21 September 2010

A click diary

I was digging around some files on my laptop today, and run into this. I didn't quite remember at first that I had written this; indeed I intended to keep a clicker training diary, but then I never made it beyond that first entry. It's hilarious, so I decided to post it here for your entertainment!

20 September 2010

Is this a test?

Tomorrow starts the first longer work trip since G left and I'm alone with the cats. So far so good: house/cat sitter has been found and checked (the furry crew thought she was OK too, though I'm still not sure what she'll make of Brixton downtown), frozen meat packets have been stacked, raw dinner stains removed...
And then the boiler died. Frantic efforts today for a same day repair came to nothing in the end - by 7pm there was yet another part missing. Never mind the heating, but I just can't ask a house sitter to spend a week without a shower. So now I have the choice of either abandoning my cats, or abandoning my musicians. The decision is obvious: no way I can travel tomorrow. But feeling very frustrated for being forced to look unprofessional. Is this a test??

15 September 2010

Island kittens

These are the orphaned feral kittens I clicker 'tamed' at my family's summer house on a Greek island. Scrawny and scaredy at first, they turned into adorable and affectionate beauties within 2 weeks. Aw!
But as autumn proceeds, and they grow dearer every day, the big question looms larger every day: who's going to take them in over the winter...?

01 September 2010

One year of cats...

  • happy cats: 4
  • happy human: 1
  • days of smiling: 365
  • lives changed: 5
  • catflaps installed: 2
  • clickers acquired: 7
  • tricks learned: 10 (and 1/2)
  • kgs of raw meat eaten: 153
  • number of quail plucked: 162
  • bites: 0
  • fear scratches: 1
  • play scratches: 14
  • accidents: 3
  • illnesses: 1
  • vet visits: 16
  • hospital days: 2
  • flea bites (on me): 10
  • ticks (on Oscar): 1
  • critters caught (sorry!)
  • mice: 11
  • rats: 2
  • birds: 9
  • earth worms: 37
  • flies/moths/bugs: countless

17 August 2010

Geese on the beach

These geese live in the shallow salty waters of a Greek island beach - and in the evenings will occasionally waddle past customers at the beach-side taverna. Hilarious.

31 July 2010

Dogs too!

On my way back home, impatiently missing my furry, purry gang, now that the chicken excitements have come to an end (temporary, I promise). Besides the feathered company in these last two weeks I have also enjoyed other good company:

Little Peanut, Robyn's dog - fun-loving fellow chicken (and dog) trainer from Idaho. Never met a dog that was so much like his name. And he made me revise my opinion of small dogs too. And super-smart, pretty girl Wilee, companion to Ursula, super-smart dog trainer and people coach from Olympia.

We enjoyed beach and trail walks, wild strawberries, convivial dinners and inspiring conversations. They even let me play cool after dinner clicker games: 'shaping' Wilee to jump from chair to chair, and Peanut to get into a basket. It took less than 20 minutes for both of them to 'get it' - just with a clicker and treats. Thrilling.

29 July 2010

More on chickens

You can laugh if you want, but... I am leaning so much from these chickens! Bob Bailey said: "Training is a mechanical skill." Consequently, any kind of animal training is rather more about training the owners/handlers and less about training the animal! I have now spent a week observing myself training chickens and other people taking their dog to training class, and Mr Bailey is just so right! If your cues are clear, your observation skills tuned in and your timing correct your animal will do what you ask for. If your messages are muddled up, if you are not sure what you are saying/asking for, if you forget to mark the correct answer and forget to reward, then surely all you get is a confused animal that simply doesn't know what you want. Surprised?

28 July 2010

Pretty House

We found the prettiest house in Sequim to stay for the second week. Wood and beautiful details everywhere, great light, and a big, airy kitchen. Amazing Jude (aka Grandma Juju) shares the house with me - and I'm cooking for everyone! Life is good.

24 July 2010

Clicker chickens

This time I'm travelling inspired by the cats: I'm in Sequim, WA and I'm clicker training chickens. Yes, really!
Chickens are smart, and fast, and you better get your clicker timing right. It's 12 of us here at Legacy training centre, learning about chicken, dogs, operant conditioning and running a training business under the expert guidance of Terry Ryan. Here is my chicken no.19:
And this is a chicken-feed-cup-clicker, specially invented by Terry for the chicken camps:

21 July 2010

Betty & Lucky

...live with Peggy & Brian (and Punch and Sam) in a beautiful old house in the Seattle hills. I was their guest for a day on my way to the Chicken Camp, and Lucky kindly kept me company all night, so I wouldn't miss my furbabies so much. He knew I can't resist a purring cat sleeping on my neck.

17 July 2010

Clicker games

Clicker games are a less obvious, but just as definite favourite with my gang. You think you can't train cats? Why not? True, you can't force cats to do things, like so many do with dogs or horses, but that's the beauty of it - cats are the ideal positive training animals!
I trained the yard cats back home in Athens when I was a 10year old kid, just for fun, intuitively, without knowing anything about it. Soon after the furry family arrived here, I started reading up on animal training, and before long I stumbled on positive training, operant conditioning, and the use of the clicker. I was fascinated - it all just made sense.
I got myself a clicker... and a couple of days later we were all hooked. They all come running when they hear the clicker, and workd for their clicks purring madly. Such fun!
Check it out youself: here are my clicker videos!

15 July 2010

Hiding games

I posted before about the best toys being the good old and simple: strings and stuff. But the very best thing you can do with a toy is to make it... hide! No amount of wriggling and dangling causes such an immediate reaction of pricked ears and shotgun pounce as dragging the string under a cushion, a rug, or my foot. Wow. If mice only knew that trying to hide is the worst thing to do...

08 July 2010

Miki feeling better, but...

Five days of not eating, 48 hours on a drip, and £380 later, Miki is finally feeling better... thank God!
But I just can't get rid of this lingering feeling that there could have been a much better way of managing this attack of pancreatitis. Yes, he does feel better. But I feel terrible for allowing him to be shut in cage, drip in his leg, alone for two days, when, as I know now, there could have been a possible alternative... Its' a steep learning curve, and very stressful not to be able to just trust the vet.
Visiting Miki in the 'hospital' kennels was a really depressing experience - apathetic cats all around, hiding in the furthest cage corners, under newspaper sheets, their faces pressed flat against the wall. I found Miki hiding under some newspaper too... it took him a couple of minutes to realise it was me, and then he was just SOOO happy.
I took him back home yesterday, and he seems happy and perky, and he's eating a bit too. What a relief!! But he will jump and run away every time he thinks I could be moving towards the carry box. What else did I expect?

04 July 2010

Miki feeling rough...

It is heartbreaking when one of my babies feels so poorly, especially when even the vet is not clear about what's wrong and what I can do to help.

28 June 2010


Summer has finally, definitely arrived! My first summer with the cats. I'm fascinated by how it's changing their attitude: there is so much happening outside, it's keeping all of them constantly occupied: so many bugs to chase, weeds to hide in, birds to stalk, patches of sun (or shade) to laze in... even feeding time has lost its attraction!

26 June 2010

Miki's tail

When Miki was about 4 months old he appreared one morning trailing his tail, with a very noticeable kink in it. It didn't seem to bother him much otherwise. But it worried me - especially as I just had my first disappointing vet experience with their rounds of shots. Should I take him back to the vet? What would/could they do except expensive x-rays to confirm what was obvious? Put his tail in a cast?? Give him drugs that possibly did more harm than they offered relief? And anyway, Miki didn't seem to have a problem with it.
I did some research on 'broken tail in cat', and, as always with the internet, I bumped into any number of opinions and treatments, some of them downright scary (including amputation and euthanasia...) It can be quite overwhelming to pick through seemingly endless opinions offered out there, and make your own informed decision.
To my relief I eventually found some excellent info here. With that advice, I observed his litter box use (no issues), pinched his tail tip to see if he had any feeling in it (he complained, good!), and decided that he was going to recover without problems.
Sure enough, a couple days later he carried his tail high again, and with every week that passed the kink got a bit less obvious. And, finally, as of this month, I can say that any trace of the kink is completely gone - he grew out of it!

23 June 2010


Eating raspberries just off the bush - just the best thing!!

Lily wanted a photo too!

21 June 2010

Office kitty...

...chasing pigeons on the roof terrace outside my office.

20 June 2010

Box games

Yes, I admit I have fallen for buying various cat toys... They come in various shapes and hanging on various devices, and some come highly praised. But it turns out that the toys that keep my babies really hooked and fascinated every day anew, are the good, old, fail-proof and obvious: piece of string, bit of crumpled paper, cardboard boxes. In fact my flat is now strewn with all of those. And I don't even mind.

13 June 2010

Family dynamics

With the kittens now 9 months old, the dynamics within the gang are still constantly changing. Ex feral mama Psipsina is growing more content and affectionate every day - with me. But she mostly treats her kittens like annoying teenagers. Clumsy games or getting in her way is not on, neither is stealing her favourite place, and she prefers to sleep alone these days. And when a kitten interrupts a game or cuddle between me and her, she will immediately turn away sulking. Only Miki is being allowed to play mama's boy these days, sometimes.
And, she can see that Oscar is the one that may one day challenge her queen's crown, and she's already jealous. Oscar gets a lot more swatting and hissing than everybody else, and never a game. Sometimes she even tries to block him at the door. But he just behaves like the clever crown prince he undoubtedly is: gently but confidently keeping out of her way, without any sign of intimidation.

09 June 2010

Something's cookin'

  Or, maybe not after all...

06 June 2010


Cooking (and eating) is another passion of mine (but the cats have definitely taken over the top of the list).

05 June 2010

Cats are hunters...

... and as summer has arrived hunting skills have blossomed, leaving me both proud and horrified. Especially Oscar has a deadly instincts, and it's not just the fat flies he catches...

02 June 2010

Glad to be home

Giant weeds in Poland...

... flowers in my garden (with Lily).

Gosh, I'm sooo happy to be back home!!

21 May 2010

Had enough of travelling...

I'm away on a tour again for a few days... and finding I have left a number of vital bits behind... my laptop charger, for example, and even my spectacles! No wonder, considering that I spent the few hours before departure not thinking of my trip but trying to make every minute with the cats last longer... and it really broke my heart to leave them again. I need a change - the signals are piling up!

16 May 2010

Old French boy

He lives at the mayor's house, and he likes me.

15 May 2010

Away and torn

So I left the furry gang for a few days to join a gang of musicians for a festival in the Southwest of France (I do this for a living). It's a warm welcome - the sort of festival that once a year takes over a tiny village and involves the entire community, including long communal lunches and staying in a stone-built medieval chateau. My windows look out over the river and I feel like in another world and another time.
Yet everything is reminding me of my new 'family' I left back home: I find cat cookies in my jeans pocket, cat hair in my suitcase (and in my face cream...) and my shoelace has chew marks... Travelling around the world with musicians has been great fun for the last 10 years (even if you don't get to stay in a chateau every time) but suddenly I'm just not so sure any more where I'd rather be. Maybe it's time for a change.

10 May 2010

Impaled by tooth

The moment I came in the door I knew something was wrong... Psipsina didn't come to greet me, and when she showed up a while later she was acting strangely removed and cagey. I tried to brush it away as being oversensitive over my absence, and got on with the evening. Psips sat motionless on her box. This couldn't be right, so I had to have a closer look. She growled at me when I picked her up, and then I noticed she kept her tongue sticking out oddly. When I tried to look into her mouth she started yelling... (but no bites or major scratches, sweet girl she is)...

We got off to the vet first thing in the morning, with the cat box (a re-conditioned LeCreuset cardboard box) strapped on the back of my bicycle. The vet took one look at her mouth: the tooth was not broken, it was stuck through her lip!!
How on earth...??? Poor thing, she must have endured that impaled lip for at least 2 days... (and feeling really guilty I wasn't there to notice). I had to leave her at the vets to be sorted out under sedation.
Got her back home now, with a hole in her lip (the tooth really went straight through) but a lot happier. Just hope she heals well now (and without complications from all the drugs put into her...)

01 May 2010

Fox cubs!

There is an empty plot behind my garden; a real jungle, with secrets and surprises:

30 April 2010

The gift of affection

Many say cats are selfish and un-giving. I never understood this perception. I feel their love every day - my cats shower me with affection... not when I want it but when they want. What's wrong with that?
I'm delighted, happy, grateful every time I'm lucky enough to be offered their affection... when Psips talks to me in the morning, when Lily jumps on my lap and snuggles up the crook of my arm, when Oscar gives me nose kisses, and when even suspicious Miki comes over for cuddles sometime.
Not something you can force, predict, buy, or earn: it just happens, when it happens (and that's often enough to keep me smiling!)

23 April 2010


Psipsina really keeps an eye on 'her' home now. Intruders have no chance: the other day a fox sneaked in, and was immediately attacked with forceful, noisy determination. Today a new black cat came so much as near the garden door and was given a clear message about what would happen if she came any nearer.
With the kittens almost 8 months now, and out and about by themselves all the time anyway, I doubt this is her mothering instinct. This really is about her home = her territory. Uninvited guests keep out! (Maybe she'd would do the same with would-be burglars?)

17 April 2010


Today I planted new geraniums in my garden pots.
I LOVE geraniums, red geraniums, they remind me of home.

I've always had geranium pots, ever since I got my own garden, and they didn't seem to mind the English winter much. Until last winter - this time the frost burnt them all (and it came so suddelnly in early december that I didn't even have time to cover them up...).  Now I have six new pots with small plants, some showing early red buds - just have to work out how to prevent the cats digging in the fresh pots!

10 April 2010

Walking the walk of life

This is one of my favourite photos of myself. It's my birthday today - and the photo still very much looks like me and my life, as much as it did 10 years ago when this was taken...

08 April 2010


So the gang has been feasting on quail every morning. Always cleaning up their plates. And eating a lot less for (non-quail) dinner. I should have seen it coming: today I changed the game and they got gizzards for breakfast - and they are all turning up their noses. It's now almost an hour since the food has been out, and except for some tiny bites it's all left there untouched. Picky beasts... oh, it's hard to stick to be a strict kitty-mom.

29 March 2010

Arguing with the vet...

Back from the vets, and feeling exhausted... not so much because of Miki, he will be fine, I think, but because it seems such a struggle to do the right thing.
As usual, Miki was more upset about the trip than actually being at the surgery - once there he always seems so scared he forgets to struggle - he just hides in my arms... The vet soaked his paw and poked off all the crusty bits and underneath all that gunk it isn't looking as bad as I thought - there is even a tiny bit of nail left, so that's good news.

28 March 2010

Torn claw

Things kittens get into... and it's always Miki it seems:
I noticed this morning that his paw looked unusually 'dirty'. Looking closer it turns out it's all crusted up with blood between the toes. Ouch!!!
He doesn't seem to be bothered by it much, he doesn't limp and runs around as usual. He must have gotten his claws stuck somewhere - I wonder if he has torn one out... It looks like a bloody mess and I don't have the guts to clean it out for fear of making it worse. I can see a trip to the vet coming... Hate that, and Miki hates it too.

27 March 2010

Kitty entertainment

My cats have free access to the garden, and all the real wildlife it comes with... I still find the notion of cat videos rather odd. But I admit I had to try it... Oscar was fascinated!
The site I tried here was All About Birds (great clips and sound, shame you only seem to be able to have either image or sound :(

21 March 2010

Clicker taming

Today I used the clicker on Papa Cat. To truly baffling effect! So far the closest he will let me is that he will maybe, reluctantly sniff my hand; with the clicker I had him in front of me, eating treats eagerly off my hand, within 5 minutes!
I used the following sequence (with kibble treats):
- click/throw treat
- throw treat/click for eating
- extend hand for sniff/click-treat for sniffing
- offer treat on hand/click for sniffing, put treat down to eat next to my fingers
- offer treat on hand/click for eating off hand.

PS. Sadly, only a few days after this post Papa Cat disappeared, and has not showed up again...

19 March 2010

Mother and daughter.

18 March 2010

Oscar likes...

...sitting on my cross-legged lap. Whether I'm trying to do a bit of meditation, or whether I'm typing, like now, he will often clamber up on my legs and snuggle in. Love it!

Some cats feel like making themselves comfortable on rather more unlikely spots though! This is such cool little clip.

16 March 2010

Papa Cat

Lots of cats go in and out of back gardens in London... this is perfectly normal, and most do have happy homes.
One cat seems to be hanging around my garden more regularly than others... He behaves very much like a real feral, and I think he may well be the papa of my kittens...

14 March 2010

Show me the perfect treat

Positive clicker training requires the treat to be something of value to the trainee, something they really want! As a beginner I'm still on the big quest for the perfect treat, something my cats will go crazy for... It to be yummy, small, quick to eat, easy to handle. I'm forever looking for and trying out new ideas... If you have any ideas, let me know!