Chronicles of Athena – 28 Weeks

One of the reasons I wanted a kitten, rather than adopt an older cat, was because I worried about socialisation. The life of a late twenties academic doesn’t lend itself to shy cats stressed by strangers, people, or changes of environment. And this weekend we had our flat warming party. I wasn’t sure if she’d hide under the bed or join the party.

The very first time we had a group of strangers over (my family), she was extremely shy and could only be lured out with the promise of treats. Oddly I didn’t blog about it at the time! Since then I’ve maintained¬†a policy of encouraging all my guests to feed her treats when they settle in, which has led to Athena’s new policy¬†of extremely skittish behaviour when people first arriving in an attempt to evoke the treat packet.

So I did think of this as a bit of a test – and she passed with flying colours. Her curiosity couldn’t keep her in the bedroom for longer than ten minutes, and she spent most of the night scoring treats from various guests (Aunty Jenni, we LOVE our Dreamies – definitely Athena Approved). While many of our lovely friends were possibly bullied into promoting feline obesity, she had a wonderful time and even took a late night ‘run around the house’ game stealing wrappers from peoples’ sweeties.

Today she’s so exhausted she decided it was better to let me bake in the kitchen alone, while she stayed on the sofa with white fluffy mummy blanket, dreaming about treats, unguarded cupcakes to lick and an endless source of fingers to scratch.

Athena Approved [Chronicles of Athena – 27 Weeks]

This week Athena would like to share some of her favourite, and not so favourite, products. These are all either free or purchased with my money, and the opinions are entirely Athena’s own.

Favourite Toys:

Cat Alone app – this is a really simple android app that locks the screen and plays a variety of small interactive graphics, such as a laser pointer, a finger, and some bugs. Athena’s absolute favourite is the blue butterflies which she scrabbles at frantically until they buzz and get ‘trapped’ under her paw. The images all interact with her, which she loves, though the fly screen seems to make her rather sleepy. I love this app too, especially for its versatility. On the occasions where we’ve travelled, or she’s been kept in her basket, the app is great to use. She does, however, scratch the screen when she’s too excited.

Also, the use of this app made me realise I would definitely stick children in front of the TV for an extra hour’s shut eye. 5/5 Stars

Willow’s Long Legged Cat Toy – All of Athena’s toys seem to get a name and an honorific. Miss Kitty, as we call this one, has quickly become a huge favourite. The bell is a little too low down for my liking, Athena likes to chew on it when she’s attacked Miss Kitty, and the plastic rod has completely bent in her playing, but something about the tactile nature of the long rope legs and plush body has completely enthralled Athena. Hunting Miss Kitty (and subsequently removing her facial features one by one) is Athena’s little joy in life. 3/5 Stars – we’ll need to get a new one soon

Cat Accessories

Igloo Bed – Athena’s igloo bed, which I purchased before she even arrived, is much like this one and has never been used. She has no real idea what a cat bed is for, and deeply mistrusts the fluffy pillow inside, even though it’s a close match for the fabric on Fluffy Mummy Blanket that she has loved so much she’s chewed a small hole in it. Unrated – can’t give a verdict on something she won’t use.

Climbing Tree – This is Athena’s tree, by Songmics, and it’s a great little starter tree for an indoor cat. She has multiple levels to play with and bounces between them. The toys lost their attraction pretty quick, but the top most platform is one of the best places to survey the living room and watch over any unexpected guests. Of course, being Athena, she hasn’t figured out what the cat bed part is for but ¬†. . . never mind. Can’t have everything. 4/5 Stars – a little unstable when she’s going crazy, a broader base would be better.¬†

Food

Thrive Cat Treats – 100% chicken, no additives, no mysterious extras. Athena does not recognise these as food. 0/5 Not to be bought again.

Whiskas Anti Hairballs – All the additives, all the salt, Athena would step over her own mother to get her paws on these. She deliberately acts shy when someone comes in the door because she knows if she does she’ll get some treats to entice her out. 5/5 Have taught Athena more guile than the rest of all her life experiences together.¬†

Fluffy Friday – Visualising Risk

Happy Hogmanay my lovelies!

I am, as you read this, most likely still recovering as in Scotland we take two public holiday days to get over the Hogmanay celebrations. Myself and Athena are probably both curled up on the sofa hoping someone will clear up around us.

But I did spot this great little article in the New York Times that I’d like to share – just because it’s a great example of visualising risk, and in a situation that many of us are frighteningly familiar with . . .

How likely is it your birth control will fail?

In brief, Fluffy Friday form, here’s what I love about it:

  • It describes the relationship with time, showing how risk is not always a linear relationship. Indeed in some cases it levels off with time.
  • It shows the difference between typical use and perfect use, on the same graph, and sometimes this is quite startling! (Honestly, what happens with Depo-Provera?)
  • It describes the actual risk – e.g. failure resulting in pregnancy, out of a 100 women.
  • My choice comes out on top – yay for progesterone only implants! Who knew migraines were good for something.

 

Chronicles of Athena – 18 Weeks

In the name of small anniversaries, Athena has now lived with me more than half of her life.

Which might explain why she’s such a cheeky little madam. I can’t crouch down in the kitchen without having her leap up onto my back and onto the counter (which is verboten). She also watches carefully for any evidence of the Forbidden Linen Cupboard of Mysteries being opened, and cries in anguish when it gets closed in front of her little nose.

Athena’s greatest discovery this week has been the bath. The bath is a great big slidey toy filled with interesting smells, sensations, and occasionally spiders. It is truly an exciting place to be. The bath does have some downsides in that when you are done with the bath, your paws are still wet, but so far Athena is testing out a theory that if she cries at her human long enough, her paws will magically become dry and happy again. Seeing as she cries long enough for them to dry on her own, it sort of works.

Seeing as we’re moving house in three weeks, updates will be sporadic in the coming month. Athena promises she’ll cause plenty of havoc for you to hear about.

Chronicles of Athena – 16 Weeks

Our little Athena is reaching the cusp of four months old, and is testing all of her boundaries as only preteens can do. This week she has been showing a distinct predilection for fussiness, eschewing all tuna and cod meals and only deigning to sample her turkey and chicken. Unfortunately, other cats haven’t told her that she’s supposed to disdain the dry food as well, but that she’s still quite happy to eat up.

She’d been very clingy and generally needy towards the start of this week (so much so an internal voice started to wonder if I shouldn’t get her a companion . . . but then I’m really not convinced the space I have is big enough for two, the trials and tribulations of having a pet!), but I wonder how much of this reflects my general excitement as Athena and I will be moving house next month. Time to crack the Feliway out again!

Athena also mightily impressed me in the last few weeks with a few odd little traits. This week I was revisiting one of my favourite topics: the human-animal bond, particularly the mutualism vs social parasite theories. This is one of my favourite lectures and I love giving it, so I cheekily sneaked a modified version into one of our MSc courses.

If, in the terms of mutualism, the human-animal relationship is a beneficial one, we have to wonder how we benefit from feeding, sheltering and loving little the bags of disease and farts that are our pets. Well recently Athena’s been trying to prove why she’s good to keep around.

One of my neighbours has a learning disability and was being taken to the respite care home. I noticed first Athena’s very frazzled attitude, running about from window to window, before I heard the poor man screaming. He was deeply distressed by the move and screaming down in the street below. Athena was fascinated, her fur all on end, her whiskers pricked forward, and generally quite alert, but not distressed. She seemed more intrigued than frightened of what was a very upsetting noise.

This might be explained away by her general good confidence and experience with people, but just a few days prior, my friend Claire was robbed. She came to stay with us for a night and Athena stuck to her like glue, cuddling up to her and purring, not asking to be played with. While she’s very fond of her Aunty Claire, she rarely naps on anyone else’s lap and I couldn’t help but wonder if she knew Claire was upset. Of course, she was mightily perplexed to find Aunty Claire still in the living room the next morning and didn’t quite dare go in by herself. When she did find Aunty Claire on the couch with a duvet it was as if a whole new realm of delight was opened up for her and I think she’d petition for the duvet’s return to the sofa if she thought it would make a difference.

While Poor Aunty Claire probably does not take much solace in my pride for Athena, I’m convinced this is evidence of her ability to adapt her behaviour based on the cues of the people around her. She’s turning into a proper little lady.

Though she still likes to fart in peoples’ faces.

Chronicles of Athena – 14 Weeks

Not to brag, but I’m writing this post sprawled out of the sofa, with a nice coffee, some freshly baked pumpkin spice cookies, a cosy blanket and a purring kitten, with the tv on and the last of the day’s sun shining in the window. It feels all very domesticated and wonderful.

But you didn’t come here to hear about my amazing ability to take recipes from the internet and cook them, even with a kitten hanging onto my apron strings (literally). You come to hear about Athena’s development.

Well this week we had our second round of vaccinations and our microchipping, neither of which we were too pleased about, but both of which mean I can take her out with her harness like we’ve been practicing to do. I’m not sure what she’ll make of it. Most challenges in Athena’s life can be overcome with a cuddle and a game with Mr Ducky, which is how I’ve¬†been conditioning her to tolerate the harness. But she’s also a stubborn lady and if she takes it in her head to freak out about the outside world, she won’t calm down until she’s been able to get a nice quiet cuddle somewhere safe. We shall see. I was thinking at one point that if she responds well to the harness training I might volunteer us for working in a Pets As Therapy capacity, but I’m not sure if she’d like it to be honest. She does find meeting new people to be intimidating, although she’ll happily cuddle them after getting to know them. Again, we shall see.

Athena is also, as Freud might say, orally fixated. She loves to chew, taste and just occasionally nibble bits and pieces here and there. I’ve heard professional trainers say you should never allow a young animal to use its teeth with humans at all, because they should never view it as acceptable. I personally believe that cats and dogs are clever enough to learn what gentle play is. Mouth-orientated play is an important behaviour for both species, and I’ve regularly been amazed at how great some animals are at regulating their play with different kinds of people. My childhood dog, for example, was nothing but gentle with me, but much more rough and tumble with my dad. As I got older, he changed his playstyle with me, while still remaining gentle with my younger sister. Our dogs and cats, I’m sure, know what ‘appropriate’ play is.

Athena is testing me though. She loves to bite things. Be it Mr Ducky, Mr Imp, Mr Cat or Ms Cow (Ms Cow is a particular favourite of hers as she can fasten her teeth around Ms Cow’s neck and gut the holstein with her back paws. It is truly disturbing and makes me think that in a few years time when we live somewhere she might be allowed to go outside she’ll be fitted with a truly massive bell). She likes to bite people too, and so I’ve become very strict with her lately and refused to engage whenever she uses her teeth on me.

Thankfully this is working. Much to my amusement, when Aunty Claire and Aunty Suzanne visited on Tuesday night for an impromptu gin session, Athena was quite cautious about how she played with their fingers, even sometimes checking with me in a way that looked like she was expecting a telling off for being too rough.

Asides from charming delivery men who come to the door, Athena has spent most of this week causing trouble and climbing onto things she shouldn’t. Essentially, all is as it should be.

Chronicles of Athena – Thirteen Weeks

Athena likes to play on my laptop, and my phone, resetting things and sending strange, garbled messages to all and sundry. The internet really is full of cats, it seems. So if you are a cat and you want to be informed of new FluffySciences posts, you’re in luck, because we now have a facebook page here!

As a student of kitten development in the last couple of weeks, I have a handy quiz to help you decide if you are in fact a cat on the internet.

 

Are fridges…

A) Dangerous, cold boxes holding stuff that could poison kittens or suffocate them?

B) Fantastic forbidden boxes of mystery to climb into at every opportunity?

 

Is the toilet?

A) A dangerous, slipper bowl of water that might also sometimes have bleach in it?

B) Curious, forbidden bowl of water that you one day intend to thoroughly investigate?

 

Is bedtime?

A) One of the best times of the day where we lie quietly underneath the covers, maybe watching a YouTube video, staying nice and calm?

B) Extra playtime to bite at the creatures that live underneath the duvet (under-duvet explorations have only found feet so far but hope springs eternal)?

 

Is morning times?

A) A time when we have begun to rely on kitten to wake us up?

B) An excellent time to lull humans back to sleep with purrs and cuddles until she is late for work?

 

Is fish?

A) Really quite yummy and one of the best foods?

B) An abomination unto Bastet and we’d rather eat dry food than cod or tuna flavoured kitten food.

 

Are laptops?

A) Enjoyable devices to allow us to work, blog and internet?

B) Somewhat uncomfortable beds we will lie on regardless?

 

Are phones?

A) Wonderful little mini laptops that mean we can check our emails before getting out bed?

B) Chew toys?

 

Is Brussells pate?

A) Human food, get the hell away from my toast.

B) Wonderful ambrosia of the gods that must be tasted at all cost?

 

If you answered mostly or all Bs, you may in fact be a cat. Get off your owners laptop. You’re not helping.

 

Chronicles of Athena – Twelve Weeks

I don’t know how to say this in a not-bragging way, but I think I got one of the clever ones. It’s not necessarily a good thing (unless, like me, you place an unreasonable amount of value in cleverness). At three months old Athena is very proud to have invented several different games such as the ‘I bring you this toy, you throw it over there so I can hunt it, then I’ll bring it back to you to throw it again’ (she’s working on the name). She’s figured out that my phone is a touch screen and will do stuff when she plays with it, but the laptop needs to be pawed at to do stuff (and she’s also figured out that she’s not allowed to paw at the laptop and there are specific places she can walk where I will tolerate her).

These last two I rationalise as there being limited interactivity on a phone (the only thing you can touch is the touch screen after all), and the laptop keyboard as being more tactile and pleasing to play with than the laptop screen. I’m not sure how she invented fetch.

The flip side is how easily she gets bored. I have to regularly rotate her toys to keep her interested in them, otherwise she turns to playing with the loose threads in the carpets and the curtains. She’s also extremely quick to pick up on routines which means she knows what I do when I’m about to leave the house. Thankfully she’s also developing more of an independent streak and so when I leave she doesn’t spend the day curled up in her safe place. The whole flat is now her safe place and even when the evil monster Vacooooom comes out she’s more likely to go sit at the window than hide under the telly.

This week has been a real joy – even though I was plagued with migraines, Athena has been so happy and affectionate. While I was lying on the sofa, trying to keep the light from my eyes, she was playing games underneath the blanket, bringing me Mr Ducky in the hope it might tempt me to play, and generally trying to figure out why I wasn’t behaving like she expected me to. It’s been lovely to see her exploring how to interact with me, and other humans, what she expects from us.

I was baking a cake earlier and she was genuinely irritated that I wasn’t paying attention to her. Little things like this we need to work on.

But that being said, she does purr so loudly when she’s cuddled.

There's nothing Athena loves more than a good cuddle - excpet for maybe a cuddle and a head scratch
There’s nothing Athena loves more than a good cuddle – excpet for maybe a cuddle and a head scratch

Chronicles of Athena – Eleven Weeks

It’s been another busy week for our Athena. Well, firstly there was a slight suspicion she may have been a boy. When we went to the vets on Monday, after some considerable genital palpitation, we decided we’re 98% certain she’s definitely a girl. Other choice quotes from our lovely vet:

“Definitely a mummy’s girl, aren’t we?” While Athena was crawling into my arms to escape the stethoscope.

“Oh yes there’s a stool in there.” While shoving a thermometer up her bum.

“We’re clearly the runt of the litter, aren’t we.” After I explained her appetite isn’t the biggest.

“She seems pretty lively, do you want me to try her temperature again?” At the end of what was possibly the most genital-obsessed ten minutes of Athena’s life. Needless to say we didn’t bother.

Overall I’m really pleased she got the all clear from the vets after her little bout of worms and the fact she’s not the best eater in the world. Our second dose of worming does seem to have really helped her in the litter box which is great news.

One of the reasons I wanted to keep this chronicle was because I wanted a record of the relationship between us. This week she’s started to develop some of the behaviours I consider to be an integral part of the cat-human bond. She’s started weaving at my feet when I’m about to feed her, and she has a more unique ‘food’ miaow which is beginning to be distinct from her other vocalisations.

She also has her little routines, like coming to greet me at the door when I come home from work, where she’s impatient for me to put all my stuff down before picking her up for a cuddle. And then after she’s had enough cuddling she’s off to her food bowl for fresh food.

One thing she doesn’t do, which surprises me slightly, is knead. She seems to have no real drive to start making biscuits, even when she’s happy and purring and very cuddly. Strangely enough, I miss it quite a bit!

And lastly, she’s getting bigger. She’s just under a kilo now and has long, gangly legs and long, fluffy tail to go with her over-large ears. She’s now having to learn to regulate her play fighting so as not to hurt people (and this may be my imagination but I’m convinced she’s more gentle with other people than with me, which I think is a lovely sign of confidence actually).

On Monday she’ll be three months old, really no longer a baby and more of a child. While the kitten phase was very cute, this is a much more interesting part for me, where we start working out how we live together.

Athena in a bed
Feeling a little bit poorly after her vaccinations, she was quite content to sleep under a blanket.