Thursday, January 28, 2016

Things I Never, Ever Thought I'd Say to a Cat

If there is one reliable thing about cats - it is that they are unreliable. And just like people, their personalities and likes/dislikes fall all over the spectrum. Most cats love boxes - but some do not. Most cats love catnip - but some do not. Most cats hate getting wet - but some do not. When I adopted Bear, I was completely unprepared for many of the differences between him and Kitty and between him and my general impression of what cats are like. Since that time, I've heard most of his quirks admitted to as quirks of at least one other cat - but some of these, I NEVER, EVER expected to have to say to my cat (who doesn't listen anyway). And Bear's habits have changed so some of these are only applicable to a certain time in his life - others apply to the entire time I've shared my home with him - others only make sense when you compare him to Kitty (who formed my conceptualization of "cat"), and still others were a one time deal, but so strange, I had to include them.

For our newer readers, I've done a few other summary posts about sharing one's life with a cat. They are: Life With a Cat {oh what FUN!?!?} (about the adjustments one makes with a feline family member) and When Loving Your Cat Leaves You Feeling Woefully Inadequate (about the times one runs afoul of the feline family member, even when you have the best of intentions).

Things I NEVER, EVER expected to have to say to my cat (in vague order of appearance):

You love belly rubs?
When Bear was still "Lily" and homeless, and I fed him everyday, I'd put the food down and he'd climb in my lap or roll on his back on the ground. Already having a cat that acts like she wants you to pet her belly, but then brutally attacks you when you do, I wasn't going anywhere close to a strange cat's belly. Until he wrapped his front paws around my arm and pulled my hand to his belly. Apparently, Bear LOVES belly rubs and usually can't get enough. I have to admit - it still feels slightly illicit, but I highly recommend the experience if your cat is game. The. Best. Feeling. EVER. For more on how Bear and I met (and why he was named Lily): The good news is your cat is not pregnant . . . the bad news is . . . (or How We Met).

A BOY!?!?! We named him Lily!
Momma doesn't have a ton of experience with feline anatomy . . . namely MALE feline anatomy. I figured if the kitten I was feeding was male, the parts would be obvious; because nothing was "hanging" around, I thought the kitten was a she and named him Lily. In my defense, the vet went through the entire physical examination without realizing "Lily" was a boy. It was only when they started to shave his belly (his belly was distended and the vet thought "she" might be pregnant), that the "truth" revealed itself. You can read the entire (embarrassing) story in The good news is your cat is not pregnant . . . the bad news is . . . (or How We Met). I was not prepared for a boy AT ALL, but I also have to admit that most of my fears never happened. How Bear got his name: Naming "Male Kitten."

Bear's first day at home . . . with his partially shaved belly.

Your litter box isn't for you to curl up in. You don't have to STAY in there.
This was 100% MY fault. We rented our residence and I'd never litter box trained a cat, so I was understandably concerned about how well the process would go (especially when I found out "Lily" was a boy - all kinds of thoughts of spraying went through my head). I read a lot to prepare our household (especially for the transition where my senior "only" had to adjust to sharing), and all the advice on litter box training said to put the cat in the litter box after he ate or drank. This is the first time Bear had unlimited water/food, so he'd go for a nibble every few minutes . . . so I put him in the litter box right afterward, just as I read to do. Except that since I kept putting him in the litter box, he thought that's where he was supposed to STAY and I've never felt more horrible than when he just curled up in the litter box with a somewhat resigned look like, "Well, if this is where I'm supposed to be." In the end, the process was seamless - we never had any accidents and he pretty much trained himself. For more on the unplanned challenges of integrating Bear into the household: But . . . This Isn't Part of the Plan!!!

I'm a bad kitty momma . . . poor Bear.

Let Kitty do her business in the litter box alone . . . you don't have to be IN it with her to watch!
In giving Bear a home, Kitty really got screwed (which I somewhat figured but I couldn't leave Bear to fend for himself in winter either). Bear followed her EVERYWHERE and watched EVERYTHING. Not only was he completely enamored with everything that was Kitty-related, but he also wanted to play. Needless to say, Kitty wasn't pleased. He watched her sleep. He watched her eat. He followed her in the litter box and covered up her business for her when she was done. You can read more about their differences and confrontations here: What Your Cats Are Really Saying - To Each Other. One of my biggest concerns was that since I refused to have Bear declawed, any fight would be unfair because my parents had Kitty declawed (she was first the family cat, then I took her when I moved out). I needn't have worried: they didn't physically fight, and Kitty actually put up with a bunch more invasion of her space than I thought she would. You could always tell her limit because she'd start growling and roaring and she'd place a well-aimed bat right to Bear's nose. That was about the only time he got the message (at least for that incident). But it never seemed to bother him that she served him his ass on a platter when he pushed her too far.

Bear watches Kitty sleep (you can see her nose just barely sticking out from under the bed).

Sweet kittens, did you just fart?
When I fed "Lily" outside, it was in cat treats or wet food. After I brought him inside, "Bear" got a full bowl of kibble too. At first, I thought his digestive system was adapting to having kibble and regular meals . . . but no, ten years later and he can still clear a room better than 99% of people. And you never hear it coming . . . the "silent killer." It actually took me awhile to figure out where the smell was coming from - since there's no noise . . . process of elimination.

Don't drink out of the toilet!
Luckily, he stopped doing this . . . though his general lack of caution or care when climbing around in the bathroom leaves me feeling fairly certain he will end up IN the toilet one of these days.

There are SEVENTEEN pens under this loveseat!
I'm slightly obsessive about pens - namely, having one at certain locations around the house (by the phone, with my calendar, etc). All of a sudden, the places that ALWAYS had pens went pen-less. I thought I was truly losing my mind - even though I should have been suspicious since we'd just adopted Bear. It wasn't until a few weeks later, when Bear got a toy mouse stuck under the loveseat, that I lifted it up and found seventeen pens under there, along with the mouse and assorted other detritus from around the house. Kitty never cared for pens, so I was at a loss. Now I am super careful, and he usually only goes after my pens when I'm watching and he's looking to cause trouble, but he still gets one every so often (and I know where to look for them now too).

Spraying you with the squirt bottle is not meant to be a game or provide you hydration!
I'd never used a spray bottle for a cat because Kitty rarely did anything that required one. But Bear was always on the counter and bugging Kitty and every other annoying and mischievous thing he could cook up. At first, I let it go, but the cat confrontations got worse and Bear HAD to be on the counter while I cooked. About two weeks after we brought him inside, my then-husband was sitting at the counter as I cooked. The burner was on high, but I'd removed the skillet to drain the grease, Bear jumped up . . . and neither of us was fast enough to prevent him from running across the stove (truth? I was holding the hot skillet and pouring grease . . . I think my then-husband just didn't care because he watched the entire scene play out . . . but I don't have proof. I still can't forgive MYSELF though). After the cone of shame (to keep him from messing with his burned back paws), our next purchase was a squirt bottle. That failed MISERABLY. At first, Bear just stood there while I unloaded almost the entire contents on him (and poor Kitty got caught in the cross-spray which made her even more mad), but later he started opening his mouth like the spray bottle was a cool game to provide him with hydration. In the divorce, my ex got the spray bottles and I got the cats. 

You play fetch?!?!
Bear doesn't do this anymore, but for a long time, I'd throw one of his toy micey and he'd bring them back to me over and over again. Now, I'm lucky if he brings it back part of the way, once. Oddly enough, he'll still chase the mouse I threw, he just doesn't bring it back. Which IS a very cat thing to do.

Holy crap, are YOU loud.
ALL. THE. TIME. I wrote an entire post about this: Evidence of Life {or heard but not seen}When he wants food, when he's in his carrier, when I'm clipping his claws, when he's in the car, when he's outside and I don't let him in right away . . . Kitty wasn't vocal - an emphatic hiss was the most you ever got out of her. But Bear loves to talk (to himself and me) and caterwaul (when his "friends" come to visit outside). Bear lives his life at full volume and I'm okay with that . . . though my neighbors might disagree.

Momma's "talker," who always has SOMETHING to say.

Why are all your toys in my bed?

This started almost right away. At first, I think Bear just carried the toys wherever he wanted to play. After finding one in the washing machine after washing bed sheets, I told my then-husband NOT to plop down on the bed without looking. Apparently that was one of the times he only heard, "Blah, blah, blah . . . " because ninety seconds later I heard a string of expletives and one of Bear's hard plastic rings flew out of the bedroom (I can't say I felt bad about this either). Bear still brings his toys in my bed - only now, it happens when I'm sleeping. I'm guessing that when Bear thinks I'm sleeping too long, he starts hauling all of his toys to my bed. I've woken up to a lot of strange things, but nothing more amusing than waking up to find twenty toy micey in my bed, along with his string and a couple other toys.

Come out of the closet (or the pantry or from behind the door)!
Early on, Bear developed this really odd habit of just hanging out in closets. At first, it seemed to be adventurous in nature - climbing and hiding. Then he started sitting behind doors in the space between the wall and the fully opened doors. Behind the doors, he'll just sit for hours, staring at the wall: and it's just weird. Bear is the cat that HATES enclosed spaces - he doesn't like boxes - and he can't stand to be closed in to or out of a room. However, he just hangs out in the tiny sliver between the door and the wall. Now, he also sits in the pantry: when it's open, he walks in, sits down, and just hangs. When he started this at our new home, I was used to leaving the pantry open anyway. But after I started hiding the toys he's only allowed to play with, with supervision in there, I normally kept it closed - because otherwise he'd try to extricate his toys. Because he just walks in to the pantry and is quiet, I admit I closed him in there more than once. The same cat that would THROW A FIT if he was closed in a bedroom, made not ONE PEEP being closed in the pantry. Once, I even went to class, came home a few hours later, and it wasn't until I called his name a few times that he even bothered to mew (and when I opened the door, he didn't seem too upset and stayed in there). Another horrible kitty mom experience. But he really doesn't seem to care - and now I know to check. Why, why, WHY?!?!?! would a cat just hang out behind an open door or in a pantry!?!?!? My ex-husband and I used to joke that we must have TRULY messed up Bear's identity - first by calling him "Lily" when he's a boy, and then by naming a cat "Bear:" resulting in his penchant for not coming out of the closet.

Above: Bear walking away with the toy he finally pulled down from safe-keeping in the pantry (actually, the other end is caught on the hook . . . so this will turn into a tug-of-war).

Left: Bear attempting to extricate one of his favorite toys that he's not allowed to have without supervision from the pantry.
Middle: The pile of clothes Bear favors to climb above the boxes in the top shelf of Momma's closet.
Right: Bear hides in Momma's hanging clothes.

Get off your sister!
I expected disharmony and stress. But I didn't expect to walk into a room and find Bear ON TOP of Kitty, biting the back of her neck (around the scruff). The vet claimed it was a dominance thing, but the look on Kitty's face said she didn't give two craps about dominance, she just wanted to be LEFT ALONE. I was equally upset and removed Bear from the room. I can't say I was surprised, because a week before, I'd found two little wounds in the exact same place on the back of her neck. I was clueless about how they got there and was worried that they weren't healing well (Kitty was diabetic; that spot was familiar to me because her insulin shots went not far from there, and I was always making sure the site was healthy). Of all the changes in bringing Bear into the household, finding him on top of Kitty bothered me the most. I tried to find remedies for everything (giving Kitty her own litter box, giving Bear a bit of wet food so he'd let Kitty eat hers when she needed to right after a shot, closing myself and Kitty in a room by ourselves so she had a break and time alone with me) - but none of them worked. Bear always sought out Kitty's litter box, he'd scarf his food down and then go for hers, and he tore up carpet outside closed doors, meanwhile HOWLING to be let in (essentially, this was JUST as stressful for Kitty as if he were just in the room anyway). Even when my then-husband tried to distract him . . . then again, I don't think he was really all that concerned because he didn't like Kitty at all. I felt like the entire situation was out of control and there was no remedy. There were moments of fragile peace . . . (notice the drop of water on Bear's chin, after availing himself of Kitty's food and water).

What are you doing up there? 
Bear likes to climb . . . a lot. At the first place we lived, there was space above the kitchen cabinets for him to roam. In the end, after several death-defying moves, I bought him a cat tree. Not that it stops him from climbing in the closet . . . somehow he manages to get up on the top shelf in the closet and squeeze himself into tiny spaces. A few times his climb involved unstable clothes piles (see the closet picture with stacked clothes - above, in reference to Bear's closet adventures) and Momma managed to catch him before he hit the floor (and he didn't help refold the pile of toppled clothes!). For more on the reasons for and set-up of the cat tree: Meowing Up The Wrong Tree? (& Lots of Pictures). One of the unintended consequences of the cat tree? Bear's essentially seceded the corner containing the cat tree from the rest of Momma's residence. I'm not allowed back there for any reason . . . not to retrieve trapped toys, not to clean up hairballs . . . nothing. As described in Meowing Up The Wrong Tree? (& Lots of Pictures), when I do venture back there, he dive bombs me from the perches above, defending his sovereign territory with his whole heart.

You do realize you have more than one toy mouse to play with?
Despite all the toy mice Bear had, at first, there was only one that he played with; and when he lost it, he would beg and whine and make a big fuss until whomever was there dug it out. My then-husband was not the type to give in to that kind of behavior, but much to my amusement, Bear was skilled enough that even HE found it easier to just give Bear what he wanted . . . only to find Bear repeating the whole thing 30 seconds later, when mousie (we named him Mr. Moto) was "re-lost."  Because that was EXACTLY what happened . . . Bear'd be back for another rescue before you even found your place in whatever it was you were doing. Unfortunately for Bear, he played the mousie into shreds - not that he wouldn't play with the shreds - it just seemed time to broaden Bear's horizons. Now, he has a few favorites, but he'll play with whichever micey are available. Perhaps he was so traumatized by the loss of Mr. Moto, that he never let a mousie get "close" to his heart again . . . and so now, he's promiscuous and can't settle down :)

Where's my plant?
When Bear and I moved six months after I adopted him, I was given a potted azalea plant for a house-warming gift. With all the hubbub of the day of moving, I didn't check toxicity (azaleas are VERY toxic to cats) and put it on the windowsill over night (so it would have sun in the morning). When I woke up the next morning, all that was left was a pile of dirt and the plastic pot. No azalea, no roots, no leaves. Thank the kitty gods that Bear didn't get even a little sick. Now, no plant is ever allowed within his reach - and since all the windowsills are accessible to him, that means no houseplants. I've gotten cut flowers a few times and immediately put them where he can't get them - not that it stops him from trying . . . it seems to triply irritate him that the flowers are within his domain but he cannot show them his dominance.

Don't drop your toys in your water bowl/Don't play in your water bowl.
It started with Bear dropping his toy mice in his water bowl to bat them out (and then groom them). Then it expanded to his string and all his other toys, including a fish with an electronic chirper. Apparently, the chirper didn't appreciate the bath and chirped for three days straight after fishy was fished out of Bear's water bowl. And the first thing Bear did when it stopped? Drop the #$%*& fish BACK in the bowl. And yet, it still works - even after six or seven total days of constant chirping. With the mice, he usually tries to bat them out as some type of game, but gets frustrated that his paws get wet and then leaves them. The "string" is the most annoying . . . it's a long shred of fabric, so it wicks all the water out of the bowl onto the floor.

Right picture: Bear's "string" which is really a shredded rag, with all the shreds tied together. Bear can't have "real" string because he can't stop chewing through it until it's in lots of little pieces . . . and I'd really rather prefer to avoid the complications of swallowed string (he can't chew through the fabric . . . or rather, he COULD, he just gets bored before he manages it because it takes quite a bit of effort).

Don't take your toys in your litter box.
Am I the only one who does not understand this?!?! I can understand a toy he's playing with ending up in the litter box (especially because he likes to flip them in his mouth), but he actually drags his string IN his litter box. I could make jokes about him wanting entertainment while he does his "business," but he doesn't actually use the box after he drags his string there. Maybe sometimes string gets "sassy" and so Bear puts him in time out in the litter box!?! And yes, when string is first doused in water and then dropped in the litter box, things get a little messy.

Don't roll around in the mud!
Why would meticulously self-grooming animals roll in the mud?!?! Bear still does this occasionally, but now he's usually so focused on the escape, he doesn't stop to roll in the mud on the porch first. And a bath? I mistakenly thought that since he didn't mind standing in the pouring rain or being squirted with a water bottle, that a bath wouldn't be a big deal. I never tried that again.

The vet has told me more than five times that it can't possibly hurt you for me to clip your claws.
Bear throws SUCH a stink (including howling and flailing) that I became convinced it HAD to hurt him for me to clip his claws. I thought maybe the vet was wrong after the first time I asked if it were possible - but in subsequent visits, I no doubt became the laughingstock of the vet practice as I kept asking at every single visit. Confession time: I still have my doubts, I just don't ask anymore. If I thought we could manage without clipping his claws, I would, but those things are SHARP and I have enough scars.

Inside! It's raining (or cold) - come INSIDE!
This might be my fault - there was a point when he would try to escape and if it was raining or cold, I would just hold the door open because I figured he wouldn't be interested. I figured wrong - and it seems that his standing in the pouring rain or freezing temperatures allows him to prove some kind of point. And dare me to come get him. Lucky, lucky me. He wins. I lose. Not so unexpected.

Don't drop Momma's stuff in the toilet.
Kitty NEVER carried stuff around in her mouth, so Bear doing this was completely new to me. And if he can't manage to knock stuff off the shelves above the toilet into the toilet with his paws, he'll drag stuff in to the bathroom and drop them in the toilet (and his hanging over the toilet to knock stuff in is why I'm convinced one of these times, he going to slip and end up IN the toilet). Included in this is the caveat with my guests that they not leave small items out (charger, phone, toothbrush, watch, sample-size anything . . . ) . . . or that they keep the door closed to the room in which they are staying . . . because Bear doesn't limit his expeditions to MY possessions and we've spent plenty of time trying to find his "secret stash" so my guests could leave with everything they came with.

Did you eat Bodacious Onion Dip?!?! 
Momma bought a new type of onion dip - and it was BODACIOUS (NOT French onion as she was expecting). After I had my first taste, I ran to the kitchen and downed an entire glass of water. When I came back to clean the plate of the remaining two tablespoons of dip on my plate, the plate was already licked clean and Bear was sleeping soundly on my computer (and snoring loudly). Onions are supposed to be toxic for cats . . . and if I couldn't tolerate the "bodaciousness," I'm not sure how he could . . . but he didn't show ill effects (including needing even a tiny drink of water). I still shake my head over this incident, and I never bought any kind of bodaciousness again (cue the joke about Bear being bodacious and me not so much).

Time to share the mirror!
The first time Bear encountered a mirror, things didn't go so well. We'd just moved in to where we live now and the closet in the second bedroom has mirrored doors. I was assembling something when I saw Bear walking strangely out of the corner of my eye. He was sizing himself up in the mirror . . . until he charged himself, hit the door, kind of shook his head like he didn't know what just happened, jumped back with his back arched and his fur poofed . . . and then repeated this entire scenario. How exactly do you help the cat in this situation? You don't want him to knock himself out, but you also don't want to leave this unresolved so that every time he sees himself in the mirror, he does that same thing. I decided to just go about my business in the room and give him the time to figure it out - which he did, after the third time he charged the mirror. Now, Bear quite often prances or struts on the bathroom counter and admires himself in the mirror. He meows at himself as if saying, "I'm HANDSOME!" Half the time, he keeps this up until I come and admire him too . . . but the other half of the time, he gets mad if I interrupt (I get the look of promised death). And Bear doesn't share . . . so regardless of whether he's looking for admiration or not, Momma isn't allowed in the bathroom with him for any other reason. To read more about this phenomenon (because Bear means business): Kitty Diva or Pop "Tart?"

WHERE'S MY X KEY?!? And the Y! And the space bar!
When I had a laptop, Bear was obsessed. I had to disable the touch pad because of how often he'd plop down on it and mess with whatever I was doing. No doubt, Bear found the keyboard to be warm and inviting. But when he was looking for trouble, the keyboard gave him the perfect outlet for his trouble-making desires . . . he became adept at popping the keys off the keyboard. He popped the space bar off so many times, it no longer worked. And there was one particular session where he'd gotten the "x" off and managed to bat it around for a few minutes before I caught onto what he was doing . . . cue an hour long frantic search for the "x" key. After that, I closed the laptop when it wasn't in use - yet that didn't stop him from trying to open it himself.

You rotated the display on my screen, AGAIN . . . it took me two HOURS to fix last time, and I can't remember what finally worked!?!?!?
Oh, yes. Even with the touch pad disabled, Bear quite often changed settings by randomly laying on the keyboard of the laptop. The most frustrating was when he somehow rotated the display on the screen by ninety degrees. Had it just been in Windows, the problem would have been relatively easy to solve . . . but no, the display was sideways even before Windows booted up. And don't ask me how I fixed it . . . either time . . . I just know it took me HOURS to figure out . . . and in the meantime, had to turn my head sideways to read.

You can't dig out under the front door!
Bear is too smart for his own good. He knows the door knob opens the door, and he's long enough to reach it easily; when he wants to go outside, he bangs at the knob with his paws. And when he didn't get what he wanted (which is most of the time because he's such a pain when he gets outside and he's not allowed out without supervision anyway), he managed to rip up all the carpet and layers underneath right by the door by trying to dig himself out. Clear packing tape is my best friend . . . it covers all the spots throughout our home where Bear's ripped the carpet to nothing (including by the front door where he tried to dig himself out). And there are STILL spots that catch the vacuum every time I use it. When vacuuming, I look like I'm negotiating a field of land minds (and not very well, either).

Don't chew the blinds!
Bear does not like having to look through the open blinds. Oh no, he wants to climb THROUGH the blinds so he can sun himself on the windowsill. To do this - and for easy access, Bear chewed off about a foot of the slats at the end of the blinds. And no, the bottom of the blinds is not allowed to sit on the windowsill either . . . trying to lay it on the sill will quickly entice Bear to knock it off, so he has the entire sill to enjoy.

You google eye that cat for hours through the window and when I let you outside to meet her you run back in and hide under the bed?
Another PRIME example of cat logic. Most of the reason Bear required easy access to the windowsill is so he could quickly look out when his girlfriend came around (a tiny black cat, though I haven't seen her for awhile, so maybe things went sour). Every morning at 6am, tiny black cat would come around and Bear would caterwaul and howl and then exchange googly eyes with her until she moved on (again with Bear's caterwauling and mournful howls) and Bear ran between all the windows for the best view of her retreating sexiness. Taking a few seconds to climb through the blinds was not acceptable, and thus, the chewed blinds. Thinking he'd enjoy meeting his lady love face-to-face, I let him out a few times when she was around. The first time he met her face-to-face, I was holding him (I was afraid he'd pull a Kitty and chase her faster than I can run). She meowed sweetly at him and he flipped out, launched himself over my back, and pounded at the screen door to be let back in. Okay, so maybe his "Momma" holding him was embarrassing to the lovestruck feline . . . so the next time, I just let him out (meanwhile closely watching for trouble). Nope. He took one look at her, panicked, banged on the screen door to be let back in, then ran under the bed until he heard Momma close AND lock the door. Then he came out and ran right to the window to look at her. There's a joke in here somewhere about males, relationships, and commitment-phobia, but I'll let you draw your own conclusions.

Hey! That's my homework (or text book or checkbook or TAX RETURN)!
Bear is a shredder. At minimum, every piece of paper and book in Momma's house has at least one fang hole. At worst, Momma had to recopy her homework because by the time she finished it, it looked well-eaten (the cat ate my homework doesn't seem like a valid excuse, especially in business/accounting). All my textbooks ended up with pages torn out and fang-marked hard covers. And signing a tax return is tantamount to slathering it with tuna - Bear WILL have his way with it. Don't ask me how he knows . . . I can pull out the form as he sleeps, and before I've entered the date, we're playing tug-of-war.

Do you have to put a fang mark into everything?
The answer is "yes." Everything Momma owns has a fang mark in it. Most notably, my old printer cable, the laptop, the cord for the DSL modem (I had it out of the box for a whole five seconds . . . and BOOM!), books, pens . . . everything. This is why all the cords in our house are now firmly taped to the wall or otherwise inaccessible. Right after we adopted him, we noticed he spent a bunch of time in the second bedroom (we assumed it was to watch Kitty sleep) . . . it wasn't until I pulled stuff out to pack it for moving that I saw the full extent of the catastrophe wrought on all our pictures, posters, and other items we'd stored under the bed. More accurately, they were eaten. Unfortunately, my soon-to-be-ex-husband had a bit of trouble seeing the hilarity in the situation. And maybe my statement of admiration for Bear's industry didn't help.

How did you get your BACK leg stuck in the jar of peanut butter?
This was truly a gem. I had a jar of peanut butter out to make a sandwich . . . Bear had to stick his nose in there (he likes peanut butter, go figure), and somehow managed to get his back leg stuck in the peanut butter. I was there - and I watched the entire thing - but I still can't tell you exactly how this happened. His back leg sank pretty far down and it really scared him to walk the few steps with his leg stuck in the jar . . . fortunately, I was able to help before he went into full freak out mode. You can read more about this and Bear's other unfortunate adventures in: Bears Behaving Badly (or at least regrettably).

You love being brushed?!?!
Kitty fought and HATED to be brushed. The only way I could get away with it is by brushing her right after I gave her some wet food that occupied her. But Bear will curl up in my lap and take all of it I'm willing to give. I'm guessing the difference between Bear and Kitty is more in their toleration of being petted when not asking for it. Bear can usually be convinced, but Kitty had to come to you. And Bear doesn't do "gentle" either - he likes hardy back scratches and almost belly massage instead of belly rubs. Most parents with cats say "Be gentle," when the children pet the cat, but Bear wouldn't mind. HOWEVER, my niece and nephew have never touched him because they are rambunctious (like ALL young kids) and Bear hides from the noise and chaos.

Did you just lick my Oreos?
Bear loves to stick his nose in my food. And he takes the liberty of "sharing" it with me when it suits him. However, he has a few alternative methods . . . One, licking. Licking tends to occur with food he doesn't necessarily want or can't figure out how to eat (Oreos, an entire chicken breast, etc). I thought he'd have no interest in something like Oreos, so I left them out for thirty second to grab something to drink, and came back to find him licking them rather excitedly. Two, he likes to drop a mousie in mugs full of liquid. NOT glasses. Just mugs. I don't know.

You don't like turkey or chicken meat unless it's in the form of wet cat food?
I've given Bear "human food" turkey or chicken and he licks it a few times and then ignores it. But chicken or turkey flavored wet cat food? He's all over that. Maybe it's the gravy?

Hey! bring that bra (or pants or camera) back here!
Bear likes dragging things around. Right after we moved in to where we live now, he dragged a huge teddy bear many times his size across the entire house. Most of his conquests involve something he takes to be a string or close enough to a string to catch his interest. I've set out bras, pants and shorts with drawstrings, and come back to find them missing. Luckily, while he might get them far away from their origin, he hasn't managed to add them to any of his secret stashes so they are easily recoverable. And no, he does NOT let the fact that I'm wearing a pair of pants or a sweatshirt with a drawstring stop him from trying to steal them. Of course, non-clothes aren't exempt either - as I mentioned the cords that now must be taped to the wall. My favorite incident involved my camera (with an arm strap). I set it out to take pictures of Bear and before I knew what was happening, he was dragging the camera out of the room by the strap. In the split second before I fully processed what was going on, I turned to grab the camera to get a picture. Not so much. And Bear isn't opposed to trying to steal the camera as I'm taking a picture (this turns in to tug-of-war, one of Bear's favorite games that I never expected to play with a cat).

Left and middle pictures: Bear's tug of war. He doesn't lose.
Far right picture: Bear trying to steal the arm strap of the camera WHILE I take the picture.

Get your paw out of the toaster!
Another battle of wills . . . Bear jumps on the kitchen counter, checks to make sure I'm watching, and then slowly sticks his paw in the toaster; that gets me up and running toward him quickly EVERY SINGLE TIME. But it wasn't until he actually got his paw STUCK in the toaster, that I decided to keep it unplugged when not in use. Luckily, I caught the cat AND the toaster as they fell off the counter. And it's like he KNOWS it's unplugged now because he doesn't even bother with it anymore.

It's time to brush your teeth!
Yes, I know. Apparently some cats are predisposed to dental issues. Bear was tested again for FIV and was cleared (FIV positive cats are likely to have dental issues young): the good news. The bad news? He'd lose all of his teeth, and sooner than later, if I didn't stay on top of his dental care. I was shocked that a one year old cat would already require a dental cleaning and removal of teeth. I've been very vigilant in the nine years since, but even with daily tooth-brushings, he's still lost teeth. I've also learned that a casual vet examination of his teeth is not sufficient - he develops "pockets" under the teeth that can't be seen with a routine examination. I talk more about this in: Watch Out For The Teeth! And no, Bear does not "let" me brush his teeth; we fight almost every day to get it done. His favorite way of trying to get out of it is hiding back in his corner underneath his cat tree . . . 

Left: The set-up of the cat tree - so you can see how difficult it is to get him out when he's scrunched up back in the corner.
Right: Him hiding in the corner.

Your chin is broken out!
I had no idea cats got acne. When he was seven, I noticed a bunch of black specks on his chin (I'd never seen them before). He'd been at the kennel so I thought maybe he'd picked up some kind of parasite, but the vet said it was acne. Apparently, plastic bowls harbor more bacteria than other types of food/water bowls . . . so the first order of business was switching his bowls. At the same time, I started washing his face every day {this became part of a joke because I'd tell him it was time for his spa treatments: teeth, facial, "hair styling" (brushing), "manicure" (clipping claws), etc.}. The black specks aren't so bad and I've found I can't make them disappear completely. But once or twice a year, he gets an open sore and I can tell you it's bigger than any acne sore I've ever seen on a person - and it looks nastier. Along with his dental issues, I hate the feeling of being powerless and knowing that doing my best isn't going to completely prevent or "fix" the dental issues or the acne. And I really feel bad for him because he hates having his teeth brushed and his face washed - and along with the painfulness of both conditions, I'm not sure how much he understands about why I do it.

Oops. I guess the cat is out of the bag.
When Bear got his own paper bag, he made some modifications and then one of his favorite games was to hide in the bag . . . and each time he came out again, I couldn't resist the witticism. Until the bag met an errant hairball. He doesn't seem too attached to the replacement.

Come on! It's a box! It's not going to hurt you! Let me show you how cool it is to sit in!
Bear doesn't "do" boxes. I thought he was missing some essential experience of cathood, so I tried a whole series of boxes and strategies to get him to at least TRY a box; the best I got was him climbing in a box long enough to groom himself (and he hasn't gone back during the months since). You can read more about the box saga in:  "Conversations" With Bear Cat: Part 13. Now I have a bunch of new boxes laying around, with the hope he'll try one . . . but no luck on that front yet. Another box-related post: Butts, Boxes, Porn, Taking Over the World . . . and Fish?!?!? Kitty LOVED boxes . . . but again, Bear is his own cat.

You ignore fresh catnip, but after the toy are a few years old, you suddenly can't get enough of them?
I've bought Bear a variety of catnip toys and he doesn't seem interested, at least until they are a few years old; then he has a few frantic rolling/rubbing sessions and he's done with them again. Kitty's old catnip toys, he'll rub against every so often - I don't know if he smells her or what makes them different from the ones he ignores after a few frantic sessions when they're a few years old.

No, the dishwasher is NOT done.
In an example of pure CAT LOGIC . . . Bear free-feeds from a bowl of kibble and before he eats, he must bat the kibble out on the mat under his bowl. But, if the bowl is in the dishwasher and the kibble is poured out on his mat, he refuses to eat the kibble and holds vigil on the counter above the dishwasher until it is done. When the dishwasher is done, Momma dumps the kibble from the mat into the now clean bowl, and suddenly that same kibble is edible again (after being pawed out of the bowl onto the mat). 

Get out of the hanging kitchen cabinet (or the microwave or the oven or the refrigerator)!
After Bear has refreshed himself from the now clean bowl of kibble, Bear high-tails it back to the kitchen to try to climb in the cabinets above his head in the above picture, while they are open as Momma is emptying the clean dishwasher. And no, he doesn't actually fit, but he doesn't seem to consider that relevant. Anything left open in the kitchen is fair game (microwave, refrigerator, oven, etc). One night, I was looking at a leak under the sink, with the cabinet door to under the sink open and my head in the cabinet. Bear decided he had to see what I was looking at, and climbed on me (and ultimately my face) to put his nose exactly where I was working. When he'd exhausted his curiosity, he lounged on my chest, curled up, and went to sleep (because clearly, nothing says sleep more than Momma banging around with tools under the sink).

Where are all these spider legs coming from?
Bear LOVES stalking spiders. But not to eat. He just likes to bat them around and dismember them leg by leg. I can't tell you how many random spider legs I've found, or how many three-legged spiders I've come across. And Bear is never pleased when I let them escape or take them away - but it just seems cruel to let him torture them.

Oh come on! I was gone for 30 seconds! That's my desk chair!
Within the past year, our new "game" is to see who gets my desk chair first. Almost every single time I get up, he runs over and plops down; thirty seconds or two minutes . . . even just getting up to fix the paper jam in the printer. And no, he does not share. You can read more about how this evolved in: Chair + Towel + Cat = Tons of Pictures.

Can you please stop staring at me . . . the first hour was bad enough!
When Bear feels like attention or just wants to make me nervous, he sits on the table right next to where I work and stares. He doesn't want to be touched . . . sometimes he just wants me to admire him . . . but it drives me nuts. And I'm pretty sure that's the point.

How did mousie get caught in the wires BEHIND the entertainment center?
Besides using his micey for fetch, Bear also uses them to amuse himself; he's an expert at holding a mousie in his mouth, jerking his neck, and flipping it violently into the air. Most of the time, the height of mousie's trajectory is a few feet . . . occasionally however, he's landed one on top of our 7 foot tall entertainment center or other furniture. He can usually get it himself - but he required assistance for the entertainment center. The episode that really had me shaking my head? The day I found a mousie in the wires BEHIND the entertainment center. The only way I can explain it is that he got the mousie OVER the 7 foot tall entertainment center and it fell down the back into the wires. I don't usually SEE him doing it, but I can tell you I have found micey in some pretty incredible and million dollar spots. Which makes finding lost micey like a treasure hunt . . . not just UNDER things, but over and on and behind and IN.

Will you PLEASE stop licking/biting/sticking your cold nose in my ear?
Bear's tried a variety of ways to wake me when he wants something . . . and I've learned to pretend I don't notice so I don't reinforce the behavior. But he will ALWAYS win when his tactic is to first stick his wet nose in my ear, then stick his tongue in my ear, and then, finally, bite my ear. I've tried VERY hard to train myself to ignore it, but especially when he wakes me from a deep sleep, he always gets a reaction. However, I'm rarely amused.

Are you SCARED of a bird?

Despite his homeless beginnings (and adding to my doubt of his ability to hunt and feed himself), Bear is scared of birds. And squirrels. And anything that buzzes (ie mosquitoes and flies). And his own shadow (literally . . . if he sees it move on the wall, he's out of there). If Bear is outside and a bird lands within his hearing . . . he's at the screen door, pounding to be let back in. If Bear is on the windowsill inside, and a bird lands on the windowsill on the other side of the window, Bear runs away (at least one bird likes to mess with him and squawk, which means Bear falls backward out of the window as he's trying to turn and run). I have no idea. He's also scared of a little mechanical toy I got for him to play with. It goes one direction, until it senses an obstacle, then reverses and goes back, until it meets another obstacle . . . Momma no longer gets it out, after one particularly traumatic experience in the corner. From the beginning, Bear ALWAYS ran if it was headed in his direction. But one unfortunate night, he was watching it from the corner, when it cornered him. Instead of jumping OVER the Hexbug, he let it chase him from one angle of the corner to the other . . . back and forth, until Momma "rescued" him. I love Bear, but sometimes the best I can do is shake my head and wonder WTF.

In the picture on the right, he's only hanging out by the "monster" because it's off and I was taking a picture of it and his need to put his nose in everything sometimes exceeds his fear.

Those are smashed ants you're rolling in!
Because of Bear's penchant for batting his kibble out of his bowl onto the mat, last summer, we had a bit of an ant parade. Our home is half underground so we get all kinds of interesting bugs and I was really displeased to find the ants were coming from the portion of the home underground and not by some other controllable means. I moved Bear's food bowl to a different spot and then set about smashing as many ants as possible. After I satisfied myself that I'd taken care of the ones I could get to, I stood up to grab the hand vac, only to find Bear rolling in the pile of smashed ants upon my return. Seeing as how he'd ignored the ants to this point, I wasn't exactly amused at the time, but in retrospect, okay, it's kind of funny.

To read more about Kitty . . . (including her own peculiarities, such as her love affairs with a bag of salad and melons): Kitty-Kitty: Unoriginal Name, One-of-a-Kind Cat.

One more comment on Kitty that didn't end up in that post . . . on the day I planned to bring Bear inside, I gave Kitty a hand-sewn satchel of fresh catnip right as I left to take Bear to the vet (because of her health issues, I wanted him cleared and tested for everything before she was exposed to him in any way) . . . the first thing I noticed when I got home with our new male kitten is that the satchel was soaking wet. I've never figured out exactly what that means . . . did Kitty drop it in her water bowl? Slobber all over it? Pee on it? I'm guessing whatever the answer to that mystery, she enjoyed herself . . . because she slept it off the rest of the day (which worked for me because Bear was in isolation and I wanted to stay with him) :)

Friday, January 22, 2016

Questions about Momma Kat and Her Bear Cat (FAQs)

I recognize that Bear is undoubtedly the star of Momma Kat and Her Bear Cat: that’s why our header describes the blog as about the adventures of an extraordinary feline – with his Momma just along for the ride. Most days, that is EXACTLY what life with Bear is . . . going to all the wild and wacky places that sharing one’s life with a cat provides. Things don’t often go “my” way – but I enjoy the ride.  And at the end of the day, the snuggly, purring ball of fur makes all the claws and fangs MORE than worth it. Because here's the thing about Bear: despite his attitude and feistiness, he's a total sweetheart at the core. I try not to let our readers forget that, but his attitude and feistiness are ridiculously funny so they probably get more attention.
Momma's boy.

In recognition of Bear’s star status, I don’t include much about myself on this blog. I’m actually a rather private person, but I thought some of you might have questions or wonder where Momma Kat and Her Bear Cat came from. And after getting a few inquiries about the purpose of our Facebook page and blog, hopefully this will clarify matters. As always, I REALLY WANT feedback! Without feedback about what you like and {ESPECIALLY!!!} what you don't like, I'm destined to make the same mistakes over and over again. I'm REALLY bad at trying to figure out whether I'm doing well or not, I always assume I'm failing miserably, but that also leaves me clueless as to what to change. As an aside, I will copy the contents of this post into the page labeled "FAQs" - just in case you want to reference it in the future and can't remember the date this was posted.

I'm new to Momma Kat, what posts will help me catch up?
Bear and I are glad you're here! Bear LOVES an audience and Momma loves dishing on Bear, so we hope we can make you laugh and show you you're in good company if you share your life with a cat(s). This post contains all the "fundamental" links and pages: Momma Kat and Her Bear Cat: Welcome!

Why does Bear call Momma Kat, "Momma" and not "Mom" or some other proper noun?
My insight into Bear's personality tells me he's a whiner when things don't go his way, when he doesn't get what he wants, or when Momma isn't paying enough attention to whatever scheme he's up to now. "Momma" can be dragged out in a very satisfying whine (MooooooommmmMMMA!), while "Mom" isn't quite as amenable. Kitty's personality was more aloof and "I'll pull myself up by the bootstraps and deal with it," so in the few conversations she's part of (mainly in What Your Cats Are Really Saying - To Each Other), she addresses me as "Mom." I can't imagine her whining about much - except maybe when Bear was constantly pestering her and she just wanted to be left alone. Kitty was very no-nonsense, while Bear is very dramatic. "Momma" leaves all kinds of possibilities for Bear to manipulate when he's unhappy. And the "Kat" part is just a nickname for Momma's first name, Katherine, which Momma is preferential to, since she loves cats (obviously). I can't think of any higher honor than being called "Cat," so "Kat" will have to do.

Why does Bear say, "I hate you?"
I've struggled with whether to include that phrase or not . . . it's not very nice or pleasant. But again, my perception of Bear's personality is that he's impulsive and enthusiastic and he often blurts things out without thinking them through. This is why there are so many {Pause}s in our conversations - he needs time to think about what he just said and adjust his thoughts and comments as necessary. In that way, Bear is very much like a five year old who shouts, "I hate you!" at a parent that isn't giving the child his way; it's not an indictment so much as part of a temper tantrum. And Bear LOVES temper tantrums. I know he loves me and doesn't mean it - he's not mean or cruel, just passionate. Kitty was more aloof - and the only times I remember her looking at me with pure hatred were the times she accidentally got hit in the cross-spray while I was using a spray bottle to get Bear to back off bugging her. No doubt, she was very displeased - first she had a brother she didn't want and then she got sprayed because he couldn't leave her alone. Unfortunately, Bear's never cared much about getting wet - so the spray bottle became pointless and was eventually retired. So Bear says, "I hate you!" because he's dramatic, he's a cat, and sometimes, as much as we love them, life isn't entirely pleasant when you share your life with a cat.

What is Bear's full name?
Pooh Bear. After finding out "Lily" was a girl, I really agonized over choosing a name because I wanted to give him a name that reflected his personality vs. Kitty who was so named because no one admitted to having a better idea. For the first few days Bear was inside, he was overly cuddly and sweet - which made me think of Winnie the Pooh. Given that he also gave giant bear hugs with his front paws around the arm of the person who was petting him, Pooh Bear sounded just right. At least until Bear was allowed out of isolation and became hell on paws . . . in which case, a one syllable name was much easier to spit out. He hasn't been called "Pooh Bear" for years - and over time, the name "Bear" seemed so much more appropriate too. Because his heart is bear-sized, but so is his personality - the enthusiasm and spunk and impulsivity and indignance - and all the wonderful things that make Bear, "Bear." I added the "Cat" in the title to give people an idea of the focus of the blog if they're just scanning a list of blogs - but I've also taken to calling him "Bear Cat" in conversations and when I call the vet because of how often most people assume "Bear" is a dog (last time I checked, "Bear" was in the top ten most common dogs' names).
In case you missed the posts the first time around: The good news is your cat is not pregnant . . . the bad news is . . . (or How We Met) and Naming "Male Kitten."

Why does Bear say, "RATS!?"
Again, Bear talks first and thinks later . . . I needed something that wasn't an expletive, but was a tad ironic and funny. I thought of using "Curses," but it didn't feel right, so I held off. A few months later, while I was still thinking of the best word to use for his frustration, I found another blog where the cat says, "curses!" and I didn't want there to be any question of plagiarism - so that ruled out "curses" permanently. In the end, I think "RATS!" works best for Bear because you can bet that if he actually SAW a rat, that WOULD NOT be what he exclaimed. From under the bed. Again, the touch of irony.

Do the incidents reported in the posts really happen?
Obviously, Bear doesn't actually talk in human terms. I extrapolate the dialogues from what I know of Bear's personality, his body language, and general "cat-ness." Most of the incidents described DO actually happen (like when Bear got caught in the handle of a plastic bag {found in Bears Behaving Badly} , or the chair spinning incident {found in Mistreated, Misunderstood, Unloved . . . }) - though some of the dialogues are more contrived than others. If it's in prose - like the Bears Behaving Badly post, it happened EXACTLY as described. Also, occasionally you'll find that Bear says, "Meow" during our conversations . . . the "meows" are quotes - where he says "meow" in real life. I could translate those to "human," but I think leaving the reader to determine the meaning within the context of the conversation is more descriptive and accurate. When a cat meows, the human isn't ENTIRELY sure what that meow means, so we use other clues (is it around the time the cat is fed? is he standing by the front door? what does his body language indicate? what do I know of cats?) to give the meow meaning. I have no doubt I've misinterpreted meows, as much as I'm fascinated by Bear's internal workings, I'm still a dumb human.

What led you to start the blog/Facebook page?
I've long been fascinated with psychology - why people do the things they do. Most of my interest was in why people do the HURTFUL things they do, and my hope was that one day I would help other people in less than ideal childhoods. Eventually, I got bogged down in the analysis of everyone - not only is it exhausting, but when you can find excuses for others' behavior there's a danger you'll subject yourself to it much longer than someone who doesn't care why people act a certain way. And I'm a bleeding heart - I am so good at empathizing that I actually experience other people's feelings and can't separate from them. Not so good for a therapist - and even worse for one's mental health. So I started considering the internal life of cats because they are such AMAZING, EXPRESSIVE creatures and humans, with all their complicated issues and motivations, exhaust me.

Anyone who has a cat knows there MUST be a lot going on in there. I'm no expert, but I started speculating on what Kitty was thinking (mainly "Foolish human," I think). The first story line I created centered around Kitty's close supervision of me making dinner. She was smart enough not to get under my feet, but always found a spot where I couldn't miss her. My then-husband joked that she looked like she was starving . . . and thus, the Hungry Cats of America (HCA) was started. With Kitty's superior begging skills, she seemed well suited to the job of lobbying - for all the POOR, POOR, starving housecats in America. Occasionally the HCA took up other causes, and Kitty even considered a run for Congress. Once we'd adopted Bear a year later, I'd gotten in the habit of developing intricate story lines as a way of stress relief - a kind of escape from reality. At first, Bear was training for the same job as my husband - and accommodation issues were decided (does Bear get a litter box in the regular bathroom, or a briefcase/litter box). His toy mice became "spies" that he met with and "dealt" with. And he was especially concerned with TCC's (terrorist cats in caves . . . this was the Afghanistan era). Separate from that, we both enjoyed Bear's strut - it looks EXACTLY like a streetwalker working his or her stuff . . . and Kitty became the rough and tumble pimp (not everything was appropriate). 

After the divorce and Kitty's death, it was just Bear and I. The stories changed according to my fascination with the mind of cats - trying to figure out what they're thinking when they knock something off the counter, or have the "crazies," or the times I'm standing still thinking through what I need to do and Bear runs up behind me, chomps on my leg, and just as quickly goes to hide. In that specific case, maybe Bear is really just bored - but maybe he's thinking I look like a chump and I'm easy prey. Also, cats are VERY expressive - I'm pretty sure I know EXACTLY what Bear is thinking in most situations . . . because unlike Kitty, he wears his heart on his sleeve. So Bear and I started having "conversations." When I really started paying attention to Facebook in Fall 2014, I started posting our conversations and funny vignettes on my personal Facebook page (among these were the precursors to the posts Chair + Towel + Cat = Tons of Pictures and Kitty Diva or Pop "Tart?") . My friends thought they were hilarious and encouraged me to blog about my cat that "almost seemed human." When I started the Facebook page for the blog, I transferred over all those posts from my personal page to the blog's Facebook page (you'd have to scroll back to the beginning of the Facebook posts) - so they are available if you are interested. 

By definition, a personal blog is a statement that you think you have something worthwhile that other people will want to read. I've never had the confidence - so I'm always fighting with myself if I should keep up writing or not. Unlike Bear (at least around me), my self-confidence really sucks. But Bear is extraordinary. I recognize a lot of this is more of a personal nature - as in, what Bear means to me. He's taught me to love in a way that was never demonstrated to me by any of the people in my life. Bear took the extra step for as long as necessary to get closer and challenge my comfort zone. And either he was just too darn cute or there was a part of me that was ready and WANTED more from life. It's not so much that I couldn't love or was cold - I just had a comfort zone that limited what I showed. At first, I stressed out because Bear always wanted to be RIGHTNEXT to me or on top of me. No doubt, he could feel the tension in my body. But how can you resist a kitten that just wants to love you and be loved by you? I couldn't - and I lived outside of my comfort zone until constantly snuggling and being together was the norm. Now, I don't think I could live WITHOUT it. I probably tell myself I changed because HE needed it, but I think I did too. This is why I often say that people assume I rescued Bear because he was homeless and hungry and I gave him a home and a full belly; the reality is he rescued me. He showed me that I could be resilient and triumph where my spirit was weak. Because of Bear, I learned, grew, and became a better person - a person who could love with her whole heart - and in turn, I showed myself that my parents' legacy is not mine by default. I get to choose. So the story of his "rescue" is also the tale of MY "rescue." I understand that readers might not get why I call Bear "extraordinary" - because really, ALL cats are extraordinary. But who Bear's been to me IS extraordinary: he just loves me and that is the best feeling in the world (and no, I usually don't talk like that - I'm rather reserved and don't get sentimental, but Bear is one of the few exceptions along with my niece and nephew).

In singing the praises of Bear, I feel guilt because by elevating Bear it feels like I'm making Kitty less - but she's not. Kitty rescued me in different ways because I needed different things. During her life, I was in survival mode and she was the perfect companion for that; with Bear, I've been in growth mode - challenging, overcoming, fighting to have a future that is better than my past. I would give just about anything to have Kitty be here too - no cat will ever replace her and she isn't by any means "less" because of the gifts Bear has given me. The fight for any life in survival mode is JUST as, if not MORE important, than the fight for more than survival. Without the first, you'll never have a chance at the second.
If you want to know more about Kitty: Kitty-Kitty: Unoriginal Name, One-of-a-Kind Cat.

What do I think could enhance readers' experience of the blog?
I'm a very visual learner - and I picture stories as I read and write. Of course, with Bear, it helps that I actually SEE the event happening - because most of the things I write have at least a kernel of truth, if I'm not writing exactly what happened. For instance, the chair spinning incident (found in Mistreated, Misunderstood, Unloved . . . ), where something from my laundry basket hooked the desk chair Bear was sitting in - which sent him spinning . . . it happened EXACTLY that way. So in particular, after the event was over, I couldn't help laughing out loud every time I read the dialogue because I SAW it. And my visual imagination is pretty good as well. Ultimately, I think my dialogues would be best represented visually or animated, so people SEE the looks on Bear's face and his body language - which probably accounts for more of the humor than I acknowledge - but I have no skill at drawing or animation, so I focus on getting the event down. In sum, if you can visualize the dialogues happening, they might be funnier or maybe make more sense. It's very hard to put a cat's indignant body language into words - and let's be honest, Bear's a very indignant and dramatic cat.

What is the difference between your Momma Kat Facebook page and the Momma Kat and Her Bear Cat blog?
I post on the blog every 5 days or so, but post shorter dialogues on Facebook everyday. The content of both is essentially the same - the blog posts just tend to be longer. Often a lot of things Momma wants to share aren't long enough for a dedicated blog post, and her perfectionistic tendencies slow down her blogging. The Facebook page is a way to "solve" both problems: sharing shorter and more frequent posts about Bear's antics and daily activities, but keeping the blog for longer posts. You can read either, or both - I try to make it so that you can follow along with the blog and the Facebook page without reading the other - but I originally conceived the Facebook page as a supplement to the blog, with more frequent posts. Every three weeks, I publish all the dialogues from Facebook as a collection on the blog (the latest: "Conversations" With Bear Cat: Part 16), so my readers can decide whether they'd like daily updates, or just wait for the collection (and it's easier to find one or two you missed in the collection than scrolling around on Facebook).

What is the focus of the blog?
Bear Cat and humor. On a personal level, because you really only have to choose between laughing and crying when life REALLY, REALLY, sucks, I've always chosen to laugh and lessen the burden through sarcasm and finding the absurd in the everyday.  The benefit to humor increases when the subject is out of our control: and what is more out of a human's control than a cat? In any case, I try to capture the hilarious and often frustrating aspects of sharing one's life with a cat. I love Bear and he's changed my life in very profound ways - at the heart of it, my blog and Facebook page attempt to share him and show my respect and appreciation for all aspects of his personality (even the ones that make no sense or break things). Additionally, I'd like to do awareness posts about subjects I don't feel have been adequately addressed. As of January 2016, Watch Out For The Teeth!, (about feline dental care), is the main post in this category, through there was a tad in Too Close to a Nightmare I Couldn't Handle (about Bear's tumor), The Myth of the Cat Lady??? (exploring the meaning of the word 'cat lady'), and Meowing Up The Wrong Tree? (about cat trees). I've started several others and have so many GREAT ideas, I just need to follow-through more in that vein of writing.

A note about humor regarding cats . . . I've seen claims from a couple sources that comics and humor based media about cats has hurt their reputations and affected the number of cats adopted. That may be true. But I'd contend that the people who read about the reality of life with cats (and all their quirks), and choose not to adopt are probably doing the cats a huge favor. Other than straight out torture, nothing breaks my heart more than reading or hearing about some cruel person who decided a cat wasn't for them and just abandoned the animal outside. Cats are unique, and while they differ a lot in their personalities, there is a general "cat" attitude. If you can't handle that attitude, you probably shouldn't own a cat. If I thought for a second my blog would affect adoption to good homes, I wouldn't write it. Cats are much like babies, in that they look to you for all their needs. If you resent having to provide that - and aren't able to recognize them as their own beings (with motivations and thoughts and desires that will often differ from yours) - a child, a cat, or any pet is not for you. A lot of people assume cats do fine on their own - but I've seen a lot of evidence to the contrary. Even Kitty, who was more likely to be in the same room with you than snuggling, had very clear needs for affection. Sharing one's life with a cat is a privilege - if you can't handle the responsibility, don't take it on. 

Humans have failed cats miserably: we domesticated them, but we haven't provided population control and homes that they need. Cats really AREN'T bred to live outside. Responsible farmers will tell you that their farm cats are fed and provided for during winter. And they'll also probably admit that the life of those cats is only a few years. I might be coming close to being judgmental, but the lives that some cats have are horrendous. Bear started out on that path - he was homeless - and for whatever reason, he couldn't hunt. All it took was feeding him a few times and he was more interested in love than food. Not all ferals are like that - but it was a privilege to be chosen as his person. And if I hadn't adopted him, the world would have missed out on an incredible cat. Every cat matters. Their lives are no less valuable than any other. I think doing cats the best justice means being honest about the reality of sharing one's life with a cat: it's not for everybody, but for those who it is, the rewards are infinite and on many different levels. I get frustrated with Bear, but I'd be lying if I didn't admit that I admire him and love him even more at those times - because he's just being Bear. Because of the way I grew up, where everything was so strictly controlled and it was strongly discouraged to show any sense of self, I see the beauty in a cat that feels secure enough to be whomever he wants to be. And his example has given me the encouragement and proof that being one's self is just as lovable, if not more lovable, than always conforming to what the people around you expect. I love Bear for all his personality quirks - even the ones that frustrate and confuse me - because I appreciate him in his own right.

Do you make any money off the blog or Facebook page?
No. They are labors of love. In one way, I've love to migrate to my own domain name and get the blog to turn a profit (I could definitely use the income), but I also recognize that involves selling myself, which I don't have the confidence for. I also hesitate to take endorsements and promote brands that I wouldn't use for my own cat; I put a lot of research and time into choosing what I buy for Bear, and because of what he means to me, I can't imagine myself promoting something I've ruled out for my own cat. Maybe in the future . . . I can't say never, but I do take that responsibility very seriously. Please don't take this as an indictment of blogs that do accept advertising - I'm just a lousy saleswoman and feel more responsibility toward others than most people (and more than is entirely healthy).

What are my hopes for this blog?
I'd love to publish all of my posts and dialogues from the blog and Facebook page in a book. For as long as I can remember, I've been told I should write a book - only the content has varied (my life, my struggles, my cats, my insight . . . ). I don't have the patience or confidence that I have much to say that would be worthwhile for most of those topics. But I've played around with writing about my cats - and when I'm writing as Bear, I find a confidence I otherwise wouldn't have. This is another reason I've shied away from posts solely of prose - I don't have a whole lot of confidence in what I say, but as Bear, I feel much freer and able to just go with it. 

The ironic thing is that after almost a year of posts, I'm finding that what keeps me going (especially when I feel uninspired or that no one really cares about my writing) is that I've created a permanent record of Bear. I knew I needed to have pictures with my blog - so I started playing around with a camera again. Around the time Bear was 3, I gave up pictures because I was so bad at taking them and because Bear always stops what he's doing and runs off when I turn the camera on. So starting the blog got me taking pictures again. Very rarely do I get a picture I'm really proud of, but at least it's SOMETHING. And I record many of the things Bear does (like admiring himself in the bathroom mirror or knocking things in the toilet), so that I can hold on to those forever. When I wrote the post on Kitty, I realized there were a lot of things I was sure I would remember at the time they happened, but that I couldn't remember 10 years later when I wanted to write about her. 

I've also found that I have more patience and appreciation for Bear, now that he's the subject of the blog. People might at first think my posts are complaining, but the fact is that writing about ALL the aspects of his personality have helped me keep better perspective about the less pleasant parts of sharing my life with Bear. For instance, he does everything with his whole heart. So if one of the things I love most about him is his ginormous loving heart, how can I like the other manifestations of that any less just because the results are sometimes frustrating? When I sit down and write my posts, I'm sharing my admiration, respect, and love for Bear. And by focusing on all the aspects of his personality, I get a perspective of the whole versus bogged down in, "He just just emptied the shelves above the toilet INTO the toilet again!" I try to make it clear in my writing that I'm writing from a position of admiration and not complaint, but I also recognize new readers might not catch on to that right away. And let's be honest - the most frustrating aspects of sharing one's life with a cat, are also the funniest. 

Another unexpected benefit of the blog has been hearing the remarkable stories, seeing some handsome, gorgeous kitties of all kinds, and finding support from other people who love cats. I treasure what other people share with me about their own experiences - in fact, I always want to share it with others but with my own preference for privacy, I respect other people's. It also feels good to know other people experience similar things - like that not ALL cats like boxes - or that cats seem to blame their humans for any condition that is not to their liking (including the weather). I love the heart-warming stories my readers share and I've found I've recovered much of my belief in humanity as a result.

So in sum, I'd love to get all of my posts in book form, but I've also come to appreciate the personal value of the collection I'm creating that is gratifying on solely a personal level - and this is what keeps me going when I have doubts about the value I offer others.

An additional goal: I'd love my Facebook page to be a community where everyone feels free to join the conversation. I love feedback, but seldom get it. Please let me know if you have suggestions or ideas - I want to give readers something they enjoy and I never really know how my posts are received without feedback. 

Why does Momma only have one cat?
My usual excuse is that Bear is enough cat for me - or that the period where I had two cats made everyone miserable - me AND the cats. But I think it goes deeper to my fears of competence in loving and fears of being left out and even fear of losing. My income is very small - very, very small - and having a cat is my ONE indulgence (most of my possessions have been with me since high school, over 20 years ago, I don't care about TV, I'm not big on technology or anything trendy, etc.). And along with that, if something were to go really wrong - like if Bear's tumor had been malignant - I would want to have the funds to do whatever I could for him. If I had more than one cat at a time, I'm not sure I could do that. I REALLY did not take losing Kitty well - I was despondent and wasn't sure I'd be able to love another cat the same way - even though I already had a cuddle bug in Bear. Because as anyone who loves cats knows: you can't ever replace a cat. You can get another 500 cats and never find one that was the same or means exactly to you what the one you lost did. When I felt Bear's tumor, I seriously thought about what would happen if I lost him and my conclusion was that I wouldn't survive. I'd go on living, but my heart would shrivel up and I'd be unable to open my heart to another cat as much as I might want to on some level. I'm scared of losing - so much so that sometimes I don't even give my heart a chance to love. Bear was a big chance. A humongous chance - that changed me so profoundly I'm not sure I could live without a cat anymore. So you see my struggle. When Bear was 1 or 2, I seriously considered a playmate for HIS well-being but my vet said it would either go REALLY well, or REALLY badly, and having just experienced the REALLY badly side, it didn't seem worth it since the whole point would be Bear's well-being. I still think about it occasionally - and question my resolve and my reasons. I'm not expecting this paragraph to make sense to anyone - it's confusing and even contradictory at times, just like my feelings.

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