Cats and Boxes

A tabby cat and black cat laying on different boxes, and a tuxedo cat laying on his back in front of the tabby's box.Our cats have a whole bunch of jingly balls, at least three toy mice, and a whole bunch of other toys.

Their favorites? Old shoelaces and boxes.

Always the boxes.

They feel safe in the boxes. They feel comfortable on top of boxes. They ambush us from the shelter of boxes. They swat at each other from between boxes.

Ah, yes, box obsessed cats.

A tuxedo cat curled up in a Guinness box.So, what does that mean for us? We’re box obsessed humans.

Who’s really in charge here?

I think we all know the answer to that question.

New Year Yarn!

Yesterday, I celebrated the first day of 2016 by picking up some new yarn. Thank you parents-in-law for the gift card, and thanks Michael’s for 55% off yarn sale!

A plastic bag of yarn with a pair of knitting needles sitting on top.That meant that today, I finally got around to making a blanket for my friend’s baby due in February.

Naturally, the cats were thrilled for an opportunity to claim my attention.

A black cat with green eyes looking at the camera with my hand holding the project I'm knitting resting on his back.
He’s so very helpful. He was lying on my stomach and trying to claim my arms, too.
A black and white cat lying on his back.
This little guy rarely sits or curls up on us. When I knit, though, he likes sprawling partially on me.

Our tabby paid me a visit, too, but I couldn’t get a picture of her, because she likes pushing her little head into my hands for scratches. She does that when I’m trying to type, too.

Those kitties are so sweet that I can’t get angry at them for wanting my attention. It’s quite an effective defense mechanism.

All of the feline interruptions aside, I still managed to finish the blanket! I haven’t taken a picture of its entirety, since the lighting in our house at night isn’t that great, but I did get this detail.

A knit blanket with a diamond pattern of blue, white, green and brown.That pattern was completely unintentional on my part. The blanket was knit using two strands of yarn throughout. The color lot in those two skeins were colored in just the right way to result in a diamond pattern.

So cool.

That’s part of why I enjoy using multi-colored yarn. I never know exactly what the pattern is going to be like when I finish making my project, and it’s neat seeing how it plays out.

I’d say this is a good start to the year.

Went light on crafts this week, but I made up for it with flowers and kitties!

The only crafty thing I really made was that ear cuff from Wednesday.

Ears are weird looking.

Otherwise, my time’s been taking up with writing, cleaning or reading. Well, yesterday, I did transplant one of my little balloon flower plants, since it was getting overwhelmed by the Fire Witch bush. So, I suppose here’s a picture of that.

The one I moved has darker dirt around it from where I’d watered it this morning.

It doesn’t look too sad, so hopefully it’ll survive. Those little plants produce the prettiest purple flowers.

Speaking of flowers, our crab apple tree is starting to reach its prettiest time of the year. Take a look at these blossoms.

They have the sweetest smell, too. Once more are open, I’ll probably head out there again and get some more pictures.

And finally, the cats are being very cute today, so I figured I’d share a picture of their sprawling majesty.

The interim set up until we can get a couple of cat trees. They seem happy enough with their boxes.

Our tabby cracks me up. It’s like she goes out of her way to lie on surfaces that match her coat.

Anyway, hope everyone’s enjoying their spring!

Art Assignment #7

Yesterday’s migraine stopped me from posting here, or doing much of anything for that matter. Before I gave up on being productive, I stumbled upon the seventh challenge for The Art Project.

For those not in the know, The Art Project is a social activity put on by PBS, in which artists “assign” tasks to complete. I’ve already done the third assignment, which was to capture something intimate and indispensable to you in gif format. I posted that result here, on my other blog.

The seventh assignment, which you can watch for more information on youtube here, was to go to this webpage, click on the “Try Me” button, and do whatever comes up.

Here’s what I got:

Hmm…ok. I’m crafty. Our unfinished basement is a lonely place, and I have quite a bit of yarn that has yet to be used.

So, I brought some yarn, a blanket and my camera to a cold, lonely corner of my future office.

Lumber yet to be used.

This is the riveting view I had from my lonely little corner.

Yes, that’s a keg in the background. No, there’s nothing in it. Yes, it was left here by the previous owner when we moved in here 10 years ago. She also left us 20 lbs of sand mixed with nails and hunks of concrete.

Friendship bracelet in progress.

I used to make these types of bracelets all the time when I was a kid. I don’t know why, but I’ve always enjoyed braiding things. I stabilized this one by tying the yarn around my middle finger, and letting the ends hang down along my palm.

See? Making something in my palm. The palm with a feint, lonely freckle. (Weird place for a freckle.)

All went quietly, and slightly coldly, when suddenly, I got company.

KHAN!

He’s almost always with me when I’m home, so knew it was only a matter of time. Poor baby was all kinds of confused, since I usually only go into the basement to do laundry, clean the cat box or harass hubby when he’s playing on his computer.

It wasn’t to last. We all know what happens when cats and yarn meet.

(Pardon the poor video quality, black stain on the right of the screen and clicking noises. The camera’s old, there’s lens damage and it was never all that great at taking video.) 

He made finishing the bracelet a little more difficult than it needed to be, but hey, I got to the end. It was a bit sloppy, but I like the color contrast between white and red was nice. It also stood out nicely against the relative gloom of our basement.

I probably should have brought a pair of scissors with me, huh?

So, sound the fanfare and break out the power tools, I’ve completed Art Assignment 7!

Inspiration for DIY Cat Trees

Every time we go to the pet store, we always look at the cat trees. Usually, the least expensive one we can find is between $60 and $70.

In the realm of specialized furniture, I realize that’s a good deal, but in the realm of our budget, it’s not something we can justify. Instead, we plan on making one or two trees ourselves. At this point, we’re looking for inspiration, so I figured I’d share some of my favorites with my fellow cat lovers below.

Those are some happy kitties.
by Erik Burton, [CC BY 2.0], via Flickr

This one’s a little over-the top, but it’s still a great idea. I’m sure our cats would love something like this, though we don’t have the right kind of space for it.

DIY Cat-tree Tutorial
Wow. Looks like I hit pay-dirt with this one! This entry has blueprints for various cat trees, and step by step instructions. The blog also has quite a few great entries on the subject.

Something like this would work nicely.
By mi2starsfan [CC-BY-SA-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Something like this would be perfect! I really like the cat houses, the walkways and the perches.

Simple and inexpensive. That’s my kind of project. This is probably going to be the kind of tree we’ll make with the scraps from home renovation.

Aww…foster kittens playing in a metal homemade cat tree. Very cute. That looks like a very easy idea, too.

These are some great ideas to ruminate over, but for now, our kitties have boxes on which to sit as they look out our living room window, and the mini cat-fort I’d written about here.

When I do get going on a new cat tree for our kitties, I’ll share progress pics. For now, have a bonus picture of our tabby and tuxedo cat sharing the cat fort.

Cute, aren’t they?

Double Knit Scarf is Finished!

As this entry’s title would so subtly suggest, I’ve finally finished the double-knit scarf!

Not bad for a first attempt at this technique, ‘eh? I designed that flower (that looks kind of like a snowflake), and used the pattern from here for the horses.

Once I figure out how to get some better pictures of it, I’ll enter it into the contest. It’s a pretty long scarf, and my camera is a little hard to work with, so hopefully I can work something out.

I haven’t gotten word back from the woman who created the horse design, so I’m not sure if this will be up for sale, yet, but I am going to figure out how to create more of my own designs. Once I get good enough at that, I’ll offer commissions for this.

As for renovation, my husband’s made some progress.

At first glance, it may not look like a whole lot, but during the course of building those frames, my husband discovered that our basement floor tilts towards the back yard just enough to make fitting these things properly difficult.

When we ripped down the original walls in that section, we also found the following items –

  • Mummified rat (not one of ours)
  • Bricks stacked inside the wall. Not part of the wall, just inside of it. Hubby said he’s thinking of putting them somewhere inside the new walls for the next person who does renovations.
  • A Popple wrapped in electrical tape. Yes. Creepy. Very creepy. Neither of us know how it got there.
  • One of our youngest cat’s collars. We’re not sure how he was able to find his way in there, either.

Hm. I should have gotten pictures of the storage area we’ve designated down there, too. We have quite a bit of lumber and a couple of doors taking up space, with a tiny little path for the cats to head back to the basement litter box.

Anyway, until next time, have a bonus picture of a rather unamused kitty on the scarf.

I don’t think he approves.

Cat Safety During Home Improvement Projects

We’ve finally started the long process of finishing our basement. A couple of poorly erected walls have been brought down, a number of interesting things have been found in said walls, materials have been purchased and our cats aren’t quite as happy as they were before we started.

Our tabby chilling out in their box.

However, they’re doing far better than they would otherwise, because we took a few measures to help them through the process.

Here’s what we’ve been doing.

Designate a “Safe” Room or Two
In our case, we moved one of the litter boxes upstairs and transfer it between our bedroom and my office, depending on where the kitties will be staying. We also move their water bowl accordingly.

We chose those two rooms because all three cats already enjoy being in them, and there are plenty of spots they curl up in. We’ve also been giving them small treats and feeding them in those rooms to further associate positive experiences.

If I happen to be helping out for an extended period of time, they stay in the bedroom, since there’s nothing in there that can hurt or be hurt by them.

If I’m working, they stay in the office with me. I don’t let them in this room when I’m not present anyway, because there are a few things we’d rather they not get into. Despite the fact I think I have everything stowed away, these kitties have an uncanny way of getting into places we wouldn’t think they could.

The idea behind safe rooms is to give them a refuge from the worst of the loud noises and keep them safe from accidents in the work area.

Spend Time With Them
This is a stressful time for everyone in the house, kitties included. Their humans’ presences can help calm them down. That’s why they stay with me on the days I’m not helping the hubby. When we’re not working on the basement, we both stay available for the cats to curl up and play with.

Keep in mind that just as stress can make humans sick, it can do the same to animals. By paying a little extra attention to them, you may be able to spot the symptoms of sickness or changes in behavior that need to be addressed.

Provide Places to Hide
When an animal is afraid, they naturally want to find a place where they feel secure. This is why a safe room is designated, but I decided to take it a step further and make a simple cat-fort to provide another hiding spot.

All I did was take a cardboard box we had sitting around, set it on its side, put a towel down for cushioning and draped a small blanket over the top.

So far, the cats seem to like it.

Maybe not the prettiest thing, but still effective.
Extremely simple design. An old towel for padding, and a blanket for shelter.

Clean Up Afterwards
We make sure to clean up the renovation zone as much as possible when we finish for the day. Cats will bat anything around that’s small enough, so we put away everything that might hurt them, like nails or paint, and stow any bladed items.

Stick To Routine
It’s tempting to stray from regular feeding or play times when you’re already dealing with renovation, but the best way to minimize stress on kitties is to keep up with routine as much as possible. This includes maintaining your daily rituals and sticking with your sleep schedule, too.


Let Contractors Know The Rules About Cats
Since the only time we’re going to use contractors is when we replace the furnace, or do something else we can’t do ourselves, this hasn’t really applied to us yet. However, if you do have contractors working with you, make sure they know about the cats and any rules you have regarding their safety.

At the very least, proclaim the safe room off limits, or clearly communicate that you need to know before the contractors need to get into that room, so you can move the cats to a different area of the house. When shopping for a contractor, it would be a good idea to get as much information as you can about their policies on animals.

Boarding
Depending on the nature of your renovations, and if you can afford it, it may be a good idea to board the kitties or sent them to a trusted cat sitter for the term of the renovations. There will be extra expense and research involved in finding a good boarder, but it would be worth it to avoid harming your cats by accident.

We decided not to, since we do have a good set up to keep them safe and relatively happy, but it’s still an option to consider.


It’ll be a relief when we eventually finish all of the projects, but these safety measures will help us prevent the stress of caring for an injured or sick animal. If you have any tips to add, feel free to leave them in a comment!

Yule Tree, WIP and Cat

I didn’t get nearly as much done as I wanted to this week. I ended up with a respiratory bug and had some snow to shovel earlier this week, so I’ve been moving a little more slowly than usual.

I did get a start on an experimental garland that I may end up writing a how-to about, depending on how it turns out. So far, I have most of two snow flakes made.

This one’s turning out much bigger than I thought it would. Khan also almost claimed it as his own personal play toy.

There will be a clearer picture of this one in a future entry. I just couldn’t seem to get one of it for some reason this morning.

Otherwise, my crafting hasn’t been very exciting. I did manage to replace my first zipper last night. Hubby works outside, and the zipper went on his jacket. Why get a new jacket when it’s just the zipper that went?

Guess who helped pin it in place.

Hah! Hah hah! Hah. It wasn’t a good idea to attempt this while utterly exhausted. This is an extremely busy time of year for the hubby’s work, and since he works outside, I wanted to get the thing fixed for him before he had to leave this morning.

Removing the old zipper and pinning the new one in place went alright, exempting the ‘help’ from Khan the Kitty Konquerer, but it took a while to do.

By the time I had actually gotten to the sewing machine, it was pretty late, and I was very tired. It was ridiculously hard to sew in a straight line, and I ended up with the seam ripper again a number of times.

When the bobbin ran out of thread, I wanted to scream. I couldn’t, since hubby was already in bed at that point.

I got it done, though! It’s not the prettiest of jobs, but it’s functional.

Otherwise, I did finally get our tree up! Here, have a couple of pictures.

Yes, we have TMNT ornaments.

 I feel this picture demonstrates Leo’s personality nicely. He’s got the gift of arrogance confidence, but still doesn’t see himself as good enough. Raph’s just in the background, annoyed at the whole situation.

Woops. Did this Raphael fan just irritate some Leonardo fans? Teehee.
 

Laser eyes!

Adorable little monster lurking under the tree. If I get the garland made, there will be at least one full scale shot of the tree.

Store Update and Sales!

Change is in the air!

Today, I opened a shop over at Store Envy. So far, I have the bookmarks that I’ve made up. Take a look!

There’s a sale going on until November 30th. Get 10% off your order with coupon code grandopen. 🙂 If all goes well at Store Envy, I’ll be gradually transferring listings over from Etsy as they expire.

However, I do have a sale on at my Etsy shop until November 30th, as well. You can get free shipping with coupon code GIVETHANKS. 🙂

In any case, I’ll have more interesting stuff up starting Wednsday. I got pretty busy last week, so I fell behind. What was I doing?

Well, aside from cooking, taking care of the house and other writing projects, I’ve been knitting.

Usually, I was pinned down by our big black cat. Occasionally, I was also pinned under my bigger, not so fuzzy hubby as he napped after work.

 

Forgive the poor quality. These were taken with my cell phone.

I was actually working on a pair of slipper-socks for my father-in-law, but had to keep starting over again. I just could not get the sizing right!

I think I’ll actually give him a choice between the slippers I made this weekend and the fuzzy blue ones I made earlier this month.

I’ve always had problems with sizing. The only way to get better is to keep practicing, I know, but it still frustrates me.

Ah well. Hope everyone’s well out there in internet land!

Ridiculously Easy Homemade Cat Toys

Our tabby on the prowl.

Cats are one of the most common companions in America and around the world. The Egyptian goddess, Bast, is famous for her iconic connection to felines, and our kitty friends have been a source of lore
for centuries.

It can be challenging to keep them entertained, though. When they get bored, they’ll find ways of entertaining themselves, and usually destruction follows in their path. So, here are some extremely simple ways to keep them entertained when you can’t spring for new toys or don’t want to come home to a mess at the end of the day.

Boxes
This one might seem like a no-brainer to veteran cat owners, but keeping a small collection of boxes available for your cats to hide or play in will keep them occupied for a while. After we go to Cosco and get the huge boxes of soda cans, we leave the boxes out for the kitties to explore.

I’ve found that leaving two or more out usually works pretty well with our adorable demons, because they seem to think the box they’re not hunkered down in must be better. It’s especially fun to have the openings of the boxes face each other.

Another good idea is to move the boxes every few days, or swap them out for new ones, so the cats always have new scents and environments to explore.

Plastic Containers
Put paperclips or something else that’s small and hard into empty pill bottles or tic-tac cases. This makes for some great rattling toys for the cats to bat around. The combination of the noise and the way the thing skitters entices kitty to give chase and wear themselves out when you can’t pay attention to them.

However, it’s a good idea to put them somewhere the cat can’t get at them at night, unless you’re a deep enough sleeper to ignore the noise they make. Put them in the above boxes for fun surprises.

Left Over String or Yarn
Tie a span of string to any sort of stick, like the knitting needle I used in the above video, for a quick toy for kitty to chase and leap at. Khan isn’t two years old yet, so he’s very young and has massive amounts of energy, but that doesn’t mean I do. You can also tie something to the end of the string to make a ‘fishing pole’ type of toy as well.

Some cats like to eat string, which can cause deadly blockages in their intestinal tracts, so be careful to keep it out of their reach when you’re not around.

As much as we love our cats, sometimes they drive us nuts, but a few basic additions to keep them occupied will make it a little easier to handle some of their more annoying quirks.