Litter Boxes – the Continuing Saga

Does anyone with cats not hate their little box? If so, let me know your secret!

Don’t get me wrong, I love my cats, but I HATE litter boxes. They smell, litter scatters everywhere, it’s dusty, the cats don’t want to use the box, etc. Depending on the day, I have all these complaints and more.

With three indoor cats in the house, litter boxes are always an issue. Most recently, I’ve kept two large boxes downstairs, and a third up in my laundry room. It has worked out pretty well, except that for some reason, the cats were peeing in the upstairs litter box, but pooping just in front of it, and not in it. It drives me absolutely crazy. I’ve tried different boxes, various kinds of litter, even different trays under the litter box. No matter what combination I chose, pee goes in the box, poop goes in front of it.

Yesterday, the clouds parted, the sun shone through, and I realized something! With the two boxes downstairs that are side by side, the cats usually poop in one and pee in the other, not always, but most of the time. Upstairs, they only have one box. Maybe that is why they pee in the box and poop in front of it? Could the fix possibly be that simple? Two litter boxes in my laundry room is definitely not ideal, but it’s better than cleaning up poop from the tray in front of the box all the time.

My garage stash had an extra litter box, so I put it upstairs next to the other box. Imagine my surprise when I checked it this morning and there was poop IN THE LITTER BOX!  Woot! Small victory for me. Also, win for the cats, because now they have two boxes upstairs which is apparently what they wanted. Does anyone else have cats that poop in one box and pee in the other?

I’ve given up on fancy boxes. Downstairs where I have plenty of room, the litter boxes are actually $7 cement mixing trays from the hardware store. They work great! Cheap enough to easily replace them when they get gross. Deep enough to help contain the litter, and the insides are rounded, so they are super easy to scoop. Upstairs I’m just using two plain plastic litter boxes.

My new favorite litter is OKO Cat brand. It’s made from wood, there’s no noticeable dust. With my old clay litter, I realized I would cough when cleaning the box, not good. No coughing with the new litter. The switch was very gradual, I mixed a little of the new litter in with the old and just kept adding more of the new litter until there wasn’t any more clay litter. The cats don’t seem to have any problems with it. I found this litter by accident. Although I’m usually well stocked on pet supplies, I ran out of cat litter a couple of months ago. The local hardware store only had the OKO Cat brand, so that’s what I bought. It’s been great! I did try their long haired cat version, but it was more like a pellet, and while it did track a little less, the pellets were harder to suck up with the vacuum, the cats didn’t like it, and I seemed to go through a lot of litter.

For the moment, there’s peace in my litter box world. I do want to try one of the fancy robotic litter boxes one of these days, but I’m not sure one of them would be all that helpful, and I’m not buying 3-4, $400+ litter boxes. My $7 boxes work just fine!

Anyone have any good tips for litter boxes? Types of boxes or litter that you really like? How about the LitterRobot any thoughts? Like it? Worth the money?

Gone Gliders

Puck doesn’t like the cold weather. He spends most of his time these days finding a cozy spot to cuddle up. It definitely took him a few days to adjust to not having Marty around. They really became good buddies! I wish I could explain to Puck that Marty will be back to spend the summer with us, but of course he doesn’t have a clue. He just knows his friend Marty is gone.

The sugar gliders moved to their new home a couple of weeks ago now. It’s taken me that long to adjust to not having them. For the first few days I would head to their cage to check on them and realize they weren’t here. That was happening a couple of times a day. I hadn’t really realized how often I checked on them!  I do miss the boys, but I’m also realizing that finding them a new home was the right choice.

I hate giving up pets. I definitely adopt pets with the plan to keep them for life, but I also understand that things can happen. The Gliders just didn’t fit here at my house. The cats constantly wanted to hunt them which kept me from taking them out as much as I would have liked to. 

When I first got the gliders, I put them in their bonding pouch and kept them with me while I worked almost every day. Unfortunately, it didn’t take the cats long to figure out what was in the pouch, and they would climb all over my desk and body trying to get the gliders.

The gliders needed a home with a glider-experienced home. I found a woman in a Facebook group that had three gliders and was looking for more. She knew about their weird diets and how noisy and smelly they could be, and she already understood what they were like as pets. I didn’t want them to go to a new glider home as I felt that the chances of them having to find another home one day was more likely. I charged a fee, not enough to get back the investment I had made in the gliders, but enough to make sure the person taking them was serious about it.

After the gliders were picked up, I realized the batch of food I had made to go home with them had been forgotten. While it wasn’t on purpose, it was nice to have an excuse to reach out and check in. The woman seemed very happy with the gliders, she had been spending time with them and was enjoying getting used to them. She did stop by a couple of days later to pick up the food I had made, super happy it didn’t all go to waste.

Things here are settling back in to “normal,” Hector is busy destroying boxes, the dragon has been brummating off and on. She hid out in her cave for a week or so, came out and ate, and hung out for another week or more, and now she’s back in her cave. It was nice having the gliders around to help eat her live insects when she isn’t eating!

Happy Winter! Stay warm.

New Year, New Friend!

 

Marty!

Our son is home for college break, so of course his kitten is here for the holidays as well. We were all a little nervous about introducing a fourth cat to the house, but things have gone very smoothly!

Puck and Marty

3 Boys in a Tree

Marty is used to living in my son’s dorm room with him, so he had no problem moving into my son’s bedroom here at the house. We kept the cats separate for the first couple of days, and then started letting Marty loose when we were around to supervise. We had a couple of little hissing fights here and there, but overall, they are all getting along. Marty spent the nights locked in with my son for the first couple of weeks, and he was also locked up when we were out, but now he has free run of the house.

My old lady cat, Logan, is being a little cranky with him, but he has learned to keep his distance from her. Logan would prefer to be an only cat. She and Bean often hiss at each other as well. They mostly give each other space and it’s all fine.

Hector D. Byrd

Hector really surprised me this Christmas. Usually she is petrified of anything new. I put her gift on her cage expecting her to check it out from a distance, and she went right over to it and started tearing into the paper! So brave! It took her about a week to open the toy, but she seemed to enjoy the process. She’d tear up some paper and then ignore it for a couple of days, but she finally opened it and I hung it in her cage. I’m thinking I may always wrap her new toys and let her open them. It seems like a great way for her to get used to something new.

Puck loved all the many boxes around the house for the holidays and checked every single one many times over.

It was a year ago this week that I first got the sugar gliders. Sadly, I’m in the process of looking for a new home for them. They just aren’t a good fit here. The cats are obsessed with them. I thought it would be OK with them being marsupials and not crazy little rodents, but my cats still think they are fun to hunt. I can’t take the gliders out of their cage without the cats prowling around. I have to keep the glider cage partially covered during the day and fully covered at night when they are active because I’m worried about cat claws hurting them through the bars of the cage. If one of the gliders ever happened to escape the cage, it wouldn’t have a chance. I’ve been in touch with a woman from a sugar glider group that has a couple of gliders and wants to add to her colony. She seems knowledgeable and willing to put in the time to acclimate the my boys to her others slowly. She’s coming later this month to meet the boys and take them if all goes well.

I hate rehoming pets. I believe in the home forever thing, but there have been times in my life where I have had to make the very difficult decision to find new homes for pets. Yeti, a shelter dog I adopted had to go when he wouldn’t stop biting my kids.

For a few months now I’ve been trying to make a decision about the gliders. They are so cute and soft, but I can’t really enjoy them. Living with the constant worry of them possibly escaping the cage or getting away from me when they are out isn’t fun. They don’t get out of their cage enough because of it. Quality of life for them living in a cage all the time isn’t great. Yes, I give them the best food, they have plenty of toys, and they definitely enjoy each others company, but their interaction with me is limited, and I feel that this other home where her only pets are gliders will be a better fit. Fingers crossed it all works out.

Kitties and Cali

#With the colder weather, Logan and Puck have been snuggling more. Usually, Puck finds himself a cozy spot, and Logan works her way in. Bean is a solo guy, I don’t really find him snuggling with the other cats or Cali.

Puck was happily enjoying his cozy spot until Logan moved in.

Eventually, he figured out that she wasn’t leaving, and he went back to napping.

My new Sundays food for Cali shipped, so I’m still waiting on that. Looking forward to seeing how she likes it and sharing my thoughts on it. They have been sending me emails, and I’m intrigued about it being a dehydrated food, and having a “jerky-like” texture. I think Cali might really enjoy that.  We’ll see!

 

Pets and wildlife

Cali isn’t much of a hunter!

Saw a Facebook post this weekend about a woman who was concerned her dog kept chasing and killing wildlife, chipmunks, bunnies, etc. Some people suggested muzzles. leashing, fencing, etc. I suggested a simple bell.  It gives the wildlife a bit of a warning so they have a fair chance to get away. I always encourage people with outdoor cats to make sure they have bells on their collars as well. Why not give the chipmunks a chance? 

If you are going to put a collar on your cat, indoor or outdoor, I highly recommend a break-a-way collar. I had a cat get stuck once, and it was scary. Thankfully, I was there to fix the problem right away.  My indoor cats don’t wear collars anymore. They are microchipped, so on the off chance they were to escape, they have that for ID, but my cats are all pretty afraid of the great outdoors, and we are careful to keep an eye on our doors.

Cali got a haircut this weekend, well I cut her hair. I love how she looks when her hair is longer, but with her itchy skin, it just isn’t good for her. Clipping her short allows me to keep a close eye on her skin, and also makes it easier for her weekly baths. I find oatmeal shampoo baths really help with her itchiness. I’ll see how the winter goes. I like letting her hair get a bit longer when it gets cold.

Welcome to Fall

Puck, popping out to say hello

 

First of all, I miss this blog! Not sure why I’ have gotten out of the writing habit, but hoping to get back to it regularly!

I just heard about a new dehydrated dog food called Sundays Food. Looks like a premium food, no fillers. I got a discount code to try it out, so I’ll check it out and post a review. Cali is doing pretty well with her Cytopoint injections, but maybe a healthier food option will also help. Let me know if you’ve tried it.

Not exactly pet related, but sort of… I got a new tattoo. I had a vision of some kind of tattoo that could incorporate a bunch of my present and former pets. I had the idea of a footprint path, and my amazing tattoo artist, Benjamin Jeness at Summer’s End Studios,  helped bring my idea to life.

From my ankle heading down, there are parrot claws, 4 sugar glider feet, then two each of rabbit, turtle, lizard, rat, chinchilla, ferret, cat, and dog. We simply had to include 4 glider feet since their fronts and backs are so different. I love the way it came out! I really wanted a horseshoe or two in there, but it just didn’t work out design-wise.  Maybe I’ll find a way to add one another time. They are good luck!

This handsome boy is Marty. While I consider him part of our family, he is not my kitten, he is my son’s. He is living at college and loving life. Marty is keeping my son company, helping to relieve college stress, and even providing lessons on responsibility. Marty will join our crew when my son is home on breaks.  Looking forward to getting to know him better.

Marty loves to go for walks on his leash, and loves meeting new people. He expects everyone he meets to pat him!

In general all the pet-family is doing well. I’ll post more detailed updates soon, and of course a review of that Sundays Food when Cali gets a chance to test it.

 

 

 

Work Buddy

Working at home definitely has some challenges. Trying to stay on task can be hard! Aside from the usual distractions of ringing phones, texts, laundry, etc. There are extra challenges around here!

The cats will jump on my desk and leave me toys to throw for them, or just get in my face for pats.

The dog is actually usually pretty good, other than her constant need to bark at anything.

The dragon occasionally looks at me and bangs on the glass of her tank with her little foot so I’ll let her out. She’s easy and will happily hang out on my shoulder while I work.

This morning, Hector was the needy one. She was strutting across the floor, chewing her boxes, chasing the cats, and finally, nibbling my toes! She said “Wanna come up”, so I picked her up and put her on the back of my chair. That lasted about 3 minutes before she got bored and started screeching in my ear. Time to go back to your cage Hector!

 

Always Be Learning Part 2, The Dragon

Wena’s Tank -Before The Make Over

About three years ago, I got a text from a friend who knew I had kept reptiles in the past. I used to have two snakes, and she has been pet sitting for me for years. She had a friend that needed to find a new home for a snake and a Bearded Dragon. Was I interested in either?

I definitely knew I did not want another snake. I like snakes, I think they are really interesting creatures, but I can’t stand feeding them. I didn’t really know anything about Bearded Dragons, so I told her I needed to think about it.

Dexter the Ball Python

Delilah the Western Hognose

Time to research! Bearded dragons are omnivores, so they need veggies and bugs. I can deal with that. I don’t love feeding bugs, but I won’t have any more pets that need to eat other pets (mice, rats, etc.) This particular dragon came with a tank, lights, pretty much everything I would need. Why not?!?

When I started researching, it seemed that many people believed bearded dragons shouldn’t be housed on a loose substrate, so no sand, dirt, etc. I lined my tank with some plastic shelf liner that had a little bit of texture to give my lizard some grip. The reasoning was that lizards could eat the substrate and it would cause a bowel impaction.

For over two years, I kept her on the shelf liner, she had hammocks to bask in, branches to climb, caves to hide in. Eventually, the shelf liner started to wear out, and I started researching again. Should I just replace the shelf liner? It is easy to keep clean, inexpensive, easy to replace. I started thinking it would be really nice if Wena could have some real plants instead of the fake ones I had in her tank. I researched lizard safe plants.

I came across some websites, particularly Josh’s Frogs, and The BioDude, that had articles about bioactive enclosures. More info was definitely needed! This seemed like such an amazing idea to me. My lizard could essentially live in a terrarium, live plants, bugs to live in the soil and keep the tank clean naturally!

The research told me I needed a mix of soils, sands, etc. that would help maintain the right humidity, and allow the cleaning crew insects to thrive and do their job. Josh’s Frogs offered a mix ready to use, so I purchased a bunch of that. More reading to learn what plants were safe. I found that many of the succulents I already had would be perfect for the tank, so I used a bunch of what I had and bought just a couple of bigger plants to fill in.

This is Wena’s tank today. It’s a work in progress. She has killed many plants by eating or crushing them, so I’m still replanting, and trying to figure out what works best, but here’s the thing… I LOVE this tank! It’s nice to look at now. I enjoy seeing all the plants instead of the ugly plastic tank.

It’s SUPER easy to take care of. There are springtails and isopods living in the soil. I almost never see them, but they clean up lizard poop, leftover dragon food, and decaying plant matter. Bearded Dragon poop smells awful. It is enough to stink up the entire room, but now, it just gets buried in the soil and the bugs take care of it. For maintenance, I spray the tank down with a mist of water every morning when I feed Wena. I’m sure in a few months I’ll want to do a deep clean, maybe change out the substrate, or at least some of it, but that’s it.

Top Down View

Here’s the best part of all, Wena is a totally different creature. She used to scratch at the glass of her tank when she saw me. I thought it was cute that she wanted attention, but in hindsight, I think she was bored and restless. Since switching to the bioactive tank, she eats better, she poops more regularly, she climbs, and digs, and eats some of the live plants in her tank. She hunts for bugs. She no longer taps on the glass. Sometimes when I look at the tank, it takes me a minute to figure out where she is. She has choices. Wena no longer basks in the same spot all day, every day.

I love having pets, but I do sometimes worry about them being in captivity. I think about poor Hector who never really learned how to fly. I always do what I can to enrich my pets lives and keep them mentally stimulated. I truly believe that my dragon is happier and living more naturally now. She’s more relaxed. She doesn’t just sit in the same spot all day. She made herself a nice bed of dry leaves where she sometimes naps. She has branches to climb and leaves to nibble.

Back to the reason for this article, always be learning. Three years ago when I set up the dragon tank, I thought it was the best thing for her. I didn’t want to risk impaction with a loose substrate. Now, I’ve read more. I’ve learned that with the right lighting and diet, there really isn’t a risk from the substrate. I’ve seen how happy my girl is to be digging, foraging, nibbling live plants, climbing, basking, all these natural activities are now available to her. It’s amazing to see the change. Part of being a responsible pet owner is being willing to learn, grow, and change. Take care of your pets physically and mentally. Enjoy them!

Always Be Learning Part 1

Sleepy Cali

The other day my husband was commenting that maybe we have a few too many pets. Of course I disagree, but I started wondering why I always want new pets. Yes, I enjoy spending time with them. I love watching them and learning about their behaviors, but I also love the research that happens when I get a new pet, and for a long time afterwards. I think that may be why I love exotic pets so much. Not only is there so much to learn to give exotics everything they need and keep them healthy, but the research is always changing.

I did some research before I got the sugar gliders. I knew they had strange dietary needs, needed a big cage, and might smell a bit musky. I figured out the basics, but once I had them, it was time to figure out what worked for me, and what worked for these four new little guys that I just brought into my home.

There is experimenting going on still. Which type of food bowls do they like best? Should I feed them near the top of the cage or on the bottom? How often do I need to clean them? Do they like their fruits and veggies mixed with their blended diet or separate?

A routine is finally coming together for the gliders. I’m happy with the diet I’m feeding them, they are eating well. I’ve learned I need to clean them often, but not too deeply. Too much cleaning and they get nervous and mark their territory again.

One of my gliders, Miney, is really small. I was a bit worried about him when I first got them. He’s adjusting, gaining a little weight, and becoming a bit more comfortable here. He seems to be more nervous than the others, so I’ve supplemented his feeding, and now I’m putting plenty of food in the dark, back corners of the cage where he seems to feel safest to make sure he eats.

Miney spreading his wings, photo by Dave Hamilton

Diet still may evolve as I have them longer, we’ll see! Another thing to be learned was nail clipping. I didn’t realize they would need their nails clipped every 3 weeks! They grow super sharp points, and not only does it hurt when I handle them, but it can also be a danger to the gliders because their nails get stuck on things. After watching about half a dozen videos on Youtube about how to do it, my system is falling into place. I clipped their nails again yesterday, and the boys are starting to get used to the process. They get overloaded with treats, so hopefully they are learning to see nail trimming as a positive instead of a negative.

I’m always reading and learning about my pets and animals in general. I have no doubt my glider care will evolve over time.

It took years of having Hector D. Byrd before I got to a routine that I was happy with, a diet I liked for her that she would eat well, toys she liked, routines she liked, etc. I did change her diet drastically a few months ago when I discovered Bird Street Bistro foods (which I reviewed in another post.) How could I resist a reasonably priced, healthy food that took the work out of the homemade mix I was making?

Next time I’ll share some of what I’ve learned about my bearded dragon, check back soon!