Monday, June 22, 2009

Cutting the Umbilical Cord

"When did she grow to be a beauty? When did he get to be so tall? Wasn't it yesterday when they were small?" From Fiddler on the Roof.

Both of my children graduated recently; Tyler from High School and Kelsey from Middle School. We attended the ceremonies at each school which alternated between nostalgic and boring. In four more years (with any luck), we'll go through the graduation ceremonies again, from high school and college.

Kelsey after her 8th grade graduation

Tyler at the graduation party for him and his buddies

Looking like an ad for Verizon Wireless

(l-r) Zak, Chad, Jon, Matt, Tyler & Craig

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Chardonnay's New Doo

I've gotten a lot of questions about Chardonnay's well-being since they heard about her surgery last month (see the post on May 10). She is doing great, her tumor was benign, and she's back to cat-snuggling and greeting people with Golden enthusiasm.
Chardonnay and Daisy hang together before the haircut

Even though I can't say we're consistently into the summer weather here in Connecticut (it's been raining so much, the mosquitos are laying eggs in the air), Chardonnay had an appointment with Grimm's Furry Tails down the road in Ledyard for her now annual Labrador Retriever Transformation. We did it for the first time last year and we all loved it! Not only does Chardonnay enjoy the coolness (she was bred for cold climates), we like the idea of feeling like we have a different dog for a few months. This year, we went for the "lion tail" look to blend in with her previous surgery shave. She looks so much younger after her haircut that last year I sent a picture of our "new puppy" to my family and my dad actually believed I'd gotten a new dog to keep Chardonnay company. Personnally, I thought the gray muzzle gave her away, but Dad isn't that up on dogs.

When you see a Golden Retriever with its fur shaved, it reinforces the history of the breed coming from the Labrador Retriever. In the 1800's, the breed's creator, Sir Dudley Majoribanks of Scotland, bred a Lab with the now extinct Tweed Water Spaniel to give it the long wavy coat. The goal was to get a superior hunting dog for retrieving water fowl. Now, of course, we know the Golden to be a great family dog and well-suited for life as Service Dogs too. See Golden Retriever Logan's blog on life as a Service Dog.

Chardonnay enjoys a roll with her new short doo
Surprisingly, I found out that cats do not always identify other animals the way we would think. When Chardonnay bound into the house after visiting the groomer, some of the cats freaked; hissing, Halloween cat, the whole "who is this strange dog in our house?" routine. Now granted, Chardonnay did have a much-needed bath and smelled of coconut, but I was amazed at the cats' reactions. Not all were defensive though, Ray apparently missed Chardonnay and loved her new look and perfume. Yes, this is an 18-pound Maine Coon neuter with an 83-pound dog. Their colors match nicely, don't you think?
Chardonnay and Ray

Thursday, June 11, 2009

The Chicks First Outing

On the one non-raining, half-way warm day we've had recently (can't remember when that was now) here in Connecticut, I took the chicks outside. The boyfriend, Erik, was over for Kelsey's 14th birthday celebration so I had the two lovebirds help me set up the plastic circular barrier I got for the kittens outside in the sun. We then loaded the babies in a cat carrier and took them out the cellar door into their first outdoor adventure. They are shown here, pretty freaked out by the whole thing.

On a side note, we lost one of Silver Spangled Hamburgs (shown on the left) last apparent reason. I had just checked on them about 2 hours earlier and when I went into the basement again, one of the smaller girls was dead. I was reminded of how fragile baby chicks can be. It was sad, but admittedly not as tragic as when I lose a kitten.

The chicks grow visibly every day. When I first got them, their wings were little helpless appendages, like the front legs of a Tyrannosaurus Rex. Now they can actually fly short distances with full feathers (not chick fuzz) on a wingspan of about 8 inches in the Americaunas.

The Americaunas (shown to the right) are much larger now than the Hamburgs and are proving to be less flighty and more curious. One of them, Fenix, is already showing an interest in me. I can get them to perch on my hand fairly easily although I have to chase the Hamburgs around the brooder to get them first. Having had parakeets before, I can tell you with absolute certainty that I prefer chickens. They're not as intelligent as parakeets, but they don't bite and they tend to stay perched on a finger. I can't tell you how many times a parakeet has drawn blood on my hands in the past.

We kept the chicks outside about an hour, completely supervised at all times of course. By the end of the hour, they had relaxed enough to start scratching and pecking at the grass. Now if only it'll stop raining for a day so I can take them out again.

Kelsey and Erik become Chick Handlers

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Mysticats Show

This past weekend I took 3 cats and Jay's granddaughter Amanda to the cat show in Fitchburg, Massachusetts. The show was being held in the hockey rink of Fitchburg State College; not a bad setting to hold a cat show as long as you're prepared for the underground coolness and dress accordingly.

The cats, Kinsey, Trifle and our new boy, Quill, had their pictures taken by cat photographer Helmi Flick. Helmi took photos of Kinsey's mother, Myra, in 2007 and has her featured on her blog as well as pictured on her new business card.

Kinsey the Reluctant
So how nice to be able to have Helmi, who lives in Texas, at a northeast show so we can get the next generation, right? Wrong. Try as hard as Helmi and her husband Ken the Cat Wrangler did, Kinsey was very upset and refused to relax. She reminded me of my teenage daughter who will work herself into the worst mood if she isn't getting her way. She wasn't mean, but lay there like a curled up blob, trying to leave the table if possible. If looks could kill.....So Kinsey isn't destined to be a Super Model like her mother. We got some beautiful photos by Helmi of the other cats so be sure to check out their pages on the website.
Cow, Carlos, Ess-C and Alice in their show tent

Amanda and Moo Cow
Margie and Phil brought up their litter of 14 week old kittens to have their photo session with Helmi before going to their new home. Click here to check out the Helmi photos on MaineVu's website. We had fostered this litter from the time they were a couple of days old until 8 weeks because their mother didn't have enough milk. It was wonderful to see them one last time, especially Moo Cow, the black and white looking brown tabby. I think she's technically a brown ticked tabby with high white. Cow was such a funny looking kitten and now she's blossomed into a beautiful girl, declared by many to be pick. Oh well, she's already sold as a pet. Her new name will be Lola, but to me she's always Moo Cow.

The black smoke kitten, Ess-C came home with us for a while. Margie and Phil want to show her until she's an adult then give her back so they don't risk the possibility of their male Jack, breeding Ess-C. He's her dad and we don't want to go all West Virginian with the cats. We want to keep Ess-C accustomed to our home so that when she does come to stay permanantly, the transition will be easier. So Ess-C will stay in Connecticut a couple of weeks, then go to New York, then back here in-between shows or whenever I can talk Margie into letting me borrow her again.

Amanda with Ess-C

Ess-C's name stands for Ebony Smoke Signals Creole. Her registered name is MaineVu Smoke Signals of Dracoonfly. Ebony was Marge and Phil's black rescue cat who died shortly before Ess-C was born, at almost 21 years of age. Creole was my black domestic short hair who died a couple of years ago at age 14 from kidney failure. We pronounce it "Essie".
This was the 3rd cat show Amanda's been to with me and the first overnighter. Kelsey used to do all the shows with me, even Tyler did occasionally in the beginning. But both are too cool to spend their weekends hanging out with Mommy and her cat friends now. Amanda is a joy to have around; she helps out when I ask, and loved walking Quill around in the showhall. A lot of cat fanciers aren't crazy about seeing kids at a cat show because if they are loud, it scares the cats. But Amanda seemed to win everybody's heart. It was also a great opportunity for her to get a break from her overbearing 4-year-old brother Benjamin. Plus, Ben got to spend extra alone time with his Granddaddy Jay without the sister competition. Their mother Erin is the one who really got the break. So although my cats only got one rosette, the people involved came out as winners.
With Quill
Amanda and her buddy Quill

Tomorrow's Blog: Chicken update

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

The Chicks Are One Week Old

Although the names haven't been assigned yet, they have been chosen. Chicks change dramatically as they morph into full-fledged hens so we'll probably wait until their feathers come in and hope we can tell them apart by then. Kelsey chose the names for the 4 Americaunas - Fea, Flow, Fenix, and Foster. That breed tends to vary in color so we can tell the Americaunas apart, more or less. I did a search for redneck girl names (yes, there is such a category) and came up with Bobbie Sue, Earlene, Georgette, Larlene, Shaneyney and Daisy Mae for the 6 Silver Spangled Hamburgs.

The chicks are doing well; eating, drinking, pooping and growing. Yesterday I tried to clean poop off the butts of some of them (called "pasting up" in chicken terms). Yes, my world seems to still revolve around poop. As I held a chick in one hand, I tried to get the poop stuck on her feathers off with a wet paper towel. When that didn't work, I resorted to clipping it off with a pair of small scissors. The chick peeped quite loudly in protest. She peep-screamed. Amazingly, the cats came running. They genuinely seemed concerned the same way they do over a distressed kitten. Olivia even tried to take the chick from me. I honestly don't know if her maternal instincts told Olivia to save the distressed chick or if the loud peeping aroused her primal instincts to kill. It was an interesting reaction though. The cats have accepted the chicks and enjoy watching them but not with the same predatory intensity as when they watch birds and squirrels at the outside feeders.

Here are some new photos I took today.
An Americauna Chick

Foster, the blond Americauna chick and the most recognizable one so far

A Silver Spangled Hamburg

Cat Sex Therapy 101

With a cat overpopulation, one wouldn't imagine that they can often require assistance to reproduce. The help may be as simple as getting the chosen male and female to actually like each other or at best, tolerate one another enough to get the deed done. Othertimes, the problem may be that the female isn't cycling (read Cassie's story). My males don't like to breed unless the girl is in heat, knowing instinctively that the purpose is to get her pregnant and non-cycling females don't get pregnant. Then, there are the females who don't stay in the proper all fours-on-the-ground position and roll over on their sides prior to contact. Cats can only do it in one position so spooning won't cut it. Males can be too rough, too timid, not interested, or not fertile yet. All these issues can and do frequently arise when breeders try putting their perfect mating together.

Sassy with her first love, Chardonnay
As a self-proclaimed Cat Sex Therapist, I have experienced all of these issues with my cats. Some of them I was able to work the cats through successfully, and some not. One of my first roadblocks arose when my handsome stud male, Bugger, came of age. At 14 months, he'd earned the title of TICA Regional Winner and Supreme Grand Champion and was taking a couple of months off from showing before pursuing his Grand Champion title in CFA (TICA and CFA are the two primary cat associations in the US). Sassy, my first female and the founding queen of my cattery, was in heat. She was very hot and bothered and she wanted Bugger in the worst way. The problem was that Bugger remembered Sassy from when he was a kitten and came to live at my house. Sassy wasn't so hospitable to him then; she whacked him, chased him, and basically bullied the little guy, even after he outgrew her. Bugger, my big 17-pound, handsome, feral-looking boy was afraid of Miss Sassy.

Sassy tried hard to convince him that she'd changed (anything, as long as he did his thing). She gave him kitty lap dances, twirling her eight pasties in front of his face (think about it). It was like Sharon Stone putting the moves on a 13-year-old boy. Bugger was freaked out. I really wanted these two to breed so I got an idea. I put Ginger, my other female who was just a couple months older than Bugger, in the room with her mother Sassy. Ginger and Bugger were good buddies. By being around another female in heat, Ginger followed suit and went into heat the next day.

Mother and Daughter

When I put Bugger in the room with Ginger, she started giving him a lap dance like her mother had, but this time he wasn't intimidated. A little light bulb went off in his little Bugger head, "Oh! So that's what I'm supposed to do! Thanks Mom!" Bugger and Ginger did their thing. Great, but what about the extremely frustrated Sassy who had to sit and watch all this? Well, with Bugger now officially a Man (do you hear James Brown's "I Feel Good" playing?) his confidence soared and he bred Sassy. Two months later, we had two litters with a total of eleven kittens, one of which was Sassy's first son, Dracoonfly Same Thing Murray. It's a bit kinky if you think about the familiar relationships in human terms; Sassy witnessed her daughter doing it with the guy she wanted for herself. Bugger got it on with both mother and daughter. Cat breeding can be a little weird that way.

Sassy and Ginger with their 11 kittens