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  • Jodi Blake

10 Discoveries as New Cat Owners

Black cat and brown tabby cat lay entwined in an upholstred chair
Fritz and Sally lounge together in a chair.

They say that owning a cat is like having a tiny, furry roommate with nine lives and an attitude. Multiply that by two, and you've got a whirlwind of chaos and cuteness that has completely taken over our lives. We recently welcomed two bundles of fur into our home, and let's just say, our definition of "peace and quiet" has taken on a whole new meaning.


Let me introduce Fritz, a large all-black male, and his sister Sally, a brown tabby. They joined our family through my mom, who adopted them when one of her friends was looking for someone to take the last two kittens from a litter born to a feral mama cat. When mom saw a photo of the kittens, she couldn’t resist saying “yes.” I became acquainted with Fritz and Sally when I visited my mom, not knowing that I would be temporarily fostering them in a few months when my mom was hospitalized with some major health issues. Despite three months back in her home with Fritz and Sally last summer, Mom ended up back in the hospital and eventually in a nursing home. At that point, hubby Dan and I decided we would adopt the cats permanently.


Photo 1: Cute kitten Sally finds a comfortable spot on the cat tree. / Photo 2: Cuddling kittens Sally and Fritz during their first stay at our home. / Photo 3: Kitten Fritz loves tearing off the feathers from a cat toy.


I never considered myself a cat person, although I’m an animal lover at heart. I certainly enjoy interacting with other people’s cats. Having cats full time, however, was going to be a learning experience, as you would expect. I'm excited to share the 10 biggest lessons my family has learned so far in our journey to becoming seasoned cat parents.


Discovery 1: The Benefit of a Varied Diet

When it came to feeding these two new fur babies, we followed my mom’s lead – half a can of wet kitten food for each along with dry kitten chow. Both cats seemed excited for the wet food each morning and nibbled on the dry kibble throughout the day.


During a later vet visit, I wanted to confirm that we were feeding the cats a good diet and wondered if wet or dry food was better for them. The veterinarian surprised me by saying it was good that the cats were eating both types of food, so they wouldn’t be as picky later in life if their diet had to change for health reasons. Who knew? Well, I didn’t until that moment.


Discovery 2: Spay and Neuter ASAP

There’s no question that controlling the cat (and dog) population is critical. Too many animals are born with no one to care for them, and it’s cruel that they suffer on their own. Even if they end up in a shelter, it’s still possible that all the cats won’t get adopted and may be euthanized.


Fritz and Sally were still pretty young when my mom was first hospitalized, so she had not yet taken them to the vet for these procedures. Therefore, we reached out to our local Humane Society to schedule procedures for them both soon after they joined our household, especially when we learned that a female cat could become pregnant as early as 4 months old! With a male and a female cat in the same household, we did not hesitate to protect us all from having more kittens to care for. We were thrilled that both Fritz and Sally recovered easily from their procedures – even if they weren’t too happy about wearing cones around their necks to prevent them from licking their stitches.


Discovery 3: How Did You Get Up There?

Photo 1: Fritz surveys the room from atop the tall bookcase. / Photo 2: Sally prefers sitting inside the bookcase. / Photo 3: Sally hangs out on top of the refrigerator -- perhaps comtemplating a jump on top of the upper kitchen cabinets (in the background).


Even as kittens, Fritz and Sally auditioned as daredevils, mainly by climbing up on the tallest perches in a space – on top of the partition wall between my mom’s living room and kitchen, on the mezzanine balcony in her garage, and now on top of the 7-foot-tall bookcases in our living room and also atop the refrigerator and upper cabinets in the kitchen. Whenever we find them – usually Fritz – looking at us from a lofty perch, we must ask how they found their way up there and how they plan to get back down. Well, we know the answer: their ability to jump several feet upwards is truly amazing! And thankfully, both cats can also manage to get themselves back to floor level without any issues.


Discovery 4: Christmas Tree Moratorium?

It was early December when we first took in the cats (barely past the kitten stage) while my mom was in the hospital. Just before she was admitted, I had set up our artificial Christmas tree but had not yet decorated it. I knew cats and the Christmas tree would not be a good mix, so I asked my kids to take down the tree.


A group of two woman and one man who are holding two cats in front of a small Christmas tree
All the kids at Christmas -- Isabel holding Fritz, Ryan holding Sally, and Rachael

By the next Christmas, the cats were living with us permanently. I still wasn’t ready to introduce the cats to the tree that would seem like a brand-new climbing course with lots of hanging ornaments to bat at. Instead, I set up a smaller tree that I decorated with plastic ornaments. I could easily move the tree into our bedroom at night or whenever the cats were unsupervised. That arrangement seemed to work well, so I tried leaving the tree out in the living room one night – only to find it knocked over the next morning. Not all experiments are successful.


I’m hoping I can someday set up and enjoy the Christmas tree when the cats are more mature.


Discovery 5: Sally’s Odd Habit

Sally seems drawn to me, especially when she jumps up to lay down in my lap. It must be a good napping spot, but it’s not the only spot she favors. I can often find her at my feet when I’m sitting down. She loves to sniff at my feet (not an action I would recommend) and rub her face against my foot – probably to help scratch an itchy spot. After that, she sprawls out on the floor next to or partially on my feet. It’s her invitation to bend down to scratch her belly.


Naturally, Sally’s behavior made me curious. After a quick search online, I found that cats can sit or lay at a person’s feet for many reasons – perhaps because they feel safe being near that person or they may be staking out their territory, which includes you. (This Vet Explains Pets article covers more possible explanations.)


Discovery 6: Am I a Bird or a Cat?

As noted earlier, I have been around several cats before, so I’m familiar with the meows and purring sounds they make. I have never, however, heard a cat make a chirping noise while fixating on a nearby bird. Both Fritz and Sally “keep guard” over our deck and backyard, which they can see from several windowsills and the patio door. Birds often land on the deck railing or in some shrubs just outside Dan’s office window, so the cats are naturally attracted to them – all behavior I was prepared for. Then one day I heard a new sound and realized it was coming from Sally. She was chirping while creeping towards the window with her eyes fixated on a bird outside. I’ve witnessed this behavior several times from both Fritz and Sally.


According to cat behaviorists (as noted in this article), this chattering or chirping noise can signal a cat is imitating bird sounds, is excited (probably for a potential meal), is frustrated or anxious because it can’t catch the prey, is initiating its prey sequence that’s used when hunting, or is simulating the killer bite reflex used on prey (an involuntary mouth movement that is controlled by the cat’s motor system).


Discovery 7: Technophobes

We are a fairly tech savvy family, but it seems that the cats are not fans. Sally mainly expresses her disdain by chewing through any charger and power cables she can get her teeth on! So now I charge my phone on my bathroom vanity, since the cats are not allowed into our bedroom and ensuite bathroom.


Black cat sits by automatic water station
A young Fritz checks out the first water fountain (before Sally chewed through the power cord).

Both cats found ways to sabotage the automatic watering stations we bought for them. The first one had a power cord, so we placed it at the end of our kitchen island because we could easily plug it into the electrical outlet there. You guessed it! Sally took care of that power card within a week. So, Dan ordered a cordless unit (it’s chargeable with a remover cable). Problem solved, right? Wrong. Fritz decided he would bite the waterspout, which then dislodged the top tank part from the charging base under it. The result: a water puddle next to the non-functioning water fountain.


We aren’t totally giving up on making our kitties love techy things as much as we do. First, we plan to try using Velcro strips to attach the top and base pieces of the water fountain. And second, we have our eye on a robotic litter box – since none of us loves scooping out the litter box.


Discovery 8: Bathroom Buddies

Whether it’s because they are curious or they just love us so much, Fritz and Sally are almost always in the same room as us. They race up the stairs ahead of me if I’m going to my sewing room, and they follow Dan to his office if he’s working from home. As I’m writing this post, I see two curled up furry bodies in the chair next to mine.


So why shouldn’t they also insist on being with us in the bathroom? Before their arrival, I assumed they could care less where we were. Instead, Fritz likes to jump against the bathroom door to push it open and then saunter in and jump up on the toilet tank behind me (for what reason I cannot discern!). Sally will also wander in and check all the corners. I’m still not sure what she’s looking for. I’m just happy that neither one of them has figured out how fun it would be to unroll the toilet paper.


Discovery 9: Gardening Helpers

I don’t think cats are natural gardeners (no green paws), but Fritz and Sally both seem quite fond of plants – real and artificial. I made this discovery after finding dirt spilled outside some potted plants on my mom’s screened porch when they were kittens. Sally especially enjoyed inspecting the plants – maybe to check if they needed water based on the dryness of the soil. I quicky relegated Mom’s plants to the guest room that was made off limits to inquiring cats. So, when these two would-be gardeners moved in with us, I had to do the same with my plants, which now hang out in the corner of my bathroom.


They both also like to check out my artificial plants – mainly testing whether they taste good or not. Now I find out-of-reach locations for my floral arrangements or else learn to live with chomped-on leaves and chewed off foliage.


Discovery 10: Watch the Bouncing Ball

Even as a kitten, Sally has exhibited a strong interest in sports – as long as there is a ball to follow on the TV screen. I was watching a soccer match at my mom’s house, and Sally jumped up in front of the screen to watch and then tried to catch the soccer ball as the players kicked it around the pitch.


Cat raises paw to catch the ball on TV during a tennis match
Sally tries to catch the tennis ball on the TV screen.

She still does the same thing at our house whenever I’m watching soccer or tennis. Now if only I knew which team or player she is rooting for!


Moving from New Cat Owners to Seasoned Pet Parents

As we interact with Fritz and Sally every day, I’m sure we will observe more behaviors to surprise us and make us laugh or sometimes get frustrated. I’m glad they seem happy being with us in our home – now their home, too. For me, the cats also provide a connection to my mom, who had a big heart and couldn’t say no when two little kittens needed someone to care for them.


We still have more to learn as new cat owners about these new furry family members, and I hope Fritz and Sally will be patient with us as we do.


 

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~ Heather M. and Jodi B.

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2 Comments


Guest
5 days ago

I can relate to much of this with the cats I have had including our current tabby who I found 16 years ago as a tiny kitten on our farm. She was boisterous and often in to everything for the first several years and still takes a naughty notion every once in a while but mostly is pretty chill. Rafiki seeks out laps and love--more so now as her puppy playmate since her first year passed last fall. 😔


You have two lucky cats whose re-homing gave your mom peace of mind. I especially like that one is my namesake though I was first taken aback upon seeing the section titled "Sally's Odd Habit" . . . but I promise…

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Guest
6 days ago

As a cat parent myself, I really enjoyed this post, especially the info about the chirping noises. Bravo to your family for welcoming these adorable felines into your home.—LB

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