Tuesday, January 26, 2010

What’s in a Name?

I had a litter of kittens leave this past weekend for their new homes. With each little bundle of fur being put in its new carrier on the way to its new home, I asked the excited parents, "Have you thought of a name for him or her yet?" I give each litter born in to my house a theme and the kittens are given call names accordingly. We had traditional Disney themes (Mickey, Minnie, Donald) and contemporary Disney (Mulan, Jasmine, Aladdin); book characters (Atticus, Edward, Bella); music (Do, Re, Mi, Fa, So, La, Ti); Rock bands (Santana, Nirvana, Bob Marley, Pink Floyd); Greek (Aphrodite, Persephone, Hera), the four seasons, etc. It's fun, gives me something to call them for 12 weeks and helps me to keep track of which litter a cat came from. Most of my kitten buyers will come up with their own name for their kitten which is the one I'll send in for the registration papers. 

The cat associations (I use CFA and TICA) have a rule that each cat name registered has to be a unique name. The first part of every pedigreed cat's name is its cattery name, therefore, all kittens I register start with Dracoonfly. There can be more than one registered cat named Oliver, but only one Dracoonfly Oliver. The other cattery would have their name in front, i.e. Broadsway Oliver where Broadsway is the cattery name. Thus, the two names are different. The kittens that just left for their new homes had a vampire theme as they were born on Halloween. We'd already done the Twilight theme, so I looked up names of vampires from literature, forbidden by Kelsey to choose something as common as Dracula. The kittens were named Lestat, Nosferatu, Vlad and Carmilla. Carmilla kept her name as the new owners thought it suited her. Nosferatu is now Moxie and Vlad is called Brody. Lestat's owners wanted to name him Oliver, however, there is already a Dracoonfly Oliver. I explained the rules to the new owner and she immediately came up with a middle name, the name her son wanted originally (but apparently he'd been voted down by the rest of the family). He wanted to name the kitten Elvis. Now there will be a Dracoonfly Oliver Elvis. 

People who search for and get a pedigreed cat seem to automatically think in more grandiose terms for their kitty's name. Probably because they've gotten ideas from seeing the names the breeder has for her cats. I name all the cats I keep after fishing flies. The cat often has a different call name, for instance Dracoonfly Miramichi Special goes by "Myra". The Miramichi Special is a fishing fly. There are also fishing flies unsuitable for cat names, such as Moose Turd, Mouserat, or any of the leech names. 

There are an infinite number of sites dedicated to cat names on the web for those seeking that perfect name. I found Catster.com's top 100 female and male cat names, sent in by their followers. Topping the list for female names is Chloe at 1,023 votes. For males, it's Tigger. I actually compared the two top 100 lists to those my kitten buyers have used. Approximately one-fifth of the names listed on Catster are also used by Dracoonfly kitten owners. Some are also used by me, but they are the nicknames, not the registered names. Miramichi Special and Same Thing Murray are not common cat names. 

In going through the list of my kitten buyers' cat names over the years, some just pop out with their uniqueness. I'm not into cutsie names, but some people are (or the cats are named by their children). This would include names like Kenya Koon, Mia Miaow, Mischief, or my personal favorite, Puss 'n Boots. Then there are the original names like Bracket, Calla Lily Bloom, Eggs and Twizzler. Others like to take up the maximum number of letters and spaces allowed by CFA and TICA (35 including Dracoonfly) and come with names such as Monzu the Magnificent, Rome-Lil' Bugger with Cream, Sir Buckman Taurig or So Pale Morning Dun Abby. The last one was a combination of using the kitten's name I had given her, "So" from the above mentioned Music Litter, a fishing fly name "Pale Morning Dun" (the owner also fly fishes), and the name they wanted to actually call her, "Abby". 

The most interesting story concerning a cat's name from one of my kitten buyers came about years ago. This is the litter shown above. It was a food theme: Peppercorn, Pumpkin, Popcorn, Cinnamon and Macaroni n' Cheese. Cinnamon's new owners had a name already picked out for him. They wanted to name him after the lion actor from the movie "Second Hand Lions", Sir Buckman Taurig. Pumpkin's owner re-named him Duncan. A couple of years later, Duncan's owner, Kristen, told me she'd used an animal communicator to talk to her cat as he was having major fear issues after their basement flooded. I was a skeptic but Kristen assured me that this woman was "told" things by her cat that she couldn't possibly have known. The animal communicator lived in Virginia and worked over the phone. After the cat told the communicator that he couldn't understand why the walls were leaking and she helped him deal with that (Kristen had not mentioned the flood), she asked the cat if he needed to say anything else. One complaint Duncan had was he didn't think his name was long enough. He told the communicator that he wanted to be called "Mister Duncan MacBeth". The similarities between Duncan's brother's name (he was in the room when his brother's name was announced) and the one he wanted were eerie. Duncan's owner had been reading MacBeth at the time and quoting it out loud to the cats. It's as though Duncan thought if his brother could have a long name, he deserved one also. 

Choose your kitten or cat's name carefully and make it as special as your pet. Most of the cats mentioned here can be seen as kittens and later as adults on the Then and Now pages of my website.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Another Installment on Waste Management

Warning: Do not read this if you are eating or easily disgusted. Our dog, Chardonnay, is a beautiful animal with long golden fur sprinkled with gray, brown eyes and a happy expression. She makes you smile just to look at her. True to her breed, she very social, loving all people and animals. Some animals, like the squirrels, foxes, and deer which share our area are sport to her. She loves to give chase, but would be disappointed if she caused harm to come to one. When I first introduced the chicks to the outdoors this summer, Chardonnay was naturally curious and wanted the chickens to run so she could pursue them. I firmly explained that they were part of the family and after time, she became bored with them as playmates. When the chickens have their free range time, I often put Chardonnay outside with them for protection against any lurking predators. Even though the Golden Retriever was bred to hunt fowl, Chardonnay knows that the chickens are to be protected from harm, not chased. It is amazing how well she understands enough to overcome any predatory instincts she may have; not all dogs can do this. I trust her completely with the chickens even though they are still somewhat cautious around the dog, especially when she runs around the yard like a nut.

Chardonnay especially loves the new pullet, our Jersey Giant named Thelma. Thelma's personality is more Maine Coon cat-like around the dog and unlike the others, she is not intimidated by a 75-pound canine. This has led to a different kind of relationship between dog and bird. Chardonnay follows Thelma around the yard, nose to butt, waiting for a "treat" to plop out. Thelma is Chardonnay's Pez dispenser with a chicken head on it.

I've written previously on Chardonnay's obsession with poop. This behavior is common enough that it actually has a name, coprophagia. It means "one whose breath smells like crap". Down south, one would say a person with halitosis has the "zackleys" meaning their breath smells exactly like their ass. Seriously, the tendency to eat poop is pretty common in dogs. The theories dogs do it range from improper housebreaking, mother's instinct to clean up their puppies' smell, poor nutrition to boredom and stress.

When we had a rabbit, my research taught me that coprophagia is a natural behavior to them as well. The reason? Recycling. If a rabbit pellet is hard and dry, all the nutrients are gone and the rabbit leaves it alone. If the pellet is soft, they send it through again in order to glean every last bit of nutrients. Although gross, this instinct has probably kept many wild animals from starving. Rabbits, however, don't hunger for the poop from other animals. Dogs like poop from any creature it seems. Deer poop is the worst because not only will a dog sample it, they will also roll in it, picking up deer ticks and a stench like no other in the process. Although Chardonnay's brain rules over the hunting dog instinct, we have no such luck with her recycling nature. She's part of the family, but she's still a dog.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Egg Effect

When I first began researching keeping chickens as a hobby, I remember reading about what to feed and what not to feed them. If you remember an earlier post about their reaction to certain foods, the famous "what the cluck" (WTC) expression at something undesirable, you may think they are picky. Apparently, they are picky as youngsters. Now that they are more mature, the chickens will eat just about anything, especially if there is nothing else to eat other than their pellet food. Jay denies it, but I know he has been feeding them leftovers with chicken as one of the main ingredients, but let's not go there.

A couple of foods that are not recommended to feed the chickens are onions and garlic because of the effect it can have on the taste of the eggs. Naturally, that started the pondering of what effect other foods might have on the eggs. I wondered if I could feed the chickens all the ingredients I would want in an omelet, would they lay a self-contained, cheese, pepper and tomato-flavored egg? So far, no luck with this experiment. Stay tuned for further research results.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Cat Shows

What do you call it when your cat doesn't win at a cat show? .......politics.
Against my better judgment, I'm going to a 3-day cat show in Parsippany, New Jersey this weekend. The reason this is a bad idea is that I fully expect my cat to not get anything. I'm just hoping he'll pick up points for color and division. A final would be a bonus. Not because he's a bad example of the breed; Quill is pretty good as far as the Maine Coon standard goes, not great, but he does have his strong points. I can pick my cats apart and Quill is going through that awkward, ugly stage with his head. It's too long and narrow for me, his chin being another weak point. Both of Quill's parents have the strong, deep chin desirable in a Maine Coon, but Quill skipped that part. It's not quite as bad as mine (my chin is my weakest physical attribute. Thanks Dad), and it seems to be getting better, but that may be wishful thinking on my part. His ear set could be tighter, but at least he doesn't have his sire's "airplane ears" (that's an official cat description, as are "rabbit ears" and "alligator muzzle").

The best part about Quill physically is his boning (15 pounds at 10 months) and his glorious red-silver coat, especially the full, plumy tail. Another description we use for the red-silver color is "pink". Quill is mostly white with splotches of red. His unbathed tail is 8 inches wide. I just measured it. I could tell Quill's admirers that he weighs 25 pounds and be believed. People have a tendency to expect great poundage from Maine Coons, not taking into account that whole (un-neutered) cats don't become as large, show cats are young and still undeveloped and there's a lot of fur. Quill's coat, however, is difficult to maintain as the silver causes spontaneous matting. If you want a Maine Coon with a low-maintenance coat, get a red tabby. Fortunately, the young lad enjoys my picking through his knots and tangles with a comb and a seam ripper (a must-have tool for owners of long-haired cats). He purrs the entire time and even though he may change positions when I pull his hair, he keeps purring and remains voluntarily on my lap. Quill hasn't been to a show since November, so he may qualify for two baths to get that coat into shape.

So although I love my pretty red-silver boy, I'm a realist. Cat shows are a beauty competition, not an IQ or personality test (although it helps if your cat is both dumb and happy with the event). This will be a campaigner show, meaning the best cats in the country will be there. The competition among Maine Coons in The International Cat Association (TICA) in the northeast region is incredibly tough. There is usually a large number of our breed being shown and one cat is better than the next. So I can't knock it when my cat (even when I'm showing an exceptional one) doesn't get Best of Breed, much less 2nd or 3rd. Yes, it is disappointing when you need a title on your cat and make no headway in earning it because those other damn cats get in the way. It's a waste of money and a weekend to come away with nothing. That's when the excuse of the cat shows being too political comes into play. Maybe sometimes they are, but I'm an optimist (is it an oxymoron to be a realistic optimist?). If I weren't, I would have given up on showing my cats a long time ago. Plus, I've had enough successful shows that the carrot still dangles out there for me. Maybe it's a small, shriveled up carrot, but I still get hungry.
The real reason I'm going to the show is for the social aspect. It's a weekend getaway for me, a time to visit with great friends, admire beautiful cats, and talk cat to people who enjoy listening to cat talk. If you're in the area, come visit. The show starts Friday afternoon and runs through Sunday at the Hilton Parsippany. I'll be the one with the dragonfly show curtains and the big, pink fluffy cat.