Seamus & Gizmo - Teen cats

6-12 months

Seamus (AKA Sea mouse, Shimsky, Shameless, The Ginger Ninja)
and Gizmo (AKA Giz, Gazimsky, Giz'm, Gandalf the Grey)
Born 26 June 2007

Introduction, Wednesday December 26 2007

As the kittens have now become "teenagers" in cat age, their personalities have developed. Gizmo has grown a lot over the past month (after we found a type of food he can actually digest) and he seems to be the dominant one when it comes to the food bowls - he will just shove Seamus' head out of the way and help himself - but he is also the most jumpy one who will flinch if touched without warning. Seamus tends to react more to unfamiliar smells, sometimes wandering about with his tail all bushy and a frightened look on his face if we bring something new into his world. Gizmo will come to us seeking attention and purring loudly (always happy to find a vacant lap to snooze on) whereas Seamus likes to nap just out of reach where he is social but not *too* social. However, Seamus does seem to enjoy hanging on my left arm whilst I wander about the flat, and he is not bothered by being cradled in my arm like a baby (stomach exposed, facing me) which is something most cats are not comfortable with as it leaves them very vulnerable. He is also the only one who still comes running eagerly when I call the cats using the "food call" we got them used to months ago (a simple "Here, kitty kitty"). Gizmo doesn't respond to any kind of calling, whether it be his name or a promise of food, but if you start cooking chicken, you can be sure he'll be next to your foot as soon as he smells it.

The first six months of the kittens' lives are covered on the Rascals page

Kitten diary and photo update, Saturday January 26 2008 - 7 months

Below are some pictures from January. As you can see, we've bought another scratching post, hoping Seamus would leave the living room furniture alone. As with the other one, he loves to climb it and sit on it but refuses to scratch it. We'll be taking Giz to the vet again, as the chronic diarrhoea has returned, and at the same time we'll see if we can get a special spray to use on the furniture. Kev picked up a leaflet for it last time at the vet, and it says a 45 day treatment, spraying the affected areas twice a day (for multi-cat households) should do the trick. I'm not too optimistic (the last spray we tried had zero effect), but always willing to give it a go. As for Giz, something obviously needs to be done about the diarrhoea, so the vet will probably suggest antibiotics next... To be continued.

Seamus in his new favourite spot Handles from paper bags are the best toys EVER! Giz shows off his profile Dinner Yet another afternoon nap on the bed

Kitten diary, Sunday February 3

Of course, cats are the most defiant little beasts in the world. Giz has had diarrhoea for about a month, but as soon as I have a free Saturday morning and make an appointment with the vet, the diarrhoea promptly disappears so I have to cancel the appointment. I suppose I'm happy he's fine at the moment (it certainly makes changing the litter box a lot less unpleasant) but his digestive system being this inconsistent makes it hard to figure out what the problem is. Maybe he simply *does* have a sensitive system which doesn't appreciate the things kittens eat (carpet, litter filler, leaves falling off the ficus, cardboard, paper and whatever else he can chew to bits - as long as it fits in his mouth he's quite indiscriminate).

We're trying a calm approach to Seamus' scratching. No telling him off for scratching in the wrong places, no shouting - it has never worked in the past anyway. Instead we very gently take him to the nearest scratching post and encourage him to use it. We've been doing this all along but he finally seems to use it just a tiny bit. We may still need to try the spray but so far we're sticking to gentle training.

As for sleeping arrangements, over the last few months we have tried letting the kittens run around freely during the night on weekend nights. They usually end up ruining our sleep because they wake up ridiculously early (between 3 and 5 a.m.) and then start exploring the bedroom (as if they didn't know every inch of it already), going to the toilet, scratching and playing. In the end one of us has to get up and shut them in the office just so we can get some undisturbed rest. We'll keep trying, but it may be a long time before the kittens learn to settle in for a full night, or at least be so quiet they don't wake us in the middle of it. Until then they'll have to stay in the office on week nights.

Kitten diary, Saturday February 16 - The Feliway spray

We've bought the Feliway spray, which is meant to calm nervous cats that scratch mark or urine spray their surroundings. Not sure whether it will work as Seamus isn't really nervous (as far as we can tell) and this is not a sudden change of behaviour. He has just always considered the whole flat his to rule over, and has chosen to exercise his claws wherever he liked best, which happens to be on soft furniture.

The spray is meant to contain hormones similar to the ones cats produce on their faces. Cat owners will know how this works, as cats tend to rub their cheeks against things (and people they like) to signal to other cats that this item belongs to them. The idea is that the smell of the spray will calm the cat down and stop the obsessive scratching/spraying behaviour, and also encourage the cat to scent-mark the sprayed area by rubbing its cheeks against it - far less destructive than scratching. Fortunately, we've not had any urine marking yet (fingers crossed), but it will be a while before the kittens reach full sexual maturity so it could well start at some point. We're all set to get them neutered and micro-chipped, but we'll wait until they've grown a bit more. Gizmo is markedly heavier than Seamus, but they have both still to develop the typical wide cheeks of grown males, and those certainly won't develop after they've had the snip.

More photos from January-February will be added soon when I've got a proper little collection to upload.

Kitten diary and photos, Thursday February 21

The Feliway seems to be working. Ever since we started spraying it on the chairs and sofa, Seamus has pretty much ignored them. Meanwhile, it would seem Gizmo's diarrhoea has returned (I can hear your cries of utter disbelief, "What, AGAIN?!"). Anyway, here are some photos I've been collecting over the past month.

Seamus poses My Woolly Blanket 1 My Woolly Blanket 2 Sunrays Snooze on trousers Watching football OMG did you see that?! Synchronized napping Whatcha want?

Kitten diary, Saturday March 1 - 8 months and mischievous as usual

The Feliway is definitely working but it runs out fast. The wee 60 ml bottle was gone in a week and a half, and we're only spraying the living room chairs, sofa and footstool (when we started spraying the chairs Seamus took a sudden interest in the leather furniture so we have to include those). At over 15 quid per bottle, that equates to a tenner per week. And we do need to spray twice a day on weekends when we're at home all day (on work days the cats are shut out of the living room during the day and we spray the furniture as soon as we come home, before we let them in). We experimented with only spraying in the morning, but during the day the effect wore off and by evening Seamus was beginning to remember his bad habits.

Hopefully he will eventually forget about the furniture, but we may just need on-going treatment. For that the Feliway comes in a handy diffuser to plug into a socket. It lasts for a month, is effective for an area about the size of our flat and we can get refills for it. I haven't yet dared to enquire about the price.

As for Gizmo's diarrhoea, it came and went swiftly. It's an on/off thing and we've decided it's probably caused by all the weird things they eat. He is very heavy now, compared to Seamus, who still doesn't seem to have grown much in the past 2-3 months. It worries us slightly, but Seamus' appetite seems fine so we're just leaving him to it. He'll hopefully catch up eventually. At the moment we don't have any plans of getting them neutered, we'll probably wait at least another couple of months - it depends how they develop.

Kitten diary, Monday March 3 - Point proven

It would appear that the root of the scratching problem is that Seamus is a nervous little cat, although he normally doesn't act it. The Feliway leaflet suggests that some cats become anxious when new furniture is introduced or the home is redecorated. In the past, Seamus has on occasion been walking on tip-toes with his tail bushy and big eyes when something new has entered his world. Today was an obvious clue that he probably suffers from anxiety.

During the course of the day, a few packages had arrived, things I had bought online. When I came home I went into the living room and sprayed the furniture with Feliway as normal. Soon after I let the cats enter. I opened the packages (which they were very interested in). One was a pair of sneakers, bearing the distinct smell of new rubber. Another - rather large - item was wrapped in perfumed paper, and the unfamiliar scent spread throughout the flat. Within the hour, Seamus had started scratching the chairs twice and had to be removed gently. Bearing in mind that this is the first time in the 2 weeks we've used it that the Feliway spray has been ineffective, it's fairly obvious that the new things and strange smells upset him.

The Feliway leaflet says that sudden changes in the cat's environment (like moving, new arrivals in the house or other disruptions in the established routine) can cause stress and thus undesirable behaviour like scratching and urine marking. The thing is, this is not a sudden change - Seamus has been scratching the furniture instead of the scratching posts ever since he was a tiny kitten. We've brought up the kittens to the best of our ability and certainly not knowingly done anything to cause anxiety. It may just be that the place he spent the first 6 weeks of his life was so unrestful that he has become chronically nervous. I'm also considering the possibility that anxiety could be the cause of Gizmo's recurring tummy trouble. I'll discuss this with the vet the next time we visit. In the meantime, we'll try our best to show the cats that they are safe and loved.

Kitten diary and photos, Friday March 29 - 9 months

The kittens have been allowed to roam the hall and our bedroom at night for a few weeks. Unfortunately, they wake up between 3 and 5 in the morning most days, but that's really our fault for leaving them alone at home all day, snoozing while we're at work. If we've not managed to sleep properly for a few days we do shut them out of the bedroom, but that inevitably results in some loud complaining at some point during the night when one of the them decides it's time to be social with us.

We've used up 3 Feliway sprays on the living room furniture and are now using the diffuser instead. It does have an effect, but must be coupled with our calming and reassuring guidance (I can't even pretend to be affected by the scratching anymore), gently encouraging Seamus to use the scratching posts. Gizmo's diarrhoea continues to come and go. Have bought a bag of the Trophy Premium kibble when I put in my latest order for Trophy Complete.We'll use that for a while to see if it makes a difference, but to be honest I don't think a simple change of diet is the solution for this particular enigma.

I am NOT stuck in the handle, merely investimagating Long cat is... long I think you'll find it's MY woolly blankie now Synchronised snoozing Taking time to smell the roses Is it something nom nom? Rose pose Throw this box out? You can't be serious!

Kitten diary, Sunday April 20 - Goodbye Feliway, hello Trophy Premium

Over the past 3 weeks the kittens have been fed Trophy's premium cat food, and (for now) Gizmo's diarrhoea has completely vanished. Not that his digestive system lacks the ability to absorb nutrients; although it's hard to tell in photos he is much much heavier than Seamus and seems to be getting a little *too* well-developed in the belly area. As a very rough guide I'd say Seamus maybe weighs 3 kg and Gizmo about 5 kg. Thus, at the beginning of April we started measuring out portions and monitoring the kittens while they eat to make sure they get exactly the same amount. Hopefully, this will mean Seamus gains some weight but Gizmo stays the same.

Seamus generally seems to need a little coaxing as he is a fussy eater and not too interested in his food. This means A) he is easily distracted by noises or movement, B) he will let Gizmo take over his bowl and just wander off, and C) he seems to lose interest when he gets to the end of the meal because picking up little pellets of food from a slippery ceramic bowl can be tricky. It helps if the remaining kibble is put on the carpet instead - that way it's easier for him to pick up. Gizmo, on the other hand, will quickly empty his bowl and go looking for more, and that's why we need to make sure they both stick to and finish each their portion.

Mealtime issues aside, both of them are healthy, and as mentioned Gizmo's system is functioning perfectly (which I am very thankful for - it makes sorting the litter box quicker and a lot less unpleasant). The Feliway diffuser has had little effect as it does not specifically target the areas Seamus scratches. The first vial is just about empty now and we're not buying a refill. This is partly due to the lack of effect and partly because the diffuser works by evaporating feline pheromone in a "paraffin-type mineral oil of a kind common to air freshener devices" (says the packaging). The thought of us all breathing paraffin oil on a permanent basis makes me cringe. Paraffin oil is widely considered to be carcinogenic - I don't use paraffin candles either. (Read more)

If we buy new furniture I will probably buy a Feliway spray to use on it for the first few weeks to prevent any scratching habit from developing. The spray contains the pheromones dissolved in ethanol, which - as far as I know - is fairly harmless. For now we'll see how things go without any "cat dope".

Kitten diary, Thursday April 24 - New problems! (goodbye again, Trophy Premium)

It would appear I was a bit quick to deem both cats completely healthy. Tuesday night there was a wee mark of white, slightly glittery residue at the bottom of the litter box, and Wednesday morning Giz was accidentally peeing a bit almost everywhere he sat down. Kev promptly brought him to the vet who agreed with my initial diagnosis of urinary crystals. This is quite worrying as it usually occurs in fully grown cats, not in 10 month old kittens.

Here's Kev's "report" from the vet:

"He's not getting enough moisture which is causing the dilution of his urine to lessen, leading to it being more concentrated in his bladder. This leads to the forming of crystals which has the vet quite concerned as untreated it could in the worst case scenario lead to his bladder bursting.

I've been given some anti-inflammatory for his bladder for him to take in his food for the next three days and we've to move him onto wet food immediately. I've bought some of the Royal Canin Sensitivity wet food for now. In 2 days' (at least) time we've to deliver a urine sample to the vet which will be analysed. The only problem with that is the sample must be fresh, any older than two hours and it's useless, ideally under 1 hour."

The vet explained that this is because crystals will eventually develop in the urine anyway, so the sample needs to be checked immediately to see if crystals are already present. From my Google-based research, I think the vet basically wants to find out whether these are struvite or calcium oxalate bladder stones as the treatments for these two conditions differ. Kev says she seemed quite worried that there was actual visible crystal residue but it's good that he's passing the crystals as it shows there is no blockage.

Basically, this means both cats will now have to swap to wet food permanently. Seamus is not displaying any symptoms at the moment but as the cats are related there is a good chance he could have similar problems later on. (Kev also pointed out that we can't really be sure that it was Giz who left the residue in the litter box, we merely assume so because he was the one behaving strangely Wednesday morning.) I'm trying to find a cruelty-free wet cat food brand available in our area, and it's difficult. Yarrah does not have an online shop yet, and Postal Pet Products (who sell Eagle Pack and Fromm) need me to contact them especially about delivery to Scotland. I'll probably have to resort to tins of Hill's or a similar, readily available brand as right now we don't have time to be picky about this.

Something to note here is that all the websites I've looked at cite stress as one possible cause of urine crystals. This would tie in beautifully with stress-related diarrhoea and stress-related furniture scratching, wouldn't it? I believe "cat prozac" is available, but I hate the idea of putting the boys on drugs due to lack of a permanent solution.

I dread to think what I'll find in the litter box tonight, as the sudden change in diet and the medication may have upset Gizmo's fragile digestive system. Tomorrow (and possibly Saturday morning if no success tomorrow) will be spent trying to obtain a urine sample from an uncooperative cat and racing off to the vet with it. I do such exciting things on my days off...

Love each other Small creature, great concern Nap in the sunshine

Kitten diary, Friday April 25 - New problems pt. 2

Right, so I managed to get a urine sample this morning by keeping a watchful eye on Gizmo every time he approached the litter box. Kev told me the vet wanted the sample to check whether the crystals were gone (as the treatment should already have an effect), not to find out what type they were. The sample was duly delivered at the clinic in under 20 minutes, and less than an hour later Cheryl phoned with the results.

Firstly, there were no crystals in the sample, which is good (although she had expected a bit to still be there). It's also not too concentrated or too dilute, so that's fine as well. However, she did notice a lot of bacteria, which she said was unusual for cats with cystitis. She has prescribed a one-week course of antibiotics to sort this out, and we're to continue with the Metacam (anti-inflammatory medicine) for another couple of days as well. She reiterated that this urinary problem is to be taken as an early warning sign and that he will have to be on wet food permanently. As he has had "previous issues with colitis" she recommended a couple of brands for sensitive stomachs, but anything that won't upset his digestive system is fine. For now I have bought five different flavours of Applaws - we'll see how they take to that.

I sometimes get the feeling that God is testing us with these cats. Gizmo's not even a year old and already has a medical history longer and more complicated than any of my other cats ever had throughout their lives. But as much as they are a bother at times, I keep reminding myself that they're not ill on purpose, they still deserve love as much as anyone and that we are probably the ideal owners for these two as we're fairly well-equipped to take care of them in terms of experience, money and time for sudden unexpected conditions like this one. They're our little family, and we'll do the best we can for them, although it would be nice if they would repay us by not meowing loudly in the middle of the night...

Kitten diary, Friday May 9 - Testing, testing...

After I recovered from the initial blow of having to donate several months' worth of dry food (over 20 kg, costing about £90) to the Glasgow Dog and Cat Home, we went shopping for wet food.

The last couple of weeks have been a period of trial and error. As much as the kittens enjoyed the Applaws seafood varieties I can't feed them that on a permanent basis due to the high magnesium content in tuna and prawn. Gizmo happily ate the tasty-smelling, "human grade" chicken version as well, whereas Seamus maintained his opinion that chicken is simply not food, to the point of starving himself rather than trying it. As the Applaws is pretty much pure meat and nothing else, it is clearly only suitable as a supplementary food. Besides, it brought back the dreaded diarrhoea, so that brand is a miss.

Next was Hill's pouches and tinned food, which they have been fed for a week. In the beginning, Seamus refused to eat that as well. Even Giz wasn't particularly keen on it. Eventually they both ate it, but they would rarely empty their bowls the way they did with the Royal Canin Sensitivity pouches. The Hill's seemed to stabilise the, erm, poop output, but caused trouble at the other end with burping, reflux and occasional vomiting. The final straw came after I fed them around 10 p.m. last night, and Gizmo managed to throw up undigested food at 6 a.m. this morning. If it doesn't digest in 8 hours it's clearly garbage! Into the bin with the rest of the Hill's.

Another thing is that Gizmo has been making himself very unpopular by waking us up around 5 a.m. with loud and persistent meowing, continuing till we got up at 7. The vomiting this morning makes me think that he might have been uncomfortable as his digestive system has not been able to rest, and if we feed him something he can tolerate (and continue to ignore the constant whining) he will eventually be able to sleep through the night like Seamus.

This morning I offered them Nature's Menu kitten pouches. Giz, as usual, munched away quite happily, whereas Seamus skipped breakfast altogether as is the custom with a new type of food (especially chicken types). When we came home I offered a different flavour Nature's Menu, but made sure to take the food away from them after a few minutes so they wouldn't eat too quickly (Seamus has starved himself before, and when he finally eats he throws up). He accepted the other flavour, but the "feeding, then break, feeding, then break" did little good as the food was soon returned on the carpet. We're not sure who was sick, though, because meanwhile we were off to the vet's with a urine sample from Seamus.

I decided - just as a precautionary measure - to get Seamus checked. It's taken a while to get a sample as we get home around 5:30 and the vet closes at 7:00. Tonight we managed - results should be available on Monday.

Kev suggested that Seamus might be refusing certain foods due to an instinct that they will react with his digestive system. I pointed out that he happily ate the Applaws, but I suppose with some things he has been right to be picky. Nonetheless, I highly doubt he has a sixth sense when it comes to what he can or cannot tolerate - he's just plain difficult!

Unfortunately, if the Nature's Menu doesn't pan out, it leaves us back with Royal Canin Sensitivity S/O, which is only available from vets and would cost £120 per month (3 pouches per cat per day). For now, we'll see if the kittens get used to Nature's Menu - the vomiting may just be an adjustment as they were so swiftly changed from one type of food to another. This weekend, I shall peruse the online shops for sensitivity cat foods in case Nature's Menu turns out to be as disappointing as Hill's.

New photos of the troublemakers to follow soon.

Kitten diary, Sunday May 11

Despite feeding only tiny amounts at a time, the Nature's Menu pouches caused repeated vomiting by both cats and was (again) donated to the local shelter. At this point I've given up on regular cat foods - they simply MUST have a type formulated for sensitive stomachs. We cannot keep experimenting as Seamus is ridiculously scrawny and needs regular nourishment. Back to the vet for more Royal Canin Sensitivity S/O and onto the web looking for a cheaper supplier. The good news is that Seamus' urine sample was fine - a tiny bit of protein but nothing to suggest he needs any kind of treatment.

New pictures below. Since spring finally arrived we've had the french doors open a lot and the boys love the fresh air, the smell of new leaves and all the interesting noises! You may be able to spot a small wound on Seamus' upper lip. The little idiot has taken to running straight into closed doors, and on one occasion also tried to jump into the closed oven. It seems spring has given him extra energy, and he's using it to potentially cause even more brain damage than he already has...

Kittens at french doors, early May - 1 Kittens at french doors, early May - 2 Kittens at french doors, early May - 3 Kittens at french doors, early May - 4 Kittens at french doors, early May - 5 Kittens at french doors, early May - 6 Kittens at french doors, early May - 7 Seamus on balcony - a portrait Gizmo on balcony - a portrait

Kitten diary, Monday May 19

Miraculously, as soon as the kittens were back on the Royal Canin Sensitivity food, there were no problems at either end of their digestive systems. We cut their portions to 2 1/2 pouches each per day as 3 would be slightly overfeeding, according to the packet instructions. I found a place to buy the food online (at 5 pouches per day it works out at £75 per month using this supplier) and placed a large order, having realised that Nothing Else Will Do and the other sensitivity foods out there are about as expensive as the Royal Canin one.

Hopefully we won't have to see the vet again until neutering / microchipping time... unless we throttle them for waking us up at 5 a.m. every morning (I desperately hope that getting the snip will cure them of that particular habit).

Kitten diary, Saturday June 14 - Back to the vet

Yes, today we went to the vet again. See, the wound on Seamus' upper lip - which I mentioned on May 11 - never healed. After his phase of running into things he was left with two small wounds just by his upper fangs. I reckoned they would heal eventually, but this hasn't happened and by now one side is visibly infected. The vet prescribed antibiotics and said this could be given either as tablets or an injection. I wasn't too keen on trying to sneak pills into his food - he *is* a very fussy eater and both cats will often leave some of the food and come back later for more, so it would be hard to ensure Seamus finished the meal with the tablet and that Gizmo didn't accidentally munch some. He was given an injection which will work for two weeks. We provisionally made an appointment for next Saturday, because the vet explained that sometimes, with older wounds, the surface can't heal properly by itself, and it will need scraped or cut slightly to remove the damaged tissue. Let's hope that won't be necessary.

We also had a wee chat about getting the boys neutered - we might as well get the most out of the £22 they charge per consultation. I explained the reason we had waited is that Seamus is so much smaller than Gizmo (who has taken to sexually assaulting Seamus at any given opportunity). The vet said that some cats, or some parts of the cat, can keep growing until they're 18 months old, but by now their bones have reached full size and Seamus will just have to live with being a little one. She said it was best to wait with neutering until his wounds were fully healed, so it won't happen until next month as our holiday trip is coming up. We both want an end to Gizmo's attempted rapes as soon as possible. I always reckoned I would some day have a "huge, evil looking, red cat called Seamus", but as it turns out, nature disagreed with me on that...

I'll see if I can include some new pictures in the final kitten update.

Kitten diary, Saturday June 21 - It's a what?

As there had been no improvement to Seamus' condition over the past week, we went back to the vet today. She said that as antibiotics don't work, what he has are indolent ulcers which can appear on lips, tongue and roof of the mouth. It may also show up as a skin condition. She proceeded to explain about white blood cells and that steroids would normally cure it, but it can be a recurring condition and we are to take precautions in the form of frequent flea/worm treatment as parasites can trigger it. She said the initial wounds definitely weren't caused by him running into furniture. She gave him a steroid injection, checked his fur and found no sign of fleas but advised us to use a flea treatment over the summer anyway as a preventative measure. She also popped a worming tablet down his throat and made herself quite unpopular in the process, as he raced into the safety of his cat carrier as soon as she let him go.

He is to return in 10 days' time for another steroid injection. At that time we will be away on holiday, but our cat-sitter Aveen has kindly agreed to take him to the vet on July 1st. By now Kev and I are pretty sure these cats are inbred, as they have had a number of medical conditions which has prompted the sentence "That's quite unusual for a cat so young" from the vet. All we know from the Cat Action Trust is that they came from a household with 9 cats, and obviously at least one female wasn't neutered, so there's a good chance all these complaints stem from some pretty vulnerable DNA. Nothing to be done about that. I have sadly admitted that these cats may not live to be 12 years or more, but we will do what we can to keep them as healthy as possible for as long as they are with us.

Kitten diary, Sunday July 6, 2008

Whilst we were on holiday, Aveen took Seamus to the vet for another steroid injection. The treatment works, his condition is improving, but he is to return for another injection after another 10 day interval.

Seamus and Gizmo are now no longer kittens, as they have passed the one year mark. Thus, this is the last kitten diary update - the cats have been given each their page for any future comments. Below are the last pictures (taken today) to show the fully grown rascals.

Gizmo 1 year old Gizmo 1 year old Seamus 1 year old Seamus 1 year old Gizmo 1 year old Seamus 1 year old Gizmo 1 year old Seamus 1 year old Gizmo 1 year old Seamus 1 year old Gizmo and Seamus 1 year old