Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Litter Genie review #chewyinfluencer #meow

This month's offering from the influencer program, where I am offered products for free for an honest review, included a Litter Genie. I heard about these when they first came out and thought they sounded interesting, but with multiple cats, I figured this product would be useless for us.  And then Muffin got her very own bathroom..

This seemed like a perfect opportunity. I scoop her box every other day. I know I should scoop it daily, but I want to encourage her to walk down the stairs because it is good exercise. I often forget and remember to scoop it when it is late and I don't want to walk out to the garage to throw it away, so it sits in the bathroom trash until one of us takes care of it. Sometimes the smell overwhelms the room because we don't take it out in time.

The product comes with everything you need, a package of the liner, a scoop and a scoop holder, which I really appreciated as my current location for the scoop for this litter box was the side of the tub and I had a small little pile of litter forming there.

You put the liner container in the top, pull out the start of it, tie a knot in it and then feed it through the spring held panel that seals the liner to prevent odors from escaping.

The top comes down to protect the liner container, and channel the waste into the bag. It creates a small opening to scoop into, then you pull the panel out and the waste drops into the rest of the bag. The springs pop the panel back into place containing the smell.  The only downside I found, besides needing to continually buy the refills of the liner, is that the opening is a bit small. Muffin is a 13 lb cat and her urine balls are not dainty. A few times they were fresh and as a result, the top piece became a bit dirty

When you believe the bag is full, you pull a bit more of the liner out, cut it with the cutting device that is part of the Litter Genie, and tie it off. You then tie a knot in the bottom of the liner to become the bottom of the next collection bag.

I will admit I was quite ignorant as to how it worked. I assumed that the device sealed the bag after each time you used it and I'd end up with a whole row of sealed deposits in a long line. As a result of not really understanding (I should have, I mean the concept is pretty simple - I was trying to make it far more complicated than it was) I didn't pull enough of the liner down into the collection bin the first time. The refills are not cheap, but they do work well and the smell was well contained.

The product is designed to hold about two weeks of used litter from one cat, depending on the size of the cat. The liners, which are five layers with built-in odor barrier technology to protect against odors and germs, are suggested to last two months for one cat. This product does work well for one cat, and possibly two if you don't mind emptying it twice as often. I saw videos that 'hack' the diaper genie (which works very similarly) that used regular trash bags, and I'm sure you could use something similar if you wanted to, but you will miss out on the technology build into the refills and it might not contain the odor as well.

I intend to keep using this while Muffin continues to have her own private bathroom. If we ever dismantle it I doubt that this will continue to be used because as a multi-cat household it would fill up too quickly.

I would also like to send out a huge congratulation to Sydney from the Chewy Influencer Program. She was promoted out of the influencer program and I'm sure she will do wonders in her new job as Marketing Promotions Manager. Natalie will be taking over the program and I look forward to working with her.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Monday, December 26, 2016

Happy Boxing Day

I hope you and yours had/are having a lovely holiday. We had a quiet one; visiting family and then home to open presents.

It was a little hard, being the first Christmas without Kit. I had purchased a calendar and a mug for the catman that was covered in images of Kit which brought up painful memories. That is now past, we move forward to a new year without her and with our six kitties.

And hopefully some kittens in the new year. When I started this blog in 2002 I could not fathom a time when I was not needed to foster. It appears that time might be at hand and isn't that a fabulous thing?

If you didn't receive a Christmas Card from me, this is the one I sent out this year. I will admit that I ended up photoshopping the kittens to all be in a row. They would not cooperate. Since I wasn't sure I was going to have another set of kittens, I took photos with Elsie and Emma.. Prism, Pirate and Paris were never really in a good spot to do a photo shoot with.

We watched movies on Christmas and didn't get to the Doctor Who Christmas Episode.. no one spoil it for me 😉

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Friday, December 23, 2016

Momma is the worst thing ever

I, Eli, was sitting nicely under the Christmas tree enjoying the lights when that woman that wants me to call her momma came over and asked me to come out. I didn't want to, so I just ignored her. Thankfully she went away but a minute later she was back - with a roll of wrapping paper in her hand.

This was it, I just knew it. Fourteen years of waiting for her to try to eat me and it was finally going to happen. She tried to herd me towards her but I was having  *none of that* and bolted past the evil wrapping paper monster (WPM) and bolted for the basement. The WPM flew through the air to make it into the basement before me, so I turned tail and went into the office. There is a big chair I can hide in. I heard the lady who wants me to call her momma talk softly to me, trying to make me believe that the WPM wasn't going to get me and she was going to protect me. I was not buying it.

She opened up the door to my favorite sunroom. I know how cold it is in there, I was not being fooled. When she came to get me, I bolted and ran down the hall to the bedroom. A king bed is an easy place to hide from her.

She shut the door, evil woman, and proceeded to attempt to get me to come out. She knew that waiting for me to calm down was not going to work - I am more stubborn than she is - so she proceeded to shove things under the couch to get me to leave. I would, but I would run right back under there when she would stand up.

So she then started ... get this.. *throwing things at me*!!! that evil woman kept throwing pillows and sweaters at me!! I was so sure she was going to eat me that I started yelling at her to stop. She didn't!!! I ran into the bathroom hoping to escape her, but she just closed me in there with her and scooped me up...

I tried telling her that this was completely unacceptable and I attempted to explain to her that good manners were important (by not trying to scratch her and run away) but she just kept repeating "yes, Yes, I know" (she didn't know) and "It will be okay" (nothing about this was okay). Then she shoved me in a box and shut me in. This was not okay.

I heard Muffin mewing a few moments later and then I felt myself being lifted up and put in the car. I hate traveling at high rates of speed. I sang the song of my people and called upon the ancestors to protect me. I think it helped because I'm here. My favorite ballad is the one where I'm quite for a while then screech out like someone just ripped off my leg.

We got to the vet, and Muff went first. Good.. feel free to ignore me, people. They talked about her arthritis and treatment options. She is going to get a higher dose of adaquan and they talked about giving her fresh salmon in a crystal goblet on a silver plate. She had her bloods stolen, and the vet said her results should be back eventually.

It was my turn.. I tried to hide but they found me. The woman said my teeth were bad and I have to admit I thought about showing her just how good they were, but unlike her, I have manners. The vet looked and agreed. I was not impressed. They took me out back and stole my bloods too. They talked about how I'm starting to sing to my ancestors at night and freaking the woman out so they want to test my thyroid... people, I'm just singing.. nothing wrong with me!! and my chompers work just fine, although I'll admit my gums are a little inflamed.

I'm home now.. and I'm not happy. Muffin might be laying all over the momma, but I'm not so easy.. if she thinks one little treat is going to make me forget she tried to kill me, she has another thing coming.


Connie here. We talked about Eli's teeth. I've noticed some tartar on the inside of his mouth as well as the outside. It has been about 10 months since his last dental and I'm not happy that he is ready for another one. Because he does not like it when I purposefully get a hold of him brushing his teeth on a regular basis is not an option. I'll get him in for a cleaning in the new year, and get Twee in for her exam then. This will leave Skippy and Fleurp who will need to get in and I might wait until Spring to try to catch Fleurp's anemia.

We also talked about Muffin's arthritis. We are going to up the amount of Adaquan we are giving to her. I was originally giving her 0.15 ml, and now we are going to give her 0.25. Because there is no toxic limit, I could give her an entire ML, but we'll keep the new dose and see what happens. It has been six months since her last blood work, so we did that as well. We are monitoring her SDMA level which has been just over the line. The vet mentioned a probiotic that is supposed to help cats with higher kidney values. He doesn't think that her last set of blood work indicates that we should start it so I'm going to do some research on it. Hopefully, her current levels are still on the line and she hasn't gotten any worse.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Um, Skippy? Any idea where the Elf is?

Wel, mom, it's like this. The Elf wouldn't stay on the shelf, so, I ate him. He was crunchy and good with ketchup.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Why I feed raw

Time to make the cat food again...

I have talked about feeding raw food to my cats a few times on this blog, I've even done a few 'watch me make raw food' posts because my cats amuse me every single time we make food.

I will admit, this is probably one of my least favorite chores. I would strongly prefer to buy it and leave the meat grinding to someone else, but with the FDA regulations of zero tolerance of bacteria or pathogens in raw food to almost to the point of being insane (they do not seem to have the same zeal when testing cooked commercial foods)  and my cats don't like HPP (high-pressure pasteurization) foods... So, we make it.

We use the recipe from but I do not cook anything. I used to cook the egg whites because of the enzyme in them that inhibit biotin absorption, but with the high amount of biotin in the yolks as well as the biotin in the B vitamins we add, I am not worried about the small amount that is bound up and is unusable because we don't cook the whites.

But why would I go through all of this trouble? Why do I feed raw? Years ago I had one diabetic cat (Em) and two cats who had blocked with urinary crystals (Jack and Eli) while on a 'high-quality premium' dry cat food. Em was on seven units of insulin twice a day because of the food we were feeding. We were originally encouraged to switch her to a high fiber food (W/D) because the belief was that the fiber would slow down the absorption of the sugars in the food and keep a cat's blood sugar stable. It works for humans and for dogs to some extent, but it has been disproven to help cats. Her transition to W/D did not go well, so we kept her on the food she liked, which the vet said was fine. Why no one (of the multiple vets we saw) balked at the idea of giving a cat seven units of insulin twice a day, I have no idea.

I found the message board and saw cat after cat enter into remission with a diet change to a low carb high protein diet. I was floored at the idea. By this point, Em had been on insulin for years and I didn't think it was possible. I picked a low carb canned food (Fancy Feast Classics Turkey and Giblets) and put her on that while testing her blood sugar levels regularly. Her insulin need dropped dramatically, from seven units to two and eventually to one. I was stunned. I started feeding Em separately from the rest of the cats and she was fine with that.

Then Eli blocked. So Em was on special food, Eli was on special food and the rest were still being fed dry.

Then Jack blocked.

So we had a devil of a time herding cats twice a day. Getting Em into her bathroom to eat her food, then get everyone else into the basement but Jack and Eli.. well at least not Eli since touching him then was questionable, Jack would follow the food anywhere.. It was frustrating having three feeding stations for five cats.

The more I learned about why the food helped Em, the more I learned in general. When I realized that leaving my cats on dry food would most likely mean that they too would one day end up with medical conditions that would need an Rx food, and that feeding them a low carb, high protein, high moisture diet would mitigate that, I was converted.

My husband and I went to pet food store after pet food store looking for cat foods that had a named meat source (chicken, beef, turkey) and each animal-based ingredient was also named (chicken fat vs poultry fat) and that had no plants in it and no carrageenan.  I was shocked how hard that was and by the fact that some food makers at the time put garlic in their foods.

We finally ended up with the conclusion that making the food was our best option.  I was completely ready to throw in the towel before I even began. I can not stand touching raw meat. I decided I needed to wear plastic gloves to do it and that helped a lot. The fact that my husband is willing to do clean up is another factor that has helped a great deal over the years.

this is relevant to my interests - Fleurp

Getting Em on raw was easy initially. Her insulin need dropped to almost nothing. Sadly, it was about this time that she started developing cancer and she decided she wanted nothing to do with the raw, I speculate that was because she associated the new food with the discomfort that was taking up residence within her.

I was beyond lucky/blessed/super skilled at getting everyone else on it. I offered them ground raw chicken, which they all said was super awesome, so I said, "okay, this is your new food" switching it with the raw food we had made and they ate it. I suspect it had a lot to do with the fact that they were all fosters and had grown up eating a wide variety of foods due to eating whatever was donated to the shelter. (this is why I recommended feeding kittens anything and everything while they are young)

Additional benefits: My cats eat less food on raw.. 2-3 oz per meal vs the 4-6 they used to of conventional food. Their stools are also much smaller and drier and barely smell - unless you collect them and cut them up for research.. then you smell them just fine

Eli and Jack went years without another incident of crystals. Each has had flair ups over the years when stressed (or when Jack broke into bags of dry food I brought into the house for foster kittens). I can't imagine what they would have gone through if I had kept them on regular food.

Skippy, the only kitty we adopted since converting to raw, is in amazing health. He has never needed a dental and his teeth are still very clean - granted he is only five, but a lot of cats start with dentals before this point. Fleurp was mostly raw raised and except for her annual spring anemia (goodness, I wish I knew what causes that) she is in good health as well.  Time will tell if this holds up, but from what I have read and learned, I am guessing it will.

I wonder what happened to Kit and why her cancer popped up so quickly and I have my theory, which I'll probably touch upon when and if I do a year in review post. I know perfect nutrition (and I'm not saying my diet choices for my cats are perfect) isn't a full and complete preventative to disease, so I imagine I'll be facing more difficult situations as the years progress.. but giving them the most highly digestible and least inappropriate diet I can is the least I can do to help mitigate whatever I can.

So, TL/DR, Why do I feed raw? It 'cures' diabetes, It 'cures' urinary crystals, I know what is in it. I know how highly digestible it is because of size and smell of my cat's stool.

Monday, December 19, 2016

Keeping warm with Fleurp

There were strange going-ons at Casa de Gato over the weekend. With the winter weather blanketing the area, there was quite a bit of cold air seeping in through the windows. It is a little frustrating for me as we bought this house new, so you'd think this wouldn't be an issue, but it is a quick fix.

A bit of plastic and some heat seals the windows nice and tight to the cold, but it is might weird for the cats with all of the different noises from the unfolding of the plastic and attaching it to the windows to running of the hair dryer... well, let's just say the cats think we are so weird.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

A day off with the kitties

I decided to take a day off to bake some cookies, mail some packages, and do some wrapping of presents. Sadly, the day wasn't nearly as productive as I would have liked (I still have way too much wrapping to do) but I was able to add to my cookie collection.

I first made thumbprint cookies. I like little bitty cookies so I can have just one if I want a little something, but I can have four and still not have the same calorie equivalent if I had one regular sized cookie.  So instead of thumbprint cookies, I basically made fingerprint cookies 😊

Technically, I made those a few days ago and there is fewer than a half dozen left. Today I made some no-bake cookies. I wanted to try making plain peanut butter ones, which I've tried before and really loved but never made. As I was scooping them out I thought chocolate chip no bake cookies would be awesome, but the chips I put in had a low melting point so I have chocolate swirl cookies.

My husband adores congo bars, so I made some of those. He got to them before I could take a photo.

I try to make a new recipe each year and this year I made "whipped shortbread cookies". I haven't had one yet because I was full of no-bake cookies, but my husband said they were good. They are more of a melt-away and not a real shortbread.

And now that I have cookies, I decided to email the shelter and see if there are kittens. I have no idea if she was waiting for me to ask or if there weren't kittens. I'm going to have to make sure she knows that if I don't have any kittens then I am in a perpetual state of wanting kittens. I know we are in the beginning of winter and chances are I'm going to have long periods of time without anything to blog about, so you are going to get to see me cook and craft.. aren't you lucky! 😖

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Making Turkey Chili with HomeChef

On Black Friday I came across a pretty good sale for Home Chef, "a meal delivery service supplying weekly deliveries of fresh, perfectly portioned ingredients and chef-designed recipes", that I could not resist. My husband and I have been using Hello Fresh for a while now and been happy with it, but the deal was half the price, so I figured for $30 for six meals (two servings of three different meals) I'd give this a chance.

It arrived a few days after ordering. It came first thing in the morning, fortunately right before I left for work so I could put the ingredients in the fridge. It comes with several ice packs so that everything remains cold if you don't get it until later. I picked three meals: Turkey Chili with Cheddar cheese; Rotisserie-style chicken with cheddar, broccoli, and rice casserole; Blade steak with dried tomato-oregano butter with smoky creamed corn and pan-roasted potatoes.

Fleurp really wants to help me

I decided to make the turkey chili first. Most of the ingredients are sent to you, it is assumed you would have basics like olive oil and salt and pepper.

They also include a nice detailed step by step recipe with photos (on the back side) so you are really walked through things, in case you need the help. I've made chili so many times I only skimmed the recipe before setting off on my own.

this is relevant to our interest.
Sorry Muffin, there are onions in there now.. so none for you.

After adding the crushed tomatoes and the tomato sauce I thought it was a little thin so I chose not to add the additional water they recommended. Even without the water, it took a while to boil down to a consistency I prefer - not a lot of time but enough that I wished that I hadn't put in all of the crushed tomatoes.

What is nice about home delivery meals like this is that everything is proportioned. So you don't have to buy a pound of cheese or 12 oz of sour cream for one meal. You don't have to go to a grocery store and remember everything in the recipe. If you generally cook a lot and enjoy it these subscription services are probably not worth it for you, but if you find yourself with a lot of leftover unused ingredients when you only use part of something for a recipe, this can be quite economical. Home Chef is $9.95 per serving and if you order three meals a week the shipping is free. If you only order two then they charge $10 for shipping. Home Chef also offers fresh fruit for $4.95 per serving (a little expensive in my opinion) and a breakfast option if you would like to cook breakfast. We also like the size of the menu cards and the fact that they sent us a binder to store them in. 

Hello Fresh is packaged a little differently, in cardboard boxes instead of plastic bags. The ingredients seem slightly better in quality and the flavors seem a little more complex, aka orzo instead of rice, but their service is also a little more expensive at $69. The Hello Fresh recipe cards are 5x7 and not meant to be bound in a book. Both sets of recipe cards lend themselves to being replicated if you decide you really like the meal and want to make it again, which we have done with several of the recipes.

Neither site requires that you purchase every week, so if you don't like the sound of the meals you can skip the week. If you know you won't have time to cook, you can skip the week. Both sites also cater to some special needs. Gluten free, seafood, allergies, among others. I don't believe either site claims to be allergen free, though.

What I like about this is that everything is included. My husband gets home before I do so he usually makes dinner and he has very little imagination when it comes to cooking and less inclination to make anything outside of his comfort zone. I would bring home something different, like a head of cauliflower, and he would avoid it at all costs. He also had a very limited palate, so when I would cook with different types of ingredients he would pick them out and it was very frustrating for me. By having recipes, he can follow instructions which he is a stickler for when he cooks, and because he is picking out the meals he has been more adventurous in his eating. He still doesn't eat all of the red peppers in meals, but he eats a lot more than he used to ☺

Yes, I have to put with these two each time I cook. It is why the island is rarely used for food prep

In the end, the meal was very good, and there were leftovers enough for us to have a second meal from it. The chicken dish was very good as well. The sauce reduced a little too much because someone wasn't paying attention to it and it was a little salty and I prefer my rice casseroles to be far cheesier.. (DH said it was just fine to his taste).  The steak was also very good although the potato that came with it had a few black spots inside of it. When I wrote to Home Chef to tell them they promptly gave me a very nice credit for our next box.

All in all, we were pleased and we will be getting another box.

If you would like to give either service a try there are referral options that get you a reduced price for the first box. Home Chef offers $30 off the first box if you use the link and Hello Fresh offers $40.

I wasn't compensated for this, I just needed something to talk about while I wait for kittens. If you decide to order, I do get a small kickback, but that did not influence my review in the least.
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