I finally managed to get a taker for my “extra” plane ticket, and a very sweet guy is getting to go visit his grandmother in San Francisco, and my cats are going in the cabin. (And if I may offer some advice, NEVER NEVER NEVER NEVER NEVER NEVER fly ATA, for any reason. I was NOT happy with their customer service and it took me a good 3 hours on the phone to get all this straightened out.) They have their vet certificate and shots, the special airplane carry-on cat carriers, the whole nine yards (or maybe that should be “nine lives”?). Wednesday afternoon, we’ll all be together in San Francisco.
Having settled all that, I’ve just reached a horrible realization. My house is not cat-proofed.
With most cats, this would be a relatively simple proposition–fasten down all the extremely breakable items and you’re done. I, on the other hand, have the Fuzz. The Fuzz is a big, beautiful black long-haired cat (technically he’s a domestic medium hair) with big, glorious innocent green eyes, a giant purr, incredibly friendly demeanor, and about three neurons in that big, beautiful head. Which would not be an issue except for his obsession with chewing on power cords.
Actually he is not quite *that* bad; he’ll chew on any cable in sight and is particularly fond of phone cords–you know, the springy kind that attach to handsets. (He chewed through one once while I was actually on the phone–can you imagine the embarrassment? “Uh, sorry about that…my cat chewed through the phone cord.” “No, really, what happened?” “No, really, honest, my cat chewed through the phone cord!” “You know, it’s OK if you don’t want to talk to me, but…”)
But apparently he is getting worse in his old age…he ate the Christmas tree lights at my sister-in-law’s house, shredding the cables over a five-foot span, and ate the power cable for her housemate’s home freezer unit. The latter was especially impressive since they had smeared deathly hot hot sauce on the cable to keep him away from it and had wedged the cable into a teeny little space where it would be very difficult to get to. It took a lot of contortions and incredible determination–every time he tried chewing the cable, the hot sauce would get to him and he’d throw up on the floor–but by God, he chewed through it in the end. (Nobody could figure out how he managed to short out the freezer without electrocuting himself. I think his guardian angel must have been working WAY overtime.)
At any rate, I admire his perseverance and am absolutely terrified of what he’s going to do once I get him home. Do they make steel tubing for protecting your power cords?
The Fuzz is also fanatically fond of corn on the cob, and has an absolute mania for shrimp. Sweetheart, my other kitty, has far fewer fetishes–as long as you understand that your place in the universe is under her four furry paws, you’ll get along fine. (I adore her.)
Meanwhile, my dad is going to house-sit my brother’s pygmy hedgehog Tanuki while my bro and his wife are on their honeymoon–so we’re picking up Tanukki today. He is one damn cute critter–he’s about the size of a Star Trek tribble, except with prickles instead of fur. He’s adorable. When he’s feeling safe, he goes snuffling around the cage in his happy little hedgehog shuffle, but if he runs into something he’s not sure about, he starts huffing and snorting. Then he frowns. His brows come up and furrow, and his face recedes under the prickles…and he just keeps frowning until he’s turned into a little featureless ball of prickles. Sort of like the Cheshire cat, but the only thing that’s left is the frown. 🙂 And he snorts. It’s adorable, especially in something that fits easily into the palm of your hand. I really like pygmy hedgehogs.
(Don’t worry, I’m not about to get one…two cats and three snakes is enough. Especially if I get myself an adult male Brazilian rainbow boa (which I want to do soon)–then I’ll have baby boas again, and that’s always fun. 🙂 Besides, pygmy hedgehogs are illegal in California.)
And yeah, exotic pets run in the family. 🙂 When I was a kid, we had three goldfish, two rabbits, a dog, some variable number of lizards, and lots and lots of pet crickets. For some reason I got obsessed with crickets as a young kid (probably from reading Cricket magazine) and would always catch and keep wild crickets. I still think they’re beautiful critters–jet black, with very precisely molded wings, and those lovely wild antennae sweeping up back of the head. They would clean them with their mandibles, and it was always cool to watch one finish and the antenna sproing! out of the mouth and up into its accustomed place. And it was really cool to watch the males rub their wings together to make the characteristic chirping sound.
Unfortunately, the black field cricket that I loved as a girl doesn’t live out West, AFAIK; there’s only the brown house-cricket, and they don’t look nearly as cool. I’ve also lost my ability to sleep in a room full of 23 chirping crickets. 🙂
Rob, on the other hand, has now got a bunch of baby chameleons–one litter from a livebearing chameleon, two litters from egg-layers. The egg-layers were kind of interesting–half of them made it out on their own and the other half needed help in birthing. Normally chameleon babies (and snake babies) “pip” the shells–cut open a small slit–and then stay in the shell for another half day or so, with just the tip of the snout peeking out, while they absorb the rest of the yolk into their body. But sometimes it doesn’t quite work, and then someone needs to slit the egg the rest of the way, squeeze the chameleon out of the shell (it’s leathery, not hard, so it slips out like a wet melon seed), and put it on a wet paper towel to take off the slime from the birth membranes. The yolk isn’t absorbed yet, so the chameleon just sits there quietly, with the yolk outside, and slowly absorbs the yolk back into its body. Half a day later, it gets up and walks around.
This yolk thing is actually pretty interesting. Baby snakes store up a lot of yolk in their body, so they don’t usually eat until after their first shed. When Isis had her first litter, I lost two of the babies early on–I had put them on wet paper toweling, and two of them had tunneled under the paper towels and suffocated. I felt awful about it (I have since learned not to make the paper toweling quite so damp, and to use a bigger container), and took them off to the vet for an autopsy. They cut open the pathetic little corpses (I still feel awful about that whole thing), and lo! the last three or four inches of the body were filled with yolk. It looked just like egg yolk (although not runny). I was astonished. I had never really thought about what happened to the yolk of an egg once the critter was born. But in reptiles, it absorbs into the yolk.
Another interesting bit of snake-trivia: have you ever thought about how a baby snake absorbs nutrition? I mean, it has to have some way of absorbing the yolk. It turns out it funnels nutrients through a small slit in the mid-belly of the snake–the snake equivalent of a belly-button. In newborn baby snakes, you can actually see the yolk-slit. It closes up after three or four days and you never see it again–you basically have to be a snake-breeder to see it–but it is really really cool. I’m very glad to have bred Isis, if only to see a baby snake close up.
By the way, for more snake trivia, I have a snake ultrasound on my snakes page: http://www.travelingtiger.com/pix/Snakes.htm
The story there was that Isis had refused to eat for three or four months, but seemed otherwise OK, in fact she was getting bigger. I wasn’t sure exactly what that meant–I thought she *might* be gravid (pregnant), as pregnant snakes almost always stop eating, but I wasn’t sure. Finally I called up the vet and said, “Um, I want to know if my snake is pregnant, but obviously I don’t want the babies X-rayed, what do I do?” They said, “Why don’t you bring her in, and we’ll do an ultrasound?”
So I stuck my possibly-pregnant snake into a pillowcase, tied it shut, and took it down to the vet. (By the way, you have not seen weird until you see the look that the Pomeranian-owner gives you as you dump a writhing pillowcase on the counter and announce, “My pillowcase has a 10:30 with Dr. Nakamura.”) I opened the pillowcase, the vet took one look at her, and said, “She’s pregnant.” But, since they had the ultrasound technician there, and she’d never done an ultrasound on a pregnant snake before, and my vet had never seen it, and I was of course dying to see the babies on ultrasound, we went ahead and ultrasounded my snake. It was way cool–we could watch the hearts beating, see the little coiled-up spines, and they even gave me a photo of it so I could show my baby pictures to everyone in the office! (Okay, they weren’t super-appreciative, but still. LOL)
A week later, Isis gave birth to 18 happy, healthy, bouncing baby boas. 🙂
It was really neat on the morning of…I woke up at 3:30am with a feeling that something had happened…I went over to Isis’s cage, shone a flashlight in, and…babies!! Lots and lots of little baby boas. All curled up inside the birth membranes (as they were in her body), with just the little heads poking up…it looked like rows of babies just sitting there, waiting to be born.
Then an hour or so later, I stuck my hand in the cage and suddenly had a plate of squirming entrails. Not to mention pinpricks as the babies panicked and bit me. Moral of the story: move ’em while they’re just-born, and quiet. After they wake up they’re a LOT feistier.
(And if you ever want to see funny, watch one person (or even two) try to corral 23 fast-moving baby snakes into a single box. Pop one in, the next comes flowing out. And out. And then you get to chase down the little baby snakes that make it out across the floor. If you imagine a box full of live spaghetti that pushes itself out of the box as fast as you can push it back in, you get an idea. Believe me, it would play on Comedy Central. LOL)
Anyway, that’s enough snake reminisces for one day…tomorrow we go and get the cats. 🙂
P.S. I am knitting a new pair of socks on this trip…basically a horseshoe/shell design (except I gussied it up a bit), on 1.5mm needles, using a laceweight kid mohair/angora/silk/glitz yarn that I spun four or five years ago. They’re, umm, very fuzzy. 🙂