I loved living in a high rise condo in a big city. I’m a city person and have never been interested in a suburban life, but after so many years of apartment living, I was excited at the prospect of a house, a garden and more privacy. And while I loved the benefits and safety of my cats being indoor only, I wanted them to experience sunshine and chasing butterflies and grass.
If you’ve never had a bottle-baby and never intend to, please skip this post. If you are wondering why anyone would write about poo, please skip this post. Only someone who has been through hand-rearing a baby kitten would understand why I feel compelled to make a brief statement about poo.
Baby kittens can’t poop or pee on their own, the mama cat licks their genitals to stimulate defecation, and then cleans it up. When the baby doesn’t have a mama to do this, they need help. Not peeing or pooping can cause serious health issues, and I know one sad foster parent who had to have a kitten euthanized when he was unable to poop unassisted.
by Chico Loco.
Last night I had a special treat – I was allowed to stay outside of the cats room and roam the house. I had to share the privilege with Lulu and Pip, but I know mum really just wanted me to be close.
I spent most of the night roaming the house checking the ceilings for lizards. As I am the only true hunter in the house, this daily duty has fallen to me to fulfil and I can tell you, it’s a big responsibility. Normally during the daytime I have to work hard to uncover any wildlife that has been lurking since night time, but last night I was able to keep on top of the workload with regular patrols. Each room has to be checked thoroughly, one by one, and if there are small bugs or mosquitoes I need to deal with those also. When the entire house has been scanned, I have a little snack, a drink of water, then I race into mum’s room and jump on her in bed to wake her up and assure her she’s safe. Mum usually rolls around which is fun – I’ve become really good at body surfing, and I like to make sure when I’m on mum’s bed that I’m always touching her. So I walk along her legs and and arms to get to her face, then I settle on her neck or chest to tell her about my successes and after a little nap, I start the whole process again.
Last night I did about five circuits of the house, and when I did the final one, Pip and Lulu had started galloping around the house so I joined in for a while. I think mum was really pleased that we were having so much fun because she got up and let the others out of their room and fed us even though it was only 5am, a full hour before we usually get breakfast.
I was pretty hungry after being on shift all night. And also I’m not eating as much during the day. Mum has started putting biscuits in my wet food at lunch time and I don’t like it much. I love my wet food and I love my biscuits but I don’t want them mixed together. So instead of eating lunch, I just make my soundless, pitiful air-meow at mum to make her know I’m not happy. I eat extra breakfast and dinner to make up for the lost meal, but I’m sure I’m thinner already and mum will stop this awful practice once she sees that I’m wasting away.
After giving us brekky and cleaning up our room, mum went back to bed for a snooze. I’m not sure why she was so tired, she had about five naps last night but anyway…. We all came to keep her company on and under her bed, and I sat right next to her pillow and cleaned my feet and chewed all my toenails. In fact we all stayed awake grooming ourselves and mum couldn’t have been so tired after all because she mostly tossed and turned.
Then when mum got up, we all settled in for a snooze on her bed because it had started raining outside.
Fostering Tully and Shay was quite different than my other experience with bottle babies; a bit like how parenting a second child is easier than the first. The biggest difference was of course that I had four kittens with my first foster litter, which was stressful and time consuming to manage alone. Two were easier, plus – maybe because they had spent an additional two weeks with their mama – they were spotless! None of the perpetual grubbiness of my first litter, Shay was always sparkling white and they both smelled like the sweet little fluffy darlings that they were. I can’t recall now, but I don’t think they were ever bathed as babies – they just took care of themselves perfectly.
Shay was an independent, spirited little kitten from the time I collected her aged 3 weeks. She complained all the time -wow, wow, wow, WOW, wow. Non stop complaining when she was out of the nest, and very determined to do everything on her terms, not mine. Tully, on the other hand, was sweet and placid – possibly the easiest and relaxed little baby kitten I’ve ever seen. He never cried, he drank all his formula, obliged with a little burp when he was finished, then lay on his back to be de-pooped and de-peed and promptly fell asleep. Feeding Shay was much more difficult. Firstly, she would almost purse her little lips and refuse the bottle; she’d move her head to avoid insertion. If I switched to a syringe it was no better. She was so defiant! Eventually I learned that she had a process and I just needed to follow it for a smooth feeding session. When she knew there was a bottle nearby, she needed about ten minutes to suckle and knead her blanky before she would accept the bottle. So I settled into a routine of letting Shay smell the formula, putting her on my lap with her blanky while I fed Tully, then by the time he was finished, she was ready to go. Whew!
Also with my first bottle litter, there wasn’t enough time between feeds to do anything but rest, but with only two, and my houseguest Trisha who was keen to participate in the feeding (but not the de-pooping), I was actually able to have a life outside of the feeding schedule. Handy, given it was Christmas! We managed to arrange the feeding schedule so that there was enough time to go out for Christmas lunch, unhurried, and be home in plenty of time for the next feed.
The little sweethearts started to explore their surroundings more as they grew, with Tully curious and quiet, and Shay nipping at the heels of the big cats, biting Tully on the bum, and generally being a little Madam.
Trisha left on New Years Eve, and we turned in early at Kitty Central, with all the cats bunking in my bedroom for the night because of the raucous fireworks going off outside. Back home, there are organised fireworks on the harbour each year – 9pm for the kids, midnight for the grownups, and most functions gather in view of the display. In Manila, there are no restrictions on fireworks or firecrackers, so the bang-bang-bang’s start in the morning, continue all day, then once darkness descends, fireworks are hurled off balconies and set off in streets and parks. The kitties were very brave, watching the bright lights from the windows and not at all frightened by the noises.
On the fifth of January the movers came and packed up the apartment for our relocation to Cebu. I was keeping some cat toys and scratchers, the window hammocks, one third of their cat condo plus litter trays and bowls and just a bed and a table and chair for me. Basically the bare minimum we could survive on for the short time until our house in Cebu was setup, then I could take most of the remainder with me in big suitcases, and the large items would follow later.
And then we waited. And waited. Our shipment was delayed in Manila port, partly due to congestion that been ongoing for some time due to a “customs department re-organisation”, and partly because the Pope was visiting Manila. The Philippines is the third most Catholic country in the world (by population) since Catholicism was introduced during the era of Spanish colonisation, so the Pope’s visit was a big deal. As he also decided to visit the typhoon ravaged city of Tacloban on the island of Leyte, the port decided to close completely for security reasons. So our brief interlude in a bare apartment stretched on and on and on. Eventually the shipment departed Manila and we were just waiting on a time frame for delivery. I originally planned to set the whole house up in Cebu before travelling with the cats but I was tetchy and they could sense it so were behaving differently. I could tell Pip was stressed without his wheel and there was some hissing and fighting going on, and it was about this time that Maxi started to be very reluctant to go in the cats’ room at night, so she was allowed to roam free.
I couldn’t stand it any longer so decided to relocate the cats to the new house, where they could get used to their new environment and recover from the journey before our stuff arrived. I experimented with some natural calming medications for the cats to relieve the stress of the journey. I didn’t want them knocked out as I had had a bad experience with that years before, but I did want them to chill a little. I chose this one for it’s not-so-subtle effect on Kai especially! The flight was only 90 minutes, but airport regulations for travelling with pets are strict. I had to present all their vaccination papers to the Bureau of Quarantine to get authorisation for them to travel. They had to travel in IATA approved crates with access to provide them with food and water – I bought these ones from Amazon.
On moving day, we packed up everything, I gave the kitties some medication and got them in their cages – seven cages for eight cats as Tully and Shay were sharing. Two vans arrived to take the seven cages, fourteen pieces of luggage plus myself, my wonderful helper Lyn, and my friend Alex to the airport. At the airport, eleven porters came to assist us. The cats were terrified of the noise, the sights (I forgot to provide a cover for the cages), and the porters and spectators meowing at us as we passed. I snapped at the porters to stop scaring them, but the onlookers were still fascinated. After check-in, the cats were taken to a separate area and the three of us waited to board. We had to be at the airport more than three hours prior to departure, and the flight was delayed so the cats had been in their cages for more almost five hours before we even took off.
I was worried about them during the flight, knowing how frightened they must be, feeling every bump and startled by every noise. Fortunately Cebu Pacific serves alcohol (unlike Philippine Airlines domestic – why is that?) so Alex plied me with several drinks. We had been advised that the cats would come out at the same area as our luggage (which is also what happens in Australia) but on arrival into Cebu, we were told we had to pick them up from the cargo area. After collecting our bags we travelled the ten minute journey to cargo, only to be told the cargo was more than an hour away from arriving. This was the last straw for me – we had left home at 11am and it was now almost 7pm and no sign of the cats. I exploded in a stereo-typical expat torrent of tears and frustration, much to the bewilderment of the staff. It’s just cargo, right? Oh pets. Well, just cats, right? Finally the cargo arrived, in the dark, all kitties present and accounted for but very very frightened and stressed.
Alex, Lyn, the luggage, Maxi, Pip and the babies travelled in one van to the house, while Kai, Lulu, Chico and Asha travelled with me. The van didn’t have foldable seats, so the cages were propped on the seats, and I took Asha out of her cage and cuddled her all the way home, sobbing pathetically into her white fur, glad I was alone in the van. The final horror of this journey still haunts me. As we travelled home – it took more than an hour – poor Lulu’s cage kept falling off the seat, and I couldn’t get myself in a position to secure it. I can’t imagine how terrified she must have been – her ordeal was ongoing.
At last we arrived home – first priority was to get all the cages into the cats room, which was already prepared for them. Lyn was in charge of getting food and water, I sat in the room with them, while Alex took charge of getting the luggage unloaded and paying the drivers.
It was over. Needless to say, I will be spending the rest of my cats’ lives in Cebu, because I will never go through that again.
I get asked a lot about what my kitties eat. They are big (especially for local street cats) and healthy and have beautiful coats. This post contains links to the supplies I use; if you purchase after clicking the Amazon link, I receive a small commission – this money is directed to cat related charities – PurrHaven and CARA.
Indoor cats require smaller, more frequent meals than outdoor cats to help with boredom, so even though my kitties are now allowed in the garden, they are fed on a regular schedule of 6am, 12nn, 6pm. They have a small serving of wet food at each feed (about a tablespoon each) and 2 separate bowls of biscuits to share. I used to have biscuits available all the time for free-feeding; my cat in Sydney was very good at regulating his own diet and was never overweight, however not all my kitties do this and with this crew, Kai and Chico tend to overeat.
Pip has excellent metabolism, he is very energetic, eats a huge amount of food, but is always very slim. Kai is a big, muscular cat, heavier than Pip and not quite so energetic. Poor Asha eats like a bird, she picks at her wet food and dry food yet gains weight easily. She is currently overweight. After months of trying to get Lulu to gain weight, she is a healthy size; she is a petite cat with a nice round tummy. Chico is a naughty little piglet – he inhales his wet food, eats any that the others leave, then moves on to the biscuits. He’s currently a little overweight. Shay is like Pip – very energetic and very slim, but she has a small appetite too. Tully is a mini-Chico – eats a lot and pushes other cats out of the way to get more, more, more wet food! But he doesn’t like biscuits.
The wet food they eat is grain free, and usually Pride (Ritzy’s Rabbit, Daredevil’s Duck, Lovebug’s Lamb, Wellness – they prefer the minced varieties, Taste of the Wild. In the Philippines we buy from Bow & Wow. The biscuits were Royal Canin when they were little, but now it’s mostly Halo brand or Taste of the Wild.
All the kitties go to bed at 10pm and they get three dinner plate sized platters of treats. There’s usually something fresh, something dried and something crunchy, so fresh chicken breast, freeze dried liver, chicken or shrimp, Greenies or Wellness biscuits. I also squirt some vitamins around the edges – Tully runs from platter to platter licking the vitamins off! They are wonderful for underweight or sick kitties as they are high energy and the cats love them.
My mummy is having a break from writing historical posts, so instead I am in charge of writing about what I did today.
On Sundays mummy serves us breakfast outside at 6:30am. It’s a bit tough getting to the food, we all climb over each other as soon as our bedroom door is opened and then run as fast as we can to our breakfast bowls, usually trying to trip mummy up as we go. Once we reach our bowls, we are very polite and take one bowl each, but Tully and Chico eat theirs very quickly and then move on to others’ bowls. Shay and I don’t usually eat breakfast until the rush is over, and Shay prefers biscuits anyway.
I recently posted a sequence of three videos of Asha playing with this circuit. This is a piece from the middle, including me rescuing the ball she trapped, and pesky interruptions from the other cats. The track is the Bergan Star Chaser Turbo Scratcher Cat Toy and the cube – another much loved toy – is the Ninja Cat Cube, both from Amazon.
The back end of 2014 was spent planning and preparing for a number of changes in our household. I had decided to locate my new company in Cebu, the second largest city in the Philippines and one of the top ten most beautiful tropical islands in the world. I spent a bit of time travelling back and forth from Manila to Cebu to find us a house and to secure office space. I could have moved us as early as November, but a good friend was coming to stay in December for almost the whole month. We had met in Manila more than five years earlier; she arrived about the same time as me on a posting with the Australian Embassy and returned to Australia the same time that I moved to India. We had lived in the same apartment complex and she was coming back to visit former colleagues and friends. I had extended the invitation for her to stay with me over six months earlier, so I would not relocate until after her visit.
I planned for the apartment to be packed up on 5th January, leaving minimal belongings for us to live for the 7-10 days it would take for our stuff to arrive in Cebu. I’d fly to Cebu, get everything packed and set up, then return to Manila for the kitties. That was the plan anyway…..
Once I had a house picked out, I was so excited for the kitties! I did love the benefits of having indoor cats – they were always clean, always safe, and I didn’t have to worry about the wildlife, or them getting lost or injured. But I really wanted them to experience the kitty joy of lying on the grass in the shade of a tree on a sunny day, and chasing butterflies, and the sights and smells of the outdoors. How exciting for us to live in a house with a garden! I knew I’d miss my big-city views from the 30th floor of my condo, but suburban living beckoned.
There was just one thing that still bothered me, after all these months; those foster kittens Munro and Leyte, that I had never been able to recover. They haunted me, and one day I realised there was only one thing that would help. Now, I have a lot of Instagram followers, and while I don’t always thank people for their comments, I do read every single one, and I answer all questions. I also check out the (non-private) accounts of all new followers. And so it was that one day, I looked at the account of a new follower, Purr Haven Cats, and realised it was also based in Manila. And – whoa! They had a houseful of tuxies!! My only contact with a tuxie kitty was Munro, and I had loved him to bits.
I contacted Nyree from Purrhaven, and told her that if she had a tuxie kitty, I would adopt it. Just the one, and I’d prefer a little one. She didn’t have any just then, but she had just rescued a pregnant cat who was black and white, and she promised me one of the kitties when it was old enough. We kept in touch over the coming weeks, and then the mama cat gave birth prematurely – she was young and unhealthy. The first poor baby was still-born, the next three were live births – two “cow” kittens and a tiny baby panther, and sadly one of the cow-kitties died in the first night. Over the coming weeks Nyree shared information and pictures with me of these sweet little babies, until one day the vet said they would be better off separated from their mama who was unwell and not producing enough milk. Of course I wasn’t going to say no to another house panther! And in my nice big house in Cebu, an extra two kitties would be just fine. I collected the two babies, when they were there weeks old and brought them home – my houseguest was travelling for the weekend but had a nice surprise when she returned! I named them Tully and Shay, Irish names for a very good friend of mine. The mama cat, still with Nyree, has also been given an Irish name – she is now Bailey and a really beauty.
My household of six kitties, two babies and a houseguest celebrated Christmas together, and ushered in the New Year with much anticipation of our upcoming move.
Shay joined the Kitty Central family in December 2014 with her brother Tully. Their mama was rescued from the streets by Nyree, who runs PurrHaven Cat Sanctuary from her home in Manila. The mama cat was pregnant and not in great health, and she gave birth prematurely to four kittens. One was stillborn, one died during the first night, and the remaining two were nursed by their mama but as she wasn’t well, they needed to be bottle fed. The vet recommended they be separated from the mama cat in case she passed anything onto them, so at the age of three weeks, they came to live with me.
When a baby kitten is with it’s mama, the mama cat licks the kitten’s genitals to stimulate defecation, and then cleans it up. Babies who are raised away from their mamas need help with this, so the most common way is to gently lie the baby on it’s back, and massage the lower tummy and genital area with a warm damp cotton ball.
Shay would have none of this! She refused to lie on her back, or lie still at all. She had too much to complain about! The first days were extremely frustrating until I realised that she had a process and lifewould be easier if I just bent to her will, instead of expecting her to bend to mine. When she was hungry, she needed to smell the milk bottle, then suckle and knead on her blanky for about ten minutes. When she was done, she would take the bottle or syringe with no problems. But any sooner than that and it was just a battle of wills. And de-pooping her required her to be right-way-up, not on her back, and just massage the genitals from that position, from the rear. It wasn’t as easy but it got the job done.
As soon as she was tottering around, she was biting her brother, nipping at the big cats heels and exploring widely. She was absolutely fearless, which made some of the big kitties (notably Kai) very unhappy. Kai was just plain afraid of her; she would wobble towards him and he would back away, eyes wild, then turn and run. If he wasn’t fast enough, she would swat his heels and bite his toes. She was about two inches tall! And she complained all the time. Wow, wow, wow, wow, wow, wow, wow, wow, wow, wow, WOW! Non-stop wowing while she was awake. And no cuddles, don’t even think about trying to cuddle her – she was way too busy.
Shay started out like this and she continued in this trend until she was over six months old. Her technique for dealing with the big kitties was to walk up to them and bite them. If I tried to stroke her, she swatted and bit my fingers. She is the only cat to climb the screen doors, the first to climb onto the air con unit from the Hi-Cat, the first to wiggle the door open and escape, well before the kitties were allowed outside. But as she got older (and maybe after she was spayed), I noticed she was always in the same room that I was in (most of the cats are, but Shay is always close). She would sometimes come and sleep next to my hip on the sofa. Lyn reported that when I was out, Shay followed her around the house, supervising closely. And the sweetest of all, was that she was and is to this day, attached to her brother like a conjoined twin. They play together, sleep together, play fight, chase each other around the house and the garden. Different personalities, but as close as close can be. I am so happy these two never were, and never will be separated.
Pip was found at the tender age of four weeks on the median strip of a major arterial road in Manila, Epifanio de los Santos, or “EDSA”. He was taken to the CARA shelter, which is actually the garage of the President of CARA (Compassion and Responsibility for Animals), where he stayed in a cage for the next three months, and was named Edsell. When I visited him, I thought he was so tiny! And he was very thin, with all his ribs showing, but he had a fat tummy so I knew he was about to have a growth spurt. His eyes, ears and purr were all enormous, as were his paws. He came home with me a few days after I met him.
At home, I had a guest bedroom set up for the two cats I was getting – they would be Pip and Maxi. I didn’t have any furniture at that stage as it was stuck in storage in India, from where I had just returned from a 12 month posting. I just had a few cat toys and a low foam chair in the cats’ room. So for the first two days, I sat in the room with Pip while he sniffed everything, played with my toes, and generally got comfortable with his new environment. I had a little soft kitty mattress over by the window where it was warmest, and when I left the room, Pip would hurry over to his mattress and hop on, and he would be there when I returned. He was a sweet little boy, very friendly.
As Pip grew up, his body and legs grew very long and lean and he is striking with his tiger striped leggings and little white socks. He eats a lot, but doesn’t gain weight. He established himself as the big friendly brother for all the kitties that came into the house, grooming them, checking on them, and playing with them. He has loads of energy so likes to gallop around, and one of his favourite game, which he himself officially invented, is “bite-yer-bum-chasey”. He will nip another cat on the bottom then run off, inciting them to chase him – he loves this! When the other cat catches him, they bite him on the bum in return and then run off. Whoever isn’t involved in this game will gallop after the two main players to join in the fun. It sounds like there is a stampede in my house!
Before the cat condo and many cats arrived, Pip would have a cuddle in extravagant positions, sprawled all over me, but he hasn’t done that for well over a year, which is a bit sad. He doesn’t much like being stroked when he’s up and about, but loves attention, and purrs loudly, when he’s snoozing. He quite likes being picked up and carried, as long as I keep moving. Once I stop, or sit down – he’s gone.
When we moved to Cebu and I was getting the cats used to going outside, I thought Pip would love it! If I went outside, and especially if I had a swim in the pool, Pip would go nuts inside, hurtling himself at the windows as if trying to get outside to rescue me. So when I first took him outside, in a cuddle walk around the garden, I was happy that he purred all the way. We walked around in the sunshine, looking at the birds, smelling the bushes and the flowers, listening to the wind rustling in the trees, and Pip purred and purred! The next day when I did the same thing, poor Pip shook all the way, his little body was positively vibrating! I realised sadly that he hadn’t been purring in happiness, he had been purring to comfort himself as he was stressed. We had a few cuddle walks before Pip wandered around on a harness, and then the cat fence was built and by then he was enjoying his outside time. He’s a bit of a loner, and often will be alone on the catio, snoozing in a hammock.
The most recent adventure of Pip was a dip in the pool – which I am thankful that I missed. He likes to walk along the edge looking for insects trying to clamber up the side of the pool, and then he fishes them out with his paw. One morning I noticed he was a bit damp on the scruff of the neck and thought he had been fighting, but when I picked him up, his entire body was a little damp, and soft and fluffy from an impromptu wash. I’m not sure if he fell in near the steps so was able to get out easily, or if he was able to get out the deep end. It’s worrying, but I don’t have an easy solution.
I bought the wheel for Pip to help him burn off his energy and he adores it. When we moved to Cebu, he had been without the wheel for almost a month, as our shipment of goods was delayed in Manila port due to the Pope’s visit. When I let them out of their room after the removalists had delivered our belongings, he saw his wheel and ran up to it in glee! He kept running for a few minutes, hopping off, getting back on, running, hopping off…..he was beside himself with excitement. Also quite funny, since we’ve moved to Cebu, he’s taken to warbling while he’s on the wheel. It’s quite a funny noise, made all the funnier with the rhythm of his little paws on the treadmill. I commented on it on Instagram once and a follower said their cat also does the “Marge Simpson”, which is a perfect description!!
Pip is a rule-following good boy, if there is pee or poop somewhere it shouldn’t be, it wasn’t Pip. If there is fighting, it’s never Pip unless he was provoked. Pip is my second-in-charge in the house, and everyone knows it.