Thursday, December 13, 2012

Growing with Kittens

The Man and I both had pets growing up, or so we thought.  In truth, our parents had pets, and we simply coexisted with our "sibling" pets.  We didn't feed, water, or care for the pets as much as we were entertained by them.  However, with both sets of our parents, we learned by their example how to be good pet owners. I remember Dad lecturing that the pets always get fed before the humans (if only as a reminder that they should be fed now and then), and that cleaning a litter box at least once a day is simply the minimum we can do for cats.  I'm sure The Man picked up loads of tips about dog ownership from his parents as they cared for his beloved childhood puppy and his parents' current less-than-ferocious canine.  Bottom line, we both took on pet ownership fully realizing we intend to be responsible and loving "masters."  ("Masters" because, let's face it, cats really own their people.)

In my attempts to be a responsible--and not crazy--cat lady, I've spent countless hours researching food, litter boxes, toys, and behavior related to our new best buddies.  We want to give them the best without breaking our bank, and finding the happy medium isn't always easy.  Online information can be unreliable.  Products don't work as advertised.  Or, and easily the most frustrating, every other cat except ours just loves something (cat treats, I'm looking at you).  After all of my research has been completed about an item and I make a decision about what to purchase, the next step involves money and a lot of trial and error.  What follows is an account of some of those trials.

Cat Toys
The toys from Petco, including two small stuffed and slightly crinkly animals and two jingly balls, were all pretty much a complete waste of money.  I crafted two small fleece toys out of fleece and flannel scraps.  The Man attached a shoelace to the smaller of these, and Annie will go after it like a mighty hunter.  She loves to play with it, and I've even seen them playing with it together.  Leftover scraps and just a little bit of my time?  Free.  Love it.  The feathers on the end of the fabric snake that dangles from a stick thingy was a $3 toy that has since broken.  They have nearly chewed off all of the feathers.  While they do like to play with the toy, it isn't holding up very well. I have spoken before about the paper bags and packaging from our Black Friday purchase.  They have completely destroyed the paper, but for free paper, it was the best. toy. ever!  Seriously, those kittens have gone absolutely bonkers playing in the paper.  Of course, the laser pointer is a huge hit.  Just about any cat owner should know this one.  We were lucky that we already owned one.  They have chased the little red dot all over the living room, and they've figured out the origin.  Smart kitties, but they still chase the dot whenever we make it appear.  Lesson learned: free is the best choice with cat toys.  They like cheap, so we LOVE cheap.

Cat Food
We were feeding them Nutro Naturals kitten food, both wet and dry, but it made them have horrible smelling poop.  The wet food actually smelled very little, so I was surprised it morphed that much inside them.  Wet food was a hassle, and the dry food didn't go over very well.  Hours upon hours of research later, we settled on Orijen Cat and Kitten food.  A week of transitioning from the Nutro to Orijen went pretty well.  They weren't happy for a while, but now they inhale their food.  While Orijen is about a dollar more per pound (Nutro was about $12 for 4 pounds, and Orijen is about $22 for 5 pounds), we only have to feed them half as much food through the day.  Also, Orijen is better for them.  Their dull coats have become incredibly shiny and soft.  Their poop still stinks, but less so, and it's much firmer.

While we're on the topic of food, I have to address treats.  We tried feeding our kittens commercially-made treats.  They were less than enthusiastic about munching on them.  Since we had to give them medicine for the first ten days after adopting them, we really wanted a treat for them afterward.  We tried fish treats, chicken treats, and even meatless treats.  They would eat them, but they weren't interested in more than one or two a day.  After a tip I found online, I tried tempting them with a shred of cheese one day.  We're talking an amount about the size and thickness of a pinky fingernail or a single strand of finely shredded cheese.  They almost went insane trying to get me to give them another, trying to smell around to see if I'd dropped more than one or two shreds, trying to get more cheese, mommy, more cheese!  So we have stopped buying treats and simply give them a bit when they've been extra good.  We only give them two or three shreds maximum in a day.  Phew, saves us money, and we get a little treat too. :)

Cat Litter
Do you ever have to admit that your parents were right?  Oh my.  When we got the cats, we started them straight off on ScoopAway, the same unscented stuff my parents have been using for their cats.  But, after ten seconds of use, we realized how dusty and yucky the litter was.  It didn't track much, and the clumping action was fantastic, but oh! the dust!  Time to try something else.  On a trip to Petco, we found the Tidy Cats dust-free litter.  Solves all of our problems, right?  Wrong!!!  Yes, it has very little dust, but it is scented.  I should add that the scent is akin to rotting chicken.  It doesn't clump as well or stay clumped as well as our previous litter, and it tracks everywhere entirely too easily.  We'll be switching back ASAP!  My parents were totally right, and we promise to listen to them about cat litter in the future.

Petromalt didn't go over well at first, but now it's the bee's knees according to Eddie and Annie.  We give them a dab once or twice a week to help with hairballs and digestion.  The gooey formula isn't appreciated as much as the original toothpaste formula, so hopefully the manufacturer will wise up.

We got them a bed and a cat tree at the same time, and they pretty much live in the cat tree.  I've only seen them in their bed once, and I think there was a treat in it or something.  The bed was a waste of money.

Their big fleece-covered pillows I made have been slowly growing on them.  They finally used one last night to sleep on, but it took quite some work to get them to settle down on it.  A precious half-hour of quiet sleep with them on the pillow between our desks?  Priceless.

In the end, we've learned that, with the exception of food, less is more.  Thankfully we're only out a few dollars on the experiments.  Even more thankfully, our cats seem happy, healthy, and pretend to love us.

Well, that's their story for now.  I have a litter box to clean.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Interesting the cheapest toys can be the best. All my dogs have loved milk cartons with rocks in them. They shake them and I throw them and they have great fun on their own with that. Also love an old tennis shoe. Chloe even puts her favorite ball in it and then shakes it. So get the free boxes for them to play in! And enjoy their antics.
Marilyn