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ripsAfter getting a few hours of writing done after work, Ben and I walked up the street and returned to our apartment with a few deli wraps and a bottle of wine.

We then spent the night watching mixed martial arts fights on TV, toasting to various things, and envisioning how the next few months of our lives are going to unfold. Now that we will both work from the home, how are things going to change?It was quickly decided (after two glasses of wine) that as far as our growing home office was concerned, Ripley would be named Chief Executive Officer. It was also quickly decided that Rips would look really, really cute in a tie.

I thought it would be a good idea to install a water cooler in the living room so that we could take breaks and talk about the latest episode of Dancing with the Stars. We both agreed that any emails we sent to each other would now be referred to as “office-wide memos.”  

Ben also suggested that we instate a company policy prohibiting interoffice relationships in order to promote professionalism, but Ripley and I quickly struck it down. After three glasses of wine, we decided that instead of “dress-down Fridays” we’d have “drunk Fridays” – you know, just to keep everyone comfortable and to keep company morale up.

The list of things that our office wouldn’t have was highly encouraging, though. No more commutes, no more bagged lunches. No more dress code, no more dour 15-minute birthday celebrations. More importantly, no more spreadsheets (or, at least, very few), no more working on projects I don’t choose, no more phone addict cube mate.

I know that the challenges ahead of me are hard, but at least they’ll be my challenges. And even though my new boss demands to be fed twice a day and makes me clean up her poop, at least she doesn’t have the ability to talk. Or use emoticons.

lt. ripleyI am overwhelmingly pleased and relieved to announce that Rips is home and absolutely well. Ben reports that she is 100% recovered, barring the clumps of hair she lost while sick. She is demanding to have her belly rubbed whenever he comes home, she is demanding to be fed exactly “on the sevens,” and she is demanding whichever side of the couch that Ben happens to be sitting on at the moment. In other words, things are back to normal.

All of her tests came back fine – the vet said that dehydration was the main problem (caused by her vomiting) that led to a downward spiral that she wouldn’t have recovered from without a trip to the hospital (the bad vet that we took her away from, if you recall, recommended that we didn’t hydrate her until we found the root of the problem). Whatever caused the vomiting will remain forever a mystery, although the two best guesses are that she got a stomach virus similar to the one that shook me and Ben to our foundations that same week or that she ate something bad that her system had to work through.

I am so, so happy that I can stop worrying about her (and start worrying about the exorbitant vet bills, which I will pay with a smile) and start to enjoy Christmas and my time off from work.  The simple fact that she has eaten a single bite without throwing up – or that she’s once again energetic and vocal – makes me want to jump up and down. Ben called me late last night and said, “I know that it feels weird to call you and announce this, but I think you should know that Ripley just used the litter box!” Hearing that was kind of like seeing man walk on the moon for the first time.

Thanks for all of your comments and emails and calls – I felt less stupid after hearing about Buddy, Sammy, Firestorm, Jake, Jesse, and other kitties that are just as much a part of your families and hearts as anyone. Sure, this incident cost me my new laptop, but she’s a pretty great (and warm) lap-top as any. According to my calculations, she has a solid seven lives left of her nine.

Oh – and I’m feeling much better too. I’m still a bit weak and delicate after my traumatic flight and gross sickness, but all’s well. Although I will say this: never, ever go shopping for clothes in the days after recovering from the stomach flu. I was in the dressing room, trying on size 2 pants and midriff shirts and thinking, “Why am I SO hot today? Why does everything I put on make me look SO MUCH like a supermodel?” The answer: because all I’ve been doing is vomiting and eating saltines for three days. Just like supermodels.

Ripley has gone from bad to worse – we took her in to the vet yesterday morning after three days of her throwing up. After initial tests, the local vet had no idea what’s wrong with her. Both Ben and I didn’t like the vet – do you know that generally smarmy feeling you get around some people, even if you can’t place why? – so we rescued Ripley and found a better place, even with the vet insisting that she stay with him and that we were making a mistake by taking her somewhere else.

Now, this was all happening while I had to catch a plane in two hours to my parents’ house in North Carolina. Ben, who is the best man on earth, got in a cab with Ripley and rushed her to a real, actual animal hospital in Manhattan where the vet wasn’t just going to recommend procedures that would make him money and not help Ripley. The new vet immediately rehydrated her and gave her an ultra sound – since she might have swallowed a foreign object. Ben spent hours of his time talking with the vet and, heroically, gave them his credit card information.

Knowing that she was now in good hands, I booked it to the airport. By the time I got there, I was feeling… spacey, like I couldn’t concentrate on anything. Ben called and I could hardly put two words together to tell him how I felt. I thought it was just stress from worrying about Rips, but I found out soon enough that it was actually the stomach flu, which Ben had two days before and which has been sweeping New York this week. I’m 90% sure than having the stomach flu in an airplane is the worst, most embarrassing thing that could happen to a person – and all while crying about Ripley. I’m just endlessly thankful that I had an aisle seat and that the person next to me slept through everything. And that I’ll never see any of those people again.

After a night of vomiting and shivering in bed, my fever broke and I feel much better – “much better” meaning that I feel like I got hit by a train yesterday – physically and emotionally. I’m glad to have my whole family around me and am looking forward to a few days of relaxing and spending time with them. Ben is calling each time he talks to the vet, and, again, I can’t believe he’s taken that burden onto his shoulders while I’m gone.

I know that its silly to be so worried about my cat – there are people with much worse problems in the world – but I am. I can’t tell you how frustrating it is to simply not know what the source of her problem is. It seems so much more difficult than when a human gets sick – Ripley is unable to communicate to us what she did or how she feels. I hate to think of her alone in the city, not knowing why she was taken away from her home or why she can’t seem to eat.

ripsThis morning, something very strange happened: I woke up naturally. I stretched out in bed, rubbed my eyes, and tried to put my finger on the strange feeling I had. Even though I felt more rested than usual, something wasn’t quite right.

The apartment was quiet – all together too quiet! With a start, I realized that it was past seven and the kitty alarm wasn’t going off. Usually by 7:01 AM, the kitty alarm has her paws on my chest and is howling in my face as if the world is going to end. Usually, the kitty alarm is nipping and pawing at any exposed body parts that she can find, although she greatly prefers toes.

Surely, I thought, sitting up and jumping out of bed, Ripley is dead. No other force in the world would keep her from harassing me for food.

I speed walked to the kitchen, noticing well that Ripley wasn’t tripping me up and jogging ahead of me like she should be. Upon inspecting her food bowl, I saw that she hadn’t eaten her dinner from the night before – a phenomenon that is simply unheard of. I called her name and started looking under things to recover her corpse.

Alas, she was in the bathtub. Obviously sick and not wanting to be bothered.

Later that day, at work, I began receiving a string of emails from Ben, chronicling the different places and variety of unfortunate ways he had run into cat vomit. “On the couch,” he would write. “Don’t worry, I flipped the cushion.” And, later, “Everywhere!”

When I got home from work, I found a few new batches myself – under the coffee table, in the kitchen. It was some sort of terrible Easter egg hunt, if you replaced Easter eggs with enormous globs of something that used to be a Grade D chicken dinner feast with gravy.

Ripley seems to be doing a little better now – although the kitty alarm didn’t go off around dinner time like it usually does, she is back to hanging out with us and stealing Ben’s seat on the couch every time he gets up for something. We’re guessing it’s some sort of passing kitty stomach bug.

Seriously, though – how can she just throw up somewhere and then just walk away to throw up somewhere else?  Shouldn’t kitties throw up by kneeling over their litter boxes? I could even hold back her whiskers for her.

rips milk ringNow that Ripley’s weight has become more manageable and all of us have become used to our new, healthier routine, I’ve been able to give more thought to what we’re putting in Ripley’s body.

Since her diet, I’ve been feeding Ripley Purina Naturals dry food, which, like Vitamin Water, has a very appealing look and message. It’s a natural-looking, matte bag with earthy colors and carrots and cuts of meat and grains all over it, and it’s covered in a bunch of buzz words, like the all-holy current buzzword, SOY. I never read the ingredients because, hey, what do I know about what cats are supposed to eat? Doesn’t soy solve all of the world’s problems? Even kitty problems?

A couple of people posted on my blog, though, and told me that I shouldn’t be feeding my cat dry food at all – and my mom called to tell me the same thing. Ripley, too, has chimed in on the subject, by going berserk every time I open any kind of can.

I started reading about cat nutrition online and came up with various answers and explanations for what cats should be eating. Pet food companies said one thing, cat enthusiasts said another, and veterinarians said another. I decided to take the vets’ advice.

Here are some of the main points to consider:

  • Cats are carnivores. Their bodies are designed to metabolize high animal protein, low plant carbohydrate meals. Most commercial cat food has wheat, corn, or other grains, but you should try to find the brands with the highest amount of protein and the lowest amount of carbs.
  • Cats have low thirst drives and because of this need to get fluids from their food sources in order to stay optimally hydrated. It’s a good reason to feed your cat canned food at least some of the time.
  • In any diet, kitty or human, variety is very important.
  • Many cat foods contain tons of “fillers” even aside from grains- animal by-products, animal organs (even brains and spleens and things), and animal meal. It’s important to make sure that none of those things are listed first on your cat food’s ingredient list.

It was eye opening to say the least, but it was also all very logical. It turns out that while I thought all the grains and vegetables and SOY portrayed on Purina’s naturals box meant I was smart and loved my cat, it actually meant that I was blindly buying things that looked good.

On the other hand, while the health-conscious part of my brain was pleased with my discovery, the wallet-conscious part of my brain starting going off. As did the I-don’t-want-to-become-one-of-those-cat-ladies part of my brain. Sure, I should be feeding my cat better food. But I’m sure the organic, all-meat, human-grade fancy-pants food will cost me more than I’d like to spend on anything other than me. I mean, she’s a cat. She eats whatever I put in front of her and some things that I don’t put in front of her.

The answer is that it will prevent a lot of icky kitty diseases like diabetes, renal disease, and urinary tract problems. And if that isn’t enough, just think of the vet bills that will accompany these ailments.

I’m not sure. I want Ripley to be healthy, but I also don’t want to bounce any checks. I’m going to head down to Whole Foods tomorrow and get Rips some quality chow. I’ll check back in next week and tell you how it goes (and how much it costs).

Here’s the best article I read about kitty nutrition issues, written by a vet.
She goes into much, much more detail, for those interested, and also ranks the commercial cat foods and lists their pros and cons.

carpet ripleyIf necessity is the father of invention, Ripley must think that it is truly necessary to eat way, way too much cat food. As the weeks of her diet have gone by, her tactics have become increasingly complex and increasingly desperate. And, ironically, the agility and energy she has gained through her diet has only given her an advantage in her constant quest.

In the first weeks, Ripley played with our emotions to get food – those big, dumb golden eyes looking at me saying, if you loved me, if you weren’t a cruel monster, you would give me sustenance. She would then throw her body against my legs and meow as if she hadn’t eaten in weeks. She would go nuts if either of us even approached the kitchen and even extra crazy if in the kitchen we 1) ate something or 2) opened a bag or can. It was a simple scheme, but it worked from time to time.

After we started to see results and after my heart hardened against her pleas, Ripley had to move a step up from toying with our emotions. By which I mean, of course, repeatedly knocking over the trash can. Whether this was to find scraps or simply a gesture of warning to the humans — if you don’t feed me, I will destroy your lives – I’m not sure. But I am sure that raw chicken gets really, really gross after sitting at room temperature in the garbage after even an hour or two.

The next thing she tried was smarter. If Ben fed her, Ripley would scarf it down and then start harassing me as if she hadn’t eaten yet. If I fed her, she would know to go find Ben and play all hungry and innocent. It was truly an ancient war tactic: split the forces, confuse them, and conquer. We’re not sure how many double feedings she got from this method, but we caught on before too long.

Then a few nights ago I was making dinner in the kitchen. I opened a can of diced tomatoes and Ripley immediately ran into the room to inspect the situation. Ripley only gets canned food once or twice a week (variety is important in any diet, especially of the turkey-in-gravy kind) and she generally thinks that anything that comes in a can is a gift to be bestowed on her.

I said, “No, Ripley. This is not turkey in gravy. This is boring human food.” But she was convinced I was lying to her. And then she stood up on two feet and took two steps toward me in a desperate attempt to reach supposed canned kitty food. I’m guessing that by next month she’ll be perfecting a tiny kitty hover car or some contraption that will beam her to the nearest cat food location.

Read the last installment of Ripley: Cat on a Diet

lion ripleyIt was a week of reckoning for Ripley. Last Thursday she went in for her annual vet visit, which, among other things, involves getting weighed (if you don’t quite recall, Ripley broke our home scale a week into her diet and we’ve had no way to measure her success). After seven weeks of eating right and exercising, Ripley has dropped from 22 pounds down to 15 pounds. She has practically shed a cat’s worth of weight.

Also at her vet visit, Ripley got her annual lion buzz cut – since she has so much fur and is overweight, she has trouble grooming herself if we don’t help out. Not only is her lion cut absolutely the most hilarious thing we’ve ever seen (it looks like she’s wearing those tacky shaggy 70s boots on her paws and has a pom-pom glued to her tail) but it also showed us how well Rips is progressing – her belly is much, much smaller than last year and she now has an empty little pouch where it used to be.

Sure, the early morning kitty alarm has been trying for both humans and kitty and sure, Ripley has probably spent many long, hungry nights scraping by on whatever cockroaches she could catch, but it’s all worth it for how much healthier she’s looking and acting. Anyone who thinks that their obese pet is too cute and cuddly to alter should see what a wonderfully changed and energetic kitty Rips is today.

Also this week Ripley received an important missive from fellow kitty Tiger Harris, of Des Moines. Tiger informed us that there was a free kitty toy even better than milk tabs: milk rings. Tiger, who sounds very learned and dignified, writes in part:

Unlike the discontinuous tab-based milk cap holder, the milk ring rolls and bounces seemingly of its own accord. Moreover, the ring is suitable for holding around one’s front leg and chewing on vigorously.

Please find enclosed four such milk rings. While I have matured beyond the need for such a large supply of milk rings, I am delighted to share the wisdom of my experience. Play with them in good health.

Just as Tiger wrote, Ripley did prefer the milk rings to the milk tabs – they bounce and move better. And, unlike the milk tabs, Ripley will play with them on her own throughout the day without our having to throw one across the kitchen floor every once and a while. Not only that, but Ripley seemed comforted to know that kitties across the country are rooting for her continued success.

Ripley: Cat on a Diet (Week 5)

Ripley: Cat on a Diet (Week 4)

Ripley: Cat on a Diet (Week 3)

Ripley: Cat on a Diet (Week 2)

Ripley: Cat on a Diet (Week 1)