My cats

_1190299I know it’s been a while since I last posted, but that’s just…how it goes. Everything is fine with me, pretty much…I’ve been very busy…working (teaching English, translating; even this past weekend), and so on…

My post on our Austrian Xmas holiday is taking forever, mainly because I have to decide which–of my two billion photos!–to use. But the post is coming along…should be done soon.

I also received the negative curcumin review (see previous post), yes, the entire shebang, but I haven’t gone beyond a couple of pages. For one thing, reading something like this doesn’t put me in the right frame of mind (irritation sets in, e.g.); for another, it’s very technical, VERY!, and after a few paragraphs my brain becomes the consistency of melted marshmallows. _1190315But you know how determined I can be, so I WILL read the darn thing. I will… :-)

In the meantime, I thought I’d put up a few photos of my kitties. So, here goes: we recently bought a very tall and sturdy cat tower. It’s almost 3.60 meters tall (almost 12 feet tall; yes, we have high ceilings downstairs!), mainly to try to solve a problem that our younger male, Prezzemolo, has had for the past several months. A “spraying” problem.

He began spraying a bit everywhere (yes, he is “fixed,” like all my cats, so it seemed very strange to us…still does) but finally decided he mostly liked a couple of areas: our living room couch and armchair, and the bed in our guest bedroom. _1190346Oh, and he also likes to “mark” a few IKEA comfy chairs we have in a room downstairs…a room we don’t really use, so that’s “okay.” All of our furniture is now protected now by plastic covers, with IKEA cotton covers on top (easy to disinfect and wash)…You can see one of the dark blue covers in the photo to the right.

The first thing we did when we realized this was happening was take him to the vet. They ran tests to exclude any physical causes, a urinary tract infection, etc…

Result: he’s fine. A purrfectly healthy young male cat. He’s about 4.5 years old now, I guess.

We didn’t know what else to do until someone suggested we call a behavioral veterinarian (I think that’s what they are called…sort of like Jackson Galaxy, “My cat from hell,” except the person we called is not just a behaviorist but also a vet). We made an appointment before Xmas. The vet came over to our house and observed all of our cats–most of whom were taking naps!–for more than four hours. She concluded that our boy suffers from anxiety.

Great, that’s all we needed: an anxious cat._1190358

Anything can, er, set him off, but his main problem is the other male cat, Piccolo (the big black and white fellow in some of my photos), who is older and, well, dominant. The alpha cat. Piccolo is the source of Prezzemolo’s anxiety. In the photo on the left, you can see Prezzemolo on top, rubbing his head on the cat tower shelf, Pammy is next to the big “mouse,” and then there is Piccolo’s head, bottom left.

In the wild, the vet explained, in a stressful situation like this one, where we have two males sharing the same territory, what happens is that the younger male lion usually leaves and finds a territory of his own. The same thing happens with two male cats who live outside.

But here all our cats, male and female, are confined to the house. Yes, it’s a big house, with lots of toys and scratching posts, and two loving human parents, and so on, but our cats can’t go outside (for a bunch of very good reasons. The vet agreed with us that they should stay inside the house, in fact). _1190090So even though the cats’ “territory” looks huge to us, it isn’t so for Prezzemolo.

Stefano and I obviously want Prezzemolo to be happy, that’s our main cat-related goal right now, so we asked her for solutions…

Her main suggestion was to create a VERTICAL territory for Prezzemolo, a place that the older, heavier male cannot physically reach. We already have three cat towers in the house, but the vet told us that they weren’t high enough or in the right places (except for the one in my study, which is great).

She told us to put a tall one in the living room, floor to ceiling. And here we get to the point…and to the photos.

We ordered a huge, expensive cat tower in January, after researching every single sort of high cat tower on the market. When it arrived, it took us a while to assemble it and set it up. As soon as we’d finished, we figured the cats would jump on it immediately. But no, in typical cat fashion, they ignored it, especially Prezzemolo. I mean, TOTALLY IGNORED IT. They were more interested in the boxes it had been delivered in. I put his favorite toys on it, high up, inside the hammocks, and I hung strings to tempt him…but that didn’t work. Until…

Until a few weeks had passed (again, typical…).

_1190296I began finding him on the tree, asleep in a hammock or sitting on one of the shelves, looking outside the living room window. I have also seen him climb all the way to the top (several times, including this morning). Impressive. Since he’s the youngest of our cats, he’s also the only one who is physically able to do that, although Pinga (photo no. 2) can almost get to the top.

That is the whole point: if he can expand his territory, a territory that the alpha male cannot reach, he should begin to calm down. Fingers crossed.

His vertical territory hasn’t stopped him from spraying yet, but the incidents seem to have lessened. And anyway, luckily for us and for our nose buds, his urine doesn’t smell unless you stick your nose practically right on top of the area where you think he MIGHT have sprayed. Of course, it’s still a bummer…I have to sniff all of the IKEA covers on a daily basis and replace them with clean ones if necessary. Well, fingers crossed that this is just a phase…

By the way, I should mention that Prezzemolo is an adorable cat. In addition to being absolutely gorgeous, as you can see, he is also very cuddly. The cuddle business didn’t happen overnight. We don’t know much about his previous life, before we adopted him, that is, but I know it can’t have been an easy one. It took a VERY LONG time for him to trust us. When we’d reach out to pet him, he’d duck his head and look frightened. _1190340But we were patient…we didn’t push it…we knew it was going to be a slow process.

Our patience, mine in particular, was rewarded. A few months ago, one day, totally out of the blue, he jumped into my lap for the first time (note: he’s lived with us for more than four years now!). It was an emotional moment for both Stefano and me.

Nowadays he curls up in my lap at least twice a day. He always comes to me after dinner, while we are still at the dinner table. He rests his head on my arm, purrs, and looks up at me with his big yellow eyes, full of love. And by the way, he even jumped into my lap twice while the vet was visiting…to our great surprise, since he usually stays away when we have visitors…Well, that is changing now.

_1190093He has become much friendlier recently…with strangers, I mean. And, with the exception of Piccolo (who growls and wacks the poor kid if he gets too close), he also gets along with the other cats, including Pammy (and NONE of them get along with her…She’s a tough cookie, but that is fodder perhaps for another cat post).

In sum, he is scared only of Piccolo. And there is not much we can do about it…except give him heaps of love, of course. And play with him, and single him out for attention…and buy him a big cat tower…things like that…

Anyway, I have work to do, so I’d better get going. I hope you enjoy the photos. By the way, if you hover over them with your “mouse,” you can find a little explanatory note.

Take care, everyone, and…CIAO! :-)