Thinking outside the box (Or, The importance of a good nap)

Our cat Lemon is, to put it lightly, severely bossy. He will stomp around for hours, screaming about one thing or another. Literally, hours! And not meowing… screaming. Maybe he wants to go outside (which is not allowed), or he needs us to watch him eat. Whatever. His demands are varied and specific. And they must be met immediately, or we will face his wrath.

We’ve actually taken him to a behaviorist who said he has anxiety. Our vet calls every once in a while to check on him because she knows he doesn’t let us sleep at night (Dr. O’Connor at Highland Veterinary Clinic is the best!). We have tried every solution you can think of, but the stomping and screaming continues.

The solution… a heated blanket! Lemon loves to lay in the sun and be warm, but, as we’ve told him countless times, that’s not always possible. Last year, we bought him a heated blanket. No one else in the house has a heated blanket. Just Lemon. And it really works! He calms down and goes to sleep. He will even snuggle with Imogen, which was previously unthinkable. Lesson: sometimes it pays to think way outside the box when you’re trying to solve a problem.

Last week, he was having a particularly vicious tantrum and we gave him a calming treat, turned on the blanket, and he took a four-hour nap! When he woke, he came around and gave everyone a snuggle and a purr. All he needed was a good nap.

P.S. He is actually the sweetest boy ever and I love him to pieces. But seriously, he can be a little monster.

October 2012

Are you a monster when you don’t get to sleep?


Costa Rica – Animals

One reason we wanted to go to Costa Rica was to see the animals in their native habitat. The first animals we saw were dogs. We’ve seen street dogs before, or, as we call them, busy dogs. (In Greece, all the dogs looked like they had somewhere important to go… they were very busy.) The Costa Rican dogs weren’t exactly busy. They were normally following a person, or hanging out around someone’s house. We’re just not sure any of these dogs have a home indoors. Fortunately, there are organizations working to help find homes and educate people about owning dogs, and try to promote spay and neuter programs.

At our hotel, we saw tons of hummingbirds. They were really having a good time finding food and chasing tourists.

One of our tours went through the Cano Negro Wildlife Refuge. On our way to the refuge, we stopped at a restaurant that is surrounded by iguanas in the trees. The iguanas climb to the tallest limbs to lay in the sun. There were tons of them – our guide said 400 iguanas live in the trees near that restaurant.


Also at the iguana restaurant, we saw a toucan seeding a palm fruit. He was so beautiful, and purposeful. The birds help spread seeds of the fruits and plants that we all enjoy.


At the wildlife refuge, we saw howler monkeys, Capuchin monkeys, and even spider monkeys. They were all hanging out together.

We saw a few caiman. Really you can just see their eyes, peeking above the surface of the water.

There’s a lizard called the Jesus Christ lizard, because it walks on water. It’s actually called a basilisk, but Jesus Christ lizard is funnier. This photo shows him getting a running start. (this is muddy ground, but they really can run on water)

We didn’t see a sloth at the wildlife refuge, and we were sad to leave Costa Rica without seeing this amazing animal. However, on our way out of La Fortuna, our fantastic driver spotted one and pulled over so we could see it and take pictures.


Enrichment days enrich me too

Saturday was a busy day. First, we volunteered at Crafty Mart, and then we went to the zoo. Saturday was an Enrichment Day at the Akron Zoo, so we had to go enjoy the nice weather and get some more practice with the camera. Enrichment days are when the zookeepers put new and interesting toys into the animals’ habitats to add some variety to their life. Usually, it’s something they can explore or destroy, or a big toy with food hidden inside.  It’s meant to stimulate the animal’s natural instincts and it sure is fun to watch.

Zoo June Two

red panda

We got there in time to see the red panda’s enrichment time and it was well worth it. The red panda is so bossy and stompy and adorable. He reminds us of our Lemon. (I know… red pandas are not pets!) On Saturday, the red panda’s enrichment included a paper mache dinosaur and some extra bamboo. He also had some training time, which allows the keeper to look him over to make sure he’s healthy and to give him any medication he needs.

Zoo June Two

Did you know that red pandas aren’t pandas at all? They are so unique that they are now in their own family.

Zoo June Two

We love the Akron Zoo. Many vegans or animal activists question the ethics of zoos, but I think they are necessary because I think most people need to see something in order to care about it. Zoos also allow us to conserve animals who are nearing extinction due to human practices like logging, cattle ranching (that destroys 1,000’s of acres of forest every year), and sprawl. The Akron Zoo is great because you can see everything in about 3 hours, and they focus a lot of their education programs on conservation efforts. A few years ago, the Akron Zoo was included on the Ohio Solar Tour because of their green buildings.

Zoo June Two

komodo dragon

Zoo June Two

seahorse and starfish in the new aquarium

Feed the birds

Bird feederThe best bug repellent I can think of for your garden is to feed the birds.

We used to have a terrible problem with Japanese beetles. Several years ago, we tried the traps and we even sprayed the trees in our back yard. Neither approach worked. Then we started feeding the birds, mostly to give our cats something to watch. The beetles disappeared. We’ve been feeding the birds ever since.

Blog updates

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How bats hibernate

Flying Fox at the Columbus Zoo

While this extra warm spring is making humans happy, plants and animals are feeling the effects in a different way. We will likely get a big freeze before summer really starts, and that could affect fruit and vegetable crops that have started to grow ahead of schedule.  Another essential animal I was a little worried about is the bat. Bats eat bugs and fertilize crops. They’re so cool! I’m usually thrilled to see a bat, but when I saw several last night (because it was 77 degrees on March 19!), I got a little worried and decided to do some research. Questions:

  • Do bats hibernate?
  • What happens when they come out of hibernation?
  • Will the bats freeze when the weather cools again?
  • Will the bats starve when the weather cools and the bugs die?
  • Can the bats go back into hibernation when the weather cools again?
  • What effect does the hibernation > not hibernation > hibernation > not hibernation process have on them?

The Organization for Bat Conservation had some answers. It turns out, I needn’t worry about my little buddies. When it gets cold outside, bats slow their bodily functions and go into torpor, or hibernation. Their resting heart rate can go from 300-400 bpm when it’s warm outside to 10 bpm when it’s cold.

This occurs on a daily basis during spring, summer, and autumn for a few hours, depending on the weather conditions.

Whew! This process is normal for them. They go in and out of hibernation throughout the year, without us noticing.

The amazing thing about hibernators that sets them apart from other animals is that they are capable of rewarming their bodies from very low temperatures all by using internally created heat. Ectotherms, such as reptiles, have body temperatures that can reach low levels but they are incapable of rewarming themselves without external heat sources. –Bat

So, I will take comfort in knowing that the bats enjoyed a satisfying spring meal, got rid of some pesky bugs, and will safely return to hibernation when they need to.

Nature is pretty awesome.