cat, I like to ask what their favourite toys and tricks are – nothing makes a cat feel at ease like their own things. One of these ‘things’ for Thomas was a very soggy battered monkey toy that used to be his mum’s! I’d been advised to maybe pick it up with a stick – Thomas also likes to chase and chew sticks – but I still wasn’t prepared for Thomas’ reaction! Hissing and pouncing and battering! I soon saw what being on the wrong side of this wonderfully fluffy feline could be like!

Thomas and the monkey

That said, I don’t play rough with cats that I look after! I find that the relationship between cat sittee and cat sitter is a wonderfully complex one. They’re aware (almost immediately) that I’m there for them – and nothing else. This means that I’m bossed from food bowl to toys to neck scratches to face nuzzles in quick succession. But I don’t think they know I’m paid to do this. I think – they think – that they have to be nice to me (don’t tell them the truth!). Either way, we have a mutually respectful relationship. We play nicely and nobody gets scratched or bitten (especially not the cat).

Bubbly cat

Cat in a bubble

I want to make sure that while their pet owners are away – my cats get lots of special treatment too. This means I have lots of tricks up my sleeve to make friends with cats; whether this is special catnip toys, a cat laser pen, or catnip bubbles! Either way it’s lots more fun for us both to play different games every day – and keep them interested in my visits. Cats are naturally inquisitive so bringing something new nearly always perks them up and also gives me a chance of wearing them out so they sleep happily between visits.

What’s this? What’s this? What’s this?

Most cats like to sniff my shoes and they can’t get enough of my scruffy canvas backpack I take everywhere. I think they all want to mark their scent on me before I head off to the next house! That… or they just don’t want me to leave 😉

This bag smells like treats

Rach x

(The Cat Whiskerer)

Should You Get a Kitten to Live With An Older Cat?…

…We think so!

Less than two weeks and they’re just like the famous duos in history; Fred and Ginger, Batman and Robin, Tom and Jerry, Ben and Jerry, Cheese and Toast… mmm cheese on toast. Well… in this photo they are. The other 23 hours of today were a bit less peaceful (but we won’t tell if you don’t!).

All tuckered out

Rachel x

(The Cat Whiskerer)

Introducing a Kitten to an Older Cat

Searching for how to introduce a new kitten to an older cat throws up a staggering amount of information – and I have to admit that most of it was a bit overwhelming. In fact we almost didn’t do it. I am a ‘follow the rules’ type of person and get really bogged down in doom-and-gloom! Most of the internet advice suggested that it could take weeks, sometimes months of horribleness… But it has been fine. Really. Which is why I’d like to give a personal summary on how the last 10 days have been for Lyla-cat and Indy-boop.

Lyla-cat and Indy-Boop. Fine. Really.

Introducing our older cat; we adopted Lyla when she was about three years old (now six, 2012) – a 3kg, completely flea bitten, un-neutered and feisty female. She was a teenage cat, testing her boundaries. After being desexed, she completely calmed down, piled on the pounds and became a loveable but very emotionally demanding one-cat-per-household-pet. When she used to go outside to potter around she would freeze when seeing another cat, and usually run away. She follows us round from room to room, tells us when it’s bedtime and when it’s time for breakfast and when we go out, she sits on the windowsill waiting for our return. We’re also happily childless so life has been nice and quiet for the three of us. So! Before she got any more sedentary, set in her ways and human-like – we asked ourselves, should we get a second cat? We answered yes.

We’d used an old dog cage (yes the same one Lyla-cat uses to sunbathe in her temporary catio) to set up a safe area for Indy-Boop in the living room (inc. litter tray, water, dry food and old Lyla-smelling blankets). We brought home a feisty, male little kitten who bounded straight out of his travel box and scurried around the room purring before using his litter tray, lapping up some water then coming to nuzzle into my hair and go to sleep. We happily sidestepped the stages featured in most new kitten articles that are intended for nervous kittens.

ROOoooarrrRRRRRR! (Not nervous at all)

We brushed Lyla then brushed Boop then brushed Lyla again. Nothing. We took Boop’s blankets for Lyla to sniff. Not interested. We let Lyla smell Boop’s cage and litter tray. Slight interest / then a nap. By this point we were pretty sure that as Boop had come from a house of cats he’d be fine and it would be all down to our lovely Lyla-cat who is bouncy and friendly and loves people and fuss… Cue the first meeting; Lyla-cat storming into the room to meet Boop (safe in his cage) to hiss at him, spit at him, swipe at him and then retreat to glare at him from across the room. She let out the occasional yowl and seemed to be tutting at one point – but Lyla-cat is VERY vocal and tends to talk most of the time anyway. We managed to watch a film while they both slept. The next few days were similar – Lyla running in to hiss and spit then glare then put up with him for their ‘brief visitation periods’.

Then Boop stopped eating as much and spent a day quite quiet and sleepy. Lyla seemed a bit glum too – so we moved Boop’s cage into a spare room upstairs and gave them both a full day apart. Lyla spent a nice day lying in the sunshine back in her living room – and he bounded around the bedrooms upstairs showing off. By the following day Lyla was standing outside his door wanting to be in. We let her – cue more hissing and swiping. By this point I was frantically trying to make sure I was giving as much attention and affection to our old cat as we were for the new cat. I was trying to show Lyla that I really liked Boop and that she had to like him too – then I was cuddling Lyla so she wouldn’t be so huffy. The end result was each evening I’d be with one cat in the living room, and Mr Whitburn Whiskers upstairs with the other cat. Then swap. Not ideal.

Quality Lyla Time

At this point, we introduced feeding Boop in his cage at the same time as putting Lyla’s food dish next to him. Luckily as she’s so food orientated she barely batted an eyelid at this. We also tried putting Lyla in the cage and letting Boop waddle around the room and peer in at her. Boop wasn’t interested and Lyla was livid – so a week in, we took Boop (and his cage) downstairs again to try and spend an evening altogether. We let Boop come out and walk around next to me – and Lyla was at the other side of the room watching. This was fine, until Boop got over excited and started stumbling about and falling over. Lyla HATED this. She bounded over, hissed and bopped him over the head – which lead me to read some interesting thoughts on cat psychology, particularly the following from an article by W.V. Cats;

“For adult cats who’ve [never seen] kittens before, kittens are strange creatures, not acting like proper cats in the viewpoint of the adult cat… Little kittens make different noises, and move differently than adult cats. They often are overly bold, just trotting right up to an adult cat… Many adult cats don’t know what to make of tiny kittens and this can worry and stress them. Most creatures fear what they don’t understand.”

So we have a boisterous kitten ready to play, and a nervous, suspicious six year old who doesn’t know what to do. Three more days of them sharing the same space in the living room = Lyla ignoring Boop in his cage – unless he miaowed and she’d saunter over to sniff him. Nothing else happened – and because Mr Whiskers is braver than me – and because we really did trust our Lyla-cat – we let them loose together on the 9th day.

Friends? Maybe?

It was terrifying (for me). For them it looked like fun. Our living room has a lot of hidey holes for Boop and we left the door open incase Lyla wanted to leave – but really all that happened was that Lyla hissed a lot and jumped about and sniffed and yowled and then hissed some more and then out of nowhere – she lay down and stretched her paws behind her head tempting Boop to come over. He did so, happily. At which she bopped him on the head a few times then sat and cleaned herself. Then he discovered her tail and they spent a good 10 minutes running around the living room – taking it in turns to chase each other (cue me googling ‘how to tell if cats are play fighting or real fighting?’ – the answer seems to be that you’ll KNOW if they’re really fighting – blood, hair, screaming etc.). This was definitely Lyla putting Boop in his place. We didn’t push it tho. They both had some ‘Dreamies’ and then Boop went up to bed.

This morning they ate breakfast together side by side, sniffed each other and then then began sorting out their friendship. It’s been a day of rough playing and Boop doting on Lyla’s every move – until he gets too pesky and they have to be separated again. With Lyla still giving him the odd hiss and thump when he tries a sneak-attack, we think cuddles are a long way off – but I’m feeling really positive – almost certain that they can be friends. Maybe even best friends?

Most Helpful Tips:
Separate living rooms
Brief visitation periods
Cross-contamination of smells
Patience
Taking things slowly
Don’t expect too much
Make sure you have lots of time for each cat
Be prepared for emotional demands
Be brave – let them figure out some of it for themselves
Kitten is the baby – so primary concern is his safety
Try to have no negative experiences at all
Never punish either cat
Try to show your older cat that the newcomer is wanted and welcome whilst you…
…Make sure you don’t neglect the older cat
Have a water spray to hand – just incase you need to separate them

Rachel x

(The Cat Whiskerer)

Welcome home little rescue kitten!

With kitten food, kitten toys, new litter box, new litter, new bowls, kitten isolation cage, Lyla-scented blankets, carry-cage, adoption fee and video camera waiting at home – me and Mr Whiskers went to meet Carole who we found through Animal Krackers in Sunderland. She helped us pick the perfect little boy kitten to take home.

Indiana Boop – Our new little whitburn whiskerer

Well… strictly speaking – Carole had me wanting to pick two kittens – a brother and a sister. She even put their floofy cheeks together and they tumbled about providing proof of their siblingness to melt my heart a bit. Luckily for us (and Lyla-cat), Mr Whiskers pointed out that we’d come to get one kitten and we hadn’t planned for two. And as I said in my previous blog post – two cats will need more time and attention than one cat – and three cats will need more time and attention than two…

Indy (full name Indiana [Jones] Boop) is currently in his isolation cage and Lyla-cat is strongly disapproving of him from a distance. The idea of her taking to him straight away seems like a distant memory. But we’d expected that. We’d prepared for that. (But we’re still a teeny bit disappointed with that). They should be cuddling like a hallmark card by now, right? Wrong. But we’re taking it slowly and I have high hopes for Lyla-cat becoming a caring foster-mum. Or at least a tolerant big sister.

Rachel

(The Cat Whiskerer)

If you’re in the area and want to rescue a kitten like Indy, please have a look at Animal Kracker’s website – or join the Animal Krackers facebook page – or join Carole’s facebook group 🙂

Should we get a second cat?

Owing to the wonderful summer we’ve had this year, work on Lyla-cat’s outside enclosure has been put on hold. She’s gotten quite used to her daily cul-de-sac walks, snoozes in the old dog cage and for days when it rains (which is pretty much every day) we moved the bird table nearer to the patio windows so she can spy on pigeons – and have sprinkled bird food on other windowsills. We’re always looking for new ways to occupy her time and keep her happy – but one thing we keep stumbling over is whether to get a second cat. Kitten? Cat? Rescue cat? Rescue kitten? Pregnant rescue cat and raise all her kittens?…

Animal Krackers Kittens

Two tiny Lyla-cats that need rehoming from Animal Krackers in Sunderland

So the reasons behind getting a new cat are simple enough. I love cats (and their floofy cheeks) – and more importantly – we have the space and the time to give an animal a good home. Knowing just how many cats need a forever home constantly breaks my heart. We’re always getting calls asking if we can rescue strays or take on unwanted pets but we’ve not been in a position to do that until now.

Because of the nature of cat sitting, we’re in and out of the house all the time. Therefore Lyla is rarely left alone for more than a couple of hours and when we’re home she happily follows us around. She loves her people, cuddles and attention and is a friendly, well-adjusted little cat. However – we’re curious to see whether a playmate could add something to her life that she just can’t get from us – and of course, there’s no real test for this. As much as I ask Lyla for her opinion, I just don’t seem to be able to translate her meows so I’ve had to ask google to help me mull it over;

  • You have to be rational rather than emotional which means getting the cat that will fit in best with your current family – not the one you fall in love with.
  • Plan ahead – as exciting as it must be to rush to a cattery on Sunday afternoon and come home with a bundle of fluff – it’s better to contact local cat rescuers and arrange a home visit. This way, they can meet my Lyla-cat first – then help me to find the right cat for her (not me).
  • Planning ahead with supplies is important to e.g. making any location changes (litter tray/ bedding) in advance so that your original cat has time to get used to them
  • Try to get their personalities to match – but be prepared to return your new cat if them being in your home makes both cats unhappy – rescue centres offer help with swapping until you get the right cat – though the process seems emotionally difficult
  • The formula seems to be that the old cat is more likely to accept a younger cat or… one that is neutered and of the opposite sex or… one that is smaller than your original cat = so for me – a tiny, male kitten?
  • Remember that two cats will definitely be more work than one cat – especially at the beginning – and thereafter if they never get on and decide to live independently of each other. So! You need to be aware of the costs which could include neutering, injections, different diets (kittens/cats/seniors), extra bowls, extra litter – maybe an extra litter box, more worming & flea creams, more vet bills, insurance, extra cat care if you need to be away. Possibly a new carpet 😉
  • Two cats will need more time and attention than one cat; you wouldn’t have a second child because you don’t have enough time to play with the first one
  • Make sure you have lots of time to slowwwwly introduce them to each other

There is plenty of help out there for me to plan exactly how I would go about introducing another cat into our home – and if I sort out the whys and what ifs then I’ll certainly write about it! But for now, I’m going to get in touch with some local rescue teams (like Sunderland based Animal Krackers and Feline Friends) for some advice.

Rachel x

(The Cat Whiskerer)

Cats who twitter

Today I delved into the world of cat-twitter; tweets from cats whose interests include sleeping, bird watching, string, milk and catnip. There are cats that tweet to other cats using cat innuendo, and there are some truly brilliant terrible cat jokes; “You’ve cat to be kitten me right meow”. Twitter’s top trend board reminded me to wish Dr. Seuss a happy birthday which was nice; The Cat in the Hat is a very famous cat, after all and I was very pleased to see some pictures of cats in boxes. From there I found myself happily clicking towards a comic strip about a whale and a cat; Don’t cry fatty whale… Here’s a kitten to dry your fat face with. Afternoon wasted; done!

I also discovered #followfriday. Well – I didn’t discover it. I’m fairly certain it’s been out there for a long time… but one of my followers suggested me to some of hers as a “great alternative to kennelling your pets while you’re on holiday”. Lovely follower. I also got a phone call from a local charity wanting to work with friendly local businesses which is more lovely news!

From cat-twitter to my own nitwitcat, Lyla will be spending the evening playing with her cat laser pen. Who said cat exercise was easy? Nobody. Nobody did. Because it’s not. At. All. At least we’re still a long way off from the cat exercise wheel… but look at this little lump sleeping! No dignity, no shame and no sign of losing weight!

Zero modesty

My undignified Lyla-cat

Sigh.

Rachel (The Cat Whiskerer)