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March 7, 2021

Maulee’s Story: Obituary for a Bengal Cat

Although, I cherish all of my cats, there is one who stands out. I am not sure why that happens. Maulee was my heart cat.

Maulee was my first Bengal. In 2001, we drove into a remote area in Oregon to adopt her. She was seven years old at the time. The woman who owned her sent me loads of pictures. In all of them, Maulee looked very pissed off. Who in their right mind would drive hundreds of miles to another state to rescue a cat who obviously wasn’t friendly?

Adoption picture of Maulee

Not a happy cat

She was originally part of a breeding program but was retired after one litter due to a congenital problem. Her original name was three words too long and did not describe her personality. We renamed her Maulee. She lived up to her new name.

Rough beginnings

Maulee did not like people and she had IBD (Inflammatory Bowel Disease)—not a great combination for a cat who would have to be medicated. Whenever anyone came within 10 feet of her, she would start foaming from her mouth, hissing and spitting. What had I gotten myself into? Maulee and I had a rocky beginning together.

The first few weeks were traumatic for everyone. Then I found a secret weapon—chicken. Chicken along with the art of non-action won her over. I sat on the floor a short distance from her, making sure that she was never cornered. She needed to be able to retreat. I called her name and tossed her a piece of chicken. And, I sang to her. She sang back. Whenever I paused in my song, she chirped and chortled. I always reinforced her responses with pieces of chicken.

With time and patience, I slowly earned Maulee’s trust. Play helped too. I discovered she loved pole toys and would wait by the door for our daily sessions to chase toys around the room. Of course, I always gave her either a meal or a piece of chicken after each play session.

Medical issues

Because of her IBD and food allergies, it was important that she develop a good relationship with her cat carrier. Trips to the vet had to be as stress-free as possible. I kept the carrier in her room, made it part of the furniture. It lived with her. Sometimes I fed and threw treats in it. I also put toys inside and made it a comfortable place to sleep. After about one week, Maulee voluntarily hung out in it. The little Bengal loved her carrier. It grew to be a safe place for her to go. She would seek it out when she was startled by a noise or sudden movement and when she didn’t feel good.

Maulee had severe IBD. I tried many different diets and proteins until I finally found a diet she tolerated and loved—canned Venison and Pea.  Thankfully, she could also eat small pieces of chicken without getting sick. She also needed a cocktail of medications—twice a day. How does one medicate a cat without traumatizing both the cat and the piller? Especially a cat who does not fancy being touched.  Positive reinforcement of course! I will write a follow up blog about medicating Maulee. She will continue to teach, even after her death.

From anti-social to social butterfly

Who knew? Within a few years, Maulee became a lap cat. She also enjoyed hanging out with my friends who came to my house specifically to socialize with her. She had to be an active part of whatever was going on and always had lots to say.

Maulee sleeping

Maulee sleeping on my lap

Maulee in the media

In 2005 Maulee and I discovered clicker training.  She was 12 years old at the time. Maulee was a fast and eager learner—quickly learning to sit, stay, shake hands, find my keys, follow directional hand signals and jump through hoops. A year later we were contacted by Ken Bastida, the news anchor at CBS. He wanted to come over and do a segment on purring. Since Maulee was big on purring, she was perfect for the segment. She wowed Ken and the camera crew with her beauty, inquisitiveness, her singing voice and personality. Maulee was a natural. This was the start of her media career. She was featured on many other programs, including Animal Planet’s Cats 101. 

A couple of months ago she was in a segment about hybrid cats, hosted by Monte Francis on NBC Live.

Maulee helped me write my book Naughty No More! as well as my articles. While I wrote, she usually slept either in my lap or between my keyboard and my monitor.

Maulee help me write my book Naughty No More!

Maulee helped me write

She helped in other ways as well. Maulee’s antics caused me to develop creative solutions for specific challenging cat behaviors. Additionally, because of her, I started to work on ways that seem to slow down the symptoms of feline dementia.

Can dementia be reversed?

Maulee’s behavior started changing when she was about 16 years old. Sometimes I found her facing a dark corner, crying and calling. Other times she wandered aimlessly around the house, disoriented and lost. It was heartbreaking.

The vet did a thorough exam and found nothing medical that would cause the concerning behaviors. He agreed that Maulee was suffering from feline cognitive dysfunction. Maulee and I started to experiment until I found a combination of specific activities along with slight changes to the environment that seemed to decrease her symptoms. Once again, she was my bright, mischievous Maulee.  Although the disease probably cannot be stopped or reversed, perhaps its progression can be slowed down.

Now, other elderly cats suffering with feline dementia are benefiting from the plan I developed for Maulee.

Activities seem to slow down Maulee's symptoms of dementia

Maulee, at 19 years old sitting pretty

The last days

Maulee’s IBD got the better of her, as it does with so many cats. The last year of her life, she no longer tolerated commercial food of any kind. She also could not eat raw. Since the only protein she did not react to was pork, I cooked a special diet of pork and peas with added supplements for her. She was not thrilled with the diet, but she ate it. I made her meals more palatable by sprinkling powdered chicken on top. Her medications were adjusted and we went to holistic as well as western veterinarians. I did everything possible to slow down the progression of the disease and I lost.

I helped Maulee cross the bridge on Sunday, September 15th, 1:45 PM. I miss my Maulee. Although she is no longer here, her legacy continues through the lessons I learned from her and can pass on.

Obituary for Maulee a Bengal Cat

Sleep in peace my little one.

February 14, 1993–September 15, 2013

Animals Repeat Behaviors…

There is a short video posted on my site of sweet, little Olivia, one of my Bengals, closing the door. This behavior has earned her a little publicity. Animal Planet’s Cats 101 filmed her shutting the door for the Bengal segment that aired for the first time last fall. People are curious about how I trained her to do this behavior. Although clicker training was used to capture and shape shutting the door, it originated as a natural behavior.

Years ago Olivia did a less refined version of the behavior before meal times. It started with a simple headbutt on the door of the bathroom where she and two of her siblings enjoy their meals. Her headbutt always moved the door a couple of inches. Because she always headbutted the door right before being fed, I consistently reinforced the behavior by feeding her immediately after. When I realized this was a step toward learning other fun behaviors, I decided to use clicker training to capture, shape and build this into a cued behavior.

It was easy. Olivia was already being reinforced for the abridged version of the behavior, and she was also fluent in “Clicker Speak”. I stocked my bathroom with her favorite dehydrated chicken treats and a couple of clickers. I was ready. With the aid of the clicker, I captured the natural headbutting movement and then gradually  changed it (called shaping in Clicker Speak)  to the desired behavior of standing on her back legs and pushing the door closed with her front paws. Every step was marked with a click and reinforced with a treat. After she performed the behavior correctly a number of times upon request, I added the verbal cue “door” as I gave her a visual cue.

Sessions were short as it had to be fun for Olivia. If it wasn’t fun for her; it wasn’t fun for me. She started adding her own special touches. One of my favorites is a chirp. She always chirps when she closes the door. Her chirps are always reinforced. I love her chirps; her chirps reinforce me.

As a Bengal, Olivia is highly motivated by attention. She is what I call in my book Naughty No More! an “Attention Seeker”. She will do just about anything for praise and attention. Since I take advantage of bragging rights, I show my cats and their neat behaviors off whenever the opportunity presents itself. My cats love an audience and will happily repeat behaviors for a little praise and attention. Olivia thrives on admiration. People come over to visit Olivia. They call me on the phone and ask if Olivia is in the mood for visitors. Then they come over just to see her close the bathroom door.

Olivia is trying out new variations of the behavior. She rushes into the bathroom when she sees anyone entering and closes the door behind them. Yesterday she followed me into the kitchen. When I opened the refrigerator, she stood on her back legs, chirped at me and closed the door. Of course Olivia is always reinforced for her new, creative approaches to her old standard door behavior.

Rescued Bengals in S. California

I have posted pictures and descriptions of 14  of the cats from the big Lancaster rescue. Some of you may have started to wonder if these cats were the cat rescue version of vapor ware. I assure you, they are very much “here” and need everyone’s help. They have their very own page, which will become longer and longer and longer as more are added: http://home.pacifier.com/~ltdltd/CALancaster.html There are snows, marbles and spotted Bengals, all in need of great new homes.

The spay/neuter clinic has informed me that they will only fix cats that are 5 years old or younger. So, now I’m looking for a clinic that will fix the older ones. I may end up having to take the older cats to a higher charging vet.  The oldest cat to be fixed is the SGC Sandy. He’s 12 years old.  The first spay/neuter date is scheduled for October 14th. Some of the youngsters will be fixed at that time. Before that can occur, a veterinarian needs to go up to the sight and evaluate the cats. I want to make sure that they are healthy and OK for surgery.

We were able to get 25 carriers, which will be enough for transporting the cats to their surgery.

We need fosters and adopters for these cats. If you can foster and you’re in the Southern California area, please contact me by e-mail. If you would love to adopt, please contact me. The majority of these cats are very socialized.

And of course, here’s the plea and request for financial help. We need help feeding these little ones and providing cat litter. We still need help w/spay and neutering costs, especially since the one clinic won’t speuter any cat over 5 years old. Please send donations through PayPal to: donate@bengalrescuenetwork.org and write in the memo or subject head that it’s for California. We are a 5013C organization, so whatever you donate can be written off.  In PayPal you can designate it as a gift, so there are no fees.

Again, thank you everyone for your support, both financially and morally. I will post more pictures when they come in.

Pictured below are Kiyama, a 3.5 year marble girl, Sheba, a 1.5 year spotted girl and Talon, an 8 year old spotted boy. Check out the rest on the rescue site. Nope, sorry, for some stupid reason, I can’t upload pictures to the blog. You’ll just have to check them out on the site. Sorry about that.

Bengal Rescue Update 35 Now 45

The 35 are now 45…

Here’s what the count is:

20 whole adult males of all ages

12 whole adult females of all ages

9 kittens

4 already neutered males.

I hope to have more pictures up within the week.

I have made appointments at the clinic for October. The whole adult cats will be getting fixed in batches. 7-10 cats will be brought in, according to what the clinic can handle. The kittens are not ready for their surgery, they will be fixed in a few months when they are older. If you can help us with this rescue, please send donations through PayPal to: donate@bengalrescuenetwork.org and write in the memo or subject head that it’s for California. We are a 5013C organization, so whatever you donate can be written off.

We have received fabulous donations from people. We so appreciate it. We’re not quite where we need to be yet. We have just enough to cover the spay’/neutering, but we need to buy hard plastic carriers for the cats. The clinic wants the cats transported in hard, plastic carriers.  And we need some money for food. We have gotten some food in which is wonderful, at this point we have enough for about one month.

We can also use another person or two to help with transporting the cats to the clinic and then back again. It’s about a one hour drive to the clinic. There are 4 different dates scheduled in October. It means early mornings, since the clinic wants them between 7-7:30 AM. We also need foster homes and good adopters.

Again, thank you everyone for your support, both financially and morally. I will post pictures when they come in, both here and on the California Bengal Cat Rescue site.

Segue to Rescue

Even though the intent of my blog is to focus on the wonderment of cat behavior, I am going to segue into another part of my life. Some of you know that I’m the coordinator for California Bengal Cat Rescue. I hate asking for help for a rescue situation, it just doesn’t seem right for me to use my blog for this. But I am…

Today’s blog is a plea for help, it’s a rescue blog.

I’m in the process of coordinating a major rescue. 35 Bengals are being surrendered to me. They come from a breeder who has been hit with severe economic hardship. She is surrendering all of her babies to us. It’s really hard for her to do this because she adores each and every one of her little cats, but she knows it’s the best thing for them.

Each of these lovely cats need to be spayed/neutered before they go either to foster homes or their forever homes. I have located a low cost clinic, run by Best Friends Sanctuary who can speuter them at a reasonable rate: $35 for the boys $45 for the girls.  We need financial help desperately! We have some funds, but not enough to cover all 35 of them.

We also need either hard plastic carriers donated to us, or money for 15 carriers. The carriers will be for transporting the cats in three groups to the clinic for their speutering.

We will also need help with transporting the cats to and from the clinic. The cats are in Lancaster, north east of Los Angeles. The clinic is in the Los Angeles area. I’m not sure but I think it’s about a one hour drive.

We also need foster homes and great adopters.

I have included pictures of 4 of the cats. As you can see, they are beautiful. One of the cats, Sandy, is a Supreme Grand Champion. Each cat has his and her own story, each cat is special and needs and deserves a great and loving home. If you can help us with this rescue, please send donations through PayPal to: donate@bengalrescuenetwork.org and write in the memo or subject head that it’s for California. We are a 5013C organization, so whatever you donate can be written off.

Thank you so much for helping.

I promise, my next blog will be about cat behavior.