Sunday, 24 February 2013

Mysterious Marking

I am baffled by this. On Wed evening I was exhausted and had cancelled my evening plans so that I could come home and curl up in the big armchair in the dining room/summer sitting room. I didn't want to go straight to bed as I was concerned it was too early and I'd only waken at midnight and be unable to get anymore sleep. I fed the cats, made a hot drink and went into the dining room to put the radiator on. As I opened the door I was stunned by the vile, pervasive smell of cat urine that has been used to mark territory.

I cannot adequately put into words how upset I was. I have an abhorrence of noxious smells and do everything I can to eradicate unpleasant smells in my environment. Even at work my need for a fresh smelling environment is well known and even a source of wry amusement.

My tiredness evaporated in distress and I spent a good half hour feeling and sniffing everything in that room including carpet, rug, furniture, walls and curtains/blinds. I knew I wasn't looking for a wet mark as the cats were last in that room on the Sunday and I check the doors are locked each evening and hadn't smelt anything out of the ordinary the night before. I wondered if it was the zylkene that had made one of them do it but the drug promotes relaxation and tolerance. Had Red done it as his drug wore off?

My cats have never spray marked anything as they are housecats unused to having to do so, but we are on the ground level now and a number of cats, squirrels, birds and foxes pass by the patio doors. Magic had followed me in and seemed to be reacting around the patio doors but I just couldn't locate where it was coming from, though it did seem stronger around the patio doors. As I couldn't deep clean the whole dining room or find the offending spot I closed the door until I could do something effective and also because the smell was revolting. I reckoned the only thing I could try until I could get a UV blacklight was to wash down the outside of the patio doors in case the smell was from an animal having smelt my cats and trying to mark the territory externally. Again, I couldn't see anything but it was dark so I set to work with a bucket of soapy boiling water and lots of rinse with copious lavender and paid attention to the seams where the doors and frame met.

I ordered a blacklight from amazon but the confirmation showed it would take between 3 and 30 days as apparently it is coming from Singapore! I had to order a second one the following morning from a UK supplier for next day delivery as I was desperate to identify the spray mark so that I could work on getting rid of it. My plan was vanish for the enzymatic action on the offending spot, carpet cleaner with the oxi formula to get any residual smell out of the carpet and rug, curtains, voiles and all removable fabrics into a wash and then steam clean the life out of everything just for good measure. I know this seems like overkill but the smell was so bad.

This is where things get odd, distinctly so. I went in to check the room when I came home on Thurs evening and the smell was radically reduced, then the next morning before the blacklight arrived it was gone, totally. I am mystified. On Friday evening when it was dark I went over the whole room minutely with the blacklight, CSI-stylee, and found...nothing! In the absence of the smell or a stain I can only presume the smell had been outside but I am left with a lingering paranoia that I have become accustomed to the smell.   

Zylkene Trial - Days 6-8

Dose Given : half a capsule

This seems to be an effective regime. Red is calmer, less shocked by external noises and very loving. He is more keen for cuddles and choosing to sleep beside me on the sofa in the evening. He is still bright and continues to engage Magic in play fighting and leaping on her back as she runs for her life before confronting him and hissing wildly. In fact when I think about it, although Red is terrified of external noises he is responsible for most of the noise in the house!

Bin day was his big challenge and it didn't go as well as it did last week when he was spaced out. However, although he headed to the door, he left his tail in the room so was obviously sitting just on the other side of the door. On his last return curiosity overcame him and he sat up on the back of the sofa and watched them do their work before coming to sit on me to continue to peer out the window. Although he was not as brave as last week this week's collection was the noisier green bin collection and the fact he was showing more interest than fear is a big leap forward for him.

Zylkene Trial - Day 5

Dose Given - half

Red is probably back to his normal alert self, for that read hyper-alert. Clearly the zylkene has worn off. Going from his current scaredy cat to spaced-out love cat every two days is not good but at least it has given me a feel for how the drug affects Red. Therefore, the plan is half a dose each evening with his Lik-e-lix to see if he can find a new normal of being relaxed.

Magic is a bit baffled by how she isn't getting a treat, so a half a cat stick seems to be an acceptable appeasement.

Zylkene Trial - Day 4

Doses Given: nil

Red seems to be doing well on the drug but  seems to get a prolonged effect from the drug leaving him just a wee bit too chilled. He is even more loving than usual and desperately keen to bestow me with soaking wet licks/kisses all over my hands and forearms. This may be because the drug is very effective in his case or because he weighs as much as a puff of air and needs less. Anyway, as he still looks like a lost child of the 60's flower power generation giving out slobbery licks of love I decided to give him his Lik-e-Lix treat without the drug to see how he gets on, as well as giving my well loved hands and wrists a chance to dry out!

Monday, 18 February 2013

Zylkene trial - Day 3

Doses given: full dose 

Red had a great sleep last night. I know because I couldn't sleep because I was draped with two zonked cats! He was still chilled and relaxed this morning. Tonight when I came home he was a bit jittery and watching the door as the neighbour was doing some DIY.

I'd bought some Lick-e-lix youghurt treat to hide the powder in as hiding it in his food didn't work particularly well as proved by yesterday. He loved the LeL with the zylkene and no doubt I'm going to have to try to claim a place in bed so that I don't waken up par-boiled by two furnace hot cats.

Sunday, 17 February 2013

Zylkene trial - Day 2

Doses given: Very little
Accidental dose given: hopefully very little!

One day in and I've done exactly what I was trying to avoid!!

After giving Red a capsule of zylkene yesterday I did think he was more chilled and snuggly with me and a bit soggy 'licky' with my arm. However, as it was a relaxed weekend sort of day with little requirement for activity by human or feline then I could be mis-attributing this to the effects of the drug.

This morning I tried to normalise the drug administration by popping it in a little bit of gourmet gravy, in a normal bowl and giving it to a hungry Red without me standing over him. That didn't work. Turns out he wasn't that hungry and when I peeped in to see how he was getting on, there was a significant tortoiseshell rump in the 'bum up, head down' position lapping up the gravy and drug! This proves the drug is palatable and easily hidden in their food but little else. Magic is currently out cold in the dining room. No idea if this is drug related as it is Sunday and she doesnt look any different from her normal chilled state. I'll only know if it has had an effect on her if I have to 'pour' her into bed tonight.

It is still the weekend and, tho' I need to shift soon, I am still making the most of the down time. Which is why I nearly missed the first objective sign that the zylkene might be working for Red after one, and possibly a bit more, doses.

The bin men came with their big noisy lorry to do some bulk uplifts and I glanced up idly as I'm sitting at the window, watching tv and reading the papers on the internet. What I didn't immidiately 'twig' was that Red was still sitting up on the back of the sofa beside me watching them. He is great with me but if any noisy threat appears he legs it in blind terror leaving me to my fate, unlike Magic the magnificent who goes into her protective ' who dares come near my human' challenge mode.

When I realised what Red was doing I went to get the camera and he only moved to go in front of the net curtain to see them better! This is momentous, as the bin men and their noisy lorries terrify him the moment he hears them, even when he is at the back of the house. It was the bin men's arrival that caused him to bolt on his one and only trip into the garden  last year as he could hear them from there. Yet today he is full of curiosity on the window ledge and was even watching them leave!! One up for zylkene I think.

Update: Magic obviously got more of the drug than I thought. She is absolutely stoned. She got up when I told her I was going out so that she could go in the bedrooom. She jumped off the sofa, looked confused, tried some tentative steps with her front paws only which clearly didn't feel right, then rolled onto her side to rub her ear/face up and down the carpet in bliss. I had to carry her to the room where she sat on the bed shaking her head.
I tried Red again later with the drug in the gravy but he would not buy it at all and just kept scraping and pawing the tiled floor around the bowl. 

Saturday, 16 February 2013

Vet visit and chemical chill

Doses given: First dose

Time for the annual vaccines and health check visit again. This time it was left purposely for 18months as they both had serious reactions the last time. Hopefully, this time we are ok as both seem fine 3days on.

In discussing Red's psycho fear of any noises or visitors the vet suggested a new drug based on digested milk proteins. I took some (for him!) to be started a couple of days or so post-vacc to see if it would calm him and make him less reactively stressed. He is fine and very loving with me and quite boisterous around the house and Magic but others stress him terribly. It seems this drug works miraculously for some animals but has a variable onset and duration depending on the particular animal.

The drug seems not to have any side effects and owners on various forums are in the main raving about how 'Fluffy has stopped over grooming and spraying' or 'Rover has stopped using the postman as a chew toy'. A colleague also shared her positive experience of the drug with her tigger-style spaniel. Those who are unimpressed find it hasn't worked rather than because it had any side effects.

Coincidentally, I also found out it has been available for humans and was sold by Boots at even greater cost, mg per mg, than the animal version for what is just digested milk. However, bizarrely, the human version seems to be criticised on other sites as totally ineffective with a poor evidence base in the same way homoeopathy is decried as being totally reliant on the placebo effect. Certainly there appears to be a lack of good evidence to explain and reproducibly demonstrate why this drug is an effective anxiolytic, particularly in humans, so the scepticism seems justified. But, what I don't understand, is why is the drug so effective in animals when it is hidden in their food? How can an animal show such significant behavioural changes resulting from a purely placebo effect when they are unaware the drug has been hidden in their food?

Something doesn't add up but, as I can find no side effects or risks that would put my beloved little bundle of fear at any harm, I think this Pixie Dust worth a try. So this morning he had the powder from his first one hidden in some aerosol cream. I thought I would try it this way first so that I know he is getting the full dose initially before putting it in the food and risking the eternally chilled Magic getting even more horizontal till I know if it works for Red!

Sunday, 10 February 2013

Privacy please

Cats are intensely private animals but don't seem to extend this courtesy to others. This includes the fact that even my bathroom related activities are a communal event.

In our new house I am still struggling to come to terms with living 'low down' and knowing that people can see in the windows. For this reason we have vertical blinds, net curtains and curtains proper...overkill?....ya, think? I'm sure the neighbours think this is weird as the blinds at the front of the house are closed most of the time. Mainly of this is for privacy but, a little bit of it is refusing to conform, as the neighbours use blind opening as an indicator to check when people get up in the morning! I am sure with time accepting that people passing by can peer over the hedge will become the norm but for now the need for privacy is winning. However, in the meantime Red is NOT helping.

If I am using the front living room during the day I let the net curtains provide their screening and I sit on the sofa which is parallel to the window which means I am more or less hidden. Theoretically this should work, however, every time Red jumps from the window ledge to the back of the sofa he manages to hook the curtain over the sofa which leaves me in full view of the street. Way to go boy, that's really helping me manage my privacy issues.....! 

Cats on Duty

Cat's work shifts - who knew...?

Recently I was rather floored by a sneaky and rather unpleasant 'double dip' cold. Initially it was a dreadful cough but over the weekend I didn't feel quite so deathly. Unfortunately, over the next couple of days, despite me insisting I was getting better to my colleagues, I was finally beaten by it. I got up for work and realised post-shower I'd used up all my energy and couldn't keep up with my runny nose.   

After making the dreaded 'I can't come to work call', I stumbled to the sofa to medicate myself, increase the profits for Kleenex Balsam and sleep in between coughing myself awake. The cats predictably came to comfort me/use me as a life sized hot water bottle.

Over the days I was unwell and not moving much I noticed a really odd pattern. Initially both cats tried be find a space on the sofa to be with me but, given that Magic refuses to see Red in her road, this was not working out well. So, one cat would sit with/on me and the other one would wander off and sleep in the dining room. However, at 10pm each night the 'off duty' cat would come and relieve the other one and that cat would stay with me until 10pm the next night. After the first couple of days of this I watched the pattern and, sure enough at 10pm, it was shift change time.

I've noticed at weekends or holidays one cat with be around more than the other, then the next day the other cat will be more conspicuous, but this was really marked and time specific. To be fair they were both excellent and very conscientious carers but I wonder what would have happened if I had been unwell for longer...would they have wanted some days off, would they have wanted overtime or worse, would they have got one of the local cats in to do a locum shift to let them get some rest...??? Luckily, I got better and went back to work, so we will never know.