Windows to the Soul

Because I didn’t have time to make a blog entry yesterday, I’m going to post this bonus entry today.

I have a thing for cat eyes. I am both disturbed and mesmerized by the way they look into my soul, stripping away every pretense behind which I try to keep myself safe from the outer world. I can not hide from cat eyes. Nor do I want to.  And so, I invite you into my world. Their world. Don’t fight it. Surrender.

cat eyes

cat eyes

cat eyes

cat eyes

cat eyes

cat eye

cat eyes

cat eyes

cat eyes

 

 

 

 

 

 

cat eyes

cat eyes

cat eyes

 

Posted in Cat and kitten photos | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Respecting One’s Elders

Over the decades, I have watched many of my beloveds become elderly. Of course, when I was young and vital, much of what it meant to live in an aging body was beyond my understanding and empathy. Although my love for the animals was always there, I must admit that some of their attractiveness as individual cats wore off as they grew old, less interactive, and scruffier-looking. The fact that they sometimes became less tolerant of physical contact,  less successful at using litterboxes, and a lot pickier about their diets didn’t exactly enhance their appeal, either. But age will do that to a body. I know that now. BOY, do I ever know that now.

A pile of cats sleeping

Not surprisingly, the older and achier I get, not only the more tolerant I become of my geriatric felines, but the more appreciative, as well. I respect their graceful acceptance of all it means to grow older, as I struggle to gain some modicum of that same acceptance myself. I love the way they embrace a drowsy lifestyle and envy the way they spend most of their time cuddled in a pile of warm bodies on the couch. I am in awe of how hard they fight for every last minute of physical existence, sometimes in the face of overwhelming illness.

Do I wish that my old cats would still fly joyfully across the room after a ping pong ball? Not really. That’s what kittens are for. Do I wish that they would reliably use a litterbox and stop vomiting on my carpet? Well, sure, but I understand the age-induced physical limitations and conditions that sometimes cause these issues.

Beyond understanding, though, I have become somewhat of a geriatric Mommy-Nurse specialist. I gladly accept the responsibility and challenge of keeping my elderly cats as healthy and happy as possible. How could I do any less for the animals who have been there to lend their loving support and companionship no matter how foul my mood or flawed my being. They have, in fact, had to be every bit as tolerant of me over the decades as I have ever had to be of them.

An unintended side effect of spending one’s life with companion animals is that one observes the aging process time and time again, long before necessarily becoming physically acquainted with the ramifications of age on one’s own body. When living with an elderly feline, the effects of age and its often accompanying infirmity become uncomfortably unavoidable. The inevitability of the end of life lies purring on one’s lap day after day. I believe that this may explain why so many people are mistakenly inclined to abandon companion animals in their twilight years. It isn’t necessarily that pet owners can’t tolerate the extra work involved in caring for aged animals. It’s that they can’t tolerate the constant reminder of their own mortality.

Mortality be damned. Give me the purr of a wise old cat, and I’m happy.

Billy the old cat

Posted in Cat and kitten photos, Lessons that cats have taught me | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Cat Health Procedures You Should Know How to Do

I spend a great deal of my days and nights attending to the health concerns of my aging 4-legged family. I administer medications and subcutaneous fluids to multiple cats daily, prepare and serve individual meals (by oral syringe, if necessary) multiple times a day, check litter boxes for signs of illness, weigh each of the cats every two weeks, and maintain medical spreadsheets on my computer for each cat with health issues. In addition to those routine activities, I attend to any extra veterinary issues that arise (like Tommy’s currently broken and healing leg).

OK, I can already hear you thinking (or perhaps even yelling at the screen), “THIS LADY’S CRAZY! This is what I pay a veterinarian big bucks to do!” That may be true, but unless a veterinarian lives in your home, your ability to do these things may mean the difference between life and death for your 4-legged companions.

I live 35 minutes from any veterinarian and 40 minutes from my preferred vet … and that’s during  regular business hours when my vet’s not in surgery or working on another emergency case. If one of my companion animals becomes seriously ill or injured after clinic hours or on a weekend (which seems always to be the case), I may not be able to get in touch with a vet for countless life-ebbing ticks of the clock. That, of course, is assuming that my regular vet isn’t out of town altogether, in which case I’m left scrambling to find an alternate veterinarian willing to see my now quickly failing beloved. If I have a pet who is life-threateningly injured or ill, I have to know how to keep that little soul alive until I can get to the vet clinic. So for those of us who don’t live within five minutes of a 24-hour veterinarian, I strongly recommend learning the following potentially lifesaving procedures. This list is in no way intended to substitute for necessary veterinary care. If there is the slightest doubt about a pet’s condition being serious enough to warrant veterinary attention, get to the vet ASAP! Most of the procedures I am listing here are stop-gap measures to stabilize the pet’s condition until you can get to the vet, though some are just handy things to knowThese procedures are equally important for cats and dogs, and some apply to other pets, as well.

  • Observe and recognize symptoms of illness
  • Check vital signs: temperature, pulse, and respiration.
  • Check for dehydration
  • Check the airway and know how to properly and safely dislodge objects causing choking
  • Administer injections
  • Administer subQ fluids
  • Administer oral and topical medications
  • Administer CPR
  • Clean and dress wounds, and treat minor wounds
  • Stop bleeding
  • Reduce fever
  • Ease congestion
  • Treat minor burns
  • Splint a bone break
  • Induce vomiting (and know when and when not to do it)
  • Check blood glucose (if your pet is diabetic)
  • Remove sutures and staples
  • Assist feed

A number of these skills and procedures can be learned online or in books, while you can ask your veterinarian to instruct you in others. I will also be writing more on each of these procedures in future blog entries (and perhaps adding more recommended skills to the list in the process).

I am particularly glad to have written the above list. In so doing, I realize that I am lacking in knowledge of some of these procedures myself. I will be doing more research and self-education to round out my own skill set. Google, here I come …

Posted in Veterinary and cat health concerns | Tagged , , | 3 Comments

Switching gears (My life as Cat Mommy-Nurse)

I’m switching gears for a few days to start the cat health section of this blog. To begin, allow me to introduce a major sub-set of what makes me, me. I am Mommy-Nurse. My kids have four legs and an array of physical maladies. I have dealt with and/or am dealing with most, if not all, of the primary medical issues to which cats are prone: kidney disease, hyperthyroidism, hyperparathyroidism, diabetes, various cancers, urinary tract problems, upper respiratory diseases, abscesses and other injuries, etc., etc., etc. Truth be told, there isn’t much they haven’t thrown my way over the decades.

I have become proficient at dealing with feline illnesses and injuries – especially those common in elderly cats. I have evolved into a very proactive advocate for my cats’ health and a strong and knowledgeable partner in their veterinary care. I have spent countless hours researching their medical afflictions. As an active participant on various online pet forums for the last decade or so, I have also provided research assistance, information, and guidance to numerous pet parents struggling to cope with their own animals’ illnesses.

Let there be no misunderstanding, however. I am not a veterinarian or formally trained in any aspect of veterinary care. My felines have been my primary teachers, and the Internet has been my veterinary library. I have learned much, I know much, and I opine much more. I will share these lessons, knowledge, and opinions freely in this blog, but there’s a lot to cover, so it will take time. If you have specific questions or issues you’d like me to address, I’ll be happy to do my best. Just leave a comment and let me know what you’d like me to put at the top of my “to blog about” list.

For those readers who prefer stories and photos of the Pride of Shadowood, never fear. There will be plenty more of those to come, as well. As I stated in my Introduction and Welcome several days ago, I intend for this blog to be both educational and entertaining (hopefully even thought-provoking). I want you to leave Turkeybutts, Monkeys, and Crabbies, OH MY better informed and with a smile on your face every day. Surely that’s not too much to ask. 😉

Posted in Mostly about me, Veterinary and cat health concerns | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Cat by Any Other Name …

I have been asked how I came up with my cats’ names. The quick answer is, I didn’t.  Well, not for the adults, anyway. I assumed that the adult cats already had names. The trick was convincing them to let me know what their names were, and then being able to recognize the answers they gave me.

Weasel and his fuzzy duck

Weasel and friend

This was an easy matter with Weasel. When I sat in a room with him and asked his name, he screamed the word, “WEASEL” at me. Mind you, he didn’t physically make a sound, but he did manage to blow “WEASEL” into my brain at high volume and with undeniable clarity. I knew it came from him, because the word, “weasel” hadn’t been utilized in my vocabulary or thought processes in retrievable memory. Weasel was quite satisfied with my recognition of his name (as if I had a choice), which turned out to suit him all too well.

 

 

 

Mew

Mew

Mew was much more difficult to identify. He was very feral when he arrived and wanted nothing to do with me for months. He certainly had no interest in disclosing his name to me. When he finally decided to let me into his inner circle, his voice was still muted. After months of my asking, he quietly placed the name, Bartholomew, in my mind, though clearly preferring to be called Mew.

 

Feather

Feather

Feather was similarly slow and soft-spoken in sharing his name with me, though his reluctance was borne of emotional instability rather than anger, as in Mew’s case.

 

 

 

 

Annabelle

Annabelle

Annabelle told me that her name was Annie. When Joe expressed dislike of the name, I asked her if she would mind being called Annabelle, instead. She had no objection, especially since Annabelle was a more regal-sounding name for a most beautiful queen of a cat.

 

 

 

Footsie

Footsie

Some of the cats showed me their names, rather than speaking them into my brain. Footsie was one of these “action speaks louder than mental telepathy” types. I asked his name for weeks with no obvious reply. Well, no obvious reply that I was smart enough to acknowledge. After about the hundredth time of him painfully attacking my feet, I finally got the message. “OK, I get it. Your name is Footsie!”

 

Siliman

Siliman (Silly Man) being, well, silly

 

 

Siliman (Silly Man) was a no-brainer. ‘Nuf said.

 

 

 

Somer

Somer

My girl, Somer (RIP) still leaves me scratching my head and smiling when I think back to how she got her name across to me. As with some of the others, I had been asking her name for many weeks. And, as with some of the others, she had offered no reply. I’d become quite frustrated and wondered if a name would ever be forthcoming. Then one day I was on the floor with her, trying again to convince her to please, please tell me who she was, while I scratched her absent-mindedly between her shoulder blades. She dropped her head in response to my scratching. I continued, and she dropped her head lower. More scratching lowered her head all the way between her knees, causing her to roll forward in a perfect somersault. Having never seen a cat do a perfect forward somersault before, I, of course, was delighted and had to see if she’d do it again. More scratching, more head lowering, and yes, another perfect somersault. I stared at the amazing little acrobat before me, when suddenly I realized that she was showing me her name. “Is your name Somer?” I asked. She looked up at me. I tried for a third somersault, but she would not oblige. No need. The first two had accomplished her goal. She never somersaulted again.

Sweet Sweet

Sweet Sweet

Phantom

Phantom

 

 

 

 

 

Sweet Sweet and Phantom were different. They either never had names before they arrived here, or they didn’t, for whatever reasons, want me to know or use them. They were happy with the “placeholder” names I gave them and adopted those names as their own.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Noddy, Lamie, and BooBoo

Noddy, Lamie, and BooBoo

Capri

Capri

Pretty

Pretty

The kittens presented a different kind of naming challenge. I assumed that any kitten who showed up here was never cared for enough to be given a name, so coming up with a suitably appropriate moniker was up to me. This, I’m afraid, is where my lack of imagination will become sadly evident, particularly where The Babies were concerned. Noddy was an especially acrobatic kitten, who we named Nadia, believing him to be female. When those telltale “boy parts” popped out several months later, Nadia’s name was adjusted to Noddy. Noddy’s brother, Capri, was named after one of Joe’s family cats, Capriccio, who he closely resembled. Lamie acquired her name as the result of the lameness (thankfully temporary) inflicted upon her  by a violent assault by her first owner. Pretty was, well, pretty. I gratefully haven’t the slightest memory of why I named BooBoo, BooBoo.

Roxie

Roxie

With her smooshy flat face and jutty-outy chin, Roxie looked like a gangster – a rather remarkable likeness to Edward G. Robinson, to my eye. But being female, I chose an appropriately gun moll-ish name for her. It fits.

 

 

 

The GoBoys - Gomer and Goober

The GoBoys – Gomer and Goober

The GoBoys got their names because when I found them, one of them had an eye that was so goobery that it was sealed shut. I started calling him Goober, which, of course, left no reasonable option for his brother but Gomer (if you aren’t familiar with the classic Andy Griffith Show, this won’t make any sense to you).

 

Bobble helping me type

Bobble helping me type

And finally, Bobble. When this little boy showed up in my barn in late November, he was so emaciated and frozen that he could barely walk. Every time he looked up at me, his little head would bob like a bobblehead toy. The bobbing stopped as he recovered his strength and health, but the name stuck.

 

 

There you have it – the origins of the names of the Pride of Shadowood. Just don’t ask me what I actually call them around the house. I don’t think there’s an animal in this house with less than a half dozen nicknames that are both commonly used and frequently interchanged. I can barely keep up with them all even WITH a score card!

Posted in Cat and kitten photos, Cat intros and stories | Tagged , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Just so you understand

I think that perhaps a bit of clarification may be helpful for those of you wondering how so many felines have ended up here at Shadowood. Allow me to explain, or at least to speculate as best I can.

IMG_3070

I live on a farm surrounded by national forest in Minnesota, USA. “My road”, to which you will see me refer in my posts, is actually a mile and a third long, dirt township road that is cradled down its length on both sides by forest land until it finds my farm and dead-ends in my front yard. Mine is the only residence on this road, which is why I commonly refer to it as “my road” or “my driveway”.

My closest neighbors, as the crow flies, are over a mile away. Most of them also live on farms. I know that several, and assume that most, keep unspayed and unneutered cats in their barns and farm buildings  as rodent controls and/or outdoor companions.

There is a county gravel pit with a large beaver pond about halfway down my road, which I have been told is a popular spot for teenagers  to do whatever it is that they want to do unseen. The pond is also used by trappers during trapping season, and this whole wooded area  is populated by hunters during every hunting season.

For most of the year, however, there is little to no traffic on my road, making it an easy place to dump unwanted animals without being seen. This, I assume, is how most or all of the felines who have come to my farm since 2001 were forced into their journeys. There is, of course, the possibility that some or all of them wandered back here on their own from neighboring farms, but that takes a broader leap of likelihood than I’m willing to make. I have no intact cats lofting sexual scents into the air, and I don’t keep pet food outdoors, so there is nothing on the wind to lure cats this far back into the woods.

It infuriates me that these poor beasts are so callously abandoned in such a potentially lethal environment. These woods are rife with predators: wolves, coyotes, foxes, bears, various raptors, large weasels, and others who would eagerly make meals of frightened and disoriented domestic animals. It deeply saddens me, too, to think of how many may have met their fates on my road before either they found me or I found them. But the lucky few who made it here have found safe refuge and a loving home.

In case any of those deplorable humans who are looking for the ideal place to dump unwanted pets happen to be reading this, be forewarned. My road is now equipped with trail cams to capture your activities and license plates.  I can not WAIT to testify against you in a court of law, and I will make a very compelling witness.

Posted in Mostly about me | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Parade Goes On …

The Three Mouseketeers - Phantom (black), Footsie (ginger), and Feather (white)

The Three Mouseketeers – Phantom (black), Footsie (ginger), and Feather (white)

Continuing with the kitty parade, 2005 brought an influx of new 4-legged family members. First there were The Three Mouseketeers – Footsie, Feather, and Phantom – who showed up on the farm around the same time. Because of the timing of their arrivals, the way they interacted once I got them all in the house, and the vet’s guesstimate of their similar ages, I have always assumed that they are littermates (though they look absolutely nothing alike, either in terms of color or conformation).

Wookie

Wookie

In the summer of 2005, Joe came across a 3-4 month old puppy abandoned on our road, so of course we took him in (forgive me, cats, for the Wookie pic).

 

 

 

 

 

Sweet Sweet

Sweet Sweet

Then in the fall of that year, a fourth cat appeared in my barn, Sweet Sweet.

Four cats and a puppy in one year. WHEW! Our family dynamics were never the same (or as peaceful) after that. Perhaps as a karmic reward for taking in so many lost souls in 2005, the parade took a breather in 2006, and no new animals arrived on our doorstep.

 

Roxie

Roxie

Sadly, 2007 did not start kindly. We lost Bitsy early in the year to renal failure. In September, however, Joe found little Roxie on our road in the company of a fox whose intentions were unknown but suspect. Perhaps the fox hesitated to make a meal of her because she was in a state of such severe starvation that she wasn’t worth the effort to deal with all that hair.

 

Siliman (Silly Man)

Siliman (Silly Man)

At the end of 2007, Joe and I parted company. He moved out, and the animals and I gradually learned to cope on our own.

2008 was marked by the arrival of Siliman (Silly Man), who made his presence known by chasing Somer up my exterior stairs and cornering her against my front door.

 

 

 

 

Tommy

Tommy

The next spring, while visiting the friend to whom I had given Tommy 14 years earlier, I realized that Tommy had become quite ill. In order to provide her with the veterinary and nursing care that she would require for the rest of her life, I took her back under my care and returned her to Shadowood on Easter morning, 2009.

 

 

 

 

The GoBoys - Goober and Gomer

The GoBoys – Goober and Gomer

Later that summer, a neighbor called and left a message saying that he had seen two tiny kittens on my road.  When I went to check out the spot where he sighted them, this is what I found …

 

 

 

 

Bobble

Bobble

In May of 2010, Billy joined his brother, Bitsy, at the Rainbow Bridge, also as a result of renal failure. As happened in the year of Bitsy’s passing, a new arrival joined us toward the end of 2010. Bobble is the most recent stray to have found his way to Shadowood.

 

 

 

This is the first time I’ve gone more than two years in a row without a new animal showing up since the kitty parade began in 2001. Not only have no new family members been added, but our ranks reduced by two in 2012. My beloveds, Noddy and Somer, were both lost to cancer – Noddy to feline oral squamous cell carcinoma and Somer to mammary cancer.

I will, over time, write in-depth introductions of each of these felines. These intros will be interspersed with blog entries related to feline health and other topics of cat-loving interest. For those who may grow impatient for more stories and photos of the Pride of Shadowood, you can find both on my Shadowood website.

Posted in Cat and kitten photos, Cat intros and stories | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Brief Timeline of Feline Arrivals at Shadowood

When my ex-husband and I bought our farm, Shadowood, in 1979, we moved in with two cats, Tempest and Pea (Sweet Pea for about the first five minutes of our acquaintance).

Tempest and Pea

Tempest and Pea

For a brief period, we expanded our family by one very rowdy male kitten, who we named Zeke. Tragically, Zeke passed shortly after we adopted him. Tempest, who was elderly when we moved here, joined him a couple of years later.

Tommy

Tommy – mother of Pretty, BooBoo, and Lamie, and aunt of Noddy and Capri

Pea became the sole feline entity and Queen of the Domain here at Shadowood until 1995, when tragic circumstances landed Tommy and The Babies in our midst.

After weaning The Babies, I rehomed Tommy with a friend of mine with the understanding that I would take her back if the need ever arose.

 

The Babies

The Babies – Pretty, BooBoo, Noddy, and LamieNoddy and CapriThe Babies – Noddy and Capri

 

Billy and Bitsy

Billy and Bitsy

I had gotten divorced in 1986. A couple of years later, I invited a new significant other, Joe, to move in with me. The year after The Babies joined our family, we knocked down the old house and stayed temporarily in the house of a friend’s elderly parents while our new home was being built. My friend’s parents had both recently passed on, leaving a houseful of cats and dogs in need of new homes. My friend already had a full complement of dogs and cats of her own, so she offered to let us stay in her parents’ house if we would take care of their animals while she made other arrangements for them. When we were ready to move into our new home, we adopted two of those cats, Billy and Bitsy.

Weasel

Weasel

Pea passed away on Mother’s Day 1999 at nearly 23 years of age. Later that same year, Capri went out on one of his farm forays and never returned. Our feline pride then held steady at six until a slow parade of stray, semi-feral, and feral cats began with Weasel’s arrival in 2001.

 

 

 

 

 

Bartholomew (Mew)

Bartholomew (Mew)

In 2002, Bartholomew (Mew) joined the parade

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Somer

Somer

followed by Somer in 2003

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Annabelle

Annabelle

and Annabelle in 2004.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’ll pick up the cat parade again tomorrow, starting with 2005.

Posted in Cat and kitten photos, Cat intros and stories | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Introduction and Welcome!

My name is Laurie Frazer, and I live on my farm in northern Minnesota, USA with The Pride of Shadowood, three dogs, and three very geriatric horses.

On my 13th birthday, my father gave me a gift certificate for the kitten of my choice … and this blog began. No, wait. A few years before that, my older sister came home with a “found” cat … and this blog began. Come to think of it, even earlier than that, I cuddled a kitten at a resort in Wisconsin where my family was vacationing … and this blog began. My youngest feline-related memory, however, involves lulling myself into tranquil bliss stroking a concrete cat doorstop at my grandmother’s house … and this blog began. OK, let’s face it. This blog began in that magic moment in my earliest life when my eyes first fixed on those of a feline … and I haven’t the slightest recollection when that occurred.

I know only that my love of cats, and all animals, is genetically and behaviorally linked to my mother. Although I have no memory of my dad ever having much to say one way or the other about the addition of another 4-legged family member, it was Mom who consistently folded when I or one of my siblings would appear with yet another needy stray in tow. Cats, dogs, rats, hamsters, mice, fish … even Siddhartha the water snake … all managed to find homes in our family. And then there was Uncle Albert, my first horse, who had a starring role in my life for a very long time. But horses are a matter for another blog. This blog is cat-focused, as has primarily become my life. This blog, also, is lovingly dedicated to my mom, who has led (enabled, in the truest sense) me down my animal-loving path which delivered me into this menagerie of Turkeybutts, Monkeys, and Crabbies, OH MY!

To be honest, this blog is likely to evolve into a jumble of cat-related topics. My intention is to entertain and inform. I will introduce you to my cat clowder and tell stories of their histories, personalities, relationships, antics, and struggles. Because I spend so much of my days tending to their various health concerns, you will often find me writing about feline health-related topics and veterinary issues. You may even find the occasional rant about naughty feline behaviors with which I am faced on an all-too-frequent basis. Oh, did I mention that there will be LOTS of cat photos posted here, as well? Beyond all, I hope that my love and admiration for these complex creatures will shine through every blog entry.

And so it begins (Thanks, Mom) …

Posted in Mostly about me | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment