Monday, March 29, 2010

Meet The Cats: Coraline

NAME: Coraline
DATE OF BIRTH: 15 August, 2009 (approx)
SEX: Female (spayed)
ANCESTRY: Domestic Shorthair (Mixed; mother was a black DSH, father unknown)


Coraline is one of a litter of three feral kittens adopted by me and Matt in October, 2009. She and her brother Brodie were trapped at about 7 weeks of age; Shadow (sibling #3 -- another brother) was trapped three weeks later.


Small, compact cat; (approx. 7 lbs as of 8 months of age) Blue (grey on cream-colored background) mackerel/part-spotted tabby. Back is very dark, almost looks solid grey, but breaks up into tabbying on either side of her body and toward her head, legs, and tail. Tail is subtly striped, very dark at the tip. Dramatic, high-contrast facial markings including black "eye-liner". Her eyes themselves are this amazing deep coppery orange color, and are often open wide and round (several people have commented "she looks like the cat from Shrek" upon seeing this!)

Background cream-color fur shades into peachy-tan on her face; overall she exhibits darker and sharper "tones" than her tabby brother, Brodie. Nose and paw pads are all pink shading to black. Long whiskers and eye-brows. Fur length would probably technically be considered "short", but she's fluffier than either of her siblings, especially about the cheeks and tail.


Bird-watching, squirrel-watching, bug-chasing (though I've never seen her kill one -- she seems to be more into catching them, releasing them, and watching them wiggle and run around some more), playing Wrestle & Ambush with her brothers, shelf-scaling, tearing around the house, intensely examining things, attempting to catch the goldfish (I keep the lid to the aquarium taped shut to curtail any diving expeditions!), emphatic snuggling.


Like her namesake (the Neil Gaiman character "Coraline" from the eponymous book and film), she is both very clever and very brave. She got her name after (as a teeny 7-week-old kitten) managing to escape from the kitten-pen, dart out the bedroom door, and scale the bookshelves in the guest room within 2 days of being adopted. (At 5 AM on a Sunday morning, no less!)

From the beginning her assertiveness and strategic planning ability were evident; you could just see her looking around the room and figuring out what was next to what, so she could determine how to get to Interesting High-Up Place. Even as a baby she was very "look before you leap".

Hence, she very much seems to enjoy high places (she and Nikki definitely share this predilection!), soft things (she is SERIOUS BUSINESS about her pillow-kneading sessions), little things that dart around, windows (the household orifice kind, not the Microsoft kind!), sunbeams, boxes.


- Having her nails clipped (she seems to have this near-precognitive sense of when the snipper thing is about to close, because she will just sit there RIGHT up until the point when I merely start to THINK about pressing the lever. At that point, she will jerk her paw away with lightning speed!).

- The Vet. (I know, what a shock.:P)

- The dreaded e-collar (a.k.a. Cone of Shame). The vet stuck one of these on Cora after she was spayed. I personally think this was a bit overcautious -- I've never before heard of a cat needing to wear one of these after a spay, particularly an early spay (Cora was only 4 months old when I got her fixed -- she was precocious and already in heat at that age!). But in any case, Cora absolutely would not tolerate the Cone. As soon as I opened the carrier following her surgery, she rocketed out and ricocheted around the room, crashing into walls, furniture, and quite possibly the ceiling until she was able to remove the infernal thing from around her neck. I honestly hope she never really NEEDS a cone because, gah, she'd probably need to be sedated or kept until a very small cage until she recovered from whatever prompted the cone. Which she would absolutely hate, and justifiably so, and which I would feel terrible about given it's hard enough navigating this whole "the cat doesn't like X/but X is for their own good" business. Cora is NOT the sort of cat to "get used to things". She means what she says, and her opinion of the cone was an unmitigated "oh HELL no!"


Yes, please! Coraline is a catnip fiend. If I fill an old sock with the stuff, she will drag it around the house, roll around with it, drool on it, and push it into her face once it's been sufficiently mashed to release the most potent of the plant's vapors. I am just glad it's harmless and non-toxic to cats because she really has quite a time with it!


As a tiny kitten she would eat pretty much anything she could get, but as she grows up I'm seeing her get pickier (her brothers are another story!). Her Absolute Favorite Thing Ever seems to be chicken or turkey wet cat food where you have actual chunks/shreds of meat with gravy or broth, though often she will JUST lick up all the liquid and leave the meat chunks to dehydrate in the bowl. She seems to be okay with most dry foods (is partial to Evo, though) and tolerates pretty much all of them well as far as digestion goes.

UPDATE: As of August 2010, Cora (along with her brothers) is eating a mostly-raw home-prepared diet. She's a little tentative about trying new things but so far has gotten to like chicken, turkey, quail, and beef. She's also getting quite adept at bone-crunching, which still amazes me seeing as she still looks so little!


Coraline is a big fan of toys -- both commercially-sourced cat toys and random bits of stuff about the house that she makes her own toys out of. While she loves interactive play and will scale the microwave, refrigerator, or closet shelf to steal any dangly-type toys, she is also quite keen on "bat the thingy around the house" games. Favorite subjects for these activities include plastic zip ties, plastic spiders (I had some of these left over from Halloweens past and once Cora found them she quickly started sending them skittering across the floor!), and little fuzzy rattle-mice.

She also has this one really elaborate thing she does (which I can hopefully get on video at some point) involving sort of...batting the object around a table or chair leg in ways that seem to involve some sort of intricate paw-dancing. Difficult to describe, but she's very intent on it when she's doing it, and there just seems to be this tremendous amount of thought going on.


Cora seems like the sort of cat who, had she not been raised with siblings, would have become an "only cat" (as in, totally intolerant of other felines in her vicinity). She is intensely territorial, and had some friction with Shadow when he first arrived (they'd been separated for only three weeks, but when you're a tiny kitten, that's a long time!), and seems to have an ongoing passive-aggressive thing going on with Nikki.

But she and Brodie were adopted together, and I think that prompted them to bond -- they've still never had a day apart in their lives, and can often be found lying in an overlapping pile of paws and entangled tails. I have also seen Cora and Shadow napping together, and they occasionally groom each other, but that has been rather a long time in the making. And when it comes to Nikki...well, Nikki is still somewhat larger/stronger than Cora, and Cora isn't daft, so she generally runs away when she sees Nikki heading toward her. So I would say that overall, Cora likes and enjoys the company of certain other cats (i.e., her brothers) but isn't quick to accept new cats, and is always going to have pretty high standards about who she lets into her personal space!

UPDATE: As of late summer 2010, Cora seems to have reached a kind of truce with Nikki! I caught the two of them napping together -- not snuggled up, but touching nonetheless -- on the futon recently. Which just amazed me.


It's kind of funny...initially Cora was SUCH a little hissy wild beast, but she's calmed down a lot, and is now actually the bravest of the litter as far as interacting with (unfamiliar) humans. She definitely has a mind of her own, and interactions are (as they should be!) always on her terms, but when she's in a snuggly mood you are definitely going to know it! Sometimes she follows me around the house going "nnnnnn!" until I sit down (so she can power-knead my lap). She also solicits head-scratches from both me and Matt, and will usually sit on my sister Katie for a while when she visits too.

She still usually hides at first when someone she doesn't know comes into the house, but will generally be the first to come out and investigate. Overall I would say at this point she's more curious than wary of humans, but still has that initial (and highly appropriate/self-protective) reflex to check things out from a distance first.

(click the video below to see some of Cora's amazing leaping prowess!)

Monday, March 22, 2010

Meet The Cats: Nikki

NAME: Nikki (technically "Shan-Su Nikki-Bunni", but nobody calls her that! :P)
DATE OF BIRTH: 29 October, 2001
SEX: Female (spayed)
ANCESTRY: Siamese (Traditional Chocolate Point).


Born in San Jose, CA, and adopted as a kitten into my parents' house in northern California. Primary human was my youngest sister Sara Kalyn (who is currently away at university). Nikki lived in her first home with my parents and younger siblings for eight years, and moved in early 2010 to her second home with me and Matt (as my parents were moving out of state, and figured Nikki wouldn't take to the move well; also, she and their dog had "issues" involving territory.).


Small/medium-sized (8 lbs fully grown) feline with cream-colored body and chocolate-brown face, ears, legs, and tail. Chocolate color on points fades gradually into body color. Some subtle milk-chocolate shading along her back. Compact and muscular (typical of Traditional Siamese). Moderate features (neither very sharp nor very rounded). Tail is thick, powerful, and highly expressive. Fur is short but very dense, somewhat fluffy on haunches. Very subtly elongated profile, slight down-turn at the tip of her nose. Pale ice-blue eyes.


Patrolling the house (she has a "circuit" she likes to follow around the kitchen and living room, and up and down the hallway). Climbing shelves (climbing everything, really -- she works hard at getting to whatever the highest point in the room is!). Getting into the middle of whatever the humans happen to be doing (she is VERY curious!). Trying to sneak into the garage (off-limits to kitties, too many potential hazards, i.e., sharp tools and clutter). Going on walks outside (she is actually very good on a leash and harness). Bossing the younger cats around. Operatic, multi-syllabic yowling (not just when she's annoyed; she just seems to like conversing!).


Sunny napping spots, high shelves and perches, being brushed (especially with the Furminator -- she LOVES that thing, and will purr and roll around like a kitten while being groomed with it), meddling, lap-sitting (seriously, she is like a lap-seeking missile in the evenings), acknowledgement.


Dogs, rowdiness (she gets very irked when the younger cats are racing around the house at top speed), surprises (she is very sensitive and startles easily), confinement, being ignored.


Meh. She mostly doesn't respond to it, or if she does, doesn't care for the effect. The most significant reaction I've seen from her to the stuff was when I tried giving her a fresh leaf, straight off the plant. In that case, she sniffed it, drooled on it a bit, but then seemed to get annoyed at it and actually whacked the leaf away from her with a paw!


If it were up to her, she'd probably choose to dine on whipped cream and cheese at every meal. However, that would obviously not be a nutritionally complete diet for a cat (and too much milk would likely cause digestive upset). So, most of the time (aside from very small treats of the aforementioned dairy delicacies) she has to put up with Cat Food.

It has been quite a trial finding food(s) all the cats will eat (Nikki is VERY picky) and that none of them are allergic to (Brodie can't tolerate corn, so most grocery-store brands are out). But at this point Nikki seems pretty happy with Innova dry cat & kitten formula, so I've been giving her that.

UPDATE: As of August 2010, Nikki is primarily on a diet of grain-free Fancy Feast (when she'll eat it...she goes through periodic phases of rejecting every manner of wet food, but eventually she comes back to it) and Blue Buffalo Wilderness Salmon dry food. She's been utterly disinclined to try raw meat of any kind, but (surprise, surprise) she apparently will eat canned salmon.


Nikki seems to be totally uninterested in cat toys (or other things cats frequently make their own toys from, e.g., plastic zip ties) that don't move, and she isn't the type to bat them around and make them move. On one occasion I saw her pick up a fuzzy toy mouse and give it the "killer neck-bite" but after that she had no interest in the thing (I guess she'd satisfied herself that it was "dead", or something).

So far she seems most interested in (a) dangling pieces of string or cord (like the hood-closure pulls on my jackets, which she will swat at if I lean over nearby her), (b) the Cat Dancer (a very simple toy consisting of a rolled bit of cardboard at the end of a wire coil; it takes very little human movement to make the thing on the end wiggle like a bug), and (c) Da Bird (a "fishing pole"-style toy with a little bunch of feathers at the end of the line that spins when you wave it in the air).

["Da Bird" is the hands-down favorite of these three; maybe because it moves most like something that's alive (and even makes cool whippy sounds when the feathers are pulled through the air).]

In any case, she is very clever, bores easily, and will let you know in no uncertain terms if she's feeling insufficiently entertained!


Previously, when she lived with my parents, Nikki got along quite well with Nutmeg (their senior boy-kitty, who was adopted by my sister Katie around the same time I adopted Nikki). However, she is definitely not a "loves all other cats automatically" sort of cat, and so far I'm considering it fortunate that most of the time she ignores the younger set.

She has some degree of territorial anxiety still, though I am guessing (as she's only been here three months) that's pretty normal as she is probably still gathering data to reassure herself that yes, she is still going to get her fair share of food / napping spots / attention despite the presence of three young ruffians.

I do hope she eventually makes friends with at least one of the others, as she seems to really need and want companionship, but of course I know you can't force cats to like each other and I am going to let her take things at her own pace. The kittens really are a handful and a half, and I expect once they grow up and settle down a bit she might find them less obnoxious and more companionable.


While wary of strangers, Nikki is extremely sociable, chatty, and affectionate with the humans she deems worthy. She is definitely the sort of cat that does better with grown-ups than, say, small, unruly children, though, as she severely dislikes being grabbed or chased (not that I blame her!). When she likes you, you will know it, and when she's mad at you, you'll know that too -- she's an excellent communicator and a quick learner when it comes to getting the message she wants to send across to the primates in her midst.

She will solicit head-scratches and grooming when she wants these things, and the intensity of her appreciation of these things is tremendous -- but at the same time, being as sensitive as she is, she tends to get overwhelmed easily and will (for instance) turn around and nip my hand if she decides she's had enough brushing. But even when she's not in a touching mood, she much prefers to have people around than be alone, and will YELL if she can't find me or Matt.

(Click the video below to see Nikki going for a walk outside!)

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Introductory Post

I share my home with four cats, a gigantic goldfish, and one Significant Other (human).

This blog is about the cats.

I figured that, while some cat posts are fine for Existence is Wonderful, I really wanted somewhere I could write just about cats without getting that whole "I must balance my blogging topics!" sense.

Thus, "Felines are Wonderful". Because they are!

So, expect to see posts about what my cats are up to (individually or in terms of their interactions), what they are like (as best as I can describe, using text, photo, and video), various ethical stuff that has come up in my mind as a result of being around them, etc.

Additionally I have a special interest in feral cats (and feral colony management) considering three of the kitties-in-residence here were adopted from a local feral colony, as were two of my SO's parents' cats (the colony is sort of loosely centered around their neighborhood, which is a few neighborhoods over from mine). So I will also be posting about those cats on occasion, as well as about Trap-Neuter-Return in general and various other feral-related issues and items of potential interest.

And finally, I will also be using this space to write about various cat supplies (food, furniture, toys, etc.) I have had experiences with, whether I've made them myself, modified them, or simply purchased and utilized. All cats are different and I have had a lot of interesting adventures trying to find (for instance) food that everyone will eat and that nobody is allergic to, litter boxes that meet everyone's approval, and so on.

(That said, if I mention brand names (and I will, when it's relevant) know that I am not affiliated with any cat-supply company whatsoever and do not get paid for writing this blog at all, let alone for "endorsing" particular products. If I draw attention to something, it will only be because I and my cats have had personal experience with it and I want people reading this to have an idea of exactly what I am talking about.)