Conversations with Louise

As my latest blog entry will detail, we have a new guest in our house, Louise the Foster Cat, a rescue available through FURR. She recently came to FURR as a mysterious stray with a leg injury that resulted in an amputation.

She’s enjoying her convalescence with us, and at night (when I return from work) we have long conversations as I try to gain her trust.

I snuggle down on the floor beside her and ask her about her day.

Me: What did you do tonight?

Louise: I slept in my basket under the bed and once night fell and the house quieted down I got a drink of water and slept behind the curtain.

Me: That sounds pleasant. I did my normal thing in the warehouse but man my body hurts tonight. I didn’t know if I was going to make it through the shift. Emotionally I had a lot on my mind.

Louise: They cut off my leg and keep shuffling me from place to place. And your house is nuts! So many noises and creatures. Can you scratch my neck? It’s really itchy and I do like attention. It’s just your house is scary. People in and out of this room. And this thing under the bed chased me.

Me: Sorry about that. That was the Roomba. It keeps the floor clean. I didn’t intend to vacuum until you got settled but somehow it got set off. You’re doing really well with your balance. You’re right. I should be more grateful. Can I get you some food?

Louise: I don’t like the wet stuff but kibble would be nice.

Me: Do you mind if I sit next to you and have some homemade Easter chocolate?

Louise: Not at all. But try not to be spastic. I need some calm in my life.

Me: Sounds like good advice, Louise.

Saturday Animal Adventures, part two: new arrival

Last night I got a text from my foster godmother asking if we could take a special needs cat Louise who needed some time and some love to not only overcome shyness but also to convalescence.

You see, our new foster cat is a friendly stray who had a leg injury that looked like it might have come from being hit by a car. The vet had to amputate her leg last month (almost exactly a month ago). And it’s the same leg our Opie lost to cancer!

I picked her up this afternoon and she is a gentle beauty. So soft!

I allowed Opie to be in my room when we opened her crate hoping that seeing another three-legged cat might give her some self-confidence. It certainly might if she ever sees Opie stand up to our 50-pound puppy.

I also decided to sort and put away my laundry with her present so she could see me move around my room without looking at her specifically. She did make eyes to everyone as a hello before hiding under my bed.

I filmed some first day videos, they are rather boring but serve as a nice “This is where we started” marker. To see Louise’s YouTube playlist, click here.


PS — Teenager #1 had another shift at Tic Toc Family Restaurant today so teenager #2 and I made plans to have a dinner date at the diner. But when Bean the giant puppy ate her glasses, Teenager #2 spent the day with her mom at the mall and couldn’t make it back in time. So, I dined solo.

Speaking of Bean the Dog, a funny thing happened when Bean, her lead, the hammock and I got twisted up. I fell, as I often do, and landed on concrete and mud. My new Democracy Jeans are now literally dirty.

I expect my right palm and the outside of my left upper thigh will be very bruised tomorrow and I have a pretty interesting scrape extending about four inches down my left wrist.

Teenager #1 and I said earlier that today was canceled— maybe we should have listened to our own idea.

But, the good news is, I let the teen pick my meal once I selected the macaroni and cheese special. She delivered the pasta, potato salad, cucumber salad and French fries.

Dinner at Tic Toc

I am always impressed by the playing at the restaurant. The sprinkles of dried herb really make the dish look vibrant. The macaroni and cheese had a smooth hearty texture (I could only eat half of it). The cheese mix was not as exotic as I make at home, but not as creamy and Velveeta-y artificial as a place like Wawa.

I loved the cucumber salad. Crispy. Tangy. Wet but not soggy.

And the potato salad… Not bad. I am not a fan of the yellow potato salads. When I tasted this, the initial flavor was overwhelmingly sweet, which is odd. It quickly mellowed on my tongue and I enjoyed what appeared to be peppers and carrots in the mix.

The more I eat at Tic Toc, the more I marvel at the value for the price.

Saturday Animal Adventures, part 1: Deliveries

My volunteer efforts these days focus on animals instead of people, primarily as a foster family for Feline Urban Rescue and Rehab. You can visit their website here: http://www.felineurbanrescueandrehab.org.

We have fostered three litters of kittens in the last nine months, all named after various pantheons of gods: The Greek Pride, The Roman Pride and The Norse Pride.

At 10 a.m. this morning, which is rather early when you get to bed at 2 a.m. after clocking out of work at midnight, teenager #1 and I had an appointment to meet a fellow FURR volunteer at the Petco where Mars and Minerva are in residence awaiting FURRever homes. Today, we wanted to reunite Jupiter with his siblings.

Crating Jupiter did not go as easily as anticipated, the teenager couldn’t find her shoes, we forgot Jupiter’s folder and we missed some of the turns for the store. But we arrived and now the Roman Pride is together again, except for Vesta who is now known as Paisley in her new home.

Jupiter reuniting with siblings, video here.

We left Petco, and retrieved the missing folder. But before returning to Petco we had to catch the baby birds as I was transporting them down to Bird Mania so they could be tamed and potentially sold.

That was a process, moving four baby birds to a separate cage. But teenager #1 managed to do it.

We took the folder to Petco, grabbed some coffee at Wawa, and headed to the bird store. The staff at Bird Mania scooped the baby budgies like cats on the hunt, trimmed their claws and clipped their flight feathers.

On the way back, we got a phone call from FURR that someone was interested in meeting Hermes at the adoption Saturday event at Petsmart on Rte. 248 in lower Nazareth. Our Hermes?

I had to ask because Hermes is an absolute love and a character, the last remaining “kitten” of our Greek Pride litter that we brought home August 1, 2020. He loves to be in the middle of the action, loves to play, loves to sit two-to-three feet away, but will not tolerate being touched by human hands.

You see, he was very sickly as a kitten and received a lot of medicine. Medicine is delivered by human hands.

Oh, and Hermes is the matriarch of all our other fosters. He turns one any day now and has mentored every other kitten we have had.

And this potential adopter thought maybe we could bring him over for a meet-and-greet and that maybe he could go home with them.

I said I would gladly arrange a visit for the future but their was no way we could crate him today. This is Hermes’ adoption page: Adopt Hermes.

Hermes is a very entertaining cat, and would be the perfect for someone who just wants a pet who interacts versus one that cuddles.

So, last but not least, I anticipate a part two to this entry as we are scheduled to acquire a new foster later today, one with special needs that make her very suitable for this house. More on that when it happens…

The crazy, the lazy and the witchy

Today was a typical day in the crazy menagerie of our home. But it was delightful. I’ve come to accept that Saturdays are overscheduled and hectic. Sundays are a rest day.

F. Bean Barker woke at 5:30 am— a normal part of the routine in her old home. No one gets up that early here.

I went to bed around 2:30 am so when Ms. Black Bean woke up and barked/whined/howled for 30 minutes, I texted teenager #1. She went down, covered the dog’s crate with a blanket and laid down on the couch beside the dog to go back to sleep.

After that 45-minute disturbance, I woke at 9:30 am. The teenagers finished picking up the house to prepare for the notary arriving at 1 pm.

We cared for our pets and crated Vesta and Minerva of the FURR Roman Pride for the adoption event at Petsmart.

We then stopped at Dunkin on the way home because I wanted to do something to thank my husband for taking the time to come sign this paperwork and for supporting me in the refinancing of the house. It’s been about 20 months since he’s lived here with me. Neither one of us has filed for divorce. So his name is still on the deed of the house and the current mortgage.

This new mortgage will pay off my car, save me $300 a month, though also extend my term five years. Now instead of the house being paid off by the time I am 55, I will be 60. Mortgage payment alone on the the refinancing will pay off is 50% of my take-home monthly income and that makes me nervous.

My hope is that once the pandemic ends and life shifts, new opportunities and stability will allow me to apply extra money to the principal.

And teenager #1 will take her drivers exam Tuesday. If she passes, her dad and I will have a massive insurance bill so my solace is that if something should happen to my car, at least it is paid for.

Teenager’s dad loved his new cold foam chocolate stout cold brew. The closing almost went without a hitch, but Fog decided to saunter across the table amid the notary’s pile of papers. Cats are not allowed on the table. Especially when we have guests.

The teenager got ready for work and we watched an episode of Canine Intervention on Netflix. I wish they had more episodes.

I dropped her off at Tic Toc Diner. I then went to get the kittens.

Those adorable tuxedo sisters then went to Petco (Greenwich Township, NJ) for their adoption habitat.

Minerva (left) and Vesta

Vesta, having spent about three weeks in the habitat at the other Petco, sat there and shook in fear.

I came home planning to walk F. Bean Barker with our neighbors, Jan and her Ladyship Sobaka. But Bean only made it a half-block.

She’s just exhausted.

And then Jan and I went to pick up Nan and have dinner at Tic Toc. The teenager was worried about not having a Braille menu for Nan. As if we need a menu.

The teenager told me the founder stuffed with crab looked really good as the cook took a lot of care in its preparation and plating. I ordered it. With coleslaw. And the silly waitress got me french fries instead.

The dish reminded me of a crab cake wrapped in other fish. So good and a ridiculous amount of food for the price.

After dinner, Nan and I hung out at my house until it was time to retrieve our waitress from the diner.

And then when she got home, she unboxed this month’s box from Witch’s Gifts. These items are so carefully curated. To see the unboxing: March Box Witch’s Gifts

These boxes (and my tarot and witchy podcasts) remind me that I need to pay more attention to my spiritual and magical development.

Kitten Drama, my own mission to Mars

Kittens, like small children, can get into everything. And while cats, at least most of them, are extremely intelligent and practical creatures, their attraction to climbing, exploring and getting into small spaces can get them into serious trouble.

I like to tell the story of how Oz, the second dumbest cat I have ever owned, used to get his head stuck in every shopping bag or item with a handle he found. And then he would run around the house like the Tasmanian Devil.

This morning, I had a scary experience with my almost seven-month old fosters, The Roman Pride. They are part of the rescue efforts of volunteer nonprofit group, Feline Urban Rescue and Rehab.

Teenager #1 spent the night with her dad. Teenager #2 got up early, fed the household cats and mastered the art of an over-easy egg. I apparently had fallen into a deep, cozy sleep and after several days of getting six hours of sleep, I slept from 11 p.m. to 10 a.m.

I headed to Teenager #’s bedroom after a breakfast of two eggs on a crumpet and a cup of tea, prepared by Teenager #2, and immediately knew something was wrong.

The room looked like this:

And the kittens looked like this:

And my mom instincts immediately were on alert. Headcount… 1… 2… 3… 4…

Where is Mars?

I text Teenager #1 the photos to warn her. I open the wet cat food, which isn’t necessary as they have a self-feeder.

Everyone congregates at the food bowl. Except Mars.

Teenager #1 suggests he got into the closet. That she’ll check when she gets home. But I am unsettled. Other moms will understand. I text Teenager #2 the photos. Teenager #2 comments. And I mention I can’t find Mars. She joins me. And she finds Mars lying docile in a corner.

Now, between Mars and Vesta— the two who did a residency at our local Petco— one of them has loose stools and has peed on Teenager #1’s blankets. We are starting a protocol today to decipher who needs to go to the vet. But meanwhile, I am looking for clues.

Vesta has been a little lethargic lately. Mars is the spunky one, who, often panics when being handled. He bit one of the other volunteers which is why they came home. And he’s not usually prone to biting. I wouldn’t have sent him out to Petco if that were the case. So now he’s missing. Maybe he is the sick one.

When teenager #2 tries to handle him, he doesn’t fight but he doesn’t cooperate either. He sticks his claws in the nearby cat tree. But we found him. So I relax. And teenager #2 leaves. But he’s still not joining the others for food. I open one of the coveted squeeze-up treats. Still, he stays put.

My gut says something is wrong.

Teenager #1, in her second year of wood shop, deconstructed her bunk bed and made it into a loft. On one end of what used to be the lower bunk is a bookshelf and a seat that hides a storage box.

The other side is a cat tree and some cat beds of various types.

Mars is under the cat tree in a cat bed. Between the seat and the cat area, the new soft sided carrier I got for Christmas is on the floor, open. I reach for Mars. He doesn’t move. I pull him up to my lap, the cat carrier bangs into my legs and prevents me from getting him to the destination.

Quickly, with the cat in one hand, my hand supporting his belly, I put it all together. I grab the carrier with my other hand.

I pull everything into my lap. Now this cat is silent and limp. Remember— he’s the spunky one. This is very wrong.

My fear is legitimized. Mars has somehow crawled through the handle of the soft-sided cat carrier and gotten it twisted tightly into a knot around his hips. He has soiled himself— his back legs are wet. And if you know cats, you know they will go to great lengths not to soil themselves.

Do you know that moment in any bad situation where you have to chose between calm and panic? I am thinking about all the ways poor Mars could be hurt and trying not to panic. I need to free him. I’m trying not to think about how long he has been trapped like that.

I have to swirl the bag in one hand over poor Mars to untwist the knot against his belly, again and again. I call for teen #2, verbally as I have no hands left to grab my phone and text her. She runs in. I free him. She gets more wet food. He gently jumps free of me and goes to the bowl.

A few moments later he jumps up to the water bowl and drinks slowly for a good five minutes.

And when he is done, I hug him. He doesn’t fight me. I take the carrier into the hall. Now, if you excuse me— Mars needs another hug.

Meeting the metric and other full moon ruminations

Today started with a groggy Angel that for the second day in a row got less than six hours sleep. I headed off to my amazing chiropractor, Nicole Jensen, to report that despite the grueling work week somehow I was not in pain.

And she indeed found that my body was moving well and that my main issue was stiffness in my mid-to-upper spine consistent with all the snow shoveling needed in the last few weeks. She also asked about my neck as I store all my stress in my neck and shoulders.

After getting a great adjustment and convincing a staff member there that her mother did not want a large bird that talks, I came home and unsuccessfully tried to nap. One of my favorite Sarah’s convinced me to get another Dunkin Cold Foam Cold Brew which I review in this YouTube video: Vanilla Cold Brew with Cold Foam

I texted her to thank her for the advice as it was dead on. And somehow I QCed 105– yes one hundred and five— fixes which is more than the required metric of 104. I finally did it. A mere three-plus hours before the full moon.

It was a successful night at the Stitch Fix Bizzy Hizzy.

Teenager #1 waited up as a bonding exercise before the full moon. Today in addition to chores and school work, she replaced the screen in her bedroom window and embroidered her face masks for work.

Here are some other contemplations and updates at 2:15 a.m.:

  • I am itching to write fiction again. My friend Gayle has agreed to be my book designer should I decide to publish my books. Gayle and I once had the dream of our own publishing imprint, Parisian Phoenix Publishing.
  • My mortgage refinance is scheduled to close next Saturday. The refi will save me $300 a month, pay off my car, and leave me with several thousand extra dollars. I am dropping from 3.25 to 2.85% interest and adding five years into my mortgage. But it will also drop my actual mortgage to be less than the current 50% of my net pay. My hope is that when things “look better,” I can pay down the principal.
  • So the extra money— do I:
  1. Buy myself a computer and put the rest in savings. It’s been about 3 years since I had a computer and I’m an Apple girl so it’s an investment. Adding the rest to savings would give me about 5-6 months income in the bank as an emergency fund.
  2. Put it all in savings to see what happens in the economy next.
  3. Use it to buy the computer and pay teenager #1’s car insurance should she pass her exam March 9. The bill will be $1500 for 6 months. Mine is $488.
  4. Use it and other savings I have to pay down $5,000 on the new loan’s principal.
  5. Plan a vacation— not going to happen.

And here is today’s kitten picture:

Learning to Fly

This is a post about babies of multiple species.

My dad helped me… no he did it… my dad got a really disgusting clog out of the vacuum cleaner last night. And then we (with my stepmom) went to Tic Toc Diner to harass teenager #1 at her first official job as a waitress. The young man assigned to our table recognized me and asked if we wanted her to serve us, and I said that wasn’t necessary we were happy observing her from afar. But he gave her the table anyway.

That’s my baby, and she was buzzing around looking very focused. There is a strange heartwarming and heartbreaking feeling when you see your baby becoming independent.

Earlier that day, Vesta and Minerva went to the adoption event at Petsmart. But no one inquired about these Roman Pride babies. I brought them home to Hermes.

Teenager #1 is with her dad right now, so I spent some time working with our foster kittens from Feline Urban Rescue and Rehab. I’m going to post some videos from today to show progress.

Hermes is afraid of human hands. And Mars— oh spunky Mars— bit one of our fellow FURR volunteers when she tried to move him from the habitat at the Petco in Easton to the one in the Phillipsburg area.

Video: Manhandling Mars (and Hermes)

Video: The Roman Pride

Meanwhile, I decided I had to let go of my fear of harm coming to the parakeets. I opted to let them free fly for the first time since Boo-Boo’s death (see Farewell Boo for details). And it was the first time for the babies. My room is oddly silent right now because all SIX birds, including Nala the Goffin (who turned five this week), are sleeping. The budgies flew so hard!

Video: Baby birds awkward flight

And here’s a video of Hermes from yesterday: Hermes amid the vacuum

So all the babies are doing well!

My favorite cat litters

This won’t be the most game exciting post, but as a foster parent for feral kittens and a long-time cat mama, I’ve seen and experienced a lot of development in the cat litter arena.

I thought I’d share the cat litter we stock in this house in case it would help anyone else.

In our main living area boxes we use So Phresh from Petco, on repeat delivery. It’s nothing fancy but the price is very reasonable and it ships to the door. Plus, the plastic buckets are reusable and the kitty on the bucket looks like our Fog. I apologize to the UPS man every time we get a delivery. We fill our four cat boxes downstairs with this litter (one on the sun porch, one in the dining room, two in the bathroom).

Even though the fosters receive donations from the supporters of Feline Urban Rescue and Rehab, because we currently have five cats in teenager #1’s bedroom, we order Arm & Hammer’s Clump N Seal from Chewy.com. This is my favorite clay litter, but it is pricy so I can’t justify buying it for every box. But it really does seal in odor and isn’t dusty. So for the two boxes in the teen’s room, Arm & Hammer it is.

Both of these litters are fairly scent-free because I know cats have sensitive noses and I do, too.

Now there are occasions when we use Yesterday’s News and Feline Pine. Yesterday’s News is a pellet litter made from recycled newspapers. It dissolves when urinated on, but does not clump with poop. Same is true with Feline Pine. With both, you can scoop out the poo and shake the box and the box refreshes in a way. I like that the pellet litters are easy to clean up when they get kicked out of the box. Yesterday’s News is very clean and scentless— so when a cat is recovering from surgery or illness it’s a safe choice. I also use it in the tray of the bird cages.

But I like the pine smell of the Feline Pine when the cat uses the box, so I keep a tiny litter box in my room with that litter. It’s small because with the birds, cats aren’t typically in my room.

Teen #2 has two boxes for her two cats in her room, and I suggested she use one pellet and one clay litter so her cats have a choice.

Our foster cat godmother from Feline Urban Rescue and Rehab recently traded in her traditional cat boxes for a horse trough. That is a brilliant idea!

The Harder Side of Rescue

We have worked with three litters of kittens trapped by Feline Urban Rescue and Rehab: The Greek Pride, The Roman Pride and the Norse Pride.

  • Artemis
  • Apollo
  • Hermes
  • Hades
  • Zeus
  • Mars
  • Minerva
  • Jupiter
  • Vesta
  • Fenrir
  • Loki
  • Vale

And when they are trapped young and healthy, it’s easy to socialize them and find them homes.

But the Greek Pride was already a little wild when we got them, and they had kitty cat respiratory infections. Hades sent me to the hospital with a cat bite within the first 48-hours. I stayed four days.

She never settled into a house cat routine and ended up in a barn. I was giving her eye meds at the time she bit me— while I scruff my cats relatively frequently I hadn’t scruffs a kitten in a very long time and didn’t have a good grip.

Apollo got so sick he started sneezing up blood. He would let us swaddle him, wash his face and feed him antibiotics but once he got healthy the experience left him aloof. His sister Zeus was the runt and she was always a goofy love. She didn’t get as sick as the others.

Luckily, her FURRever family adopted her AND Apollo. He still remains aloof, but loves the other cats in the family. His mom is so patient with him.

Artemis was actually adopted first, and he is doing great at his home. His mom is now my Facebook friend and I heard he had a cold last week. My heart hurt for the poor little guy.

Hermes is still with us. Not only did he get eye infections and respiratory infections, he also had two bouts of ringworm. As a consequence we are still working on his fear of human hands. Video: Hermes

The Norse Pride have all been adopted and every communication I receive has been positive.

That leaves the Romans.

The softest tuxedo kittens ever, now about six months old.

Vesta and Mars just spent about three weeks at the local Petco and Minerva has been attending the Saturday adoption events at Petsmart.

Today, another FURR volunteer tried to move Vesta and Mars to a different Petco where she thought they would do better and someone had expressed interest.

Then we got a text that Mars had bit her.

So they are with us again, and we hope Vesta and Minerva can go to Petco instead while we see if Mars was just nervous and scared or if something else was going on.

Mars (left) and Vesta

We have had problems with shyness and skittishness but no one in this litter has ever bit anyone before.

Video: Mars in bed

Video: Original arrival at Petco

Video: Vesta and Mars

The Monday report of challenges, joys & lessons

It is almost 12:45 am. Tuesday. I’ve been home from work about 2o minutes. I started the dishwasher and poured a beer— that may also include crème de cacao and peanut butter whiskey.

It’s about 15 degrees outside which means my parking pad area was icy and hard for the car to climb, but the Jetta is safely in the garage.

I just sat down on my bed to write this blog entry about the joys, challenges and lessons of my Monday. Let’s go in reverse chronological order— start at the most recent and work to 24 hours ago.

Challenge #1– the Belkin charging cord I got for Christmas appears to have stopped working. Now I have sworn by Belkin cords for years. And they all last years. Why has this one failed? I’m too tired to troubleshoot. I whipped out my new Anker cord I bought as a spare when I saw it on sale. And teenager #1 needed one. Bought one for all of us, including teenager #2.

Challenge #2 and Lesson #1– I still suck at QC at the Bizzy Hizzy. The official goal is 130. I did 89 on Friday and 82 today. I am not accustomed to failing at assignments and it’s compelling exercise to try to improve at something at which you really seem to be bad.

Which brings me to… Joy 1– working in a warehouse with a wide variety of people has shown me how eager people are to help when you appreciate them. As I have mentioned before (see Rip it off fast like a bandaid), the ability to take criticism seems to be unusual at the Bizzy. I had another colleague come up to me today and thank me for being agreeable and willing to listen.

Joy #2 — cherishing the leftovers of last night’s Peruvian chicken with red peppers and Brussel sprouts.

Challenge #3– understanding how this video of my dear cat Fog reached 100 views in less than 24 hours: Fog purring. And now that I go to copy the link it’s up to 453 views a mere 5 hours later. Why?

Joy #3– meeting Barbara at Petco. She is one of the volunteers who helps care for the kittens in the habitats up for adoption through Feline Urban Rescue and Rehab.

Challenge #4– cats are a**holes. I had to very forcefully remove Fog from my room last night because he kept dangling from the parakeet cage. I cried myself to sleep because he’s slept with me for about a month now and I didn’t feel like I could rest without him.