Archive for March, 2007


Will they … won’t they?

31 March, 2007

The house is very quiet because Ananda’s gone to the stud cat.

She was still calling today (Saturday) so I took her to the vet for her snap test, and as expected, it was negative for feline FIV/FELV.

Then I spoke to the stud cat’s owner to make arrangements to take Ananda to her on Sunday. She was at a cat show to the North of us, and very kindly offered to meet us on her way back, at a service station equidistant to the cat show and our house instead.

This would save us a long journey to her on Sunday. It would also hopefully guarantee that Ananda would be calling when she met the stud cat. I was worried that this would be a short call for her, but after last night, I think she might be good for several days yet.

So it was a whirlwind day today and I waved goodbye to Ananda and prayed for the best.

I knew she would be in good hands. The stud cat owner is very experienced, is held in high-esteem by other cat breeders and is known for her show-winning cats. It’s a huge responsibility, being a stud cat owner. First, most breeders won’t sell a stud cat to just anybody. Next, as a stud cat owner you have to make sure that your boy has enough girls to keep him happy. And of course, you’ve got to make sure that your stud cat gets plenty of love and attention if he’s kept in an outdoor pen. Finally, when you have visiting queens, it’s a responsibility in itself to make sure that the matings go well and the queens are happy.

Most studs are at “limited stud”, only to people vetted by the owner. So far I have been very lucky in that owners of some superb studs have allowed me to use their boys. Last year, Mike and Trina Biggs of Mullycoonz allowed me to use Mullycoonz Romulas, a magnificent red silver shaded boy. I hope to have more to tell you about this year’s stud in a later post.

I rang later that night and apparently upon introduction, the stud cat was keen to mate her, but she was skittish in her new surroundings and tried to get away by climbing the pen! She’s now been put in the queen’s quarters adjacent to his, he’s a real charmer, and hasn’t stopped chatting her up, fingers and paws crossed that by tomorrow morning she’ll be more settled and susceptible to his charms.


New vacuum cleaner – Sebo K1 Pet

31 March, 2007

It’s been an expensive day for me.

Our vacuum cleaner finally decided to go to the great Carpet in the Sky. It was an Electrolux Mondo and a good, inexpensive workhorse. It wasn’t brilliant at getting the cat hairs out of the carpet, but for that I have a steam cleaner. It didn’t have a powerful suction capability, but it gobbled up the Yesterday’s News cat litter pellets without grumbling. However, after more than 10 years of being dragged around, the wire where the cord entered the vacuum cleaner must have frayed and it kept starting and stopping at the wrong moments. Hubby and I being non-DIY people tried to repair it, but we gave up in the end. It worked if you managed to get the angle of the wire just right, but have you ever tried vacuuming while jigging the cord of the cleaner in all directions? It was worse than trying to pat your head while rubbing your tummy.

(Of course I’d known the Mondo was going to break down. About a month back I’d bought two packets of 5 replacement vacuum cleaner dirt bags in Asda which does vacuum cleaner bags cheaper than anywhere else. That’s 10 bags in total. Now, as everyone knows, if you buy 10 cans of a cat food that a cat likes, it’s almost guaranteed that the cat will suddenly develop an aversion to that particular brand. And remember the post in which I bought multiple packs of AA batteries, and collar magnets for the cat flap only to have the cat flap not work? It figures that now that I’ve got 8 vacuum cleaner bags left, the vacuum cleaner should break down. I’m calling it the Law of Murphy’s Multiples, and remember, you read it here first!)

The choice was between getting the vacuum cleaner repaired, or getting a new one. Ironically, getting it repaired wasn’t such a cheap option. And in the past week of dithering the house keeping suffered.

So on Friday I visited John Lewis and was given a lecture by their expert on vacuum cleaners. I’d already done a bit of research by reading reviews on dooyoo and I’d started out dead keen on a Dyson, but reviews called into question its reliability. The vacuum cleaner I thought would do was a Numatic Henry – small, round-shaped, with a smiley face on it. Every review I read about the Numatic Henry raved about how efficient it was for such a small machine and how it offered good value-for-money, being half the price of a Dyson. I checked out the Miele Cat and Dog, but again, the reviews for the Henry were so much better.

John Lewis stocks Numatic Henry, but as soon as the salesman found out that I had cats, he pointed me in the direction of the Sebo K1 Pet.

What sold it to me was how robust it was – the salesman stood on it, then picked it up by the hose. Sebo is a German brand, and apparently their uprights are used in the White House. It comes with a 5-year guarantee for parts and 2-year guarantee for labour – it seemed to me that a manufacturer had to have faith in its product to offer such a guarantee, or go bankrupt (either that or it has a good small print exclusion clause in its Terms and Conditions).

Anyway, to cut a long story short, I bought one today. It comes with two turbo brushes with rotating bristles that pick up pet hair. These brushes work. However, whenever there was anything too large, it tended to get stuck at the hole to the hose. With the Mondo, everything got sucked up greedily. The replacement bags for the Sebo are also horrendously expensive – and no, it won’t take Mondo bags, I tried.

(I did point out the Numatic Henry to hubby, but he balked when he saw the smiley face on the cylinder. He said it looked childish, like Thomas the Tank Engine, and refused to have anything like that in the house. “I’d prefer something with Cyclone … Turbo on it,” he said pointing to a Boy’s Own Dyson.)

I’ll know whether I made the right choice when the next litter of kittens get litter-trained and the Sebo is faced with endless dunes of cat litter.

One thing’s for sure … I’m not buying more than 5 replacement bags at a time, to make sure it doesn’t conk out before its time.


Further comments on the new vacuum cleaner. The Sebo is very compact – it’s smaller than the Miele Cat and Dog, and lighter too. It’s only 5.5 kg. It really does take up less space and is easier to carry up the stairs.

The turbo brushes are great, but I’m finding that the revolving brush bit gets in the way of larger pieces of debris from being sucked up. With the Mondo there was no revolving turbo brush, just direct access to a whacking big suction pipe so everything went in. I’m beginning to wonder if I should have bought the K1 Komfort model which comes with just one turbo brush (the larger one), plus one brush without the turbo wizz-bang stuff. The turbo brush doesn’t do edges very well either – I have to handpick anything at the back (or side) of each step of the stairs, for example. I’ve looked in the catalogue and there is a brush without any turbo bits, so maybe I’ll buy that instead to use on the wooden floor. It’s now getting a bit complicated – who’s got time to keep changing brushes? (and who’s got the spare cash to keep buying brushes?)

The K1 Komfort was cheaper as well. My recommendation to any pet owner is buy the K1 Komfort and then buy the extra stair/upholstery (smaller) turbo brush if you really need it – chances are, no – I’ve managed with the larger turbo brush even on the stairs (except that the larger brush doesn’t quite get the stuff at the edges). And you can get Sebo vacuum cleaners cheaper from an online shop, e.g. In fact, e-bay had some on auction and I nearly died when I saw how cheaply they were selling for – ex-demo models going for a third of what I paid at John Lewis. I think though, that Sebo may only recognise its manufacturer’s guarantee if you buy from an authorised seller. But that’s something that needs checking.

(the other thing about price, which hubby pointed out, was that there were other vacuum cleaners at half the price of a Sebo, so in theory, if you bought the cheaper one and it conked out you could always buy another and not feel the pinch)

Plus the K1 Pet comes with carpet cleaning powder (Dupo). You sprinkle it, work it in and then vacuum it out. Personally I’m very wary of carpet cleaners. There’s nothing on the packet to say exactly what the ingredients are (what are anionic surfectants, anyone? or polymers?), or whether they are non-toxic to pets. Just some blurb about how six months after application of the carpet cleaner, the areas remain dust-mite free. Dust mites are the least of my worries – with pets you’re never free of them, and so far I’ve co-existed happily with them. When Ananda gets back from stud, there’s no way I’m going to risk any chemicals affecting her pregnancy. I think Sebo have a lot of questions to answer. If you’re going to sell carpet cleaning powder with a vacuum cleaner designed for people with pets, you should ensure that the cleaner is non-toxic to pets and not leave it ambiguous.


Update 7 April 2007: I sent an e-mail to Sebo earlier this week, outlining my concerns about the Dupo carpet cleaner, and the fact that the turbo brush doesn’t really work with large pieces of debris, and suggested that they re-package the K1 Pet with a brush with a larger intake hole. I haven’t had a reply from them yet. I think it’s important that a company should take the time to reply to queries. If it doesn’t then that exposes flaws in their after-sales-service. I’ll give it until next week then try again. The one good thing I’ve heard about Dyson is that they have superb after sales-service – let’s see if Sebo’s lives up to their hype.


Update 4 May 2007.  Sorry this is taking so long but this is the final update, I hope:

Well, I sent another e-mail to Sebo, and my telephone number was inadvertently attached to it so I got a phone call from them.  The Sebo customer services person did say that a number of customers had said that the turbo brush tended to kick bigger pieces of dirt round a bit.  However, the only solution she could offer me was:  “buy a brush without the turbo function”.  I asked her which brush had the largest inlet funnel and she was unable to tell me as she didn’t have a photo of the underside of the brush.  I asked her if I could return the whole cleaner, and she said it was up to John Lewis. 

OK – so I called John Lewis Brent Cross and explained the situation to them, to cut a long story (and about 10 e-mails) short, I got a refund and bought the K1 Komfort.

So … why did I stick with Sebo?  Well, I walked up and down the display of vacuum cleaners in John Lewis, and their weights ranged from 9kg (Henry Numatic) to the Miele (6.5 kg).  I like the fact that the Sebo is only 5.5 kg.  It makes a difference if you’re lugging it up and down the stairs.  It’s also more compact that most other brands, so I can prop it up in the hallway and it doesn’t look too obtrusive.  There’s something about German engineering too – the Sebo’s hosepipe telescopes smoothly, and each attachment clicks into place with the solid “clunk” you get when you close the door of a BMW.

The bag capacity is smaller at 3.5 kg vs 4.5 kg for the Miele.  I like the Airbelt system whereby exhaust air is filtered through a belt which runs round the cleaner, and you don’t get the blast you would get with a normal vacuum cleaner.  And the turbo brush does pick up cat hairs from a carpet.  The K1 Komfort also comes with a non-turbo brush parquet brush with a large inlet funnel which means it will suck up large pieces of grit.  Plus, the Sebo K1 Komfort is relatively quiet.

I have never used a Miele, so I can’t say it’s better than that.  I think the Miele comes with more brushes.  I kind of miss the brush I had with the Electrolux Mondo which was totally flat and which formed a better seal against the floor which in turn gave it better suction and allowed me to clean up to the edges of the floor – that’s something that Sebo hasn’t got.

Lessons to be learnt?

1.  Before you buy a vacuum cleaner, look at the surfaces in your house – if you have hardwood floors, a turbo brush may not be good enough.  But a turbo brush can help to pick up cat hairs from a carpet.

2.  What size of dirt do you normally have to deal with?  Check the inlet funnel of the brush – if it’s small and narrow it won’t deal with cat litter pellets.

3.  How much are the replacement dust bags?

4.  Remember to keep all the packaging for the vacuum cleaner and don’t tear the box in case you have to return it.


Peed off

30 March, 2007

As mentioned in my previous post, a female cat on heat often sprays her urine to attract males.

I’ve only had to clean up four puddles of pee so far. I only found the puddles thanks to my live urine detector, Maya the Bengal. She’s taken to sniffing round the living room where Ananda is being confined whenever we’re not around. Whenever Maya stops and starts scraping with one of her front paws, I know that that’s a pee spot. She’s better than my ultraviolet urine detector. The problem of course, is that you’ve got to be around when Maya does her detecting, otherwise she never does the same spot twice, and she only does the spots when they are fresh.

We’ve confined Ananda to the living room because on previous occasions her calling was attracting the local tom, and we didn’t want to chance any encounters. Also, she was spraying all over the house and at least in the living room the floor is wood and easier to clean than carpet.

It’s said that the tendency to spray may run in the lines, and if a mother cat sprays, then her daughter might inherit that tendency, but Ananda’s mother isn’t a sprayer.

Ah well … perhaps it’s just that Ananda is getting fed up of calling and not getting anywhere and is trying to tell us something by spraying.

It was most obvious last night that she was getting frustrated. Last night hubby fell asleep on the couch watching TV and woke up in the middle of the night to go to the loo. When he got back (he claims a minute later) he lay back down on the couch and right on a … wet patch. Yep, Ananda had peed on the couch.

(What impressed me was that hubby didn’t wake me up to clean the pee up, but did it himself. Of course I went over the spot again this morning just to make sure)

So, long-suffering hubby’s pretty peed off too. But apart from the living room we don’t have any other un-carpeted room to keep Ananda in when she’s calling. I’m not sure what other breeders do – just grit their teeth and bear it and buy shares in cat pee cleaners? I’ve heard that some confine their calling queens to spacious outdoor runs, and after this past week, I’m tempted to invest in one of them.


Calling … calling …

30 March, 2007

My girl is calling.

She started calling properly on Wednesday, but the signs were there days before that she was going to come into heat.

Several days before, Maya the Asbo Bengal, kept harrassing her and chasing her. The last two times this happened, it was almost as though something about Ananda had changed to prompt this action – perhaps she was giving off different scents in response to changes in her hormones.

She also became more affectionate, and on Tuesday morning, crawled into bed with me and first wedged herself between my arm and body so that she made a warm, furry lump asking for a cuddle. Then she proceeded to lie on top of me, still seeking my attention. (during her previous call, hubby told me that she had lain on top of him at night).

I’ve previously written a post on “How to tell if your cat is on heat” if you want to find out more symptoms. [perhaps “symptoms” is the wrong term to use because being on heat is not a disease, it only seems as though the cat is in a state of dis-ease!]

This is her third call this year. The first one, in late January, lasted a week. The second one, in late February lasted a mere three days. Some breeders say that a strong call may be followed by a shorter one.

I’m hoping this is a long strong call because we’d like to get her to the stud cat this Sunday. We can’t get her there any earlier for a combination of reasons. If she goes off call by tomorrow (Saturday), then she won’t be seeing the stud until her next call.

Going to the stud isn’t a matter of turning up and letting him get the job done.

For one, the female cat has to be tested no less than 24 hours before, for FeLV/FIV (feline leukemia/feline AIDS). This is to ensure that the none of these diseases is transmitted to the stud cat during the mating. This diagnostic test is more familiarly known as the “snap test”. A sample of blood from the cat is dropped onto the testing kit, and if I recall from the last time, the test module is activated by snapping it so that the reactants in the kit mix with the blood, hence the name “snap test”.

Drawing blood from a cat can be a tricky business. My vet is particularly skilled at getting a blood sample from a cat’s leg – he uses surgical spirit to wet the cat’s fur, then parts the fur where the vein is before drawing the blood. I have heard of other breeders who haven’t been as lucky – one vet decided to draw the blood from the neck of the cat, and shaved the fur off to make the job easier. Seeing that a stud cat will grab hold of the scruff of a female cat in order to hold her, the bald spot meant that it would have risked injury if the stud cat’s teeth had bitten through.

So, if she has the snap test and then goes off call, I may need to have the test done again the next time she calls because of the 24-hour requirement.

I’m quite excited about the stud cat and hope to have more to tell you in future posts.


Happy Mother’s Day!

15 March, 2007

This image may not be used in any way whatsoever without the written permission of the artist.

It’s Mother’s Day in England, this Sunday 18th March and I’d like to wish all mothers a Happy Mother’s Day in advance.

I want to share this painting of my Maine Coon mum cat with you.  It’s entitled “Mother’s Day” and I think it captures perfectly that moment of love and intimacy between mother and child (or in this case, her kitten). I love the way the painting has captured the happy expression on my mum cat’s face as her little kitten cuddles up to her.

This painting was done by Denise Laurent, an outstanding and best-selling artist of our furry companions.  It’s available as a print, and any Mum who’s a cat lover would be thrilled by this beautiful gift.

Please check out Denise’s work on, and be prepared to fall in love with all her beautiful paintings.

And just to show you what a great artist she is, here is the original photo of mum and her kitten:



Homeopathic Birth Kit

5 March, 2007

Here are the most important homeopathic remedies I have on hand during birthing. They are not always used, they are there just in case. I know some breeders use them pre-birth, to prevent certain conditions, but that is not classical homeopathy. Homeopathic remedies should only be used only when there is a symptom, not to prevent a symptom – this latter is allopathic thinking. If you use or take homeopathic remedies to prevent something, chances are you could prove the remedy, i.e. induce the very symptoms you want to avoid. Sorry to go on and on, but I do worry about people who think homeopathy is harmless, when it’s actually very potent.

1. Arnica 30C – good for blunt trauma, bruising, bleeding and shock. Indispensable for post birth, to bring down swelling.  It is the No. 1 remedy in any first aid kit.

2. Caulophyllum 30C – used only when prolonged contractions are not resulting in birth, or when there is uterine weakness and nervous exhaustion during the birth.

3. Cimicifuga (or Actaea Racemosa) 30C – symptoms as with caulophyllum but the queen will also be agitated and fearful.

4. Carbo Veg 30C – aka the “corpse reviver”. If you’ve had to revive a kitten that was born not breathing, you may wish to follow-up with Carbo Veg if it isn’t breathing strongly.

According to Dr. Richard Moskowitz in his book “Homeopathic Medicines for Pregnancy and Childbirth”:

“For the newborn with respiratory distress and persistent cyanosis [i.e. blue lips], Carbo Veg can actually save life and prevent irreversible brain damage.”

I used this myself in a newborn kitten I had to revive – I dissolved a pillule in a cup of water and put just one drop into the mouth of the kitten.

I also have a good 43-remedy kit from Ainsworths.

Arnica and Carbo Veg can usually be found in a good homeopathic kit.  Caullophyllum and Cimicifuga may have to be bought separately.  You can also get homeopathic birth kits, but I have found that the remedies are at 200C potency – I was advised by Michelle Bernard of Blakkatz that this is too strong, but some homeopaths believe that giving birth requires that level of potency. Helios do a birth kit at 200C potency. Ainsworths do a general dog kit and a cat kit (but without the birthing remedies, alas), but honestly, I think they’re overpriced for what they are: sure, the pillules are softer and therefore easier to dissolve, but what you’re paying for is the swanky wooden box in which the remedies are housed. It’s a very nice swanky box, though. You don’t need the pill to dissolve to work, all it needs is to touch the tongue of the dog or cat. And if you dissolve the pillule in water, it’s easy to administer, anyway. So save your money and spend it on the 43-remedy kit instead. If it’ll do for humans, it should do for cats!

In addition, the classic guide to homeopathy for childbirth and pregnancy is Richard Moskowitz’s “Homeopathic Medicines for Pregnancy and Childbirth” – it’s for humans, but is very applicable to cats as well.

In all instances of dosing, the rule is: one pillule. Wait. If no results in 10 mins, re-dose. A safer way is to dissolve in water, then dose. If no results, agitate the water by either stirring it, or hitting the bottle against your palm, several times. This potentises the solution and increases its strength. Then dose again.


Cat Birthing Kit

5 March, 2007

In response to a comment posted by josh on 4 March 2007:

“… my cat’s kittens are due in 1 – 2 weeks.What equipment do i need? And how old have the kittens got to be until you can hold them ? Would appreciate any replies to this message . thanx”

Hi Josh,Congratulations on your forthcoming kittens!

What breed of cat do you have?

OK, first, the average gestation period is 9 weeks + 2 days, sometimes a few days earlier, sometimes a few days later.

You will notice signs of impending birth – sometimes the waters break and you will it run down her hind legs, sometimes, you notice it when she licks her bottom more. She will be restless and some days before start looking for dark, safe places in which to kitten.

Here, in summary is a list of what you will need, and then a longer explanation if necessary of specific items:


– Box for mum to have kittens in.

– Maybe smaller separate box to put kittens in if you need to dry them while mum is busy having kittens and you don’t want her to roll on them

– Newspaper to line box – you may need to change this often if it gets soaked during the birth process

– some small face towels (cotton) to dry the kittens, and also to clean mum up after everything’s done (she will probably clean herself up though).

– larger towels for mum to sleep on after she has kittened – you will need to change these everyday – mum will appreciate this as cats are clean creatures

– kitchen towels – for general cleaning up

– list of emergency tel numbers, e.g. vet, other breeder friends

– interesting book in case the birth takes longer than expected

– book/articles on cat birthing

– torch in case it’s dark (many births occur in the evening/early morning)

– bin bag(s) to get rid of the waste stuff


– small blunt scissors and surgical spirit to sterlise it, if you need to cut the umbilical cords and are squeamish about doing it with your fingers.

– dental floss to tie ends of umbiilical cord if necessary.

– bulb syringe to suction fluids out of kitten’s airway

– homeopathic remedies: carbo veg (to resuscitate kittens or kittens that are having breathing problems), arnica (good for post-natal swelling and bruising for mum cat). If really into homeopathy: caullophyllum and cimicifuga. Do not use any of these remedies as a preventative – they are to be used only if there is a presenting problem.

– nappy changing pads – these are large, absorbable pads which I use to line the box, under the towels – they save the cardboard base from being soaked in case kittens pee etc.

– KMR kitten replacement milk and feeder – only necessary if mum cat isn’t producing enough milk or there are too many kittens and she can’t feed them all.

– weighing machine (preferably digital) in 5g increments to weigh kittens.

– nail polish to paint claws of kittens if there are more than 2-3 of the same colour, so you can distinguish between them. Or you can use food dye in the ears.

So, first … THE BOX: If you have Maine Coons like I do, the box needs to be quite large, long enough for mum to stretch out in so that the kittens can nurse from all the teats. Cardboard boxes used for TV sets or PCs are good – start looking for them now. Alternatively, you can buying whelping boxes from specialists:

I like cardboard boxes because after the kittens have left home, you can just get rid of the box.  I use another box about the same size and cut that down to make a cover for the main box. This allows you to lift the cover off to do general housekeeping for the cat.

You make a hole in the front of the box that is high enough so that when the kittens are just born and blind and crawling they won’t accidentally wander out of the box.  When they start getting older and look as though they will fall out of the box, then you start cutting the hole to lower it.   I partially cover the hole with a large towel/blanket so that it is dark and cave-like.

If you are serious about breeding, you may want a re-usable box, e.g. a Snowsilk pen.

Boxes will only confine the kittens up to about 3 weeks.  After that, they will crawl everywhere.  At  which stage you may need to put some panels of wire around the box with an entrance for mum cat to get in and out, but high enough to stop the kittens.

You may want to offer your queen a choice of boxes located in different areas – cats are funny about where they want to have their kittens, and often where you think is a good location could be too draughty, too cold, or too noisy.

Some breeders confine their mother cats in a pen just before and during the birth.  If you are using a cage, be very careful that the mesh of the cage is quite small because if the mesh is large, wandering/ climbing kittens can get their paws and heads stuck in the mesh and suffocate.  The cage should be large enough for litter tray, food and water.

HOMEOPATHIC REMEDIES:  I will write a separate post about this.  A good book is Richard Moskowitz’s “Homeopathic Medicines for Pregnancy and Childbirth”.

SCISSORS AND SURGICAL SPIRIT AND FLOSS: you only need this if you don’t want to break the umbilical cords with your bare fingers.  Usually mum will do that by chewing through the cords, but if she doesn’t, and do give her a few moments to try, then just squeeze the cord (about half an inch from the kitten) between your fingernails – just doing this will seal the cord – if it still bleeds, then tie it with the dental floss.  Do NOT pull cord away from kitten or you could cause a hernia and bleeding at the navel.

WEIGHING MACHINE:  sometimes in a large litter some of the kittens may not get enough milk.  When all the kittens are small it is difficult to tell which is losing weight, or losing ground to its siblings.  By weighing everyday, and keeping a record of their weights, you can soon determine which kitten isn’t getting enough.  Some breeders disagree with this method believing that if a kitten isn’t strong enough to fight for milk then it shouldn’t be helped in any way – i.e. let nature take its course.

Here are some very good articles on giving birth in cats:

How old do kittens have to be to hold them?

You can hold kittens as soon as they are born, just be careful with them so that you hold them gently, but securely in your hand, and respectful of mum cat in case she does not like you handling them.  I would handle the kittens everyday, several times a day, so they get used to being handling. Or just stroke them gently.  Kittens are surprisingly robust.

Hope this helps.

I will post this as a reply on the site, plus as a separate post – many thanks for asking this great question!

Best wishes,