Archive for July, 2007

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How to photograph cats (the amateur way)

24 July, 2007

— Round up kittens and place on table.  Crouch to take photo at their level.  Forget to use tickle toy.  Kittens more interested in running away.  Special effect achieved:  headless kitten.

— Round up kittens and place on kitten pen.  Surface is pink towel, not complementary to coat colour.  What the heck.  Wave tickle toy in one hand while trying to take photo with the other.  Kittens attack tickle toy and camera wavers.  Result:  special effect of blurry kitten.

— Round up kittens again.  Try to get close, closer and even closer.  Kittens take dislike to camera lens being stuck in their face but strike beautiful pose.  Click on shutter release but too slow and get beautiful shot of back of kitten.

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— Round up kittens again.  By now kittens are exhausted with playng with tickler toy and flop down and fall asleep.  I need a new camera.

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The best photos I ever took were either spontaneous, or by chance, managed to click on that lucky moment.  Here are two of them:

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This first one was taken with the help of my cat wrangler and also my hubby, much screaming of “now now – hold it up now” and cursing as the shutter release went its own slow way and the battery refused to refresh.

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This second one was taken in the garden just as Teddy lifted his head up.  Good thing he held the position for a few seconds in time for the shutter release to catch up.

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How to photograph cats (the professional way)

24 July, 2007

Some more tips from the excellent 1-day workshop organised by the Novice Breeder Advice group in May this year – professional photographers, Anatoli Krassavine and Valentina Koulagina shared their secrets of how to photograph cats.  They showed us some of their handiwork, and made it all look easy.  In short, if you want to take good photos of cats:

— Get on the cat’s level (or get the cat on yours using a prop like an ironing board).  Don’t shoot any of those downward views of your cat looking up (use that ironing board)

— Don’t use a built-in flash (as it’s not powerful enough, and too slow).  Use an external flash unit and move it farther from the camera lens, at an angle of 5-10 degrees

— Background – use a plain background.  The colour should complement the cat, its eye colour and fur pattern.  It should not be reflective.

— Use a reflector shield to bounce the light off the flash onto the cat – it can also be used to direct natural light onto the cat.

— You need at least 2 people for cat photography – the photographer and the cat wrangler.

— Try hiding a hot water bottle under the covers of the surface – cats enjoy heat and may settle down.

— Use entertainment (e.g. tickler toys).  Cats also love a cuddle.  Or use bribes like food, dip a prop in tuna oil for instant attraction!

— Keep props simple, e.g. a feather adds a spot of colour and interest and changes the character of the cat.  A simple stick, fruits and veg are other props.  A yellow rose complements the amber eyes of a cat.  Or use owners as props.

— It is not mandatory to photograph the whole cat.  Get close, and  closer and even closer for dramatic effects.

— Most importantly:  The cat will do what it wants, when it wants!

[PS – For best results, I think it helps to have a really good digital camera as well, plus photo manipulating software like Photoshop]

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Kittens – Litter training 11 – litter trays

22 July, 2007

If you’ve read my previous post written last year, with its photo of litter trays, you’ll have guessed that I have loads of litter trays.

I collect litter trays.  I think that’s because I’m hoping that somewhere there’s the perfect litter tray that kittens will take to immediately, i.e. litter trays = wishful thinking.

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Here is a photo with a cross-section representation of my current collection.

The latest addition is a corner litter tray (the one in the middle of the photo).  I saw this on the web-site of a breeder who had the kittens in a pen, and the tray in a corner.  Just one tray – imagine it!  And everything looked spotless in her kitten pen, so it was obvious that it was the tray that was responsible for these perfectly-litter-trained kittens.  So of course I had to have one too.

I like the idea of a litter tray that will cope with those awkward corners.  This corner litter tray is large enough for a medium-sized Maine Coon to plonk her rear end inside without any spillage.  I haven’t used it yet because the entrance is a little high for a kitten in a hurry.

It’s a covered tray which I find extremely useful because Ananda digs for Britain in her litter tray and tends to flick litter all over the place.  A covered litter tray also tends to bring out the tap dancer in Ananda – you know she’s using the litter tray by the shuffle-shuffle as she digs, and then a kind of tap-tap morse code as she scrapes the sides of the tray.

The litter tray of the week is the one on the back row, extreme right.  It’s grey in colour and is a good size, with high sides and a little cut-out in front that is low enough for kittens to crawl in.  It’s large enough for a medium-sized Maine Coon mother cat who persists in using the kitten litter trays to demonstrate how to use them.

I am using Yesterday’s News cat litter in most of them.  It’s cheap enough so that I can dump the contents once or twice a day and not hear my wallet screaming in pain.  I also put in a sheet or two of kitchen towel because I found that with Yesterday’s News, the pellets didn’t always absorb the urine fast enough, and when the kittens scrabbled around, they got wet paws, and when they jumped out of the litter tray, they took their wet paws with them.  The kitchen towels help to provide a layer of protection.

The covered tray on the extreme left is filled with World’s Best Cat Litter.  It’s a corn-based litter, and so harmless if the kittens try to eat it.  I don’t use those clear plastic flap doors that come with covered trays – they’re supposed to trap smells, but I don’t think cats appreciate being trapped in  tray with smells.

I got the corner covered litter tray from Zooplus, an on-line retailer of pet supplies.  The rest I purchased from Purrsonal Touch at various cat shows.

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Kittens – raw feeding – importance of fibre

22 July, 2007

This follows on from my post on the kitten with the sticky bum.

Turns out the pumpkin did the trick and Roly produced a beautiful one.  It was firm, solid and everything that sites on raw feeding claim raw-fed cat poo should be.

Unfortunately, he did it on the front door mat.  But hey, at least he didn’t wipe his bum clean on the carpet.

The thing is, I almost didn’t find it either because it was relatively smell-less.  A lack of smell is not something you normally associate cat poo with, but it’s true with raw fed cats/kittens.  It’s something that was mentioned in the Winn Feline Foundation Report on diet and cats too.

Fibre is something that raw feeders may or may not have to add to the raw food.  It helps to ease the passage of food along the bowels.  Some cats don’t need additional fibre.  Some do.  It all depends on the cat.

If you think about one of the natural food sources of a cat in the wild, it’s a mouse, which would have a stomach full of digested grain (or  bird, with its fibrous feathers).  That would be a source of fibre for the cat.  How to duplicate this source of fibre for our domesticated cats?

I used pumpkin in this instance with Roly.  Some experts advocate adding psyllium husk instead, but some (e.g. rawpaws) don’t.  It’s something you’ll want to investigate and try out for yourself.

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Mr. Sticky Bum

19 July, 2007

Good news: Roly (the male tabby kitten) has finally got the hang of using the litter tray for the Big Ones.

Bad news: Roly’s poo is still sticking to his bum and to get it off he drags his bum on the floor. This morning was a frenzy of cleaning as the floor was smeared. I had a look at his offering in the litter tray, and it was quite well-formed, so I’m not sure why it’s sticking to his bum.

Bad news: Roly’s not cleaning his bum properly, and mum hasn’t bothered either. So I had to do it. Yum – just what I needed before breakfast.

So I’m off to find some pureed pumpkin which is supposed to be very good at firming up the poo. I think maybe the raw food I’m giving the kittens needs some fibre in it.  In the meantime, Roly has a new nickname: Mr. Sticky Bum.

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Kittens – a study in sleep

16 July, 2007

KittenSleep1 KittenSleep2 KittenSleep3 KittenSleep4 KittenSleep5

Ssssshhhhhhh!!!

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Kittens – weaning through raw feeding – importance of Taurine

16 July, 2007

Kittens eating minced rabbit

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Here’s a photo of the kittens at one of their first meals of wild minced rabbit (whole, with no tripe, bone-in).

It’s said that weaning kittens is relatively easy using a raw diet.  I can only speak from personal experience and say that seems to be the case: the kittens seem to recognise what natural food is.

I know some sites on kitten weaning mention offering first meals of rice/rice pudding/milk/porridge.  If those work, great!  However, I don’t think rice/porridge are what cats would eat in the wild.  And cats lack the enzymes to digest cow’s milk.

The first meal the kittens had was freshly-minced whole chicken with bone-in.  The recipe was the same as the adult recipe, except that the chunks of chicken were cut into smaller, kitten-sized pieces.  I also made sure that each chunk wasn’t joined to any other chunk.  Last year, a kitten nearly choked when she swalloed a chunk which was joined to another by a tendon – she couldn’t chew on the second chunk and it stuck in her throat until I managed to hoick it out with a finger.

I tried them on lamb as well, but they didn’t like the mince as much as just chunks.  And Poly, the black girl kitten prefers lamb to the chicken.  When I feed lamb chunks I am careful to add some calcium supplement (Stress) to it because the lamb chunks don’t have minced bone to provide calcium.   This is very important.  When you look for suppliers of pet mince, make sure that it’s been minced with the bone-in.

Last year, I got my wild rabbit whole from my sister-in-law and her husband who have a smallholding which is overrun by rabbits.

This year, I discovered that Woldsway Rabbit have started offering wild rabbit in their pet food range.  They already do a range with farmed rabbit, but my cats prefer wild rabbit.  It’s got a richer look to it too.  I’m usually cautious about using commercially-made raw pet food, but David Blythe of Woldsway assures me that he’s had to implement EU standards of food preparation that are usually used in human-food preparation.

The rabbit comes frozen in packs of 0.5kg.  It’s a little on the large size to thaw out completely, so what I do is let it defrost slightly so I can break the pack up into smaller meal-sized portions which I then defrost totally.

One caveat is that you should always vary your cat’s diet, so that it does not consist exclusively of one type of meat.

And if you do feed a frozen-type raw meat diet, you must supplement with taurine.

Taurine is an amino acid which helps cats digest fats.  Unlike other species of animals, cats cannot use another amino acid for this function.  Taurine is essential in healthy heart-functioning for cats.

A Winn Feline Foundation Report on diet and cats showed that feeding only ground rabbit led to a Taurine deficiency.  This was possibly due to the fact that when meat is frozen, it loses taurine and Vitamin E.

So always supplement raw diets with taurine. You can buy powdered taurine in capsules.  Solgar is one such brand.  Michelle Bernard of blakkatz.com recommends adding at least 2000mg of taurine for every 2.5 pounds of meat.