Archive for October, 2006

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Do Cats have souls?

31 October, 2006

One Sunday the vicar who was preaching at the church I was visiting told of a member of the congregation who had asked him whether if his dog died, it would go to heaven.

The vicar had told the dog owner that in order for his dog to go to heaven, it had to have a soul, and nowhere in the Bible did it say that animals have souls.

I can only share my experiences with my cats, and the experiences of others who are more gifted in the mystical and spiritual realms.

I once had a cat, Sophie.  At the age of 14 (we think it was 14 because she was a rescue who had been moved from home to home) she developed cancer.  There was a tumour and something to do with her liver. She shrank, became a shadow of her previously chunky self.

I started looking for a cure. Cures. The vet gave her three months. I refused to accept his diagnosis. I tried alternative therapies: CV247, homeopathy, and various healers. There was some remission.

During those three months something happened. Maybe it was the way in which she looked into my eyes everytime I took her to the healer, or the way she purred even though she was in discomfort. Maybe it was the way she tucked gratefully into the home-prepared food I had made for her.

Somehow, it’s hard to explain, but in those three months, Sophie went from being a Cat with a Personality to a Being.

Sophie died in my arms one morning. After she died, there was a long silence and suddenly I heard a bee striking a window in a bid to escape. I opened the window and the bee flew away into the garden.

A friend lovingly summed up Sophie and my experience: God sends us angels in many forms, to teach us about love and loving. Sometimes these angels just happen to be dressed in furry outfits. That’s the only explanation I have for how a little cat burrowed her way into my heart and made me feel deeply for her.

I also found solace in reading the website of Brother Steindl-Rast on angels and animals.

So do cats have souls? I think that if you were to judge a being by the fruits of his spirit, then our pets, who only give us love and enable us to show love, are great spirits.

We are all bees striking our heads against a barrier of ignorance and blindness. If God were to open the window of consciousness, would we recognise him in the moment or would we fly away blindly like the bee? If he sends us animals to be our companions, who is to say the animals aren’t angels in disguise, gently leading us to a deepening of love between all living things in the very short time they have with us.

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Cat carriers (and how to save a cat’s life)

26 October, 2006

When my kittens left for their new homes, their owners collected them with a variety of cat carriers.

Most of the kitten owners had splashed out on new cat carriers, and I was most impressed by the effort that everyone had made into selecting a cat carrier.

So what’s in a cat carrier?

For me, a good cat carrier is robust and comfortable. It provides a space that makes the cat secure. It makes it easy to put the cat in and take it out of the carrier. And it should be easy to handle and carry.

CatCarriers1

At cat shows the cat carrier of choice is usually a top-opening one made out of wire mesh. It would win no prizes in a beauty competition but judges like it because cats can simply be lifted out and lowered back in the carrier. With a side-opening carrier you have to pull the cat towards you and if a cat doesn’t want to come out, you’re in trouble. Ditto, putting a cat back in a side-opening carrier can be like difficult if it’s scared and doesn’t want to go back in.

What I don’t like about these wire mesh carriers is that they’re not very private and don’t provide that cave-like environment that a cat needs to feel secure. So a blanket or other cover is necessary to give the cat privacy with mesh carriers.

Then there are the carriers which are made of plastic, with two plastic-cat-carrier.jpeghalves that snap together with hasps. These are good because they’re lightweight and easy to clean. They’re also more private than the mesh-type carriers. Some plastic carriers also come with little trolley wheels attached – very handy if your cat is a large Maine Coon! However, I don’t know how robust these plastic carriers are – undoing and doing-up the hasps isn’t easy when you’re in a hurry and there’s a lot of wear-and-tear on those hasps.

CatCarriers2 The latest in cat carriers are bags which can be slung over the shoulder – they incorporate nylon mesh panels for air circulation. They’re not as rigid or robust as say, the plastic or wire mesh carriers, but are strong enough to stop a cat trying to scratch its way through. These are increasing in popularity, partly because they don’t look like cat carriers per se, they look like fashionable luggage bags. Plus, they’re lighter in weight than both the mesh and plastic carriers. One of the companies that makes these bag-type carriers has branched out and makes shelters which are used in place of cages at TICA shows.

Which brings me to the real reason for this post.

If ever you’re in an emergency (e.g. disaster evacuation, fire etc.) and can’t find a cat carrier, there are cheap and ready temporary alternatives.  This was brought to my attention by Jan, a wonderful person with a big heart who has helped many rescue cats and who despaired what was happening to cats in New Orleans during Katrina’s visit.  She says it best:

“I was beside myself over the New Orleans disaster, what with all those folks having to leave their pets. Both you and I know that most of the felines had panicked and hunkered down somethere, never to be rescued. PLEASE TELL ALL THAT YOU CAN put a cat in a pillowcase (easy to find!) and take all critters with you, one in each pillowcase. Many people probably don’t have or cannot afford cat carriers or are older and find it difficult to maneuver to damned carriers. The pillowcase carrier is a simple solution, not heavy (except for the size of the cat); it provides them with a secure rescue without the horror of the cat seeing what the cat is going through; only the sound of your loving voice to calm it.”

Thank you, Jan!

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Cat spam

26 October, 2006

If cats could send spam, what kind of spam would they write?  I interviewed a few cats, and here are a few examples they allowed me to share:

Dear User of our Maine Coon Dating site!
you have new message from Mikhail the Magnificent, 4 y.o., Grand Champion, mating want Female with Big Ruff. Kittens guaranteed.

Hi,
Ti1AGRA for less
big boy cat make your queens much plesure with non-stop. Cheap Tiagra keep tiger in your tank always full.

Hey ted
Be in a good shape! New diet cat food. Eat all you want and still lose weight. Real meat. Real fish. Lowest price guarantee. Fast delivery. Stop being big. Be normal.

Anyway – you’re probably thinking, this is supposed to be a cat breeder’s blog – what has this post got to do with cat breeding, much less cats, and the answer is nothing!  I’m off to put in my order for “Wholesale prices for Alzheimer’s medication. Discreet shipping available to over 150 countries worldwide.”

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Secret Past Lives of my Cats

24 October, 2006

I have three adult cats: a Maine Coon queen, a Bengal girl neuter and a male neuter.

Some weeks back I was with a friend of mine, and we were talking cat, as all cat-mad people do when they meet, and she commented that my Maine Coon queen, Ananda, was a princess. I asked her what she meant and she said that she was one of those cats who glide through life expecting people to do things for her, because of her beauty, sweetness and grace. I said “hmmm” and unconvinced, left it at that.

This evening Ananda was sitting on the kitchen counter when I put her plate of food on the floor. She stared at it in dismay, as though she was on a mountain top and the dish way below in the valley. So I lifted her and placed her on the floor and only then did she start eating daintily.

Yes, truly princess behaviour.

So it got me thinking about why my cats had such different personalities and what they might have been in a previous life to make them the way they are.

I have to agree. I think that there was royalty somewhere in Ananda’s previous incarnations. It’s just the way she expects to waited on, but there’s nothing domineering about her, she just knows it’s her right to have sweet nothings whispered in her ear, to be treated with the utmost gentleness. She is a well-bred cat who shimmers around the house royally-robed in her tortoiseshell coat of many colours. She would never dream of creating a scene or starting a fight. There’s no need to because she only expects good things to happen to her. Her name reflects her personality – Ananda, meaning universal joy.

My Bengal girl, on the other hand. Well, where do I start? Everytime I say something nice about her, I qualify it with a “but”. I love her to bits, but … oh the heartache her feistiness causes me.

She must have been a warrior cat in a previous life … something along the lines of an Amazonian.  When she was a kitten of about 6 months’ old, she was playing in the garden when up popped the neighbour’s cat, male, muscly and supremely ready to assert his authority. She saw him from up the garden path, and came trotting down. Something about her swagger, leading with her head made him made him reconsider his tactics, and this cat who was about three times the size of the kitten turned tail and ran off.

She looks at the world and she thinks: “hmm … is this prey? Is this edible? Or is it a toy? Should I let it live?” With her rippling muscles, powerful hindquarters and razor-sharp claws, she is the supreme athlete and hunter.

A warrior is fearless and despises weakness. Because of that, she’s the top cat and unfortunately sees the princess cat’s gentleness as something to be taken advantage of. Who knows … perhaps they were rivals in a previous life.

I’m not sure why I named her Maya which means illusion. Perhaps it’s all a front. Certainly with me she’s all love and throaty purrs. It’s just that she can’t bear to share me with anyone, much less a princess cat.

Then there’s Teddy. He unites the best of both Ananda (his mother) and Maya. He’s huge, a jolly ginger giant with a huge love for life. He’s bolder than Ananda, but not as aggressive than Maya. He follows me about, snuggles up in bed next to me. He looks out at the world trustingly. Because he’s so huge, and maybe because he just loves everyone, Maya tolerates him. I named him Teddy because there’s something bearlike about his size and coat. I still haven’t worked out what he was in a previous life, but I have a feeling he was a dog. A large, happy go-lucky dog living for food and love from his owner.

I sometimes wish I could wave a wand and change Maya into something more Teddy-like, or get Ananda to assert herself, but I think they’re here to learn their own lessons about life. And who knows what they’ll be in their next lives? I only hope that I’ll be there to share it with them.

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It’s that time of year again (fireworks rant)

23 October, 2006

EarPlugs1 It’s that time of year again.

Halloween on 31st October and Guy Fawkes Night (aka Bonfire Night) on 5th November.  Meaning half the population of Great Britain decide to spend their life savings on things that go “wheeeeeeeeeeee bang”.  Worse, they don’t wait until 31st October or 5th November before celebrating.  They start round about now.

Maybe it’s to do with the fact that Sainsbury’s are doing a 2-for-1 offer on fireworks.  Wonderful.  (I just wish Mr. Sainsbury’s could be locked up in a room where a cat or dog is trembling with fear from the loud explosions caused by the fireworks.)

I hate being a wet blanket, but I wish they would ban fireworks.  Or at least restrict their use to the day of the festivity itself.  Last year, I noticed that the fusillade started mid October and only ended two weeks after the New Year.   That’s a whole three months of wishing I lived in Singapore where fireworks are banned unless in government-regulated displays.

My neighbours, in particular are an example of profligate pyrotechnicians.  Their idea of a good party is one which finishes, literally, on a bang.  Their garden runs at right angles to ours.  So their rockets inevitably fly over our house.  Last year one of the rockets got caught on our roof.  Sheesh … I didn’t even have time to strap my flak jacket on before the rocket exploded.  Worse … this was followed by the laughter of both adults and children at their ingenuity.  Nuke and them were two words that sprang readily to my mind.

It’s only people with pets (and those who want to get to bed by 10pm) who appreciate how terrifying fireworks are.

EmergencyEssence1 Having said that, my Maine Coon girl sometimes sits quite happily on the windowsill and watches the displays, only flinching when the bangs get really loud.  She’s either bomb-proof or just dopey.  Haven’t worked that one out yet!  But Teddy, my male neuter and Maya the Bengal suddenly disappear or shadow me about the house, their little eyes pleading with me to do something about the loud noises.

I’ve found the Emergency Essence made by Australian Bush Remedies, quite helpful.  But only to a certain extent.  I think there’s also a company in this country that is selling CDs with firework noises on them so that you can desensitise your pets.  I’m still waiting for them to invent ear plugs for cats.

If you have any other helpful aids, do let me know.

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Empty nest syndrome

18 October, 2006

The house is very quiet.

Where conversations used to be filled with discussions of which kitten had been up to what mischief that day, Hubby and I now have the animated liveliness of the two farmers in Grant’s American Gothic.

I am still waking up extra early in the morning, my body clock primed for a session with the litter trays. When I return home from work, I am paralysed for a moment, realising that my evening ritual of feeding, litter trays, and play with kittens, with maybe 15 minutes for my own dinner is over. Hours stretch ahead to fill with cooking real food, watching TV that I haven’t watched for the past 4 months, reading, playing with my adult cats, and just wondering how my kittens are doing in their new homes.

On Saturday, as a taster of what was to come, six of the kittens went to their new homes. I was too busy to miss them, rushing around organising paperwork and kitten packs. Come the evening and it was just 3 adult cats and one little kitten left. Mum Cat had napped throughout the day, occasionally waking up to give a farewell lick (or suckle) to her kittens. In the evening though, she wandered around with a chick in her mouth going “woah … woah … woah” calling her babies to the feast. When only one kitten turned up, she knew something was wrong and spent the rest of the evening slumped in the room.

I think all the cats knew something was up when visitors arrived on Sunday to see the remaining kitten. I usually show them Teddy so they have an idea of what an adult Maine Coon can look like – hugely magnificent. Usually Teddy is a jolly, sociable cat, happy to weave around visitors, basking in their admiration. This time, when I carried Teddy into the room, he took one look at the very nice couple standing there, wriggled out of my arms and legged it pronto. I tried to close the door on him and caught his paw – he squealed and gave me a dirty look so I ran after him to see if he was all right. I finally cornered him when he climbed the apple tree, and apologising, I dragged him down. I think he had visions of vanishing into the Cave of the Cat Carrier and never returning home.

Whenever I miss the kittens, I turn to the e-mails from their owners with progress reports and photos. So far, everything is well. The kittens are being loved to bits by their owners. Some of the kittens have already been given bed privileges. Small fortunes have been spent by these owners in buying everything a kitten would need to feel pampered. The kittens are hugged about 100 times a day. Heart-warming stories, and suddenly the house isn’t so empty anymore.

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www.catswhiskers.uk.com

12 October, 2006

I forgot to mention … in my excitement at finally getting my web-site up-and-running, please check out www.catswhiskers.uk.com

I wish I could take credit for the site, but the design and execution was done by Denise Laurent, feline artist extraordinare, who happens to wear yet another hat as a professional web-designer with her company www.imagine.co.uk.  What can’t she do, eh?

 But there’s more to a good web-designer than just making a site look good.  A good web-designer will help get your site stand out from the crowd, and if it’s a business site, to help you get sales.

The actual conception began months ago, even before the kittens were a twinkle in mum cat’s eye, when I moaned to Denise about needing a web-site because all cat breeders had one.

Instead of pointing me down the road of a conventional web-site, she had me think about other ways of reaching out to people who love cats, love to read about cats, and who might be interested in Maine Coons, and by extension, Maine Coon kittens.

She suggested that I write a blog. She showed me examples of blogs. And she helped me to fight against the inertia and terror of putting words to an electronic page.

Then just as I got the hang of blogging, she suggested that a picture can paint a hundred words, so why not an album of photos on flickr? I swear I’d never heard of flickr at that point, and when I saw it, I thought it was too complicated and too much hassle.

Well, this is several months down the road, and I can’t believe I managed for so long without a flickr album and a blog.

And yes, I eventually got my web-site too because web-sites are what people like to look at when they want to find out about something. The blog and the flickr album are the gilding on the web-site. They make it easy to update content quickly. Plus they reach out to an audience of people who may not normally have stumbled on my web-site which would have been one in millions of other web-sites.

The best thing about this web-site is that I can make changes to it myself as it’s a web-based programme.  No need for file transfer protoccol software to upload files.  I think that’s pretty cool because it means that I don’t have to keep liaising with a web-designer to get things updated – I do it as and when I want to, on the web.

 Do have a look at it and let me know what you think!