Tuesdays with Toes – New Year, New Routine

Happy New Year from me and Toes! In the spirit of the holiday, I’m highlighting the benefits of routine in today’s post.

The story of how Toes came into my life is one I’ve wanted to tell for awhile. I first developed material related to this theme back in early 2017 when I took a stand up comedy class. But it wasn’t until I established Tuesdays with Toes in the latter part of 2018 that I gave myself sufficient incentive and a means to document my somewhat strange relationship with my cat.

It can be hard to start big projects and make big changes. One thing I’ve found helpful is tying work or change into a routine or a habit that I can do daily, weekly, or every Monday, Thursday, and Saturday at approximately 3:42pm.

Today marks the sixteenth weekly installment of this series. I appreciate those of you who have been following Toes’s story. There’s more to come! And you know when I’ll be sharing it–every Tuesday (with Toes)!

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Tuesday with Toes – Meowy Christmas

Meowy Christmas from me and Toes girl!

Yesterday, I had the chance to sit with her on my lap while she sat inside her cat bed. Toes didn’t quite know what to make of it and asked to be let down a couple of times.

I’d put her bed back on the ground so she could get out easily. She’d drink some water and eat food. Then, she’d climb back in her bed, and I’d hoist her back on to my lap. This went on for maybe an hour.

My eyes itched for rest of the night. (I haven’t experienced the Christmas miracle of no more cat allergies.) But it was a worthwhile sacrifice to spend some holiday time relaxing with my girl.

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Tuesdays with Toes – Holiday Blues

I’ve been suffering bouts of the holiday blues for a number of years now–since at least 2014 according to THIS post. Growing older, missing out on being close to my family, and angst about the year to come and what I will accomplish regularly combine to put me in a December funk. (And it doesn’t help that I listen to Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas on repeat. It’s a sad song disguised as a happy one.)

I’ve been feeling the seasonal melancholy seep in for the past couple of weeks, and this year it’s been compounded by the fact that Toes is staying at my parents’ house in Ohio. I hadn’t realized until she was gone how much I rely on being able to go out to the garage and give her a pet when I’m feeling down.

The good news is we have less than a week until we’re reunited with Toes, and she’ll be with us for Christmas this year. The past two she’s been boarded at the vet. Surely celebrating with her and my family will lift my spirits, and until then, I’ll content myself with memories of pets.

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Tuesdays with Toes – Pet Spending

This year I’ve been using a budget app called YNAB to track our spending. Month to month, it’s helped tremendously in keeping us on track even when unexpected expenses have crept up.

Now that we’re reaching the end of the year, I’m able to look back and tabulate how much we’ve spent in different categories, which is how I know we’ve spend $2,312.95 on Toes this year. This includes her kidney food and fluids, vet visits, boarding costs, and most of her kitty litter (some of these purchases might have accidentally been filed under grocery spending).

$2,312.95 is not a small amount to spend on a cat. I remember when I was younger being in awe of how much my family members would spend on vet visits and treatments for their pets. But once Toes was diagnosed with chronic kidney disease, I totally got it. Even though she’d only been our cat for a couple of months, I wanted to do everything I could for her. I’m fortunate we’ve been able to afford her care and to have her boarded when we go out of town.

What I like about the YNAB approach to budgeting is that it’s focused on making sure you’re spending money where it matters most to you. For David and I, that’s meant controlling our costs in some areas so that we can spend more on the things we love like travel, fitness, the arts, Magic: The Gathering, and our Toes girl.

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Tuesdays with Toes – The Many Beds of Toes

For one cat, Toes has a surprising number of beds. Seven by my count. Here’s how she’s acquired so many beds in her 2+ years with us.

First Bed/Fluids Bed. We bought Toes her first bed when she moved into the garage after we brought her home from rabies quarantine/her unnecessary second spaying. It was a generic round bed with beige fleece lining from PetSmart. She no longer uses this bed for sleeping, but David and I put her in it when we give her fluids. Hence, it’s become the Fluids Bed.

Warm Bed #1. The first winter she was with us, we bought Toes a heated cat bed to keep her warm in the garage. Toes spent a lot of time that winter curled up in it looking cozy.

Summer Pad. In summer, Toes needed a cooler option so we bought her a wide gray pad with a slicker fabric coating. She’s used it the past two summers.

Warm Bed #2. Her second winter with us, I ran into some problems when I tried to clean Warm Bed #1 so I bought Warm Bed #2 (an exact copy of Warm Bed #1). Toes continued to curl up inside it and look cozy.

Generic Bed for my Parents’ House. We took Toes up to Ohio this past summer to stay with my parents while we traveled to Europe. I bought Toes another bed, a gray fleecy padded one from PetSmart, to help ease the transition into her new living arrangement. (Toes has her own room at my parents’ house, which is the room I shared with my sister when I was little.)

Warm House Bed. As the weather turned cooler this year, we set Toes up in a heated cat house we’d purchased for her. There’s a fleece lined pad at the floor of the house that functions like a bed. We loved going into the garage to find Toes staring up at us from the little door of her house.

Cheetah Taco Bed. Toes is currently back at my parents house for a visit. David and I took her to Ohio for Thanksgiving, and she’ll stay up there through Christmas. We didn’t bring a bed with us this time. My parents had one waiting for her–a cheetah patterned half dome bed. Toes loves curling up in it, and when she does, it makes her look like a Taco.

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Tuesdays with Toes – Double Spayed

When we agreed to adopt Toes after the rabies quarantine, the shelter offered to spay her for free. It might have been a condition of the adoption, but regardless of whether it was required or not, David and I were happy have her fixed. Taking on one cat was enough, we didn’t want to bear responsibility for a litter of kittens down the line.

We made arrangements to have the procedure performed before we brought her home to be our outdoor cat. But when we went to pick her up, the shelter workers had some interesting news for us. When they opened up Toes to spay her, they found she’d already been spayed.

Even though she wasn’t spayed again, because she’d been opened up, she needed time to recover after the operation. We were advised to keep her indoors to protect her from the elements. We couldn’t bring her into the house because I’m allergic to cats. Luckily, we have a garage that doesn’t share any doors or airflow with our house.

We set Toes up in there with a bed, kitty litter, and food and water to recover. The setup worked so well that the garage was soon dubbed the Toes Palace. And that’s how Toes went from being our potential outdoor cat to becoming our neighbor cat with her own residence.

Toes still goes outside as evidenced in the picture below. You’ll notice also in this picture that her left ear is clipped. This indicates that she’s an outdoor cat that’s been fixed in case she ever gets picked up by animal control again. So they won’t try to spay her a third time! DSC03622

Tuesdays with Toes – Life’s Little Lizard Challenges

The lizard appeared out of nowhere! It was this past Saturday afternoon. I was home for just a few minutes between appointments, and I’d gone out to check on Toes in the garage to make sure she had everything she needed.

I opened the door to the garage (a regular door not a garage door) unaware that the lizard was near the stoop. When the door opened, the lizard bolted inside.

Toes was inside her cat house and despite the lizard’s entrance being in her field of vision, she didn’t seem to notice. I wanted to avoid witnessing a bloody lizard death so as soon as Toes walked toward me, I picked her up and put her outside keeping the lizard in my line of vision.

The lizard and I stared at each other for a few moments before Toes hopped back in the garage. She wanted food, I’m sure, and remained oblivious to the presence of the lizard.

At this point, I did what I usually do when small bothersome events like this happen to me and cursed my stupid luck. Why oh why is this happening?

I recalled past episodes when wildlife had entered my home, and I’d not been able to handle it–a number of birds over the course of a few days at our old house in Atlanta. David had taken responsibility for evacuating the birds, but he was not around to help with the lizard.

As the lizard continued to stare at me making slow movements across the floor, I remained frozen in indecision. How does one capture a lizard? If I went away to grab something to aid in said capture, would I be able to find the lizard once I returned?

Toes continued to remain unaware of the lizard’s presence, which by this point I think warranted her cat card being revoked.

The lizard made a few more slow movements finally adhering itself to the side a weight plate David uses when he lifts. I saw an opportunity and grabbed a towel.

I lifted the weight plate with my towel covered hand hoping that the lizard would remain in place. It did staying fixed to the plate until I’d lowered it on to the grass in the yard–a successful end to the lizard incident.

Given my history with the birds in our old house, I was quite proud of how I rescued Toes from the lizard. It was a small challenge, but one I managed to meet. And I know I’ll be more comfortable facing similar problems in the future because of it.

I want to keep this in mind the next time I’m troubled by a small bothersome event. Life’s little challenges present opportunities for success that can prepare me for larger challenges down the line. So might as well embrace them.

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Tuesday with Toes – The Not Quite Pescatarian Kitty

Following the success of my Whole30, I’ve embarked on another nutrition challenge—eating a pescatarian diet until Thanksgiving. I want to curb my meat consumption going forward for environmental reasons and an all out restrictive period seemed like a good way to jumpstart this change. I’ve roped David into doing this with me at home (which means no bacon at breakfast—a big sacrifice for him), but it never occurred to me that I could extend the challenge to the other member of our family: Toes.

Toes’s diet is regimented to manage her chronic kidney disease. For two years, she’s eaten a mix of chicken flavored canned and dry food from Hill’s Prescription Diet k/d line. Recently at the vet, I noticed they were carrying a fish flavored k/d dry food so I bought it for her to change things up. Then, today I noticed they’re also carrying tuna and vegetable stew canned food.

“Toes can be a pescatarian too!” I thought as I bought the food.

But my excitement dissipated later on in the day when I consulted the ingredients list. Tuna was the fourth ingredient listed. The first three were water, pork liver, and carrots.

So Toes will continue to be a carnivore with a bit of fish and vegetables thrown in for good measure. Judging by the way she scarfs up the new food, she’s unaware of the potential moral hazards of her consumption in this era of carbon emissions and global warming.

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Tuesdays with Toes – Let Your Voice Be Heard

Toes has two types of meows. There’s her regular, everyday meow, which she’ll use when she’s greeting us or asking to be let outside. And then there’s a louder, more urgent meow, which I refer to as her radar meow.

Toes lives in our garage because I’m allergic to her, and when she first started radar meowing, I didn’t even recognize the muffled sound I was hearing through the wall as a meow. I thought a strange bird had moved into our yard.

But then one day I entered the garage while Toes was mid radar meow.

“Oh, that’s you,” I said to her. “What do you want?”

She didn’t answer me.

Since I discovered the true source of the sound, I’ve tried to go check on her whenever I hear her call out. But I know there must be times when I’m gone that she radar meows with no response.

I imagine she feels like I do on an election day like today. Radar meowing by casting my ballot and then sitting around waiting to hear if I’ll get the results I’m hoping for. Even if I don’t, I know it’s important to call out because no one would hear me if I didn’t.

So take a tip from Toes, and let your voice be heard by voting today. If she were running for Kitty Representative this would be the closing shot on her campaign ad. Vote Toes for a brighter future! 

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Tuesdays with Toes – The Best Option isn’t the Perfect Option

When Toes went into quarantine for rabies observation, I told the animal control officers I wanted to adopt her once she was in the clear. But a few days into her confinement I wavered in my resolve. I’m allergic to cats and grew up with asthma triggered by allergies so adopting Toes meant potentially compromising my health.

The observation period ended, and when I didn’t hear from the animal control officers, I decided to move on with my life. Toes would be a blip. An almost. A cat I let get too close too fast. I determined to never love like that again.

And then a few days later someone from animal services called.

“I have a note here that says you want to adopt this cat,” the worker on the other end of the line said. “She’s very sweet.”

I tearfully explained my allergies and asthma and how I could never give Toes the home life she deserved.

The worker, in turn, explained to me that Toes could be happy as an outdoor cat if she were spayed and allowed to roam in the neighborhood she already knew. Also, her options for adoption were limited since she’d been brought in on bite quarantine. The best she could hope for was becoming a barn cat, which I don’t think was a euphemism like “being taken to the farm” but could have been.

So David and I did it. We took the plunge and adopted Toes officially in the eyes of DeKalb County taking responsibility for her livelihood even though we knew we couldn’t give her the perfect indoor cat life we would have liked to offer her.

Like many people, I want to do the best I can for those I love–cats included. But I struggle when the best I have to offer doesn’t align with my vision of the perfect option. And then sometimes that struggle is compounded when I wonder if what I’m doing is best since I can’t observe any scenarios other than what I am doing.

There’s no easy answer to this dilemma. The best we can hope for (I think) is to recognize that the perfect option is a myth (everything comes with problems) and we’re left with the challenge of trying to maximize good while minimizing harm in the face of a host of unknown variables.

For Toes, that meant taking a chance on having her be our outdoor cat although that’s not exactly how it all played out…

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