Cats and Dogs

Why is it so hard to get anything into a cat’s mouth? I’m not talking about the things they put into their mouths of their own accord. I’m talking about anything other than that. Anything a human wants a cat to eat and/or swallow, all the cats I’ve ever had have on principle point blank refused to touch.

I love cats, but it’s like they’re of the conviction that they simply can’t be seen to ingest anything I desperately want them to take. The usual dry food that’s put into their bowls almost carelessly, will be eaten without much fuss but as soon as I very badly want them to take something else, they just won’t do it. (That said, the food in the middle of the bowl always gets eaten first and if a “hole” then appears in the middle of the food they’ll sit in front of the bowl and look from the bowl to us contemptuously as is to say: “It’s empty”. Cats really do know how to do a PO face. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a dog do a PO face for that matter.) Child No 2’s cat, Maya, will hunt lizards in the garden and carry them inside in her mouth on an almost daily basis. She’ll happily put that in her mouth because it was her idea. That’s the trick – it has to be her idea.

Maya got sick a few weeks ago and had to be given antibiotics twice daily. I’d bought a pet piller a while ago, to help us give her her anti-worming tablets. The pet piller has a long handle. The tablet is inserted in the front and once the cat’s mouth is open you squeeze a little “trigger” and it pops the tablet in their mouth. Sounds simple enough doesn’t it?

It wasn’t. In fact, all the parts of the instructions that involved something that the cat had to do, she didn’t do. Zero compliance. The first problem was to get her to actually open her mouth. As soon as we approached with the pet piller in hand she sensed a forced ingestion of something that wasn’t her idea. Red alert! Run! If we’d already caught our normally tame and tolerant cat, she’d bring out the nails. And all the while she clammed her jaws shut tightly.

The instructions (which had clearly not been written for our cat, or for ordinary folk with no cat-hypnosis skills) said to tilt their head back and their mouth would open. Yeah right. They clearly haven’t met Maya. I tilted her head back and her mouth was still shut as tight as an oyster. She wasn’t planning on following any instructions that made it easier for us.

Once I’d pried open her mouth the instructions are to pop the tablet into her throat and with her head still tilted back her reflex would be to swallow it. Well, that’s a nice theory. My husband popped the tablet in her mouth but once it was inside her reflex was to keep her mouth open and try to spit the offending, invasive thing right out. So after keeping her mouth pried open (whilst keeping her head tilted back) until the tablet was safely in, I had to shut her mouth for her and keep it shut while I rubbed her throat. At that point she swallowed.

We worked all of this out by trial and error. The “error” part is assuming she didn’t mean to scratch us the first few times. Child No 2 would pick her up wherever she was lying unsuspecting. I’d be ready with a blanket and the pet piller would have been pre-prepared with one and a half tablets already inserted. I’d wrap her in the blanket while Child No 2 is still holding her. Next I’d take her head, tilt it back and hold it there. Then I’d have to open her mouth with my other hand and hold it open so my husband could pop in the tablet. Then I’d close her mouth and rub her throat and only after we’d seen her swallow we’d let her go.

The first time we did it we weren’t very good at it and the poor cat leopard crawled away and hid underneath our bed for the rest of the day. She was quite traumatised and we felt terrible but we had to do it. She’s such a loveable, playful and cuddly cat that even gets on with the dogs, but just don’t ask her to swallow something that wasn’t her idea. An army of three was required to get the tablets into this mild tempered, cute cat of ours. The question was how else to get tablets into her without putting them into a wriggly lizard-shaped tuna-flavoured edible shape which we left out in the garden so she could think it was her idea to get it and then eat it?

I tried to crush the tablets as finely as I could and mixed them into specially bought deluxe wet cat food but she smelt this rat a mile away and turned up her nose. The food bowl sat untouched for the rest of the day. Until one of the dogs ate it in one clean sweep. One very happy (unnecessarily medicated) dog. She wasn’t going to be fooled that easily. So the only option left was for the three of us having to medicate our tame and very sweet natured cat.

Thank goodness it’s easier to medicate dogs. Every time I’m in the kitchen the dogs are close by, in case they might score a little treat. They’ll eat just about anything I give them and they get so excited about it. It’s like they think it has to be good because us humans eat it. Anything that’s not their usual fare and comes out of the kitchen, they would gulp down without question and eagerly look up at you for more. None of this looking at the food bowl with disdain and the walking away slowly as if to say: “is that really the best you can do?” For the dogs I don’t even have to disguise tablets. I simply put it inside a little piece of meat and they swallow it in a split second. No chewing. They look up at me as if to say: “Oooh yes! Medication time!” And once they’ve swallowed it they sit with wagging tails looking like: “More of that please! More medication or whatever it is you call it! I’ll have some more!”

Thankfully Maya is better now and we don’t have to give her the antibiotics anymore. I started feeling a bit traumatised myself. I hated it upsetting her like that. The vet suggested we also give her some more wet food, but she’s so suspicious since I spiked some with crushed antibiotics that she won’t touch it. Child No 2 eventually mixed some tuna in with the wet cat food (sans antibiotics) and Maya finally, gingerly, ate some of that. She still much prefers her good old dry pellets. And to think we’re doing all of this for her own good. She certainly doesn’t think so!

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Back to being playful, shaved paw and all

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Back to normal, owning her world (and our table tennis table)

Perth: A Dog-Friendly Place with Friendly Dogs

Every time I go out for a walk I see people walking their dogs. The dogs always look so excited at the prospect of meeting another person (Yay! Someone else who can give me attention!). They look up with anticipation and try to come over to say hello. I’ve had dogs run up to me on and off their leads. One morning a particularly boisterous fully grown German Shepherd made a beeline for me in a park, off his lead. Having grown up in South Africa where dogs aren’t only pets but also guard dogs, any random dog charging you was something to be wary of. For a split second I wasn’t sure what to think and then realised that everything about this big boy’s bouncing body language was pure playfulness. All he wanted to do was say hello. On another occasion a puppy ran up to me and just wanted to play. His owner was right there in their driveway but pup didn’t want me to continue on my walk. After I stopped and played for a minute he just wanted to play some more.

Every day people are out walking their dogs and the dogs get even more excited when they spot a fellow canine. They run over and sniff hello with tails wagging. Some days the dogs are friendlier than their owners and one can’t help but think that the dogs of Perth are very friendly.  Of course there are exceptions. We’ve had a couple of encounters with unfriendly dogs but the general dog population is very sociable. And ranger services are reassuringly very efficient.

Every park and dog beach (there are allocated beaches where dogs are allowed as they’re not allowed on all beaches) has little plastic bags and bins handy for owners to pick up and dispose of their dogs’ business which makes it a very dog-friendly place. Add to that the great outdoors climate we have and you have a recipe for happy dogs and happy owners. The dogs love going to the dog beach, there are so many other dogs to play with and smells to investigate. We go to our local dog beach once a week and the park a few times a week and our dogs love it. They get to run free off their leads. Tessa in particular, loves the ocean and will run into the water on her short little legs and sometimes the waves will crash over her. It could be the middle of winter but she doesn’t go to the beach without going for a swim. Zeta doesn’t love the water as much but loves running as fast as she can with ears pulled back so she looks like a miniature greyhound. They love the freedom. Tessa is always watching out for another dog that looks like it’s having more fun than her and then she stays with that dog, regardless of what we’re doing. We might be 50 metres up the beach but she doesn’t care. It’s usually a bigger dog whose owner is throwing a ball far out into the sea for it to go and fetch and Tessa will join in as if she’s always belonged with them, run along as deep into the water as she can and wait for the other dog and repeat it over and over. Every now and again when she’s “adopted” another family like that we have to stop, go back, pick her up and carry her away, otherwise she’ll keep going back there. Under any other circumstances she is the most obedient dog but take her to the dog beach and she suddenly has selective hearing. In an endearing way. At the beach Zeta is actually much better behaved. She sprints, stops, smells something, looks up to see where we are, sprints off again and every now and then she’ll come to us and check in before she goes again.

Tessa enjoying her run at the dog beach

Tessa enjoying her run at the dog beach

Tessa enjoying the sea

Tessa enjoying the sea

Zeta at the park

Zeta at the park

It’s a great family tradition of ours, the weekly outing to the dog beach. A refreshing walk at the beach –  whether it’s in the dead of winter or a balmy summer’s afternoon –  while watching the dogs’ delight, is a great way to spend some quality time in the outdoors amongst lots of other friendly dogs. Their happiness in infectious. When they’re happy we’re happy. We laugh about their antics and love seeing them have fun and in the process the joy spreads. For that half an hour or so it’s all about the dogs. And then again, maybe not, since us humans go home feeling very content as well.

Quality time at the dog beach

Quality time at the dog beach

We've seen some magical sunsets whilst out at the dog beach

We’ve seen some magical sunsets whilst out at the dog beach