Tag Archives: Kagetora

Cat TV!

There has been a drama unfolding over the past few days on Cat TV at our house, and I thought it would be funny to film a bit of it.

In the video below, watch a tiny chipmunk (Chip) outsmart a grey squirrel who thinks he’s a tough guy, while Dean the Malfunctioning Red Squirrel makes outraged noises in the background! Stiles (center, grey and white), Kikiyo (right, Burmese-Abyssinian), and Kagetora (left, orange tabby) were fascinated! At the very end, if you’re observant, you’ll see Chip come back for another round. We’re not sure what to name the grey squirrel. Let us know if you have suggestions!

Update 20 October 2017: There’s another squirrel who has been showing up lately. She’s partially grey and partially brown. She looks like she’s been adventuring, so we named her Sandy (after the squirrel in Spongebob).

We still don’t have a name for this grey squirrel, but he gets outsmarted by Chip almost daily!

RCRS: Stiles, Part 2

Continuing from Part 1, where I explained how we came to keep Stiles, and his relationships with our other cats…

Kiki loves elephants and whales, and especially loves watching them if David Attenborough is narrating. She taught Stiles this love of whales, elephants, and David Attenborough from an early age.

He’s particularly fond of baby elephants. He hops up on my desk to watch the You Tube videos (I made a playlist for him), and he has one favorite that is a minute long, and he makes this urgent fussy noise when it ends, and makes me start it over, and over, and over…

He plays fetch and catch, and has since he was big enough to fit a toy in his mouth. And he’s also learning to fly.

He loves all sorts of games, and his intelligence never fails to impress. But even more astounding is his capacity for empathy. Just like his mother seemed to know how to get along with each one of our cats, as well as how to win over humans, Stiles has shown those abilities and more.

If anyone in the house is upset, Stiles must investigate. Whether it’s a human-cat interaction, a cat-cat interaction, or someone is just upset, he wants to make it better.

Kagetora is terrified of men. If my brother is coming over, I try to remember to put Kagetora in my room so that he doesn’t get upset. It doesn’t matter that my brother is a cat lover, and wouldn’t even raise his voice to a cat. Kagetora’s fear was learned during those years he spent as a stray.

Once, I didn’t put Kagetora in my room before my bro stopped by. I went into the kitchen to get something and heard a hiss. I looked over, and Stiles was already there. Stiles saw that Kagetora was upset, but also understands that my brother is a good human, so he simply put himself between Kagetora and my brother so that Kagetora wouldn’t feel so threatened. It worked.

But he doesn’t just understand cat behavior and emotions, he has shown an amazing understanding of human emotion as well.

If I cry, he comes running, jumps in my lap, licks my face, and then, depending on if they are happy tears, sad tears, in pain tears, angry tears, frustrated tears, or fake tears, he will respond in different ways.

He’s the most amazing cat I’ve ever known. Here’s how he reacts depending on my mood:

  • Pain: He’ll start purring really loudly and lay on my abdomen (I have chronic pain due to abdominal adhesions, and the warmth and vibration of his purring is better at relieving my pain than any drug).
  • Sad: He’ll make these little consoling noises, and then he’ll cuddle up on my chest, purring. He’ll watch me very closely. As soon as I calm down, he’ll tuck his head under my chin and stay there for as long as I need him.
  • Frustrated: After licking my face, he’ll lean back and look at me, then he’ll hop down and go get one of his toys, then drag it into the room and place it at my feet so I will play with him. It really does make me forget about my frustrations.
  • Angry: He does the lean back, then he starts chattering at me, hops down, and starts acting like a total goofball, doing flips, jumping, and just being hilarious. It always works.
  • Fake: I have tried doing fake crying to see what he’ll do. Once he licks my face, he sighs, hops down, and goes back to whatever he was doing before.

All that had been going on since he was about 6 months old. When he was about 15 months old, I was binge watching one of my shows, and I got all emotional during a particularly poignant scene.  Next thing I know, Stiles had jumped in my lap, did the tear sniff, the face lick, but then he did something new.

Sitting in my lap, he tilted his head, raised a paw, pressed it against me just above my clavicle (collar bone) and slowly let it rub against me as it lowered about 3 inches, then he lifted his paw and pressed it against me just above the clavicle again, let it slide down, then he did it again. And again. He watched me very carefully as he did this. At first, I just smiled.

It took me a minute to figure out that he was petting me.

It was so amazing! I started laughing and telling him what a good boy he is. He has since worked the petting into his routine for when I’m sad or in pain. Every time he does it, I feel like I’ve just seen a dancing unicorn or had a conversation with a dragon.

He is so insanely smart and empathetic. He isn’t just highly empathetic with me. He’s like this with my daughter and our other cats as well. We’ll get into more specifics about feline empathy later. For now, just enjoy the AWW!

Here he is petting me:

That’s all for this week!

Q&A Does Catnip Have Health Benefits?

QDoes catnip do anything for a cats’ health or is it just a recreational drug for them?

A: It depends on the kitty. If your cat has the gene that makes it sensitive to catnip, it can have some health effects.

If your cat consumes it rather than just smelling and rolling in it, it can have a calming effect. Our little guy, Stiles, has feline insomnia. He gets enough REM sleep, but not enough NREM sleep. Kitties usually grow out of it by the age of 3, but he’s just about to turn 2. He licks it instead of rolling in it. It mellows him out, and it helps him catch up on sleep. So that’s a definite benefit.

Our 2 older kitties who have the gene, Kiki and Kagetora, tend to roll in it and sniff it, and it makes them playful, which is good, especially in the winter months when they nap a little more than usual. This helps them get some much needed exercise. Our oldest, Kagome (19 years old), doesn’t have the gene.

But we can’t give it to the 2 older cats and Stiles at the same time because they get a little aggressive, and he gets really chill, and will just let them bite him if we don’t direct that aggression toward play.

It can also be a powerful training aid. If your cat is scratching the furniture, carpet, or walls, then using catnip on scratching posts (try to get ones made of the materials they like to scratch). If you want them to use the new kitty bed you got them instead of your laundry basket, catnip can also help with that.

If you don’t have a plant, then try to buy it as fresh as possible, and store excess in the freezer. Also, don’t give it to them too often because they can lose their sensitivity to it.

Special Edition: What Every Cat Owner Needs to Know

If you have a cat, you absolutely must read this because the chances are high that it will affect your cat(s) at some point in their lifetime. If I had to choose one post for everyone to spread far and wide of all the posts and articles I’ve done about cats, this is the one.

Being the cat lover that I am, I try to make sure that all the kitties have good dental hygiene. If they happen to eat something off my plate while I’m not looking that contains sugar, I’m making sure those teeth are clean afterward. No sugars, no injuries, no cavities, right? Yes and no.

If you are a stickler about dental hygiene, your cat will not get cavities like we humans do. But what happens in 30 – 70% of all adult cats (and that risk increases to 75% in all cats over 5 years of age) is something called Feline Tooth Resorption. It is also known as FORL or feline odontoclastic resorption lesions.

It is an excruciatingly painful condition, and can have severe consequences if it is left untreated. And since cats hide even severe pain very well, we can’t rely on outward signs of issues. A visual inspection is not always adequate to diagnose this issue either, since it can begin above the gumline. This is why yearly checkups are crucial to your cat’s health.

For many years, these little holes that would appear at or near the gumline were just thought to be cavities, and veterinary orthodontists even filled them like your dentist would do for you. But these aren’t cavities. They are the result of a process that we don’t yet fully understand. There is some evidence that sometimes it’s tied to too much Vitamin D in their diet (there is also evidence that this is not the answer, or that it is only one part of the answer), it may have something to do with autoimmune issues, maybe it’s tied to a viral infection, or something else that we just don’t know.

What we do know is that something triggers cells called odontoclasts, which begin to destroy the tooth root surfaces, which causes the enamel to be resorbed. As the disease progresses, the different layers of the tooth are resorbed and the pulp cavity becomes exposed, causing horrible pain and sensitivity. This can happen in one tooth (most common), several, or all of a cat’s teeth.

There are two types, and without going into a lot of veterinary jargon, Type 1 requires the removal of the entire tooth structure. Type 2 does not. It generally requires just removal of the tooth, some stitches, and that’s all.

I was sadly underinformed about this topic until recently. I didn’t realize that it can be a serious issue that affects most or even all teeth in some cats, and it can cause complications including bone loss (in severe cases, the entire jaw) and even death.

Kagetora-sick_8-22-2016

We recently took Kagetora to the vet because he had a runny nose, a goopy eye, and he was scratching his ears like crazy. I thought it was just allergies, but he stopped eating and started hiding. There are 3 things Kagetora lives for: food, cuddles, and sleep. When he started rejecting 2 of those, I knew it was something more serious than allergies.

So we took him to the vet, and we found out that he does have allergies, but he also has extensive tooth resorption (Type 1). He lost several teeth that night when he fought off a coyote to save those kittens, and now it looks like he will lose most of his remaining teeth, which is not the norm. His case is severe, and it’s extremely expensive.

Please share this post. There are other cats out there that are suffering, and even the most attentive pet caretaker can miss the signs of this insidious disease. Let’s do everything we can to raise awareness so that more cats get the help they need.

Keep those fur babies close. We are their voice.

Kagetora’s Story: Male Cats Aren’t Always Dangerous to Kittens

Of all the myths spread about cats, one of the most tragic is that most people believe that all male cats will kill kittens if given an opportunity. This is absolutely untrue.

Cats are very social, empathetic creatures. Males often help with the kittens in feral populations, as well as when the male lives in the same house with the female and kittens. The reason we don’t see it a lot when our own cats have kittens is because the male isn’t able to get near them if he is a feral, stray, or lives in another home.

In fact, the male doesn’t even need to be related to the kitten(s) in order to want to protect and nurture it.

This isn’t conjecture or wishful thinking or anthropomorphism. The literature is full of studies and observational data that back this up. I have seen it many times.

In fact, I have seen many males, both feral and house cats, help to take care of kittens. I’m not saying all male cats are completely safe, and that there’s no need to worry. What I’m saying is that it’s not set in stone, and you also need to be aware that mother cats sometimes kill their own kittens, and at a higher rate than males. This remains true even when you factor in access.

Several years ago, there was a cat I saw quite a bit while I was in a rural town in Oklahoma. He was very friendly, so we were able to get him neutered, and then released him. We called him Kagetora (shadow tiger; because he followed my daughter around all the time).

He was about 7 months old when he first started following my daughter around. Back then, in 2008, we had a Samoyed-Chow Chow mix named Alaska, and Kagetora loved her. When my daughter took her outside, Kagetora would rub against her, trotting between her legs as she walked, and he would cuddle up close to her when she would nap on the lawn.

LCD Alaska and Kagetora, January 1, 2009
Alaska and Kagetora January 1, 2009

When he wasn’t following my daughter and Alaska around, his favorite napping spot was the place where the feral females would have their litters, and he loved helping with the kittens. He’d protect them while mom was away, groom them, play with them, and even share his food.

This is altruism in action. For a very long time, we didn’t believe that animals could behave altruistically. But anyone who studies animals will see it. The smarter the species, the more often we see altruism. I’ll discuss the topic of altruism—both within a species and interspecies altruism—more in the future.

Kagetora got attacked by a coyote one night while protecting the kittens. He managed to scare off the coyote, but he was in bad shape. We nursed him back to health, got the kittens to the Humane Society, and trapped the females and got them spayed. I decided it was time for him to retire, and we adopted him.

Fast-forward to November of 2014. We were fostering a young cat, Freya (AKA Bunny), who was pregnant. (See her story here.) She was only 6 months old when she got pregnant (before we took her in), and she had 6 kittens, so it was a bit much. Kagetora and our then 10-year-old female cat, Kiki (who had kittens before), loved taking care of the kittens. Our older female, who was 17, had never had kittens, and wanted nothing to do with them.

The wonderful thing about Bunny was that she established close and trusting relationships with our 3 cats while she was pregnant, so she not only had help with the kittens, but she had a lot of moral support for herself as well.

LCD: Kiki bathes Bunny while Bunny bathes Kiri
Kiki bathes Bunny while Bunny bathes Kiri

One of the kittens, Stiles, got really sick, and we had to bottle feed him and carry him around with us to keep him warm. My daughter and I slept opposite each other so someone was always awake with him. During this time, Kagetora and Kiki bonded with Stiles very strongly. By the time he was old enough to be adopted, they were convinced he was theirs, and I couldn’t take him away from them.

Here’s Kagetora with his baby (he was SO happy to have his own kitten):

Kagetora and Stiles

And here are Kagetora and Kiki with their baby, Stiles:

Kikiyo, Kagetora, and Stiles

The Tale of the Tail

Have you ever stepped on a cat’s tail? Even when you barely touch it (like when you realize, right before you put your weight on the foot, that the cat is there), they will scream like it is the worst agony imaginable. They also scream if their tail gets caught in a door, and any other situation that they perceive as RED ALERT! TAIL THREAT DETECTED! DEFCON 1! DEFCON 1!!!!

Why do they react this way?

A cat’s tail has 19 to 23 vertebrae (about 10% of all the bones in a cat’s body are in the tail), a vast network of nerves, several groups of muscles, ligaments, and tendons that give it the ability to move and sway. It can help them balance (acting as a rudder), and it is an integral and important aspect of their body language. Some cats have far more sensitivity in their tails than others.

It’s an important instinct to protect their tails that causes the reaction that might seem a little overly dramatic to us. There really isn’t a human body part to compare it to. So it’s important to take the cat’s reaction to touching its tail very seriously. If they don’t want you to touch it, hands off.

Most cats don’t mind if you touch their tail briefly while you’re petting them, but any grabbing of the tail, or touching it when they aren’t expecting it can be upsetting to the cat because their tails are important, sensitive, and they are vulnerable.

Stiles has quite a long tail (30 cm, or 12 inches, which is roughly 2/3 of his body length), and he’s very sensitive about it when he’s walking around, the tip curled to make a question mark as it slowly sways. Yet he’s fine with us touching it as we pet him when he’s in our laps in cuddle mode. Kagome is very protective of her tail, and will bop you with a large furry paw if you get too close to it. Kiki and Kagetora don’t seem to mind at all.

Stiles’s fabulously long tail is evident in most photos. This one is my favorite:

Stiles

Welcome to the World of Cats

The internet is full of cats: videos, pictures, memes, entire constellations of web sites dedicated to our adorable fluffy companions. So why start a blog dedicated to cats? There is a lot of misinformation out there, along with a lot of poorly constructed studies and completely wrong-headed theories about cats that need to be addressed.

I’ve spent most of my life studying and pondering all things cat, and I hope to delve into all the aspects of these amazing creatures who have chosen to share their lives with us.

Introductions

Since I’m going to be talking about cats, I’m definitely going to be talking about my own cats. We currently have 4. I’ll be posting more details about them soon, so these are just brief introductions. From oldest to youngest:

Kagome is 18 years old. She’s a Norwegian Forest Cat, and she is definitely top cat in my house. She showed up on our porch one day, demanding to be let in, and she followed my daughter around for weeks until I finally caved and allowed her inside.

Kagome_6-7-2015

 

Kikiyo is 11 years old. My little sister’s cat had kittens, and my older sister and I each took one. Half Abyssinian, with a dash of Ragdoll and a heaping tablespoon of Burmese, she’s a cuddly beauty with firm opinions on many things. She’s happy being the princess.

Kiki_2-11-2016

 

Up next is Kagetora, who is 8 years old. He’s a retired superhero (more on that later).

Kagetora_9-29-2015

And finally, we have Stiles. He’s 16 months old now. He’s astonishingly smart, incredibly empathetic, and has given me back that sense of wonder that I had when I was a kid learning about cats for the first time. His story is a great one, which you’ll hear all about soon. He also has a fabulously long tail.

Stiles_6-8-2016

That does it for the intros. I’ll be back with all sorts of information and discussions about cats soon. In the meantime, feel free to ask me any of your cat related questions, and I’ll be doing a Q&A soon!