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Tora The Super Cat

July 13th, 2015

One of a Kind Cats Who Loved Humans, Animals, and Car Rides!

After fighting with a very aggressive cancer for about six weeks, Tora took his last breath while my husband and I were beside him. He was so brave, strong, and courageous, and he never showed any wimpy attitude toward his illness. It was about “living” for him, and not “dying”.


My absolute favorite picture of Tora taken by my friend, Johnny, the cat photographer! Fall 2014

He was able to walk (slowly though) and get wherever he wanted to until the very last week. He has been a very active cat his whole life, so we were so thankful that he had good quality of life right up to a couple of days before his passing. He enjoyed going outside through a cat door, sat on a shelf watching the world go by, and Mikan (his rambunctious sister) literally goes by chasing lizzards, moths, and baby snakes. Even after he partially lost his balance in walking in his last week, he attempted and succeeded to move from where he was to where he wanted to arrive by taking short three steps at a time. He even managed to go upstairs alone to rest up until three days prior. I need to mention this, five hours before he was ready to leave for a cat heaven, he hovered on the floor to get in the litterbox! Although nothing was coming out, he “did” it by lowering his butt briefly. He was such a fastidious and clean kitty. It was so amazing to see his determination and dignity behind these actions!

A mobile vet who offers euthanization had been arranged for Monday, but he completed his life cycle by his own on Sunday. He stayed laying down in his bed as if he was taking an exceptionally long nap. He looked very calm and peaceful.


“Does anyone want to pick me up in the box?” He enjoyed the box-ride daily with a special song along with it.

Tora was my first cat. He taught me so much about cats, inspired me to be the best cat care taker for any cats on earth, having fun with cats in life, and make strong loving connections with cats. His typical day consisted of a regular super-chase with Mikan starting from the backyard through the cat door and the living room up to stairs to the second floor bedrooms, “sharking” walk around the kitchen counter at the feeding time, hide-and-seek play in the kitchen cabinet (he wanted us to call his name to look for him while he’s hiding behind the cabinet door), a couple of daily mutual grooming sessions with Mikan, and at night, a long lap time with Jeffrey, and when we were all ready for bed, he would come up on our bed, flopped down next to my shoulder to tuck me in for the night.


“Give me belly rubs, please!”









“I love sitting in my daddy’s lap while he’s driving. Not to worry, I didn’t attempt to drive.”

He was a very rare cat in that he loved a car ride. When his cat carrier showed up in the living room, he voluntarily went in and waited in there for us to close the door because he knew he would get a fun ride every single time, including a trip to the vet. He was also an official greeter to everybody who came in from the front door. He especially loved the house parties. He would sit down in our conversational circle and enjoyed the company. In fact, our most recent house guest came and stayed for several days before his passing. Despite that I had told her that she might not see Tora much this time since he had difficult time walking, she told us in the next morning that he came to her room to say hello to her by meowing and walking wobbly, let her pet him, and lied down on her computer/electrical cords. He had been always a great host and polite to all the guests over the years. He did his last assignment as a chief cat greeter so beautifully and completely. I am so proud of him.


Tora taught Mikan how to properly play-fight with him, but Tora lost some games… His sister has been grown up!

When Mikan came to our house three years ago as an orphan cat, he LOVED her from the day one – he started licking her as if he was her mother cleaning her. Well, Tora didn’t know Mikan had ringworm (we didn’t know that either!). They were a match made in heaven. They play together, eat together, sleep together, and groom each other for three years! She got lots of lessons from her big brother. I’m sure she has every skills needed by now to take over his role.

We miss terribly not seeing Tora physically because he was always around us, and pretty talkative on top of that, but when I go outside and being open to nature, he comes with the wind – I feel him immediately surrounding my body so gently with love and peace, sometimes, with playfulness.

Tora & Mikan August 2014 together

“Selfie with Mikan and Mom.”


Lots of great memories…










In next blog, I will talk about my learning from taking care of Tora, and share the resources I have used and were very helpful dealing with the challenging time of caring a very sick cat.


“Selfie with Mom and Dad in my favorite car.”



Finally! My Visit to a Cat Cafe in Japan

November 19th, 2013


Neko (Cat) Cafe in Nagoya

I was totally determined to stop by one of Cat Cafes while I was visiting my parents this time.  My husband and I had only eight days to spare in this trip to do everything we wanted to do, including spending time with my parents and friends, eating delicious meals everyday, a short trip to a very nice and relaxing onsen ryokan (a traditional inn with a natural hot spring bath), shopping for small size clothes, AND going to Cat Café for the first time in my life!

As I introduced Cat Café phenomenon before, it is a business that serves people who cannot have cats at home who want to have a relaxing and fun time with the cats at the café.  They are usually in big cities.  I found one called “Cat Street”, in Nagoya, where we had to take multiple trains for 90 min. each way.  That is life in Japan – I don’t miss it at all.  I cannot believe that I did that commute via trains every single day for seven years working for a bank in Nagoya.  Well, I was early 20’s back then… not anymore.

“We have our own routine, thank you very much!”

The Cat Street was in the middle of the downtown Nagoya where many shopping and commercial buildings are on top of each other, and many small trucks, cars, motorcycles, and bicycles were crossing the streets.  My first thought was, “What a pity!  The cats could never enjoy outside life here.”  On the first floor of the building was a reception area.  We took off our shoes, and were asked to wear a pair of brand new guest socks to enter the cat area on the second floor. 

13 cats with no fights...on that day.

There they were!!  The first kitty that greeted us excitedly was a little orange tabby, Lask.  We were asked not playing with him using our hands.  The lady told us that he was under training not to scratch/bite people.  There were about 13 cats on the second floor space.  In that space, there were about five low tables with seats.  We were assigned to one of the tables, and there was a booklet of “What to do/not to do with the cats” manual on it.  There was a complimentary drinking station to self-serve many soft drinks, coffee, and tea.  The lady explained to us that the first 30min. is 700 yen (about 7 US dollars).  Then, after that, it is 500 yen ($5) per another 30min.

Jeffrey and I couldn’t waste our time there – we needed a “kitty-fix” since my parents live without cats!  While Jeffrey was playing with young crazy teenager cats, my cat radar was going towards older, rather bored cats.  There was a beautiful fluffy white cat nearby, and she was half-sleeping, or pretended being sleepy – so that, I

Thirsty Yomogi

wouldn’t bother her.  And, no, I didn’t bother her.  Soon after, I went to this pretty grey tabby named Yomogi (green vegetable plants used in Japanese sweets).  She was at first hesitating to getting to know me, but after five minutes sniffing around me, she was just fine.  She enjoyed scratching her cheeks, forehead, and back.  Purrrr… that was a “kitty-fix” for sure!  I walked around to take some pictures and to interact with other kitties.  Overall, they were all mellow and settled.  I was glad to see many shelves and cat condos for cats to climb up to and clean water fountains.  I didn’t see any dry food sitting there.  I think there is a feeding schedule.  The place was very clean and organized as it should be anywhere in Japan!  🙂

At the end of the visit, I had a short conversation with the lady who takes care of Cat Street.  She told me that all the cats were purchased from breeders, and the cats are owned by Cat Street.  Even when someone wants to adopt the cat, it could be arranged, but adoption is not the purpose of the Cat Café – my assumption was wrong.  Also, I found out that these cats go to individual cages at night after closing time at 8 pm until next morning. 

Today's traffic update

I felt sad for the cats who would live their entire lives there in the building facing the busy streets in a big city!  They cannot have any outside activities.  Well, I had to rationalize that the Cat Café as a purely business to serve humans, and not cats.  If I would do something like that, I would love to have cats to be adopted to a better place to live with caring permanent human companions.  Plus, I would make sure they have daily access to an enclosed and protected outside play area.  Cats look so happy to be outside jumping, running, and sleeping under a warm sun.  Hey, that is not too bad as a new business idea?!

"Hello, are you leaving in 30min.?"

"Hey, are you Americans, guys?"

"We are the youngest! Let's plaaay!"

Litterbox that Works!

August 9th, 2013


Cats have their own preference as to what type of litterbox they like.  It is a finicky business for cats.  I wish they could talk and tell us what type of litter, litterbox (covered/uncovered), and what shape of the box they prefer.   It seems to be a very personal, sensitive, and even emotional relationship going on between cats and the litterbox. 

In our household, we have used both covered and un-covered (open) litterboxes for our two cats.  Tora seemed to like open litterbox slightly better, but the problem was that he is often a “stand-up pee-er”, so when he stands up peeing, the pee goes over the edge of the open litterbox.  I researched a lot and even took measurements to pet store to check the height of each litterbox.  None was tall enough for Tora’s butt-height.  I decided to go search for covered litterboxes.

It was so difficult to find “the one” which passed all the criteria I was looking for with good quality.  First of all, the bottom of the box has to be completely flat for easy and clean scoops.  Second, litterbox’s top cover part and the bottom part have to be tightly closed when the side clips are down, so that it ensures no leak from between the two loose parts.  A few brands failed my test on the tight closure.  Finally, there has to be an enough space inside the box for a cat to easily turn around and to stand up inside it, and not hitting the head/tip of the ears.

Roomy & Secure!

Well, here it is – this is the litterbox that works! 

It is a Petco brand called, Petco Enclosed Pearl Cat Litter Box “X-large”.  I removed its door for better ventilation and easy access.  It was around $35 when I bought it, but it looks like they have a sale going on right now on their site for $29.99.  I have two of them using inside the house, and one for “stand-by” in the garage. 

Mikan likes to use open-air backyard as her preference of elimination. She uses the litterbox when it rains.  She loves her cat-fenced backyard so much and she is currently enjoying her youthful life by chasing innocent critters in the yard between her bathroom breaks.

"I love a 'nature call' in real nature!"


Tora’s Last Dental Visit Ever – Hopefully…

June 14th, 2013

This Wednesday was a big day for Tora – the second dental surgery this year.  It was arranged to extract the correct tooth since the previous different vet pulled the wrong tooth in March.  It turned out that Tora needed more extensive surgery than just pulling one right tooth.  Tora has had weak teeth and gums since he was a kitten.  Now, he is almost 10 years old and I was told by the dental vet (Dr. Capron) that all of his teeth would eventually be removed surgically within a year or two because all of them show some degrees of resorptive lesions or gingivitis.  I thought, “All teeth…removed?  No teeth left at all?”  That sounded awful, as if it was a death sentence to a finicky cat-Mom’s ears, I’ll bet you all could understand that feeling.  For a second, I had a flash picture of Tora smiling without any teeth. 

"Belly rub, please?"

After reviewing the x-rays with Dr. Capron, we decided to save two front upper canines which were relatively healthiest of all – which means, all the rest should go.  It was a very hard decision for me and my husband.  We had a simple most important criterion – what was in Tora’s best interest.  Although Tora didn’t show us in an obvious way, he must have been in pain for a long time and suffering a lot, and we wanted to stop that.  Also, if it is possible, we wanted to prevent future pain happening and to avoid any harsh stress (mentally and physically) with future dental procedures.  Here is the sad truth: Tora underwent 14 extractions yesterday, including the tiny 9 front incisors!  In addition, there were two “clean-up” works to repair his fractured jaw and to remove a bone fragment left behind in the gum from the March procedure.  Dr. Capron took almost three hours to do the surgery for Tora.  Seeing the before-and-after x-rays, it was clear that Dr. Capron is an excellent, thorough, and caring dental veterinarian.  We are very happy with the result.

Today, a day after surgery, Tora is eating and drinking well.  He is also resting well.  He must know what’s done was right thing for him.  He looks much better in recovery today than the one in March.  He is not hiding in places (signs of discomfort and pain).  He is purring away when I pet him.  Today, his “cone-of-shame” (e-collar) looks like a big blue medal to me, showing how brave he has been going through this ordeal with us.

"Hello? Are you in there? What are you eating?"


Mikan must be a little worried about her brother.  She sometimes parks herself right outside Tora’s retreat room sending good vibes…  Or, is she smelling Tora’s yummy canned food under the door?  Hmmmm.

Tora and Mikan will reunite in a couple of weeks.  I will promise to you all to keep Tora’s e-collar on him for a couple of weeks, and not giving in…  If he scratches his jaw or gums without the collar, our investment to this surgery goes down the drain.   Oh, no.  That won’t be happening.

Transforming Your Kitty Photo into a Beautiful Art

December 17th, 2012

I have a question to you all.  How many cat pictures of your own do you put up on the wall?  Well, I have only two on the wall in my house.  To be honest with you, they are hanging on the wall in the toilet.  There were two reasons why I placed them in the toilet.  The first was that it is practical in a way that I wanted to admire my furry kids’ as often as possible.  The other reason was that these pictures were taken by me, and they are not professional grade, unfortunately.  I had no idea how to make my photos presentable in the living room until my friend, Johnny, gave me a gift.

After I lost my dearest blue tuxedo cat, Mimi, Johnny gave me a beautiful picture of Mimi in an art form – Painted Photograph!  The picture was taken by me when Mimi was alive, but Johnny downloaded it to his computer and made it into an amazing brush-painted-look photograph.  See this!

Mimi - Before

Mimi - After








This beautiful painted picture is hanged in the living room (proudly) where Jeffrey and I can see every day, and it is a conversation piece when our cat-friendly house guests are over.  We love this art because it is different from a boring photograph and it is SO beautiful.

Recently, I had an opportunity to give the same gift to my dearest friends who lost their cat, Merle to a coyote.  I had a few good pictures of Merle, so I asked Johnny to select one for me, and to create a special artwork for my friends.  Wow, he did magic again!  This is between you and me, I know his secret…Johnny is a life-time cat lover – he and his wife currently have four furry kids, and he knows a kitty’s heart and soul.  He captures the unique essence of who the individual kitty is (was) with his artistic sensitivity.  It shows in his art.

Merle - Before

Merle - After

Merle - After








If you have a special photo, or two, that you wish to hang as an art in your living room, I am full-heartedly recommending my friend, Johnny.  He will make it happen.  When he makes it manually for more brush-stroke effect (as opposed to just running a software program to make a photo “looks like” a painted art) his rate is about $60 (8×10 finish).  For details, please contact Johnny directly at “jleblanc (at texas dot net)”.

Happy Holidays!!

Surviving with Mikan

September 26th, 2012

Since our new baby, Mikan has arrived to our house, it has been a month.  You might expect me to talk about how cute and playful she is at this age, but unfortunately, it has been a rough start for her (and us).  It turned out that Mikan has lots of health issues going way beyond our imagination!

"I chose the right house! :-)"

In the recent vet visit, we found out that she has… are you ready for a long list?  Here it is: Upper Respiratory Infection (URI), ringworm, gingivitis, ear mites which spread all over her face and paws.  She also has swollen lymph nodes that indicate Bartonella infection.  All of which are curable and not life-threatening conditions.  I am very thankful for that.

However, taking care of Mikan has been a big adjustment for Jeffrey and I who were used to living with very healthy cats.  Every time after the vet visits, she had high fever, sneezing, and eye discharge.  She got over URI pretty quickly both times.  I’ve given Mikan antibiotics prescribed for the secondary infection for a week.  Fortunately, after a course of antibiotics, Mikan’s gingivitis and terrible mouth odor went away completely.  It must have been a temporary bacterial infection.  One problem solved!

Mikan’s ears had been deep pink color because she scratched her ears so much!  The first vet said “no ear mites”, but the second vet found live ear mites under microscope.  As soon as I heard about ringworm and ear mites present in her body, Mikan and Tora have been separated.  Ringworm and ear mites are highly contagious.  If you have experienced ringworm with your cats (and possibly with yourself), you know how challenging it is to manage.  After Jeffrey and I vacuumed “her bedroom” thoroughly (unfortunately, it is a carpeted floor), we moved Mikan to our master bathroom with tile floor – yep, daily cleaning by sanitizing the floor and walls is necessary to kill ringworm spores.  We are using the guest bathroom temporarily.  Tora sometimes sits outside of Mkan’s room meowing (asking how she is doing).

"I am secretly having "one-on-one hunting training" in my quarter."


Well, after three vet visits, Mikan is finally getting toward her healthy self (we think).  She gained weight nicely to 3.5 lb now – she was 1.75 lb when she came to us.  She plays like a champ and eats like a lion!  We are still separating two cats until Mikan becomes “insured” healthy!!

I have been learning about both holistic and allopathic ways of treating Mikan’s conditions.  I will share my learning next time.  Right now it’s time to feed and play!

"I'm fast."

A Family Trip

August 27th, 2012

"I LOVE sitting in my Daddy's lap!!!"

We just came back from our Colorado vacation.  Tora did another big road trip with us (8 hours straight driving per day for two days).  Jeffrey and I are pretty lucky to have a cat who enjoys car-ride.  Another thing I can brag about Tora is that he can use the litterbox while in the car…  If I were a cat, I wouldn’t.

The main reason we went to Colorado was Jeffrey’s race.  I am also very proud of Jeffrey who challenged himself to run an ultra-marathon called, the Leadville 100 (miles, it is).  He was known as more of a book-worm, not an athlete in his entire life so far.  He started training seriously for the race last summer, and yes, he courageously entered the race and ran as much as he could!  To make a long story short, he couldn’t make it to the finishing line, but he did his best and finished at the 50 mile point.  There was a 12.600 ft. mountain pass runners had to go through, which is the toughest in terms of altitude and narrow path.  That was the hardest part of his race.  As a side story, Jeffrey and I hiked the Hope Pass several days before the race – I was miserable in the rain, freezing cold temperature, and a high altitude.

"Burrr at 12,600 ft. Hope Pass"

Anyway, we enjoyed the whole running and crewing experiences with our friends who supported Jeffrey.  Colorado was very cool in the morning and the night – we loved it.

We rented a one bedroom chalet-style house while in Colorado.  The owner lives downstairs and he was willing to take us in with a cat.  We brought Tora’s litterbox, a scratching post and mat, frozen raw meat mixes, emergency canned food, beddings, new toys, Feliway, flower essences, and large towels to cover some furniture (just in case he scratches – which he did).  Our rented car was full of Tora’s stuff.  Thankfully, Tora behaved very well entire time, and even charmed the owner who came by a few times.

After a long trip back to Austin, we were all exhausted.  Tora immediately went outside yard to smell the flowers, and then he came inside to his favorite spot to chill and relax for a few hours.  We sometimes forget that he is 10 years old since he acts like a kitten most of the time.  While I’ll bet he would have enjoyed the trip even more if he had a feline companion, it sure was nice having him with us the whole time!

Mountains near Leadville, CO


Get Their Game On!

April 12th, 2012

Cats are very particular about choosing their favorite toys.  They usually do not like decorative, expensive toys we get from a pet store.  They like simple and inexpensive “stuff” around the house, like newspapers, shoe strings, a cap ring of a milk jug, etc.

When I go cat-sitting for the first time to meet new cats, I always bring a new toy to play with them.  I found these top three toys to be very effective to build “rapport” with a new kitty!  Interactive play helps a cat exercise, reduces fear and tension, and eases discomfort.  Most importantly, it strengthens our bond with them.

#1 – A Peacock Feather!

This is a winner of the toys (so far).  I haven’t seen any cat ignored this simple toy.  Cats’ eyes get fixated on this one thing for a long time.  They grab it, pounce on it, bat at it, and chew on it until the feather is shredded to pieces.  You can buy it at Tomlinson’s.

#2 – A String and Crinkly Paper

This is a classic combination that almost always works.  I use natural garden twine tied to a stick to play with my cats.  I hide part of a string under layered gift tissue papers, and move the string slowly.  Not only do the cats chase the string, but also they enjoy the sound of the paper.  They bite into the paper as if they are killing the prey!  When I don’t have time to play with my cats, I put one end of the string into my jean back pocket, and drag the string behind me.  The cats like to chase it (or me) everywhere I go.


#3 – Cat Dancer or Da Bird

These are products that you can purchase.  Cat Dancer simulates the movements of a fly.  It consists of a wire with a little rolled up cardboard target on the end.  All you need to do is sit and hold this toy!  Da Bird is a feather attached string toy.  Indoor cats love to see a bird-like thing flying in the air (yes, you have to swing it in the air) and to catch it in the air.

The author of “Think Like a Cat”, Pam Johnson-Bennett, recommends a minimum of two fifteen-minute sessions a day for adult cats.  To meet this requirement, I’ve learned to play with my cats at home while I’m watching TV.  Sometimes, I use a laser toy when I don’t feel like moving at all, but my cats really want to be like wild cats with their roars (somehow, it always happens to be late evening).  One last tip, make sure to “hide” the toy during play – cats love to discover it and pounce while you move it slowly behind or under something.

A play time is over...

OK, here Tora comes meowing at the foot of my desk to play.  Gotta go.