Pets archive

The jemjabella household is a bit of a zoo, covering several different species: from pedigree cats to exotic spiders. While a hundred (exaggeration) pets might not be everyone's idea of fun, and there's no shortage of cleaning duties to be had, there's always something furry looking for a cuddle and a fuss.

Cats… cats everywhere!

I was on my break during the Tuesday morning shift at Shropshire Cat Rescue last week when a lady brought in a tiny black kitten. Roughly 8 weeks old, he’d been found abandoned in Bridgnorth, a nearby town.

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Now, despite evidence to the contrary (a growing menagerie!) volunteering at the cat rescue has hardened my resistance to the “omg cute kitty” fever I was once plagued with. Nonetheless, I saw this little kitten’s tiny sad eyes and almost entirely melted then and there. Perhaps it’s a soft spot for black cats thanks to the late great King of Cats, my beautiful Hex?

black male

Who knows, but I *wanted this kitty*.

I did however manage to exercise some good judgement, and after a brief fussin’, put him down for someone else to tend to. Shortly after, he was joined by another kitten, roughly 12 weeks old, who’d been found somewhere else:

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They immediately took to one another and so I left them to it.

Until Thursday. On Thursday I was back at the rescue with Gaz for a meeting about the rescue’s new website, which we’re working on (complete with a spangly new WordPress theme design from Pretty Content) together, and Gaz is an even bigger “crazy cat person” than I am. Within minutes of walking into the staff room he declared that we should have them.

Now let me remind you that at that exact moment we had 4 cats, 6 guinea pigs, 2 rabbits and a recent baby tarantula addition waiting for us at home.

But we “had to have them”.

I stood firm. I said no. I pointed out that within the next 12 months we’re hoping to move to a bigger home, which is going to require clearing some debts and being sensible with money and generally not spending more than we can afford. Ozzy has been at the vets this week, the house still stinks of cat pee from when we had Pixel. It was a Bad Idea. We left that evening without the kitties.

And then I started my shift on Tuesday. I didn’t look the kitties in the eye, I knew I was in dangerous emotional territory after some recent bad news. I IGNORED THEM. I tootled off to do my usual jobs. I fed the village cats, I medicated the oldies. I swept and I cleaned. But then it was break time again…

It took less than a minute in the break room for me to cave, reserve the tiny kittens and make a coffee.

I am a bloody sucker.

End of an Era, Goodbye Fudge

Things have been a bit shit in the jemjabella zoo/household recently.

Firstly, we had to make the decision to re-home Pixel, the aggressive stray whom I’d hoped to integrate and ‘tame’. Ultimately she was not getting on with Fudge, and as low level dislike turned to full on fur-flying fighting and her cowering under the sofa more often than not, we had no choice.

Then, a couple of weeks ago one of our guinea pigs — Tango — died unexpectedly.

(The one on the right)

Shortly after, within days of each other, Pixel (on the day she was supposed to leave!) and Fudge both disappeared. Hoping it was spring fever and they were out catching mice and birds we posted on facebook, got in touch with local vets, scoured the streets, put up posters etc… but I remained hopeful that they would turn up on the doorstep one morning looking fat, fed and happy with themselves.

Unfortunately it was not to be, and on the way back from Shrewsbury 10k road race yesterday I had a few missed calls from a guy living at the end of the road. His sister had found a cat dead in her garden one street over the back from ours. I knew it was Fudge before I even saw the body. It felt like a massive kick in the gut.

Pixel is nowhere to be seen, but given the length of her disappearance and the spate of dead cats appearing locally recently I suspect she has gone the same way.

After losing Hex almost exactly a year ago I was determined that the last of my original “babies” would have to live until at least 20. Fudge wasn’t allowed to die. Apparently, though, it doesn’t matter how hard you want something to be true, it’s not a guarantee.

I don’t regret letting him outside. It brought him well and truly out of his shell and he had been happier in the past few years than I ever saw him prior. It might have been a shorter life than he should have had, but I’d rather it short and happy than prolonged and constantly wanting something more.

And so here we are… 3 cats. It doesn’t seem anywhere near enough.

AMA: Comprehensive list of animals (cat pics yay)

So, the first (proper) question in my recent ‘AMA’ was from Melissa, who asked:

Can you provide a comprehensive list of all your animals with names + types + breeds? And also how you manage your litter box organization! ^_^

Now, there should be a page for this, but every time I work on my ‘pets’ page, something dies or someone new comes along. 2016 has been particularly chaotic, in fact! Anyway, hopefully this post — dated and timestamped and all that jazz — will give you a rough run down of my animal population right now.


In order or when they arrived in our zoo…


Fudge is a domestic shorthair, is 8 and a half (ish) years old and ‘top cat’ in the household since Hex passed away.

Tiny toes

Fudge in the bath

I ‘rescued’ Fudge in 2008 from a pretty awful situation (although looking back there’s lots I’d change about how I dealt with that).

Fudge went through a period of being incredibly subdued and shy, but having been given access to roam outdoors over the past couple of years he’s really come out of his shell and loves a good fuss.


Crumble is a domestic shorthair, approx 6.5 years old and is mostly ‘owned’ by Isabel who considers Crumble her cat. I resisted the urge to adopt Crumble back in 2010 for about 2 weeks before finally caving.

Checking out the baby playmat

Wrestling Fudge


Crumble is a simple cat, content to spend most of her life curled up in a chair. She likes to sit with us of an evening and chirps like a canary if you fuss her enough.


Ripley is a bloody expensive cat, AKA British Shorthair. She’s approx 15 months old. She is Gaz’s cat, bought for him last Christmas, and is easily the biggest pain out of all my animals. She has no tolerance for cheaper cat foods (can you blame her?) which give her the runs, so we had to switch all the cats to a more expensive food last year. She demands attention all day, eats more than any cat I’ve ever met and won’t let you empty the dishwasher without sitting right in the middle of the open door, getting in the way in the process.



That said, she is one of the most laid back cats I’ve ever owned, and loves everyone and everything, even the guinea pigs. She’s playing an important role in ‘mothering’ our latest addition, but more on him shortly. She’s fat, furry and incredibly affectionate.


Pixel is roughly 18 months – 2 years old. We’re not entirely sure, because she’s a rescued stray, adopted from Shropshire Cat Rescue where I spend my Tuesdays. She’s a domestic shorthair like Fudge and Crumble.


Pixel is one of the biggest feline challenges I’ve ever approached. I brought her home because she was ‘red carded’ at the rescue for her aggression and was destined to become a farm cat living out her days on someone’s land. I didn’t think this was necessary, as she’d been incredibly affectionate with me, and offered to try and integrate her here.


We’ve had our ups and downs. She hides a lot, and doesn’t really like Fudge (because he’s tried to enforce the existing hierarchy and she doesn’t like that at all) but has on occasion played with Ripley. She has been bitey with both Gaz and I on numerous occasions, usually because she’s scared or over-stimulated. We have to be incredibly careful to watch all her body language for signs that she’s had enough fuss. She’s also the only cat I’ve ever owned who refuses to eat wet cat food.

With all that said, she ‘kisses’ like Hex used to, and can be friendly on her terms. I’m hoping that with time and patience she will fully integrate and be happy here, but I re-assess on a weekly basis.

Montgomery (Monty)

And here we have the latest of the purry bunch: Monty (probable domestic shorthair).

Monty is estimated at approximately 4 weeks old, but weighing just 292g when I brought him home on Monday 21st. He was found abandoned in a hedge in a town near Wales and was brought to a nearby vets who re-homed him with me via a friend of a friend.


Monty is all ‘skin and bones’, and is currently receiving the kind of attention you’d expect to give a newborn baby! He’s on supplemental milk feeds (specialist ‘babycat formula’) and regular small feedings of high quality wet kitten food to boost his weight. He sleeps in a small blue fleece hat, on a fleece blanket, inside the carrier I brought him home, in front of he radiator to keep him warm.


Ripley has taken an instant shine to Monty and plays with him, follows him round, responds to his cries with what seems like concern and sits ‘guard’ overnight while he sleeps. I hope this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship between them.


The cats all eat James Wellbeloved and Wainwrights wet/dry food.

Guinea Pigs

We’ve had a recent explosion in our guinea pig population. Earlier on in the year we had 3: Tango and Sprite, a neutered male / female pair, and Spot (my famous guinea pig) the remaining pig from an un-neutered male pair.

spot guinea pig

Long story short, Spot and Sprite had an unintentional pregnancy and we now have 7 guinea pigs: the 3 adults, as well as Mabel (m), Badger (f), George (f) and Pepper (f). Spot has since been neutered and is currently living with Mabel, but once Mabel is old enough to be neutered I hope to reintroduce everypig into a large group.


The guinea pigs have a diet mainly based on hay and readigrass (dried grass) as well as small amounts of veg every day or so and dry nuggets (Supreme Science Selective).


Peanut (tan coloured) and Sagittarius A* are both, oddly, from Shropshire Cat Rescue. I’m not entirely sure of the ages or breeds of either but they make a great pairing, which surprised me as Peanut is a grumpy bugger and their initial introductions weren’t positive.


They live free range in my utility, with a cage as their ‘home base’, and all-day access to the garden on dry days.

The rabbits also have a diet mainly based on hay and readigrass, small amounts of veg every other day and dry nuggets (Supreme Science Selective).

Poops, Pees and Litterbox Fun

With a population of animals this large, poop is obviously a big part of my day to day life.

The cats currently have four litter trays between them, although this may increase with the addition of Monty. We have two covered trays in the bathroom, one uncovered tray in the utility (which the rabbits occasionally use too) and one outside in the sheltered cat run.

However, all is not perfect and we get the occasional cat leaving us a present behind the sofa or outside the tray to express indignation: often with a new arrival, or if I’ve dared leave another poop in the tray for longer than a few hours.

The rabbits mostly poo in a tray in their (always open) cage or all over my utility floor, which is at least concrete and easily cleaned. Despite having managed to perfectly litter train my previous rabbits these two are a little stubborn and would rather have me chase poo nuggets round the place.

Guinea pigs poo wherever they damn well please and their hutches have to be cleaned out regularly.

So boys and girls, there you have it. A comprehensive list of my current animals and details on litter boxes and poop. If you’d like to ask me a question, drop it in a comment on AMA.

How is babby formed?

You’d think at my age — and with two children — I’d know how babies are made. And yet despite pet-owning for some 15 years or more without incident we’ve had an oopsy-daisy surprise pet pregnancy here at Chez Jem.

My famous guinea pig, Spot, managed to impregnate Sprite (who I alluded to rescuing in the linked post but never got round to writing about… worst pet blogger ever!) and she gave birth literally as I was leaving for Las Vegas on Thursday 13th. Because everyone needs something to worry about when they’re leaving the country for a week!


Despite my pet experience I’ve never handled (or indeed seen) a piggie birth before so it was all a bit of a shock. Luckily mum-pig just got on with it, cleaned up the four fully formed babies and carried on as normal. Even luckier, my pre-arranged pet sitter had experience with baby guinea pigs so knew what to do with them in my absence, phew.

As someone who frequently gets on my high horse to lecture about pet castration I’m eating a massive dose of humble pie at the minute. Although, in my defence, I was advised by a vet that he was too old to be neutered (because castrating guinea pigs is riskier than e.g. rabbits and cats, of which ALL of mine are done.) I’ve since found out that one of the vets at my usual small animal place will do it providing a pre-op check for “age related issues” comes back fine. Given his activity level, appetite and apparent virility I don’t think that’s going to be an issue.

On the plus side, if I can get him fixed I can attempt an introduction with Sprite and her already-neutered buddy Tango, so that he won’t be on his own (which he has been since his brother died). And if that doesn’t work he can be introduced to the (two suspected) male babies when they’re old enough to leave mum to make an all male trio. Either way, I’ve just got to suck it up and deal with it. It’ll teach me to be more vigilant in future.

Rabbits, half marathons, fitness & weddings

Holy crap, it feels like I basically haven’t stopped doing stuff lately. I’d blame that for my inconsistent blogging but we all know that’s been an issue for many years, so I’ll cut to the chase and get you up to speed on the funky biz that’s happening in my life at the moment…

The wabbit

I brought Peanut home and within 3 days I’d got him eating better food (science selective nuggets – best commercial rabbit food you can buy), more hay, and as I type this he’s on the lawn grazing on grass and clover. He is still nervous about being approached, and isn’t too keen on the resident guinea pigs, but I did manage to get a couple of strokes yesterday before he binky-ed off.


Half marathon

On Wednesday, I completed the “May the 4th Be With You” trail half marathon: 13.1 miles up and down the beautiful hills of Church Stretton in Shropshire. Ascending more than 2000ft, this was perhaps both the most challenging and yet most enjoyable race I’ve ever taken part in. It was a fabulous day (the weather was really on our side) and the company of some fellow Broseley Joggers made it a fantastic experience all in. We finished in 3 hours 21 minutes officially, although had stopped to take pictures and enjoy the snacks at the water station, so actual moving time was more like 3 hours 10.


Fitness bits

I’ve been LOVING going to the gym, having fit in an upper body session this morning (resting my legs after Wednesday / got a 10k on Sunday!) I’ve been visiting twice a week most weeks since the beginning of April now. I’ve not had any issues with dudebros, people are always happy to answer questions and will let you step in without a second thought. Nobody has made me feel unwelcome or inferior because I’m a relative n00b (and female; although this causes the odd double take).

As well as the gym, Gaz and I have recently signed up to ongoing taekwon-do sessions having participated in a cheap trial month. We’re both approaching our first assessment thingymabob to go up a belt, which is strangely intimidating and yet should be fairly easy.

Wedding bells

In less than two weeks time Gaz and I will be married. I’ve finally found a simple wedding ring I like (two, actually.. don’t ask) and everything else is sorted. Not that there was much to sort for the wedding, because it’s literally going to be a case of turn up, say I do, go eat pizza. WINNING.

The wedding party was slightly more complex to organise but even then: food, booze, people, music. Bob’s your uncle, etc. I’ll tell you more about that after the event, of course.

Of course, I genuinely can’t believe that this is actually happening. I thought Gaz would have got bored / fed up with me long before this point. He’s clearly mad.

But then… aren’t we all?

I just can’t help myself

After the recent loss of Hex, and prior to that both one of my older male guinea pigs and Bramble AKA MEGABUN, I decided that I was fed up of things dying on me (melodramatic, much?) and that was it for pets and me: no more animals.

Considering that at various points I’ve had up to 12 animals at any one time, this would be a massive personal change. Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on how you look at it) I just can’t seem to help myself.

I started volunteering with Shropshire Cat Rescue on Tuesday of this week — stage 2 of Get My Arse Into Gear — and having convinced myself that I absolutely must not come home with another cat, I somehow instead agreed to bring home a rabbit.

I couldn’t help myself: when I heard the story of his beginnings, and saw how his selective feeding of a muesli diet was affecting his poos (poos are a huge indicator of state of health in rabbits! see more info) As with many of the animals that end up here, I just feel the need to ‘fix it’. Thank you, empathy.

I pick him up next Tuesday, after my next sesson at the rescue. If you can’t wait til then for proper pictures, here he was yesterday, checking me out:


Looking forward to having the little floofball home :3

In which my cat makes me go to the gym

I did something yesterday that I’ve been working up to since August last year. I called a local free weights gym to see if they could give me advice, check my form, and generally just introduce me to the gym environment so that I can progress with my lifting (which has unfortunately plateaued again).

My oldest cat Hex — my first ‘baby’, long before I knew I decided I wanted actual babies — passed away in the early hours of Saturday morning, leaving me feeling bereft. I’ve been up and down a lot lately struggling with work and life throwing lemons at me, but this was the final nail in the coffin that pushed me to rock bottom. I did nothing but cry and watch Harry Potter (my favourite ‘self pity’ TV) for about 3 days, before finally giving myself a massive kick up the butt.

This has to be a catalyst for change. I can’t go on full of woe, achieving nothing. I realised (not for the first time) that I have to start making the changes I promised myself last year when I went back to working for myself. I KNOW I need to get out of the house and do something that doesn’t include staring at a screen all day. If I don’t, I’m only letting myself down.

And so… like I said, I rang the gym. And the guy invited me down for an intro session, which I went to this morning. We went over my standard lifts: the squats, deadlifts and overhead press which I do at home. Then he introduced me to lat pulldowns, and other back/shoulder exercises to help me reach my goal of doing a pull-up. I was thrilled to discover that my squat was immediately stronger when not having to overhead press the bar first! I was complimented on my depth, too. ;)

It wasn’t a sausage-fest den of huge dudes groaning over their dumbbell curls, although apparently it’s generally quiet first thing. And, even better, I didn’t feel hugely out of place or self-concious like I thought I would.

It’s not that working out at home isn’t doing the job any more; I still use youtube for perfecting lift form, NerdFitness and the Stronglifts 5×5 for workout inspiration, Maxinutrition has some great advice on how to build muscle (their pro-fat approach is right up my street, I eat everything spread with butter or mayonnaise). Working out in my undies with my barbell (don’t do that at the gym) still kicks my ass, helps me maintain my weight and makes me feel like a badass superhero, but I’m limited by my lack of equipment and — especially recently — lack of space.

I don’t know if adding the gym to my already busy timetable is The Answer, but it sure as hell is a positive step forwards.

In which I complete a half marathon & my guinea pig makes the news

What a weekend.

I’ve been panicking over the past few weeks about my half marathon, which I half-arsedly agreed to and failed to train for completing roughly 4 runs in the run up (the longest of which was 12km; a half marathon is over 21km!)

Anyway, by some wondrous magical miracle I managed to complete the half AND in a reasonable time. I secretly hoped that I’d somehow find a previously unknown half marathon skill and fly round in 2:30 or less, but I did not. Despite not having secret ninja running skills I still managed it in 2:37 (official time): 2:34 if you discount the 3 minutes I spent on the loo.

(Turns out half marathons make me poop, who knew?)

Anyway, home from the half and gently recovering I let the guinea pigs out for their regular grass-grazing session on Sunday afternoon and got on with the washing. A little bit later I went to call them in (shout “piggies” and jiggle the food bag and they come running, wheek-wheeking at the top of their tiny voices) and only one guinea pig appeared. Piggies, piggies: shouting to no avail. I went out with my torch and found poor little Spot —

spot guinea pig

— had managed to squeeze his head through the run panels which surround the animal shed (currently housing 3 recent piggie adoptions, more on them another day). I’ve been using these run panels for years and never had any issues so it was a bit of a shock to say the least! Unfortunately they’re designed for use in dog kennels etc (so ideal for keeping unwanted foxes, cats etc out) and therefore not easily pliable.

Anyway, attempts to get his head back out weren’t working and he was getting more distressed. I tried to use some sharp garden shears which were the best thing I could find and they didn’t do much (except wreck the shears no doubt) so I called the fire & rescue folks for some advice. They asked some questions and then said they’d send someone out. Turns out they meant the whole kit and caboodle, and the next thing I knew there was a fire engine outside complete with crew and a bloody big pair of boltcutters.

After a bit of wiggling and jiggling to get the bolt cutters around the metal without pinching piggie parts, the firefighters managed to cut a section free which meant we could maneouvre poor Spot out safely. He’s got a small tear on his ear which I cleaned up but was eating and drinking fine when I popped him back in his hutch safely last night. He’s back on the grass (now that I’ve fixed up and reinforced the run panels!)

It was all a bit of a drama but over and done with fairly quickly, and after a stiff drink I went to bed and thought nothing of it: until this morning when, despite telling the local paper I wasn’t interested in expanding on such a non-story, they published a bunch of assumptions firing the tempers of locals who thought that they knew enough to judge the situation both on the 61-word “story” and the accompanying tweet:

But hey, why let the actual facts of the matter come between a good rant, eh?

Spot’s none the worse for his adventure, and I can’t thank the Fire (& Rescue!) Service enough for fitting me in during what I recognise as a busy time of year.

Enter title here

Feel like I should blog to record some of the stuff that’s been going on lately but I’m struggling to formulate intelligent sentences. Fall back to list format!

  • I came home on October 22nd to find Flymo dead and Rosie missing. I can only guess but I assume something managed to get into the garden. There was no visible marks on Flymo or signs of a scuffle but if he was shocked sufficiently it could have killed him.
  • On November 4th I got home to find that Little Pig had escaped his run and is also missing.
  • My foot is only just this week starting to feel any better, so I’ve now got a month to train for this half marathon I entered
  • I finally got my passport renewed, so I might be able to complete #5. See my Dad soon too
  • I took the train to Birmingham on Wednesday 5th to meet Dominic
  • On Thursday 6th November I went to London to audition for Eggheads with Gaz and his brothers; we should find out this week if we get in
  • I’ve made the decision to stop taking on further self-employment work as of next year. Despite the extra cash being a major help with the bills, the stress it’s causing me is insane.
  • I went back to the doctors on Monday to talk about the fact that I’m still angry a lot; that it comes and goes but is still there. That when I’m not angry I’m sad, really really sad. He tried to offer me anti-depressants and CBT but I want to exhaust every other possibility first. I’m trialling a new birth control pill, I’m spending more time with my babies where possible, I’m cutting back on the things that make my mental health suffer.
  • Gaz and I have been not-dating for 6 months as of this week ♥

Despite everything — the work, the stress, the foot injury, the mortgage, the monotony of the daily grind — I am still the happiest I have ever been and I need to hold on to that. Shit will improve, things will get better. One day at a time.

Another update in few words

Dry for July ends in a few days and I CAN’T WAIT. I’m still “dry” / sober, but looking forward to having a drink with friends on Friday.

I’ve made a few quid since embracing hypocrisy and appreciate those of you who sent support my way — thanks.

My recently re-added geek t-shirts page has shot up the SERPs so hopefully that’ll make me a little bit extra per month too. (Must finish adding my t-shirts…)

I contacted an IFA yesterday about how I move forward with buying Karl out of the mortgage.

Nibbles and Popcorn were recently rehomed with a lady I know from elsewhere on t’interwebs. Mixed feelings as I’m sad to see them go, but I know that reducing my stresses is for the best (and means the best possible homes for them).

And I’m still happy () ;)

Poorly Big Pig

Several drafts in progress have been abandoned over the past week or so as I’ve been even busier than usual.

Towards the end of last week we noticed that Big Pig (our oldest guinea pig) who has had a small patch of what looked like dandruff since before Christmas, had got full on itching, fur loss and associated skin damage from over-grooming/scratching. As well as that he had lost an obvious amount of weight; his back end having gone from nicely rounded to skin and bones.

guinea pig skin problem

As with most small animals the symptoms seemed to come on suddenly (because they’re so bloody good at hiding these things until it gets so bad they can’t hide it any more) and so usual chaos of emergency vet visit etc ensued. My usually good vet surgery was close to useless and basically gave a diagnosis of skin cancer caused by old age, with the prognosis of 2 further weeks before addressing “quality of life” and the decision to put him to sleep. She gave us treatment for fungal infections and mites in the mean time (although neither of suitable quantity to have any actual affect, it turns out).

Now I’m no vet, and I’m not a small animal expert by any stretch of the imagination, but I reckon that irrelevant of age an animal that is moving around as normal, eating, drinking etc but just feeling a bit sore and rotten is not on his last legs and about to pop off to meet the great big guinea pig in the sky (or you know, whatever).

So, advice sought from multiple sources and time-honoured guinea pig experts and the general consensus is a fungal skin infection, which is what my gut was telling me. Some intensive nursing, lots of soothing baths over the coming weeks and Big Pig should be back to normal in no time. Plenty of life in the furry bugger left yet, even if he does look a bit like a plucked chicken at the minute ;)

Project: Bunny Shed 2

Today I went on a bit of a rescue run. I went to pick up 3 french lop bunnies from a local lady; they were being kept in tiny, tiny hutches far too small for them (and I’m not just talking a bit small – these are giant rabbits that need more space than most). I don’t think it was through any malicious intent, just lack of knowledge on behalf of the old owners.

Anyway, from there I headed up to Piggy Kingdom, where we got our latest pair of piggies from and where the rabbits will be spending the forseeable future… except, and this is where “Project: Bunny Shed 2” comes in, I really would quite like those rabbits. I was blown away by a) how big they are – the size of a small cat easily and b) how GORGEOUS they are. Like big fluffy teddies. Here’s some pics I was given by the old owner…

Aren’t they gorgeous? And you can see how small the hutches were in those pics – barely enough room for them to sit, let alone move around and stretch.

So now I’m on a mission. Firstly, to raise extra income to buy another shed (because these bunnies need SPACE) and secondly, to convince Karl that we can cope with 3 extra rabbits. Suggestions on a postcard..!