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.

Cats

In order or when they arrived in our zoo…

Fudge

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

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

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

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.

ripley-on-jem

ripley-in-sunshine

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

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-kisses

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.

pixel-on-me

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

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-and-monty-playing

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.

ripley-and-monty

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.

guinea-pig-family

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).

Rabbits

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.

peanut-and-saggi-rabbits

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!

baby-guinea-pig

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.

Monthly post to confirm not-deadness (and other exciting news)

Not sure I made that blog title long enough?

Anyway.. hi, here I am. Not dead. Which you probably already know because you all follow me on social media. Don’t you?

Things have been a bit hectic lately. Last time I spoke to you I was just starting my new drugs. Which … oops, haven’t taken them yet today —interlude— …which seem to be working fine. I mean, I guess they are because after the weird zombie-no-feelings period I just felt normal. And normal is good, I like feeling “normal”. I can function, take care of my kids, not shout at everyone / everything, and generally just get on with life.

They haven’t been the miracle cure for my motivation that I was hoping for. I still seem to have issues with lack of coding mojo, and have to force myself to work, but we can’t have everything. This was especially problematic in February when I was ill and the kids were ill and everything went disastrously wrong and I did about 10 hours billable work, but I am vaguely back on track now so as long as I can do two months work in March, I’ll be fine HAHAHA BYE SAVINGS.

To add to the risk factor of my currently complicated catch up lifestyle, I’ve ‘invested’ in (that sounds way posher than the reality) a new project which will add to my current site portfolio expanding my passive income earning potential in the long term. Hopefully. If I can get the work it needs done. You can probably see the flaw in this plan…

Boring work stuff aside, I’m approximately 2 months off getting married and haven’t planned anything. I’ve lost 3 pets in as many months (predator, illness and old age respectively). And, the house stinks because the kitten I got for Gaz for Christmas keeps shitting everywhere.

But at least I feel normal now.

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 () ;)

A General Update

I’ve been so preoccupied with introspection & navel-gazing recently that I’ve completely failed to update you all on various Real Life happenings that don’t directly relate to me.

Isabel recently had her ‘induction’ day things at the school she starts in September, which consisted of a ‘stay and play’ type afternoon with the other parents + children, and then a half day without parents. I have to confess that I expected to have to peel Izz off my leg to get her into the classroom and thought that she’d freak out when I tried to leave but the reality couldn’t have been further from the truth. We walked past children-parent combos with tears on both sides(!) only for Izz to run to her new teacher, waving me off with gusto. This, from the kid who spent years being too shy to talk to members of her own family! Couldn’t have been more proud of how far she’s come :)

It did feel a little bit odd as I left the school grounds though. There were parents talking about “not going too far in case it went wrong”, people who were planning on sitting on the grass outside for the afternoon; I went straight to my car and shot off back to work without a second thought. I am clearly a heartless parent :p

In less positive news, we lost Big Pig (Ginger) a couple of weeks ago. To be honest, I half-expected to lose him after his skin problems in January so for him to hang on another 5 or so months was a nice surprise. He was 6 and a half, so a good age for a guinea pig :) Karl took him away to bury him with his original friend Afro. Although we’d talked about losing him months ago and had decided that when it happened his friend (Little Pig) would be neutered and placed with the girls, I’ll be honest in that I’m struggling to deal with all of the animals on top of everything else I have to cope with at the minute. Not sure what I’ll do long term with the animals. :(

Oliver has been conversing in full sentences for a while now and keeps up well with his sister. He’s eating well, sleeping… occasionally(!) and doing everything he should for his age. I’m considering trying to get him out of nappies over the summer purely from a financial point of view although I have to say I prefer the “wait until they do it themselves” approach we took with Izz. I guess there’s only so far you can push a kid either way.

So basically most things are OK and we’re just bumbling along as normal… :)

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 ;)

How to care for 11 animals and not go crazy

After Stephanie asked how we manage all the animals with everything else we’ve got on, and we recently doubled our guinea pig population, I thought it was probably a good time to write about how the hell we care for all these animals without going crazy.

We have a routine

Back when we only had a few pets we’d clean them out when it seemed like a good idea, scoop poop when we remembered etc. It’s not good – so easy to accidentally miss a scooping and wake up to cat shit all over your floor because the highly clean moggies have got peed off at the poop mound in the corner of their tray. These days we have a specific daily routine:

DAILY AM:
– Karl feeds cats & scoops poop while I’m sorting the children’s breakfast
– After Karl has gone to work & Izz to nursery (when applicable) I go outside to check on the bunnies & piggies, top up hay and do any necessary spot-cleans of hutches and trays. If I’m going to be at home all day I let the rabbits out too.

DAILY PM:
– After the kids have gone to bed it’s fresh veg prep for the bunnies & piggies, another round of spot-cleans on hutches and trays (the rabbits are “litter” trained), fresh hay & water all round etc
– Once the outdoor animals are sorted it’s another round of cat food & poop scooping indoors

WEEKLY:
– Litter trays are emptied & scrubbed
– Hutches are emptied & scrubbed
– Water bowls and bottles are scrubbed

We keep on top of cleaning

See above: spot-cleans on hutches etc. It seems like it takes up a lot of time when you explain it, but when you do it twice a day it helps stop poop mounds building up and spreading. It takes a few minutes and is much more hygienic for the animals.

We work together

I sort food bowls while Karl sweeps or vice versa. I sort the kids while Karl sorts the cats. And so on… it’s all about team work. Although the division of labour in this house is definitely not 50/50, it’s certainly heading that way. I absolutely cannot abide the notion that women should be the ones doing all the housework and that applies to animal/pet related chores too. (Don’t get me started!)

We avoid ‘messy’ products

Last but not least, we try and avoid products that make our lives harder. For example, we use a great clumping litter which is a little pricier than most but means that we can scoop a pee out of the tray leaving just clean litter behind (and it doesn’t flick about the place as much as some litters).

For the outdoor animals, we’ve recently switched to ‘vet bed’ instead of woodshavings. Now we can sweep out the pigpig poos using a dustpan and brush, wee is absorbed through to an under layer of paper based litter and the guinea pigs stay clean and tray (same principle for the rabbit litter tray). It turns out that woodshavings are associated with respiratory issues too, so this was a good decision all round.

All that said, it really is just a case of getting off your arse and getting on with it. Actual pet-maintenance doesn’t take more than an hour a day which leaves lots more for cuddling the little furry buggers. :D

Old MacDonald had a farm

…and so do we, or it’s beginning to look a lot like that anyway!

On Friday last week we trekked 40 minutes across the county to visit, and ultimately bring home, a pair of guinea pigs from Piggy Kingdom, a local(ish) guinea pig rescue. The grand plan was that we’d bring the pair of baby piggies home and attempt a bond with Big Pig (aka Ginger) who’s been with us since 2008 but lost his mate Afro a couple of years later. It’s been on my todo list for a while but always seemed low priority. Big Pig seems content enough, right?

So, brought them home, popped them together on the kitchen floor (neutral space) with some food, hay and hideyholes and let them get on with it. Thought that it was all going well, as demonstrated by the picture I posted to twitter:

guinea pig trio

But unfortunately this moment of calm sharing of mutual space was short-lived; Stripe (the name will be self-explanatory when I can get some better pics) had objections to being usurped as chief pig of the pair and we had to separate them before somepig got hurt.

Stripe and Spot are currently living in temporary indoor accomodation and will probably stay that way until after Christmas where we will be addressing the living space.

So, the hunt was on to find another pig – a single this time – and I was planning on going back to the rescue because they’d been so helpful, but then Karl sends me a link to an article on the local newspaper website about a lady that bequeathed 20 guinea pigs to a nearby plant & animal centre. They already have 40 guinea pigs and 60 was putting them over capacity so were after homes for the extras. One phone call later and a mad dash 20 minutes down the road and I brought home Little Pig (who may or may not be renamed..!)

big-and-little-pig

And it’s all looking quite positive :D

Furry Friday: Piggy Expedition

The new flat has a kitchen with a door, which means we can shut it off from the cats and let the piggies get some exercise. So far, they’re absolutely loving it:

guinea pigs adventure

In other furry news, we’ve finally started the cats on the litter kwitter again. What with one thing and another (waiting for the bathroom to be done, getting Fudgey, etc) we never did properly put the cats on it at the old house. Anyway, they’ve been using it for a few days with total success. No “accidents” so far!

Furry Friday: O Hai

Ginger pig wants to know what’s going on…

ginger pig says: o hai

“What you doin’?”

(Note: tutorialtastic is still down because of a site5 cock-up. I hope to have it back up ASAP. Sorry for the inconvenience.)

Furry Friday: Zippy the Pig

Another guest Furry Friday this week, courtesy of my little sister’s female guinea pig “Zippy”.

Zippy the Guinea Pig

Zippy the Guinea Pig

“Wheep wheep!”