Sunday, 25 November 2012

How time flies...

The kittens are three months old already.  They will be staying with us for a few more weeks until they are microchipped and neutered.

Today, Neil from White Squirrel Photography took some super photos even though the kittens, being kittens, refused to pose for more than half a second as they just wanted to play!

Mjoll Snow Shod, tortie and white
Ulfric Stormcloak, blue and white
Alduin, blue tabby and white

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

All grown up

This is Tildy, who left home a small naughty kitten and has become a beautiful sweet adult.  Her owner kindly sent us this picture, saying ' I have been unable to get a good side on shot to show her magnificent coat and tail'.  Thank you, Pam!

Saturday, 22 September 2012

Kittens at last!

Life has been rather too busy to have kittens until now, but in mid August we did have a lovely litter arrive from Valentine and Velcro.  This was Velcro's first litter of course.  When we put her with Valentine she promptly tried to suckle him (and being the good-natured chap he was, he allowed this with a look of bemusement).  But not getting any milk, she decided to grow up after all, and eventually produced a really cute litter.

We have:
Aeela, an adorable tortie and white girl.  She has a big red patch that you can't see in this picture.

Alduin, a blue tabby and white boy who is a bit of a mountaineer

Ulfric Stormcloak, a blue and white boy with a white tail-tip and a laid-back purrsonality
So, I will try to be good and keep this page updated more regularly from now on :)

Thursday, 31 May 2012

A special birthday for Impromptu

This week, Imp was seventeen years old.  I'm glad to say he is in good health and spirits still.  He has more or less given up grooming himself (he never was very keen on that) so I have given him a few thorough combings lately, getting rid of old fur so he has lost his ruff but looks a lot smarter and whiter!
Premier Vieuxtemps Impromptu in old age
Imp is one of the most loving cats imaginable.  He adores his fellow feline housemates, and makes a big fuss of visitors.  He only has to see Bob or me looking at him to set up a loud purr.

He was one of our 'piano litter' born in May 1995; mum was Tarrakatt Tahnee, daughter of the first stud cat imported into the UK, and dad was my own first NFC stud cat, the very wonderful Kyrrekatt Kistrand.  The kittens were all either pure white or black smoke or solid black and white.  They frequently arranged themselves at Tahnee's milk bar in the manner of piano keys - black then white then black then white - so we gave them names related to the piano in general, and Chopin in particular.  Imp's siblings' names were Vieuxtemps Nocturne, Scherzo, Mazurka, Prelude and Ivory.
Mum Tahnee, with her piano litter
Impromptu stood out as a very fine example of a Norwegian Forest Cat from a young age.  He was a good size, had beautiful expression, fantastic straight profile and firm chin, and such a gentle temperament that he made a great show cat.   At that time, Norwegian Forest Cats were relatively unknown in Britain and had not yet achieved Championship status in the UK.  But two years later, NFCs were able to gain titles for the first time.  Everyone took out their best cats to the shows, and it was with great pride and delight that we watched Impromptu win large classes - in double figures - to gain the title of  Premier Vieuxtemps Impromptu.  He had made history and become the first Forest Cat to gain a title in the UK.
Imp (left) and his dad, odd-eyed Kistrand who died a few years ago, were literally inseparable
Impromptu went on to gain two Grand certificates almost immediately, but as we had also succeeded in gaining the first Champion NFC title with another cat of ours it seemed greedy to continue so we stepped back and retired Impromptu at his prime so others could share a bit of the glory of those first titles.
Imp as a kitten
The only problems we have had as Imp has aged, are that his claws need careful clipping because they have become long and curved, and would hurt his pads if allowed to grow too long.  He has had a few teeth out and his coat isn't in as good condition as it once was, but overall the vet says he is a good weight for his age and he seems to enjoy life as much as ever.  He has an excellent appetite - his favourite food being raw minced rabbit, although he'll eat anything we give him with great gusto.   Long may he continue to reign over our hearts!
Premier Vieuxtemps Impromptu in his prime: photo by Alan Robinson

Wednesday, 23 May 2012

Happy Birthday, Butz!

It's scary how quickly time goes by.  Butz is twelve today! (And if my father, the person who instilled in me a love of Airedale Terriers, were alive he would be 100 years old today.)
Here's a photo of my father as a little boy:
 This would have been taken around 1917.  He's the one on the right.

Here is Butz as a puppy:

And this is him recently:

Butz is still hale and hearty, and full of beanz.  He slowed down earlier this year when he had to be put on heart pills, but they are working excellently so he still enjoys his daily walks.  This morning I'm going to take him on an extra special outing, then give him a huge doggy breakfast of raw chicken with green veggies mixed with a little tuna on the side.

Butz's best friend is our stud cat Valentine - they have been inseparable since Valentine was a small kitten:

Wednesday, 4 April 2012

Velcro and Valkyrie

The two youngest members of the Vieuxtemps household are growing up fast, so I thought it was time for an update and took some pictures today.  Velcro is a 'naughty but nice' character,  full of life and curiosity, always poking her furry little nose into whatever is going on.  She's good-natured with the other cats (and Butz) but has a high opinion of herself.  Looks-wise, she has inherited her mother's beautiful coat quality but she could do with being larger.  I love her overall 'look', her expression and ear furnishings.

Velcro aged one year - 4.4.2012
 Half-sister Kyrie, on the other hand, is much more laid-back with an easy-going, sweet nature.  She already weighs more than Velcro (although four months younger) and has inherited her father's lovely profile and again has a very nice coat, although it looks tinged with auburn in this not-very-good photo!

Kyrie aged nearly 8 months, 4.4.2012

Saturday, 24 March 2012

Butz worries

Having dogs and cats really makes you aware of the passage of time, doesn't it.  Their lives go fast so much more speedily than ours.  The average lifespan for an Airedale is eleven and a half, and Butz will be twelve in May.  He has seemed lively and strong for so long that we congratulated ourselves that this was due to having kept him on a carefully-balanced BARF diet for nearly all his life.
The latest pic of Butz in the local country park - taken just before he fell ill
For the last year he has been slowing down a bit, which we put down to age, and then about two weeks ago he really seemed tired all the time and almost weak.  He wanted to turn back home after only a short walk, whereas before he wanted to run, trot, sniff and saunter for hours!    So I took him to the vet, expecting a diagnosis of arthritis maybe.  But no, it was his heart.  The vet said she could hear an ominous squishing sound suggestive of congestive heart failure.  She booked him in for scans and an x-ray, immediately.  These showed her diagnosis was correct - his heart was struggling to pump his blood around.   Experienced as I am with vet visits, nonetheless tears came to my eyes.  The vet, Peggy from Cherrydown, assured me that the condition was probably quite easily treated with tablets, and prescribed Vetmedin.

Wow!  What a difference.  After only one day, Butz showed a noticable improvement and was ready for longer walks.  A week later and I'd say he is at least 80% back to normal, and is even being a bit naughty again, which is wonderful to see!

Thank you dear Peggy, thank you Vetmedin.  He will be on this medication for the rest of his life, but what a relief!  And above all - thank you to Butz for being Butz!

Sunday, 18 March 2012

A picture of Jet

The other day, a friend of mine said 'isn't that a photo of Jet in the March edition of 'Your Cat' Magazine?  So I had a look and, lo and behold, on page 51 there was Jet washing a kitten.  Recognisable in the background is my settee.  This must be one of a bunch of pictures taken a few years ago when a photographer visited us.  The kitten isn't actually Jet's own - it is one of Uku's, Macavity.  Jet was just being a good auntie, as she always is.
Good spotting, Fiona!  The father of Macavity, who now lives on the Isle of Man, is Quink.  Here is a photo of Dad and Son before the kittens left home.  (The actual article isn't about our cats at all!)

Saturday, 25 February 2012

My how they've grown!

It's always good to receive news of kittens who have left home.  Today I was emailed some lovely pictures and stories from Claire and family, who live with Vita and Violet (born in 2009).  They left home as a small red and white girl and a fluffy pretty silver tortie girl.  Here they are as kittens, with some little cousins:
Left to right: Vieuxtemps Vita, Violet, Frederica and Vilanelle
And today, aged two-and-a-bit:

Claire writes:

"The two of them have both blossomed into two gorgeous Norwegian Forest Cats... Vita does look like her daddy quite a lot, and Violet definitely has the look of her mother. Vita like her name is a ball full of life and can be very chatty and demanding when wanting to play! Violet on the other hand is without a doubt the lazier cat who would rather watch her sister play than do it herself and from time to time likes to sneak up and pounce on Vita."
Violet, grown-up and at nearly 6kg having to watch her waistline!
"They are very sympathetic and almost have a sixth sense, as they always know when something is wrong. They are both brilliant personalities and we love them to bits! The cats are our best friends as they are always there for you and when you are down their little cute faces cheer you up."
Vita as an adult.  It is unusual, but not impossible, to get red females as well as males.
Thank you to Claire and family.  I too find Norwegian Forest Cats very 'sympathetic' - they are friendly and kind, and really do become an enormously important part of the family. 

Friday, 17 February 2012

Food for felines

What do the Vieuxtemps cats eat?

During the thirty-odd years I have shared my life with cats, ideas about the feline diet have changed enormously.   In the early days I chose to give cheap canned and highly-coloured dry food available at supermarkets, supplemented by treats of cooked meat*, purely out of ignorance and lack of alternatives.  My cats did OK on it, it has to be said, although our first cat developed diabetes and died at the age of nine, and others suffered from cancer.   But the latter probably wasn’t diet-related.
 (*NB it is dangerous to give cats, or dogs, cooked bones as they might shatter and harm the animal.  And did you know that delicatessen sliced meats, although they might seem to be a tasty treat for your pet, usually contain chemicals which aren’t good for them?)

Later a trusted vet suggested Hill’s Science Diet, which was quite new in the UK at the time I believe, so I used that a lot too and the cats did seem to thrive on it.  I remember asking the vet ‘but won’t they get bored eating the same thing day in, day out?’  He replied that most cats in a natural environment have an unvaried diet too.  They will often live in an area with a lot of mice, or a lot of birds, but not usually both.  So I felt OK about giving them only the Hill’s, as directed by the vet.  The dried food was supposed to help with teeth also, although it didn’t seem to work for my cats.
Skovmus in Denmark as a kitten, with litter mates in the background
Then in 1994 we imported our first cat from abroad, Skovmus Felis Jubatus.  In Denmark she had been fed day-old chicks so we continued offering her these as well as leaving down Hill’s for the rest of our cats.  
 Some also enjoyed chicks and some (our Abyssinians) weren’t quite sure what to do with them!  Day-old chicks are very nutritious and the cats eat the whole bird, including the feathers, beak and feet.  They can be quite messy so we always fed these outdoors.  You buy them frozen in trays of fifty for about five pounds.  It made me sad to think these little lives were snuffed out almost before they had begun, and were considered almost worthless.  The reason is that breeders of hens only want the egg-laying females, so the males are killed after being selected by skilled professional ‘chicken sexers’.  Having said that – isn’t an early death better than the life of torture that some battery hens have had to lead?

In 2000 we got our first and only dog, Butz.   We knew nothing about dogs, so did a lot of reading and learning from other dog-owners.  One life-changing book we were given was called ‘Give Your Dog A Bone’ by the Australian veterinarian, Dr Ian Billinghurst.  Its subtitle is ‘The Practical Commonsense Way to Feed Dogs For A Long Healthy Life’.

It is written with humour and good sense, and I recommend it to everyone, including cat owners.  You can visit the author’s website by clicking on the book cover above.

On the other hand, misleading articles like this one make me mad:
It is true that cooked bones can cause damage.  The secret for dogs is RAW meaty bones.

Cats have very different dietary requirements from dogs.  Dogs, like us, are omnivores, so they can thrive by eating a variety of things from vegetables to fish to cheese to beef.  Cats on the other hand are obligate carnivores, meaning they need to live almost entirely off meat.  This is one reason why commercial foods aren’t natural for cats to eat.  Just look at the ingredients!  Some of them contain a high percentage of meat, albeit dried and extruded meat, but many have soya or cereal products as their main ingredient.  Why would cats, the supreme hunters, thrive on such a thing?  I never heard of cats being very good farmers.  But cats’ digestions are quite fussy.  One ingredient they need, which their own bodies cannot produce, is the amino acid taurine.  Lack of taurine might not produce any immediate symptoms in your cat, but the cat will end up going blind after a few years if they lack this essential acid.  Commercial foods nowadays are careful to add taurine to their long list of ingredients.  If you feed your cat mainly raw meat, taurine can be bought as a supplement from a health shop and small amounts can be added.  Obviously in the wild, the cat will eat the whole of its prey including stomach contents which provides a balanced diet, but giving just muscle meat does require care.

What I feed my cats on nowadays is this:

Have a look at the company website by clicking on the image – it contains some useful information.
Prize Choice comes in many varieties, but I try to choose those that are reasonably species-appropriate – namely rabbit, chicken, fish and turkey (though to be honest I can’t imagine even a Norwegian Forest Cat killing a turkey, can you?) I feed it raw daily, giving all the cats as much as they can eat.  I also leave down a bowl of dried food (Iams Hairball at the moment, which seems to enable cats to produce perfect stools; cats need roughage, and if they aren't getting feathers to eat Iams Hairball does give them some alternative fibre) because I like them to be able to snack when I’m out at work, and leaving too much raw meat lying around isn’t good, especially in summer.  Of course, fresh water is available at all times (no milk!)
There is no doubt that dry food is handy for us humans to serve up to our cats.  But by giving them the opportunity to eat raw meat (supplemented by a little taurine) I hope I am helping their health, their teeth and their happiness.  Bob and I are vegetarian, but what with Butz’s chicken wings, we get through an awful lot of raw meat in our household. They seem to be doing alright on it.  Impromptu is seventeen in three months’ time and he loves his minced rabbit!
Premier Vieuxtemps Impromptu - a very elderly gentleman
I'm not formally trained in feline nutrition.  I also have no financial interest in any of the products mentioned above! These are just my honest experiences and personal views after several decades of trying to do the best for my own animals, but I hope if you have a cat or a dog you will consider feeding at least some raw meat.  If you don't believe me and are still using mainly or entirely a commercial dry diet - just read the ingredients on the packet and think again.

Wednesday, 1 February 2012

A cat for winter

(c) Shirley Fullarton
Today I received this beautiful artwork from my artist friend Shirley, a portrait of a cat she got from me many years ago.  Magnus has gone to Valhalla but he lives on in this painting where Shirley has captured his personality so well.  Magnus (Vieuxtemps Pumpernickel) was a gentle giant, so typical of NFC male neuters.

Norwegian Forest Cats obviously differ between individuals, just as we humans do, but my experience has been that they positively enjoy cold weather.  Their coats develop a duvet-like woolly undercoat that puffs out and keeps them toasty warm, while the oily overcoat keeps them dry.  I also find that NFCs tend to prefer to sit next to you rather than on your lap, which may be partly down to size (too big to comfortably fit on  a lap) but is also due to the fact they don't like to get too hot.  I feel their metabolism is different from other cats I have lived with.

Monday, 16 January 2012

Mum was buried today

Pitsea Cemetery, overlooking the marshes.  Cromwell Manor for refreshments - much recommended.  Delight at meeting friends of many decades, welcome hugs from family, great support from Bob.  And a devouring sadness.

under a gold and turquoise sky
under a mound of pastel flowers
in the freezing January earth
lies the woman who gave me birth
gone is her voice, her soft white hair
cold now is her broken form
once so vivid in stubborn life
gone forever, my father’s wife

Thank you to everyone who expressed sympathy, or came to the funeral (it was overflowing!)  You all made such a huge difference.

Back to cat posts from now on, I promise!