Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Cat Training

Anyone who has shared their home with a cat knows exactly how concrete is made: three parts cat litter to one part cat urine!

I don't know about you, but I dread cleaning the litter box. This is how it goes. Grab the plastic scooper, take a deep breath, and slide the scooper across the bottom of the litter box until it come to an abrupt halt when it collides with the cat concrete. Exhale as I step away to take another deep breath and ram the scooper against the mound until it either gives way or the scooper handle breaks. It's only lately that I started using the metal garden hoe to break things loose before starting the ordeal.

Not two minutes after I have cleaned the litter box, Buddy feels the need to make more concrete. Every. Single. Time. And if I have just filled the litter box with new litter, he won't get into the box. Instead, he straddles the edges of the box while he does his business. When he thinks the litter box needs to be cleaned, he gets my attention by pooping outside the box. If I catch him in the act, he feigns contrition and pretends to rake litter over the offending matter.

I thought about getting a self-cleaning litter box and mentioned that to a friend who has a cat. She gave me a dubious look and said she has one if I want it, but that her cat didn't like it. Her cat didn't just dislike it, she was terrified of it.  After using it once, she tore out of the litter box in a frenzy, climbed Sheila's brand new curtains, and left a trail of liquid fear behind her. Apparently, those litter boxes are activated by the cat leaving the litter box. Leaving, but not quite out. That litter box cost her $1500, which was the cost of the litter box and replacing her curtains. I decided to pass. Buddy freaks out when we roll the trash can near him, and it doesn't have a motor.

So I've been thinking, why can't I train Buddy to use a toilet? Not just any toilet, certainly not a toilet that we use, but a specially made cat toilet. It could even be a composting toilet. Best of all, it wouldn't require scooping, just dumping, and without clumping cat litter, it wouldn't form mounds cemented to the bottom. But first, Buddy has to be trained.

There comes a time in every cat person's life when they realize that it's not so much us training the cat as it is the cat training us. Then we have to work that to our advantage. Take Buddy for instance. When he first came to us, it was obvious from the beginning that he craved human affection. At first he would only let us scratch the top of his head, and when we quit petting him, he slashed out in a cat mini-tantrum. I stopped that behavior by growling an ANKH sound at him. When he was behaving, or at least not misbehaving, I would tell him what a good boy he was in my most soothing voice. Soon he came running any time we were outside and raised his neck for some scratching. Then he would become limp as a noodle and fall to the ground. Literally, he would topple over like a fainting goat, yet he still wanted us to scratch his neck as he lay there.

Bending to the ground got old fast, so I started snapping my fingers over a chair or something and then picked him up and placed him in the chair. Eventually, he started jumping up when I snapped my fingers. That made petting him so much easier, and eventually, he quit falling over from the sheer joy of being petted. He also began training us. When we quit petting him, he squeaked out a little meow, and it was so pathetic that we began petting again. When we figured out that trick, he reached his head up to our hand and began petting himself against the hand, or he lifted his paw, wrapped it around a hand (without claws) and pulled it to him. Now he walks up to one of us, usually Hubby, stands on his hind legs and pats the arm with hand on the keyboard. That's his signal to stop typing and start petting. He is totally in control of petting time now. The only time it is useful for us is when we need to take him somewhere. We know that as soon as we sit in a chair, he will run to us so we don't have to look for him.

Dinnertime is another area where we seem to have lost control. When he was an outdoor cat, we fed him a bit of dry food every day. He probably didn't eat a quarter cup every day, and no matter how much or how little we fed him, he always left a bit in the bowl. Looking back, I think he was leaving some so he wouldn't starve later. Now that he has been a house cat for awhile, he seldom leaves an emergency ration. We were keeping his dry food bowl full and giving him a spoonful of canned cat food in the evening. Then I made the mistake of giving him some leftover tuna one day at lunch. From then on, he was at the door at lunchtime and wouldn't leave us alone until he had something to eat that wasn't dry cat food. He knows that if there is a plate in our hand, it means a treat for him. Heaven forbid we carry our lunch across his doman to eat outside. His plaintive meowing gets positively frantic if we pass by his feeding spot without putting down the plate. The good thing about this is that all we have to do is put his food in his carrier and he won't fuss about going in it. Shut the gate and we are off to the vet.  If you've read my previous posts about Buddy, you remember that getting him into a crate used to be a nightmare.

Now he has figured out when we have been out to eat and have brought home leftovers, or as he considers it, a kitty bag. He knows what a can of catfood looks like, and he can tell the difference between a bag of dry catfood and a bag of anything else. He is pretty smart. But is he smart enough to jump up to a toilet and stay there?

A couple of years ago, I thought he could learn to jump through a hoop on command. He already knew to jump at the snap of fingers, how hard could it be? Cats on tv do it. Not having the fancy hoops that motivate tv cats, I used a wire wreath form.  At first, I held it up just off the ground with him in front of it, and snapped my fingers on the other side. He walked around it. I tried again and blocked the sides with boxes. He sat there. I finally pulled him through, and then gushed praises over him and gave him a treat and petted him.

A few hours later, I tried it again, without the boxes. This time he went through the hoop and demanded his treat. The next day, I raised the hoop and he stepped over it to get his treat. But when I raised it high enough that he actually had to jump through it, he tried to go under. I wrapped some strips of cloth around the wreath and tied some so they hung to the ground. After that, he jumped through the hoop. But I must admit he didn't leap through the air the way tv cats do it. Even with a running start, he will slow to a walk, fix an annoyed expression on his face, and hop half-heartedly through the hoop.

Still, it was a start. I tried putting a box in front of the hoop so he had to really jump, but he only climbed the box and walked through the hoop. Then I had the idea to have him jump onto a bar stool. I didn't even need the hoop. The first time I snapped my fingers, he leapt onto the bar stool. But then he jumped right back off. The next time I gave him a treat as soon as he jumped onto the bar stool, but he knocked it off and jumped off to get it. But over the last few days, he is waiting on the bar stool until he gets his treat. Jumping onto small seat? Check. Balance on the seat for thirty seconds? Check!

Wonder how do I get him to poop on command?

Monday, May 21, 2018

I Have a New Quilting and Sewing Blog

I thought about doing this a long time ago, but I finally decided the quilting and sewing posts needed to be on their own blog. Eventually, I'll move all the old posts over. If you only visit my blog to see the quilting, you can bookmark my new blog or get to from here.

If you followed a link to a quilting post and can't find it, look at my other blog:

Plain Stitches

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

How to find the expiration date of Dr Pepper and Snapple

My drink of choice is Pepsi, and I used to drink it all the time. I mean ALL the time. Now I'm trying to eliminate caffeine and soda from my diet, but I still have one every few months. Hubby, on the other hand, loves Dr Pepper. In fact, his entire family loves Dr Pepper. Last year, I bought several 2 liter bottles of each that were flat, no fizz at all. From then on, I started reading the expiration dates on bottles before buying them.

The expiration date on Pepsi and most other drinks are easy to read. There's a stamp on the bottle or lid with a common abbreviation for month and then the day and year.

Finding the expiration of Dr. Pepper is a little harder. There is a code on the lid, but I couldn't read it. Or at least I couldn't until the I talked to a man stocking Dr Pepper at the grocery store. He whipped out a decoder card and let me snap a picture so I could use it when I needed to read the code, and now you can have it too. It's not a secret code and it wasn't shared with me in confidence. In fact, once you see it, you'll see how easy it is. The black lines didn't photograph well, but you can fill it in easily. The first column is A-M, without an I because it looks too much like J. Second column is January-December. Third column is J-M,A-H, again no I, and so on with the next columns.

For this blog post, I bought the bottle pictured above. And on the lid are a bunch of numbers.

Now here's the code breaker.

The code on my lid is D8119DP3; under that code is 15:54. I'm going to divide that first group of numbers. D-8-119-DP-3. D means it was made in April. 8 is the last number of the year made, which would be 2018. 119 is the day of the year it was made. The 119th day of 2018 was April 29. There are a lot of date converters online. I used Epoch Converter. I think DP3 is the plant and shift number and 15:54 is the time (military time) it was made. He didn't explain that part to me because all I really wanted to know was when it was made and when it expires.

Now for the expiration date you have to know the shelf life of the product.
  • A product with Aspartame or Aspartame/AceK blends, like diet Dr Pepper, has a shelf life of 3 months.
  • Any product in a plastic bottle has a shelf life of 3 months.
  • A product with sugar or high fructose corn syrup in can or glass bottle has shelf life of 9 months.
  • The 6 month and 12 month codes are for Snapple.
For the man stocking new product and removing expired product, this code is easy. If he were stocking in April, he would look at this chart and remove anything diet or in plastic bottles with code M (December) and older.

Knowing this code now, my Dr Pepper will expire July 29, 2018. But I'm sure Hubby will drink it before then.