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Cats & Iris

From: Sharon McAllister <73372.1745@compuserve.com>

Yes, I enjoyed the cat story.  But as most who love both iris and cats
know, FORCING a cat to take a pill is like trying to MAKE iris thrive. 
Neither works.  What does work is discovering what conditions the subject
needs and providing them.  We've had a number of cats over the years, and
this has worked for every one raised from kittenhood.  NO!  I won't take
just  any full-grown, set-in-its-ways cat. 

1.      Teach the kitten that the safest place in the world is in your
arms.  O.K.  Maybe the second safest place.  There was one who was
convinced that the safest place was on the St. Bernard's back or curled up
in his tail.  Nothing like sleeping on one's bodyguard.  The current Head
of the Menagerie was nicknamed the Grizzled Old Warrior by his vet,
considering his long life and many midadventures.  He was a kitten during
planting season.  He learned to love the iris garden because that's where
he had the most time with me.  In spring, he learned the rules of bloom
season by being carried from bed to bed.  Cat in one arm, hybridizing kit
in the other hand.  Sit on ground.  Place cat in lap.  Make crosses.  Pick
up cat & kit, move on & repeat the process.  When he got bored, he go take
a nap in the shade -- but knew that when he came back with that pick-me-up
MEEOOOWWWWW,  he'd get the desired attention and the ritual would resume.

2.      Establish a feeding ritual.  Dry kitten chow [later, dry cat food]
available at all times, so that the kitten can eat when hungry and only
when hungery.  Most importantly, though, it never feels really deprived.   
Keep ground beef on hand, and make one meal a day a special treat.  Form
several small balls of raw meat.  Sit on floor with kitten in lap and
hand-feed.  Then serve canned cat food.  When the kitten becomes too
impatient to put up with the lap-time part of the ritual, it's "graduation
day"  -- start placing the little meat balls on the rim of its dish. 
They'll be gone by the time you can open a can of cat food.  The kitten has
learned that those little meatballs are something special -- and it should
get them once a day, every day, for the rest of its life.

3.      When pills are needed, it's easy to slip one into a little meat
ball.  This even works when you have to give more than one pill a day,
because the meatballs are part of an established, special ritual.  Yes, a
smart cat catches onto the trick.  If the Grizzled Old Warrior isn't
feeling good, he tears apart the meatballs and eats the pill separately. 
Wants to make sure it isn't a placebo, I guess.  Standing up on his hind
legs at the refrigerator and meowing means "take me to the vet!"

O.K.  So iris aren't as articulate as cats.  They can't dig claws into your
calf to say "HEY!  I'm sick.  Something's wrong.  Fix it!"  But they do
"talk" to an observant caretaker.  TBs brown off in summer, and fail to
increase even if they survive?  The heat is probably getting to them and
shadecloth may be the answer.   Oncos stay green all winter, only to turn
to mush after a spring freeze?  Perhaps they need a more protected
location, or even need to be grown in pots that can be moved in the face of
inclement weather.  JI's kick the bucket?  Maybe they need more acid soil. 
 Rebloomers don't? They could be asking for more food & water....

Get the picture?  Both cats AND iris respond more favorably to the
ministrations of a caretaker than to the orders of a general.

Sharon McAllister

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