Tag Archives: cats

Rodent Wars

I have pocket gophers. This year we had hardly any of the iconic yellow prairie garter snakes but we have had a veritable infestation of field mice and pocket gophers. The field mice I am less concerned about. They do very little damage as long as they stay outside the house. Also between my cat and neighbours’ cats and the semi-feral bunch of cats we have in town, the mice seem to be caught as quickly as they multiply. I say that because my cat, who is elderly and cranky and prefers sunning himself to hunting, has been bringing home at least one mouse a day. And then there are the gophers. The young ones are apparently an easy mark. Klinger brought home three little ones over the course of a few days. The adults are another matter.

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The first mound appeared in my strawberry patch. By inserting a hose and letting it run a couple of hours I eventually got that one to move. The gopher moved into my herb garden. More attempts at drowning and the [expletive] critter moved into my potato patch. The potatoes apparently loved the water. I will have a fine lot this year judging by the lush growth and heavy blooms. Persistent attempts at drowning finally got the little creature to move across the yard to my tomato plants bed. This gopher move apparently required going above ground because Klinger brought home a fat adult female as a present for me. Good cat. (Yuck!) Thank you kitty for the fine present. (Gag!) I am reminded why we domesticated you little bossy arrogant savages who think you own the bed.

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I bought two kinds of traps I was assured would work. They didn’t. I tried the juicy fruit gum trick. The rodents were unimpressed. Nor were they caught. They do seem to dislike the mothballs down the gopher hole trick. The mothballs ended up in the mounds. Mothballs apparently do not encourage moving on, just house cleaning. I refuse to try poison. The cats are too important to risk with second hand poison.

The rodent has now retreated to beside my garage. I am on my second day of flooding.  I thought I was done yesterday. I was flooding the mound and got a strong whiff of rodent nest as the water started gushing in. A rodent exited another hole and made a mad dash under the fence and towards the neighbour’s yard. The rodent didn’t get very far because a red tailed hawk swooped down from the sky and carried off lunch. I need to wear a go pro when I am in my yard because no one believes me and I have no proof. I now know why I am being followed by a hawk.

Apparently there was more than one gopher down there even though Wikipedia says they are solitary and territorial. This morning the mounds were renewed. I came out this morning to find wet mud in all the freshened mounds. Usually the gopher moves once it has to excavate mud and I flood them again. Hopefully that means they will move next door where they aren’t my problem anymore. My neighbour said she prefers the mice and gophers to garter snakes. We’ll see how she feels when they are filling her yard with mounds. I hope my garage does not collapse once the water drains away.

On the bright side, as I went out to check the rodent mound, I found a flower. It’s a native wildflower I have been trying to get to grow forever by collecting seed and spreading in my yard. It’s right there, blooming it’s pretty red head off. If not for the gopher I might have missed it. That doesn’t mean I have forgiven the mound making invader though.

If you know any better tricks for driving off northern pocket gophers, I’m more than ready to hear them.

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Yet Another Country Vet Visit.

I had previously complained about the ridiculously high cost of pet vet care.

https://wordpress.com/post/tumbleweedstumbling.wordpress.com/803

Saturday afternoon the same vet showed up for yet another parking lot session of shots. All three animals got all their shots and I got a certificate good for two years of border crossing from the vet for $150 total. $150 for three animals (two dogs and a cat)!

Again the same quick efficiency, no frills, get it done attitude I love about the country.

We didn’t bother with heart worm this year because I discovered you can order a big fat tube of heart worm medication for a horse for $10 from Amazon. Horses require a much larger dose than dogs and cats but since I have a degree in biochemistry I know how to do the conversion to get the right much much smaller dose. (I honestly think anyone who can double a recipe or halve it could also do that same thing. Be careful though if you do it wrong you’ll kill your pet. The drug is called ivermectin and the dog sized dose from horse medication works out to about what you can get swirling a toothpick in it. You can also order dog sized pills that even with shipping will be 1/4 to 1/2 the cost from Australia where a rip off vet prescription is not required and you aren’t lining the pockets of some crook in big pharma.)

And so the whole $60/six month heart worm in the little beef flavoured capsules is a rip off. The medication costs pennies. It’s all in the packaging and marketing. And insisting you must have the heart worm blood smear once a year is also ridiculous since if you have been using the medication faithfully the odds of killing your pet by continuing the medication are so very very low they are almost zero.

What typical small animal vets charge for vet care in the cities in my area is a crime. In 2013 I paid over $250 for each pet and even that required a lot of arguing and refusing stuff in order to keep it that low. It is a rip off. Let me say that again. IT IS A RIP OFF!!!! It is a whole series of completely unnecessary tests and procedures that are  at best worthless and at worst potentially dangerous for the purpose of filling pockets and the veterinary profession should be ashamed of themselves. If a country vet can pull into parking lot, fully vaccinate nearly 100 animals in an hour for $50 each there is no reason such a thing could not also be done in the city.

Oh, and our town has free vet housing, hospital/clinic and office space sitting empty because most vets in Canada prefer their over priced, high profit, rip off small animal city clinics instead of actually taking care of sick animals in need in rural area. That’s a double shame on them.

 

 

How and Why I Toilet Trained My Cat.

Catontoilet

We had company visiting and while we were chatting my cat walked by to the bathroom and then a few minutes later walked back, meowed at me, and left. I excused myself to go flush for him. My guests were amazed. “Your cat uses the toilet?” This led to a discussion about how and why I toilet trained my cat and never spend a penny on kitty litter or time cleaning the litter pan.

Why was easy. Klinger had gotten separated from us and was gone for 8 weeks before we got him back. During that eight weeks I got really comfy with not cleaning the litter box and while it was good to have him back, I found I really resented having to clean that box again. I have asthma and artificial scents and fine dust make me wheeze. I found it was getting harder and harder to find kitty litter that was not full of stuff that makes me wheeze. Bad enough you have the natural dust but all that “fresh air” scent crap they add to cover the dirty litter box smell leaves me with watering eyes and a cough. So that was one reason.

And there was the cost. I didn’t really consider the cost until I started collecting the buckets and using them to make a container garden. That really hit hard. I had a whole bunch of these buckets each one representing about $12 and so that meant I was spending over $600 a year on kitty litter! You don’t think its all that much but add it up over time. I can certainly think of a lot of things I’d rather spend $600 on. That was the second reason.

Then there is the environmental cost. Kitty litter is made of clay which has to be strip mined off the face of poor mother earth. The litter then mostly ends up landfills. Do I really want to be involved in that kind of recycling? No. That was the third reason.

And then there is Klinger. He is a highly fastidious creature, even for a cat. He absolutely hates using the litter box if there’s anything in it. I mean this cat is a clean freak even for a cat. Every single time I cleaned the litter box he would rush right over and display all the signs of delight I feel when I find a public washroom long after the urge has started. I do think that he was holding it as long as he could because the litter box was so unpleasant. That’s not good for cats, especially male cats because retaining urine can help cause stones. Since he learned to use the toilet I have noticed he goes a lot more often then he did with the litter box. The toilet means he always has a nice clean place to go so he doesn’t wait. He even tells me when he has used it and frets until I flush it all away. Apparently he likes the smell even less than I do. That was the best reason. (We did not teach him to flush because people who have done that complain the cat likes to flush for fun over and over again all day and night long.)

So how did we do it? It was easy and hard. It was easy because the steps are simple and straightforward. You don’t try to train the cat all at once. You do it very slowly adding teeny tiny increments until the cat can do it. It was hard because you have to be SO patient while doing those teeny tiny increments. You also have to put up with accidents while learning. It helps to think of accidents as being your fault. An accident means you moved to quickly or made a step too big for the cat.

The steps are available from many excellent on line websites and you tube videos so I won’t detail them here. In summary you start by moving the litter box to beside the toilet for about a week. You then raise the litter a bit (about 15 cm or 6 inches) at a time leaving the litter box at each level for about a week. (Yes it is awkward putting up with the litter box by the toilet. It IS temporary and it IS worth it.) Once you have the litter box at the same level as the toilet and the cat is accustomed to jumping up to that height, you move the litter box over onto the toilet. You now have to put up with a week of moving the litter box every time you need to use the toilet but bear with me.

The next few steps are the trickiest ones and there are various ways of doing it including a neat commercial kit. I used a big bowl I had that happened to sit very nicely in the toilet and was easy to move off and on when I needed to use the thing. You get the litter down to under the toilet seat. The first time Klinger found the litter suddenly under the toilet seat he walked around and around, checked very carefully, tried to get into the small circle and failed. He then gave a cat shrug and balanced on the seat, did his business, covered it and left. This step represents a major hurdle. Some people start by putting a separate toilet seat over the litter box at floor level because of this. Once the cat is reliably using the litter in the bowl while squatting on the seat you can start slowly, very slowly, reducing the amount of litter and increasing the depth of the litter. The cute commercial thing actually has a centre hole that can be adjusted larger and larger. I kept reducing the litter in the bowl until I had none and then I let him get used to using it dry. Because we were living in the trailer when I did this, he didn’t have to learn over water. I did one other thing which I think helped. Mother cats train their babies to bury their waste. I think Klinger regards me as a mother figure so whenever I used the toilet I would invite him in and encourage him to watch me. After I was done I would put him on the toilet seat so he could see and smell. He did seem to “get” what I was up to. Klinger also responds to rewards of cat nip, praise and a nice ear rub. Every time he did something right he got lots of praise for it.

Over all it took about 8 weeks until he was reliably using the toilet. He went through a period where he started using the bathtub instead, when we first moved into the house, because he didn’t like the water in the regular stick house toilet. I had to keep the bathtub full with a layer of water to get him to get over that.  I actually saw him when he found the tub full of water. I could see his cat brain working. Hm tub with lots of water and no perch or toilet with only a little water and a perch. Toilet it is. One other tip is we removed the toilet lid. He can’t lift the lid up by himself and it’s not fair to leave him in that fix.

And that’s how and why I toilet trained my cat.

One funny note: One of my guests asked if the cat didn’t leave a mess I was worried about sitting in. The answer is no and if you look at the picture you can see why. When the cat is squatting on the seat all his equipment is well below. The cat leaves a lot less mess than a typical man! And he doesn’t leave the toilet seat up either. The women all laughed and the men all kind of squirmed and rolled their eyes.

The Country Vet Visit – Warning RANT.

Sky rocketing veterinarian fees are a personal bugaboo of mine. When I first got my dog Trusty ten years ago we had a long time vet of many years who would do a checkup give shots and send us home with heart worm medication for about $120. When he retired a bright eyed new graduate came in and bought up his practice. I was given no warning or “heads up” about the new guy. He just walked in, announced the older guy had retired and he started examining my dog. This kind of bugged me but what can you do in such a situation? The new guy then announced we had to do a blood test to ensure that the heart worm medication had worked because if we gave heart worm medication to an infected animal it could be dangerous. He also wanted to test for lyme disease and some other stuff. He also ordered a fecal smear to check for worms. He then checked the dog’s teeth and told me she had tarter and he gave me a tube of fancy toothpaste and a brush and told me about his special food for dogs that was so much better than anything else out there.

We left and I went to pay. Imagine my stunned surprise to discover that the bill was over $400! $14 for the lyme disease blood test, $17 for the heart worm test, plus a $25 technician fee for each test and a fee for the blood draw. The tooth paste was $16 and the brush $6. The fecal smear $29 and so  it went, one charge after another. Not only that, but the charge for the rabies vaccine was more than double what the previous vet charged last year! I protested.

After I returned the tooth brush and tooth paste and protested the tech fees (come on, I did this kind of test myself as a biochemist and it’s a kit a kid in grade school could do and certainly not worth $25 of tech time) I got the bill down to $295 and that with a lot of grumbling and complaining from the new guy about the cost of veterinarian school and maintaining a practice. I left feeling like I had been cheated and I did not go back.

I wish I could say I found a great vet. I didn’t. For the next few years I had a different vet each check up and every single one of them would give me one price on the telephone call to check and then hit me with multiple additional fees for additional tests that were in my opinion of questionable value. I even walked out of one office after the guy told me the heart worm blood test (at $49) had to be done or he would not prescribe me any more heart worm meds even though I had specifically asked about skipping the test and the fee before walking in. He threatened to charge me the no show fee for walking out and called me a “bad doggie Mom”. Screw him!

I hate the term “Doggie Mom.” They are dogs, not my babies. I keep dogs for their company and for the job I require of them which is barking a warning and protecting me from strangers. I expect and demand a certain minimum level of good behaviour and I enforce that expectation. They get dog obedience training, puppy classes for socialization. They get decent food, not the corn crap from the cheap shelf, my affection and good health care at need but they are not my children! They rank somewhere below children and above my truck in my life. I simply don’t care to be a “doggie Mom” for good or bad. I absolutely detest a vet visit that feels like I’m taking my child to the paediatrician. In a world where children starve to death and die for lack of clean water, there is something positively grotesque about such a vet visit. I agree with the Pope that we spend too much on our pets.

The whole teeth cleaning thing is another huge money maker for the city vet. I foolishly agreed to let my cat have his teeth cleaned. Sure $200 for the teeth cleaning that this vet quoted me was reasonable. Imagine my surprise to find there was the $110 fee for an IV in case Klinger had complications, $130 fee for blood work up to make sure his kidneys and liver could handle the anesthetic (you’ve got to be kidding me!) and the warning that if the job turned out to be more than a simple cleaning there “might” (translate to will absolutely certainly) be additional charges. I absolutely insisted we skip the IV and blood work. I got the bad cat mommy lecture but they did go ahead anyway.

I arrived to find they had extracted a tooth (another $110) and they sent me home telling me he would be fine without extra pain meds (which I would have happily paid for). The poor cat was in agony by midnight and everything was closed except for the downtown emergency clinic. I called them but they would not let me drive over and just purchase some pain meds. They insisted Klinger had to be brought in and given a full check up ($80 for the late night visit fee, $40 for the emergency clinic charge, $40 for the vet check) and then and only then could he get pain meds. What a racket! I decided another drive and vet visit would likely be more traumatic than the pain Klinger was already in. Don’t tell me these vets care about animals before money because they certainly don’t. No pain relief for the cat unless Cat Mommy first pays hundreds of dollars extra up front.

The same vet that treated Klinger also told me Trusty, my English Bull Terrier, needed her teeth cleaned as well. I bought a tarter cleaning device and did it myself with a follow up of some big bones and some chewie things. This is why you need to train your dogs, so you can get the dog to stand still for a tooth cleaning and you don’t need to pay hundreds of dollars to rip off artists to get rid of tarter. I have paid less to get a dentist to take care of my own teeth!

A rural vet came to Alonsa last Saturday to do a rabies vaccine/parking lot visit. Oh, what a refreshing change that was! He pulled up in his car and about 100 people showed up with cats and dogs for rabies shots. His assistant asked a few questions. “Any health concerns? What shots does the animal need? How much does the animal weigh? How old is the animal? Do you want deworming? The vet had an assembly line going. Quick check of the dog, prepare the needles, stick stick, assistant passed out medication, next pet. Now THIS felt like a proper vet visit. Mostly he was pressured for time because he had to stop in to check a horse he had treated the night before and he’d had an emergency surgery in the morning and it kind of set his schedule off.

I asked about heart worm medication since I do think that is important, especially since we travel in the south in regions where heart worm is endemic. Oh wonderful news! He gives the six month shot. The six month shot is something I heard about in the USA where our friends rave about it. So cheap and easy compared to the once a month chew tab we were using. (The last city vet said that six month shot wasn’t as good protection and so he insisted on the more expensive monthly chewie treat.) The rural vet asked the weight of the dogs. I told him. He quoted me two prices for the heart worm six month shot. I told him the cat needed rabies and the other shots because even though he is in indoor cat, we travel and I need it at the border. (They have asked on three crossings.) No problem. He quoted me the price too, GST and PST included. The dogs were good for their shots.

I have insisted that a previous city vet give me a vet certificate that is good for more than one year since the rabies shot he gave my dogs was good for THREE years. (I’ll bet that city vet doesn’t leave the box out where people like me can actually read the fine print when he turns his back ever again. That cost him two years of unnecessary vaccinations and since it was right there on the box he couldn’t argue his way out of a three year date on the certificate.) There is simply no need to vaccinate every single year except to fill city vet coffers and pay for vet school and pay rent on the fancy clinic with fine upholstery and gorgeous wall paintings and little paw prints on the linoleum and the “play area” for the waiting doggie parents and their doggie children, and the coffee machine, and the memento photo of Doggy Mommy and Doggy child with the vet’s logo on the whole wall behind you to put in your Doggie Mommy scrap book. I declined to get my “free” photo. Honestly, I have better things to do. (I wish I was kidding. I’m not. The only good thing about that stupid picture was it was “free”, though of course the colour printer was paid for by all the other stuff done to my dog and my pocket book that didn’t need doing.) The real vet, the country vet, overworked and struggling to keep up a schedule, just couldn’t be bothered with all that crap and I admire him for it.

The best part of this parking lot clinic, was once he was done, the amount I wrote on my cheque was EXACTLY, I mean to the penny, the same as the amount he first quoted me. For the first time in eight years I did not get have a vet hit me with any hidden additional charges. The total cost $180 for preventative health care for two dogs and one cat. I might even let this guy call me “Doggy Mommy” except I suspect it wouldn’t even occur to him to say that. We were done in ten minutes and he was on to the next dog. I did not get a huge curly-cued wall certificate of vaccination printed on a background that showed the vet’s office on creamy parchment (suitable for framing) to present to the border guard. I got a little hand written note on a half size page of stationary with date, time and signature, under a plain letterhead with his name and address. This country vet doesn’t even have a logo! Since he processed about 120 dogs and cats in that parking lot I suspect he actually made more money than the doggy paediatrician, sneaky extra fees for doggy mommy not withstanding.

I wondered if maybe I was being a grumpy and cheap old woman. Then CBC did a marketplace special on veterinarian rip offs in small animal practice in the cities and confirmed all my suspicions.

http://www.cbc.ca/news/many-veterinary-bills-include-inappropriate-costs-1.1876019

Recently, one of these crooked city vets made a mistake of ripping off a member of the provincial legislature and now the government of Manitoba is introducing legislation to make it illegal for them to slap people with those heavily padded “surprise”, “surprise” bills that a used car salesman would be ashamed of.

http://globalnews.ca/news/2007592/manitoba-government-plans-to-legislation-to-govern-veterinarian-fees/

Now somewhere out there is a really smart new grad from medical school. He (or she) will open a “no frills” clinic in the city where doggy moms and doggy dads need not apply. He (or she) can tell people what will be charged when they make an appointment and add not one extra test or fee. People will pay only what they expect to pay. He (or she) will not have ten staff (including two to prepare the heavily padded bill), “free” wall logos with pictures, paw print linoleum, coffee, doggy play area, and attendant in the cute little nurse’s scrubs with the puppies and kitties print to escort the proud parents from the beautifully decorated waiting room into the “treatment centre”. I predict the no frills city vet will make a fortune with bulk processing from those us who are decidedly NOT pet parents.