Aby-a-Day – 20 Juni 2020: Happy Gotcha Day! (Special Saturday)

Two years ago today, I travelled to Stockholm to collect our little Izaak.

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His harness was almost too big for him, even adjusted to the smallest size..

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He was so tiny…

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Zak and Lorelai bonded over leftovers. This is the day after he arrived.

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Two days after that, he had his first outside adventure.

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He quickly discovered his favourite, IKEA mice. This was his fifth day with us.

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The day after that…

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…we had our first trip to the vet…

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…our first visit to DjurMagazinet…

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…and our first walk home. Little Zak did a LOT in his first week with us!

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But it isn’t just Zak’s Gotcha Day. Fifteen years ago today, we answered a Craigslist ad and brought Kylie home from Quincy. We had to stop at Petco on the way home to buy a carrier!

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This is her and Tessie today, back in Boston. I can’t believe she is 15! And, in a month and a half, Tessie will be 17!

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But wait, there’s more! 29 years ago, today, I got Harri, my very first Siamese. We were on our way to an SCA event, and we picked him up on the way.

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He camped with us for his first several days with us before we got him home. That’s probably why he was such a good traveller.

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He was 14 years old when we got Kylie…but he was very fond of her. Seems that 20 June is a good day to get a kitten!

Aby-a-Day – 5 Juni 2020: Has it been four years already? (Friday Flashback)

As you probably remember, four years ago this month, Jacoby, Angel and I moved to Sweden.

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The movers came on 31 May. Angel was remarkably chill.

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The movers coming in and packing everything up didn’t faze her one bit.

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Jake, of course, was very helpful.

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Tessie wanted to keep the scratching posts.

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But mostly, the Abys just napped whilst the movers worked.

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I was quite impressed watching the movers watching the movers wrap up the big cat tree.

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A week and a half later, it was our turn to go.

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We travelled to Sweden on IcelandAir, which requires all animals to travel in a designated animal area in the cargo hold due to Iceland’s quarantine laws. I was lucky enough to see Angel and Jake’s carrier transferring to our plane during the layover.

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We arrived in Sweden just fine.

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And we made it home to our apartment in Skövde. And here we are, four years later, living our happily ever after.

Well…except we no longer have Jake…but still.

Aby-a-Day – 12 Maj 2020: Behind the scenes of a classic (Cartoon Tuesday)

I know you’ve all seen my version of Tessie, Kylie, Angel and Jacoby as the main characters of Frozen. I wish I had the Photoshop file with all the layers…but somehow, all the PSD files of my cartoons after number 80 have disappeared.

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When I got the idea, it started as Kylie being Elsa and Jake being Kristoff…and it just took off from there.

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Elsa (Kylie) and Anna (Angel) went through a few test sketch ideas, but Jake’s Kristoff and Tessie’s Sven were pretty much set from the beginning.

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This sketch is where I finalised Angel’s Anna pose.

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Not wanting to waste paper, I would do pencil sketches and final inks on the same page. This is one of those.

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I worked on getting Kylie’s arms just exactly right. A LOT.

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I also drew Kylie separate from her clothing (Jake and Angel were always drawn with their outfits on). I wanted to be sure her body looked right under the translucent costume layer.

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When I was inking Jake’s face, I did a few trials before settling on his final face. In some ways, it’s way easier to draw on the iPad than it was to draw on paper!

Happy birthday, Kylie!

Today is Kylie’s 15th birthday! She and Tessie are both healthy and happy back in Boston.

Aby-a-Day – 10 Mars 2020: The Northuldra (Cartoon Tuesday)

Last week, I posted Izaak as Olaf the snowman from the Frozen movies. But there are some new characters in Frozen 2, and I had two cats who hadn’t been cast yet. Lorelai and Alfred are perfect as the Northuldrian brother and sister Honeymaren and Ryder. As always, I started with a sketch in Procreate.

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Then I did a preliminary ink outline. I had a LOT of fun with this, because, unlike Zakolaf, I got to draw clothing, too. The Northuldra were based on the Sami people of Northern Scandinavia, and I have long had an interest in them from my SCA days (in fact, that was one of the reasons Björn and I became penpals). Drawing their clothing, and especially the knives (I have a collection of Puukkot, the traditional Finnish utility knife), was awesome.

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And then, the clean ink layer. More fun refining the clothing.

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Switching to the laptop and Photoshop, I did a flat colour layer.

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This was done underneath the clean ink layer.

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Then the ticking, and texture on the clothing. This took a long time, because I needed to experiment with fabric textures. For some parts, such as the trim on the neck and shoulders, and the puukkot, I found photos of actual Samí trim and knives, and overlaid and blended them into my drawing.

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You can see how the puukkot are slightly photographic.

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Then I switched to the background. As with Zakolaf and the Zakdalorian, I took a generic Frozen 2 background and painted over it.

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As always, on a separate layer, I added the whiskers and eyeshine.

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And then, their shadows and the obiquitous leaf swirl.

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And here’s the final version. As with Zakolaf, I find it a bit dark…but the Enchanted Forest was shrouded in fog and mist, so it’s kind of supposed to be dark.

Aby-a-Day – 3 Mars 2020: Catatonic 2 (Cartoon Tuesday)

You may remember, six years ago, I made this wonderful cartoon with Jacoby, Angel, Kylie and Tessie as Kristoff, Anna, Elsa and Sven the reindeer from Frozen.

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Well, of course, Frozen 2 came out last November, which made me revisit my original cartoon. Of course, Kylie and Tessie still live in Boston, and Dashiell can take Jake’s place as Kristoff…but it occurred to me that I now have the perfect cat to play Olaf! Izaak! Of course, Olaf should be a Singapura! I started with a sketch and then a rough ink on my iPad in ProCreate.

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Then I did a clean ink outline.

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Switching to the laptop and Photoshop, I did a flat colour layer.

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On a separate layer, I added the whiskers and eyeshine.

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Then I switched to the background. I took a generic Frozen 2 background (there are plenty of wallpapers available online) and painted over it, the same way I created the background of the Zakdalorian.

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Then I added a swirl of windblown leaves, to give it the feel of the film.

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Then I painted the ticking and Zak’s other markings with my fur brushes.

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Finally, I gave Zakolaf a little shadow, to ground him in the scene. I wish this was a little brighter, but that’s just the way this scene is; it’s not as bright as the snow scenes, because it’s autumn. Can’t do much about that.

Oh, and don’t worry…I have characters for Lorelai and Alfred to play. Stay tuned…

Happy 14th Birthday, Kylie!

Today is Kylie’s 14th birthday. She was such a tiny kitten when we got her…

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…and here she is on St. Patrick’s Day, ignoring the parade.

Aby-a-Day – 20 Januari: Catching up with Tessie and Kylie

When I moved from Boston to Skövde, only Jacoby and Angel came with me. Kylie was always my ex’s cat, and Tessie, who was, in part, a 40th birthday present from my mom, helped raise Kylie and taught her how to cat. As much as I love Tessie, leaving her with Kylie was the best decision.

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Clearly, you can see that was the right decision. They are bestest best friends.

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Tessie is now 15 (and almost a half) years old.

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To look at her, you would never guess she was that old!

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I mean, here she is five years ago…she must have a little kitty portrait in her attic!

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She still loves boxes.

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And warm laundry.

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I can’t believe she’s 15.

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Kylie turned 13 last April.

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She, like Tessie, does not look as old as she is, and is quite healthy.

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She is still the only cat of ours who was born in Boston (well, Quincy). Tessie was born in Oregon, Angel in California, and Jacoby in New Brunswick. Only Kylie is a native New Englander.

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(Not gonna lie…I do miss that view…)

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Kylie is still as pretty as ever, too.

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Right from the start, Kylie and Tessie were besties.

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Thirteen years later, nothing has changed.

Aby-a-Day – 19 October: Come on kitties now…Everykitty get together (Flashback Photoshop Friday)

This morning, Facebook greeted me with a reminder of a post I made four years ago. I was challenged to post five photos of my cats, and I decided to post five group photos. Getting a photo of all the cats in the house together at the same time is harder than some might think. So, because of the reminder that Facebook sent me, I decided to post all the “family photos” I have been able to capture over the years.

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The oldest is this, of Sigrid, Harri, and Patrick cuddled together on my sofa. This was taken in autumn 1997. It looks cuddly, but actually Sigrid and Tricky were sleeping there, and Harri decided to squeeze in between them. Still cute, though.

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This is after I’d moved to Boston. Harri and Patrick had been joined by Tessie and Kylie. This is the first photo of all of them together.

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This is my favourite photo of this group. I even used it as a Christmas card.

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…And this would be the outtake of that photo…

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This was Christmas 2006. Harri had died in August and we had just adopted Gun-Hee.

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This photo is less posed, but more my favourite. Love Kylie’s arm!

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Another photo of Gun-Hee with Patrick, Kylie and Tessie, this time all gathered on our bed.

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This is another shot from that session, “arted up” in Photoshop.

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One evening, all the cats lined up on the back of the sofa.

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I had this shot…but Gun-Hee moved his head.

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Thanks to Photoshop, I was able to replace Gun-Hee’s head and make this into a usable image.

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This is another “art” composite photo. All of them were on the tree together, but this is multiple shots combined so each cat looks good.

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Food and the kitchen is a great way to get everyone together. Here we have (anticlockwise) Jacoby, Angel, Tessie and Kylie.

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However, they did have other motivations to gather together.

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After we moved to Sweden, the kitchen was more a gathering point than ever. Here we have Alfred, Jake, Angel, Logan and Pyret.

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And then, suddenly…our five cats became Jake, Freddy, Lorelai, Angel and Izaak.

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A collection that was also easier to gather in the kitchen.

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But they also gathered spontaneously on our bed! No Photoshop required.

Aby-a-Day – 14 July: “But that’s life. One long tunnel. ” (Silly Saturday)

Back in my old apartment in Somerville,I had this aswesome floor-to-ceiling cat tree from Drs Foster and Smith, and it was well-loved by Harri, Patrick, Tessie, and Gun-Hee…but especially Kylie.

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Specifically, the fleece tunnel that hangs from the first level platform.

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Most cats want to go high, and eschew the low-hanging tunnel, but not Kylie.

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At the time, Kylie had a “knitten,” a little kitten that looked like her. It was her favourite toy, and she, of course, took it with her into the tree-tunnel.

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“Hey! Come back here and enjoy this with me!”

But after Kylie was young, the tree went into storage, and no cat got to climb it until we moved to Sweden, but even once we set that old tree up in Björn’s apartment, literally no cat used that tunnel…until Lorelai showed up on the scene.

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Rory discovered that tunnel and she owned it.
I know it’s not in focus, but this photo captures Rory’s joy within the tunnel.

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“Yay! Tunnel!”

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It’s so cute watching her loll about in that thing.

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I wonder if it’s a kitten thing? An adult cat can easily fit in the tunnel, but none ever lie in it.

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When Izaak arrived, he tried to share the tunnel with Rory.

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It was a bit crowded in there for the pair of them (look at Rory’s back foot!), but they made it work.

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For a while.

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Then Zak started to sort of ooze out the backside of it.

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Pretty sure he was pushed…

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…because a certain little girl seemed awfully proud of herself once she had the tunnel all to herself again.

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“…What? I didn’t do anything. He wanted to get down!”

Aby-a-Day – 11 May: Remembering Gun-Hee (Friday Flashback)

Lorelai has been with us for a week now, and it’s like she’s always been here. She’s feisty, trusting, playful, curious and just…perfect. Jacoby growls at her, she doesn’t care. She pushes Angel and Jake away from their leftovers if she’s still hungry. She holds her own with Alfred even though he’s nearly 10 times her size. She’s had no litter box issues, no eating problems…nothing. She just integrated herself right into the cat family.

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Kind of like another Aby kitten I know. Gun-Hee was a lot like Rory. Jake, Freddy and Logan were somehow not as easy. They all had giardia as kittens, and, I don’t know. It just felt like it took a lot more work managing those three as kittens compared to Rory and Gun-Hee.

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We got Gun-Hee on 15 December 2006, the day before he turned three months old.

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We tried to keep him separated from Tessie, Kylie and Patrick when we first brought him home. That lasted about five minutes. He would have none of it. The older cats were…not the most welcoming at first.

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Gun-hee didn’t care.

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He just stood his ground.

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For some reason, Patrick was his particular favourite. Patrick was still missing Harri, who had died four months earlier.

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Gun-Hee eventually wore him down.

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He loved Patrick.

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Kylie was the closest to him in age (she was only 17 months older than him), so they also became friends rather quickly.

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Tessie was a little slower to thaw.

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But Gun-Hee eventually melted her, too.

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He also loved the floor-to-ceiling cat tree in my old apartment.

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He loved being on the top, epsecially.

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Rory takes on that same floor-to-ceiling cat tree and, if she falls off, she just climbs back up. As I am typing this, she’s at the very top of it, trying to touch the ceiling. Gun-Hee was like that, too.

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Another thing they have in common is shoulder-riding. Neither Jake, Angel, Freddy or even Logan have ever been able to stay on a shoulder. Jake is particularly bad at it; I say it’s like he has magnets on his feet that are the opposite of the ones on people’s shoulders and he just can’t stay on. It’s nice to have a shoulder-riding kitten again.

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And Gun-Hee could be cuddly, too. Just like Rory. It’s a little eerie how much she reminds me of him.

Happy 13th Birthday, Kylie!

Today is Kylie’s 13th birthday! She and Tessie are still living happily in Boston. They’re a bit older, but doing well.

Aby-a-Day- 27 March: Logistics of feeding (Cartoon Tuesday)

These go back to when I still lived in Boston. I was brainstorming ideas about all the hoops I had to go through to feed Jacoby, Angel, Tessie and Kylie. When Kylie was a tiny kitten, we made a box with a hole only she could fit through so the adult cats wouldn’t eat the higher-calorie kitten food. We did this with Logan, too, so he could have food whenever he needed it.

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This was some kind of idea about the kitten box and the menacing big cats hovering around it. I still am not sure where I was going with this.

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This was an idea about the logistics of feeding. At the time, Jake and Angel lived with Tessie and Kylie. Kylie was a slow and picky eater, while Jake scarfs down his food and looks for more. He had to eat UT food, and we didn’t want him eating regular food, so he ate in the spare bedroom. Angel ate in the bedroom, because she also needs UT food, and also because Tessie would bully her and keep her from eating. Tessie and Kylie could eat together, because Tessie wouldn’t try to steal her food.

We have a similar system here in Sweden, because of eating styles and special diets. Jake doesn’t like raw and still needs UT, and he eats in the bedroom. When Alfred and Logan were kittens and ate the same food, we fed them in the Kitten Room and Angel on the cat tree. Pyret used to need eat a renal/hepatic diet, and we fed her on her chair. Angel never tried to eat Pyret’s food, so that worked. When Logan was still eating kitten food after Freddy was neutered, we fed Logan in the Sturdi Shelter and Freddy ate alone in the Kitten Room, but now that the Suprelorin has kicked in, they are back to eating the same food. Between the voracious Aby appetite and the special diets, feeding our cats is a bit like that old riddle about the farmer and the fox, goose and bag of beans!

Aby-a-Day – 18 May: Wordless Wednesday (Turnabout)

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Aby-a-Day – 14 April: Give me the kitten until he is seven and I’ll give you the cat

Today is Jacoby’s 7th birthday!

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As is tradition, he got his cat food can-cake with a candle on top.

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He loves his birthday cake!

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He knows he can’t eat any of it til the candle is lit, so he paced around impatiently while I got out the matches.

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“Hurry up, mom! Light the candle already!!”

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Abys have no fear of flame…this is a reason why I never have candles.

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Fire on food? No problem!

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Angel was completely uninterested in the festivities.

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Nom nom nom

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I let him eat a little bit, and then saved the rest for his evening meal.

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After the cake, it was time for his present! A new Hexbug!This is the Hexbug Nano V.2, which can climb up tubes.

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What’s nice about it is, on the floor, it seems to just want to go around in circles. It doesn’t try to escape like the other ones. This seems to be more fun for cats, too.

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Kylie always gets involved in Jake’s birthday – hers is only 10 days away, on 24 April.

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Here’s a quick little movie of Jake playing with his Hexbug, with a cameo by Tessie.

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Happy birthday, Jakey!

Aby-a-Day – 30 March: Angel and her sisters

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Aby-a-Day – December 30: Wordless Wednesday (More photos from Boston)

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Aby-a-Day – December 23: Wordless Wednesday (This is what happens back at home when I go away)

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Aby-a-Day – November 29: Boxing match (Silly Sunday)

A couple of weeks ago, I ordered something from Amazon that came in a really big box.

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Jacoby was all over that action.

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Still, uneasy rests the head of the cat that owns the box.

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You can’t help but feel that there are other cats out there who would like nothing better than to steal your box out from under you.

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“I feel like I’m being watched…”

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“…Kylie..?”

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“Must have been my imagination…”

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“Still, I can’t seem to shake this feeling.”

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“Ahhh…I’m just being paranoid.”

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Or…not.

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Always trust your gut, Jake!

Aby-a-Day – November 24 – Breed sketches (Cartoon Tuesday)

I found these sketches I did during a therapy visit at Tufts last year with Jacoby, probably around the time some patients did portraits of Jake.

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On this one, I was explaining how different the body types and skulls of different breeds are. I also explained how ticking on an Abyssinian hair looks.

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Then I was asked if I had any other cats, so I drew Angel, Kylie and Tessie and showed how different each of them look – both when compared to Jake and when compared to each other.