Mirf Tales: Walking before running
First and foremost, Mirf’s health and wellbeing are paramount so I will start by briefly telling you about Mirf’s health and development. When I picked up Mirf from the Breeder the first thing I did was schedule an appointment with our local veterinarian. His first appointment Dr. Gaide said he was a very healthy handsome looking kitten but diagnosed Mirf as having a left forelimb mild carpal valgus conformation. This means that the ulnar is growing faster than the radius and could lead to lameness. We were referred to Dr. DeCamp, a veterinary orthopedic surgeon.
We scheduled an appointment and took Mirf to Dr. Decamp. He ordered X-rays and conducted an examination. I had to sit out in the truck while they took Mirf into the clinic, they are still following covid protocols in January 2023. When the examination was done, they returned Mirf to the truck and told me the doctor would call me on my cell phone to discuss the findings. Oh, and the kind assistant said not to go anywhere, as if I would until I heard from the doctor. I received a text with the x-rays and the phone rang. It was Dr. DeCamp. He told me Mirf was such a calm laid back kitten that he didn’t have to sedate him to do the x-rays (which consequently save me a ton of money). Hearing that he was so relaxed with strangers like this was an exciting indication that he would be a good candidate to be a "circus kitty". Dr. DeCamp explained to me on the x-rays what the concerns were with Mirf’s leg. He also explained the various treatments for example splinting the leg to impinge the growth of one of the bones is the least invasive and sometimes successful. The primary treatment is to arthroscopically excise a triangular piece of bone to shorten the offender, which does not sound pleasant but would prevent lameness. However, the doctor's recommendation was to wait and revaluate in 30 days. Well 30 days later we were back at Dr. Decamps office for another set of x-rays. The veterinary assistant took Mirf and I waited in the Truck again. The veterinary tech brought Mirf back about 15 minutes later and told me the doctor would call…again. Shortly thereafter the phone rang, and it was Dr. DeCamp. The good doctor told me that he didn’t feel the need to x-ray Mirf because he could tell by examination the condition is improving and he downgraded Mirf's diagnosis from a deformity to a concern. He will be re-evaluated at the end of the super rapid growth phase which is at eight months or approximately April 12, 2023. He explained approximately 85% a Maine Coons growth is in the first 8 months and reach full growth around 3-5 years. The long-term prognosis is that Mirf should be fine. This meant to me that we can move ahead full sail.
One of the things that impressed both the veterinarians' offices, Mirf did not arrive in a carrier to be handed off like a parcel, no, Mirf arrived harnessed and tethered in arm while being well behaved. When we visit our local veterinarian, I carry Mirf and he sits on the counter in front of me while we check in then he sits in my lap while we're waiting. Dog’s around us can be losing their minds, barking like crazy while Mirf just looks at them like “what’s your issue?”. Mirf was unfazed by veterinary visits, another good sign. He’s now been to all of his scheduled veterinary visits and received all of his vaccinations and a couple extra because he’s “going on the road”. Now we visit the vet for health certificates, which are only good for 30 days from the date of issue, needless to say we'll be seeing the Dr. Gaide almost monthly.
You only have one chance to make a first impression, and when it comes to training animals, this is doubly true. You see, by getting Mirf from a breeder at 8 weeks I have been able to control all of his exposures to socialize and acclimate Mirf to diverse environments. I don’t have to deal with someone else’s trauma or abuse. Mirf came to me as a blank slate, and I protect that slate with my life. I need him to be steadfast, if I rush him, I will ruin him. After Mirf’s first Veterinary appointment I started taking Mirf everywhere I legally could without violating any rules or any establishment. The veterinarian was a great first exposure to chaos and I researched in advance places that I could take him. I started by taking him with me to the gas station. Mirf has to be able to ride for long periods without losing his crap. When he has to literally, he does it in a litter box in the truck which then requires pulling over and immediately cleaning it.
What it is, I think he is missing his first festival already, but that's later in the next tale. I do not have any formal feline behavioral training. My philosophy to training is research and consultation in advance. Then it becomes a matter of exposure, learning then mastery. I started with a Duck Bucket I already had. The first time I tried to “put” Mirf into the duck bucket he told me to bleep off in no uncertain terms. I wasn't really thinking, and I I tried too fast. Realizing defeat, I put the duck bucket away for about 3 days and just focused on socialization by taking him on errands. After a cooling period I brought the duck bucket out and opened the top and left it open. I threw one of his toys in there and let him retrieve it, I also would drop treats inside the bucket multiple times a day for him to retrieve at his leisure. This went on for about a week before I found him napping in the open bucket one day. After that point I started closing the bucket and opening it when he was in there extending the times the bucket was closed from ten seconds to start with.
At the end of our time with the duck bucket I could close the lid for five minutes without him attempting to escape. I approached it with him as if it was a game we were playing, and he had fun with it. Mirf quickly outgrew the duck bucket, but it was very beneficial while it lasted. I needed to continue normalizing these kinds of activities, so we used cardboard boxes and blankets until the props I ordered arrived. I would put him in a cardboard box, close it up and he would "hide" while we played "hide and surprise". When I open the box, he pops up. We also play a game with a blanket similar to the parachute game I played with the other children in Elementary School during gym class. I flare the blanket up and let it drift down on him, when lift it up, he pops up. It's gotten to the point where if he hears the sound of the bed being made, he comes running!
I commissioned Ozark Magic Manufacturing to build a production cage and a vanishing chest for Mirf. When Mirf's first prop, the production cage arrived it was momentous. I was a little concerned because I had lost a month of training time in a prop, but our makeshift activities sufficed. As soon as I had brought the box into the house, he claimed it as his own. Once I had his production cage unwrapped and opened up, Mirf climbed right in and made himself at home.
Mirf attended his first festival this past weekend, the Nordic Fire Festival, he far exceeded expectations, that's next month's tale.
Thank you for reading,