Thursday, August 15, 2013

Foster Kitties

The other day I shared my new "litter box bench" project that I made for my new kitties and foster kitties.  In that post, I said I would share the story of how I ended up with all these kitty cats, so here it goes.

Sometime at the end of April I was feeling the need to help out a local shelter that is near and dear to my heart. The Oahu SPCA is where I got my beloved Murphy dog, so when I see they are in need of specific supplies, I try to swing by with a donation.  (Also, 10% of any of my artwork sales go to animal shelters, including the SPCA.)  This particular day, I had seen they were in desperate need of kitty litter and fosters for some of their animals.  My best friend Kylie (who happens to be an awesome photographer) rode with me to the shelter to drop off our cat litter donation.  While there, I spoke with a lady at the shelter about fostering to temporarily help out if I found the right fit.  Kylie and I walked around the shelter, but didn't see the perfect fit for my home and my two fur babies Murphy and Duke.  When we walked back into the office, the lady asked if I would be willing to consider fostering bottle fed kittens whose mother abandoned them in the middle of a dirt field.  Now I had never raised bottle fed kittens, but I'd given a bottle to any number of critters during my growing up years-- goats, cows, and probably others I can't remember at the moment.  I knew I would be in for a challenge, but since I don't work outside the home, I knew it was possible.  I told her that it was something I would probably be able to do, and the next thing I knew she was reaching behind her desk and grabbing a box with three teeny-tiny wiggly little babies inside.

This is what I saw in the box.  Did I mention they were tiny?  I mean really tiny three-day-old kitten larvae?

Once I saw them, knowing how badly they needed someone to take care of them, I couldn't leave them.  I filled out the necessary paperwork, got a crash course on infant kitten care, and came home with a box of babies.

Kylie helped me feed them the first time.  It was scary trying to make sure they got enough when "enough" was 1 milliliter of milk.

It took nearly a week of feeding them with a syringe before they could get the hang of a bottle.

This was about two days into my adventure.

It really was like having infant triplets for a little while there.  I was up every two hours around the clock feeding these little boogers.  When they are this small, they can't even go to the bathroom alone.  Usually the mama cat would stimulate their little butts by licking while cleaning them, but since she wasn't available, I had to do the stimulating with a moist paper towel after every meal.  It wasn't the most glamorous job, but it was necessary, so I did it.

On a side note: I don't know how human moms do it for months on end.  I toughed through being on call every couple of hours with these guys because they grow so fast.  I knew it would only be a few weeks of no sleep.

By about two and a half weeks old, eyes were beginning to open.

At three weeks, they were becoming pros at taking the bottle.

At this point I still believed what the shelter had originally told me and thought I was fostering three girl kitties.  The husband named the first one Allie, as in alley cat.  I named the little guy above "Hallie" because every time the bottle came out so did the "Hallelujah hands."  Those little paws would stick straight up every time.  With "Hallie" and "Allie,"  I thought a rhyming name would be fitting, so "Sally" became the third.

Four weeks old, and they started walking around some and getting interested in more solid food.

In case you've never weaned kittens, it's a MESSY job.  You have to mix formula with some moist kitten food and put it in a shallow dish for them.  They stick their face right in it to slurp it up.... And their paws in it to paddle around, and their bellies to flop around some more, and their tails, and their eyes, and their noses, and, well, you get the picture.  They pretty much have to have a bath after every meal.  Luckily, they are really adorable.

At five weeks, they start really playing.  Climbing, running, stalking... The normal "kitten stuff."  They still weren't totally sure on their feet or super agile, but practice makes perfect, right?

This was also the point when I discovered that I was pretty positive the shelter had been wrong.  "Hallie," my little black "Hallelujah hands" kitty, was actually just "Hal."  He had a bit of extra anatomy.

As time went on, I fell more and more in love with my little charges.  Knowing the statistics on cat adoptions (only 20% of any cats that enter shelters ever get adopted), and particularly black cat adoption statistics (go ahead and cut normal adoptions by at least half), I knew I wanted to adopt Hal for sure.

A few more weeks, and it was time to introduce these babies to the other four-legged members of my family.  Murphy was first.

He really impressed me.  Since he has a very strong prey drive, I was concerned he might not do well, but once he figured out that they weren't stuffed dog toys come to life, he did really well.  Duke never cared much one way or the other, so he just went about his normal business.

They started really looking like little cats at nine weeks.

Miss Allie cat got a name change to Miss Mustache, and since she is less outgoing than Sally, I decided she would do best staying with me to give Hal a permanent companion.  (I'm hoping a good friend will adopt my precious Sally.)

Now they are just my lazy bums, and they provide hours of entertainment for me and the husband.  Pull out a laser pointer, and it's so much better than television. :)

There you have it.  That's how I ended up turning into a slightly crazy cat AND dog lady. 

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Reclaimed Pallet Wood Litter Box Bench

Okay, so it's been a REALLY long time since I've done any blogging.  I'm sure some people thought I fell off the face of the Earth or just ditched my blog.  That's okay.  I would have done the same thing.

I think I got too immersed in the bloggie world for a while there and forgot what it was like to actually live life.  After a very long break, I created some things, learned some new things, had a few adventures, and began getting the itch to share them again.  I'm probably not cut out to be an "every-single-day blogger," but I think I can handle at least once a week.  We'll see how it goes.

Anyhoo... I decided I was super excited about my latest project.  It's a piece of furniture that I'm calling a "litter box bench."  I decided to make it after adopting two of my bottle baby foster kittens.  (I know... In my absence you guys probably not have met them yet, but I'll save that story for another day, like maybe tomorrow...or the next...)

Now that I have two kitty cats (three at the moment because I'm still fostering their sister) in my house, I wanted to find a solution to a few problems.

  1. Litter boxes are just ugly.  "Blue plastic in the corner of the room is so beautiful," said no one ever.
  2. Little Murphy dog thinks that the kitties leave "delicious candy with pee flavored sprinkles" just for him.  (See this video, if you want a good laugh about dogs.)
  3. Litter is insane.  That stuff goes EVERYWHERE.  I needed to contain it.

This was my solution.

It looks like a chest/bench thingy, right?

Well, that's not all it is...

The side has a nice little kitty cat size entrance.

As you can see, they seem to like going in and out...

And chilling out on top.

(That's Miss Mustache, by the way.  It's pretty obvious how she got her name.)

Now here's the cool part about this litter box bench.  The top comes off, so you can take care of your end of business inside.

I decided to make this one big enough for two "rooms."  The first area has one of those litter mats so it will catch litter before they track it outside.  It also made a nice little place for me to hang the pooper scooper.  I put the divider in so my little weasel of a dog, a.k.a. Murphy, couldn't get inside to his favorite treats.

So far it's working out very nicely, and it's not an eyesore like that stupid blue plastic box.

Now, you might be wondering how we did it.  Honestly, I just sort of came up with the concept of what I wanted, and the husband and I made it up as we went along.  We used pallet wood and scrap plywood my husband found, hardware that we had, and stain and polyurethane I had used for previous projects, so the only things I spent money on were the foam and fabric for the top.  All together, it cost about $20.  

Unfortunately, in my excitement I didn't take photos along the way, but I had drawn sketches in an attempt to organize my thoughts.  When my sister wanted the "plans," I decided I would just blog about it so anyone else who might be interested could see.  (The following images are of quick sketches I used to visually show my husband what I had in mind.  I later added the notes for you guys.  Note:  I am not an architect, nor do I claim to be.  This is just to show you the basic idea, so please don't be rude about my crooked lines or lack of proportion.  Thanks.)

Hopefully you guys like it. :) I'll be back soon with the story of how I ended up with kittens in the first place, and I hope to have more projects to share very soon, as well.