Tuesday, December 6, 2016

The Best of Unfriends

None of my cats is a friend to any of the others. Tungsten and Renn came close to friendship, the tiny terror and my big boy. But the four currently in my family are not pals. They try to ignore each other as much as possible, and, when that is impossible, avoid each other.

But now and then, they have a little fun, usually at each other’s expense. It’s true that Josie and Tucker will sometimes chase each other for mutual enjoyment but that’s rare. More often, one animal is victimizing, in a mild way, another.

Josie will chase Cammie, though not with a great deal of commitment. My Chubs will sometimes come as close as she will be allowed, then suddenly turn and scratch on a cat-tree, as if that had been her intention all along. Renn will lope toward another beast, then stop suddenly, leaving the other cat with a fear of a collision. Once, I saw my big boy rush at Cammie, who crouched low, ears back and hissing, only to have her ‘attacker’ leap over her on to the couch. Even Tucker will try to intimidate the princess, though he isn’t very successful at it.

But, lest you believe that Cammie is a perpetual victim, let me assure you that she is not. Just this past weekend, she took up a position behind the nylon tunnel, with Tucker lying peaceably on the other side. Cammie repeatedly lunged around the tunnel at the roly poly, trying, from what I observed, to give him a heart attack. At last satisfied with her efforts, she turned and sauntered away, almost sniggering. But the tables turned, as Tucker hurried after the princess and smacked her on the side of the bum. Cammie’s rear end shot up into the air about eight inches (while her front stayed earthbound) and when it came down again, she spun and hissed, hissed, hissed.

I laughed. I told her that she couldn’t complain after her behaviour. She disagreed.

So, while life in my apartment is not filled with feline camaraderie, it is pretty good; four roommates, none of whom really likes the others, but who tolerate the situation, and even make some fun out of it. At least they don’t hog the shower and leave me without hot water.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Renn's Side-effects

In September, I discoursed about Renn’s fur. Specifically, I wrote about how much of it was being tinged with a redness to an extent not previously seen. He had always had a ruddy hue to his black hair, but it was usually observed only in certain light. By this time, it had become apparent in every-day illumination.

Now, the hair along his flanks has taken on other qualities. I mentioned in the prior article that Renn had had grey hair behind his ears that was of a texture different than most of his hair. This is again happening, but along his sides. Some, though not all, of the fur there is growing longer than its surrounding fur, and, as much as the redness is growing, so is a whiteness. And, as with the hair that used to grow behind his ears, this is of a coarseness not common in the rest of his coat.

I don’t think these are indications of problems; they are likely just changes that my big boy is undergoing as he ages. After my earlier description of Renn’s hair, I was informed that the process was called ‘rusting’ and was indeed a sign of creeping age. Even so, I will get Renn checked out by a veterinary in the new year, when funds are available. Though I no longer take the beasts in for regular examinations ($60 or more for three minutes’ prodding and listening is a bit much, I think), I will have them checked more often. The big boy and Cammie will both be seen to, just because they haven’t been lately.

Until then, however, I will watch Renn, and see what other metamorphoses he undergoes. With that cat, though, the old saying is apt: “The more he changes, the more he stays the same,” despite his side-effects.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

A Tail of Affection

I have written about Josie’s tail before. In January of last year, I described how that appendage sometimes whapped repeatedly when its owner was enjoying herself, though it also whapped similarly - but not identically - when she was annoyed, a more common application of tail-motion. I have detailed its appearance, how it resembles a rat’s tail in shape, but has a rare colour-scheme.

Now, I will write about something that, I believe, is relatively new for the Great White. She uses her tail to show affection. Other cats have done this, I know, even some of mine; wrapping their tails around a person’s arm while lying next to them, for instance. Josie’s use of this manoeuvre is a bit different.

My Chubs will sometimes saunter up to me, always when I am standing; turn and, with her bum against my leg, gently whip her tail around my shin, hold it there for a second or two, then whip it away, only to repeat the action. She will do this numerous times, most often when I am standing at the counter in the bathroom, washing my hands or brushing my teeth, but also when I am in the kitchen. I always acknowledge her display, of course, and she wanders away, that rat-tail straight up and its bearer pleased.

I didn’t notice her doing this before we moved to the apartment. It is the latest addition to her list of demonstrations of regard, which, as I have written previously, has grown over the years. I see that purring and head-bumps, even drooling, are not the only signs of happiness and care a cat can show and, if I pay attention, I may find all sorts of evidence that my beasts have decided, after all these years, that I meet their standards.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

The Cry of the Warriors

We have had intruder cats passing by the windows of the apartment previously. Sometimes, they stop to look at my animals within. Most seem quite unconcerned by the disturbance they cause. This time, I noticed less the cat outside than the reaction to his presence.

Three of my cats gathered at the bedroom window to view this intruder. (Of course, he was not actually an intruder, any more than others in his position have been. They have a perfect right to walk by on the lawn outside. But try telling my beasts that.) Alerted by Renn’s vocal disapproval, Tucker and Josie hopped up to see this audacity for themselves.

While Josie remained silent, Renn gave definite indication of his outrage. He is a big, muscular animal, and venting his astonished anger on this occasion produced a fittingly menacing sound. Starting at the mid-range, his whine dropped slowly like a descending bomb, growing deeper and more furious. It was a challenge and a warning.


Tucker too took umbrage with this breach of the neutral zone that he seems to think surrounds the apartment’s exterior. He crouched low in the saddle of the cat-tree and glared at the feline beyond the glass. Following my big boy’s lead, he gave forth his own defiance of the stranger.


He sounded like ‘this little piggy that went “wee wee wee” all the way home.’ A deflating bladder of bagpipes would convey greater danger to a trespasser. The stranger must have wondered why I was keeping a beached seal on a cat-tree.

I would never let my pets out of the apartment, of course, unless it were on a leash of some sort, and probably not even then. But I quake to think of what would happen if they escaped. Josie might exist for a long time on body-fat. Cammie is fast and wary, and her distrust might keep her alive. Renn, as shy as he is, might intimidate by his size. Tucker might survive by being elected a pack’s mascot or jester. That’s really his only chance.

So I will keep him – and the others - safe inside. But I know that blood-curdling shriek will turn my dreams into nightmares.


Really, it sounded like a baby passing gas…

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Her Youth is Just a Bad Memory

Josie was found in the engine of a truck. She isn’t the only cat of whom I’ve heard such a story. I suspect that a number of them climb into automobile engines for the warmth they feel there. It’s probably how some homeless cats come to be found in parking lots. My Chubs was a kitten then. I adopted her when she was an adult in 2008.

The interesting thing is that for many years, I thought that Josie had been born in 2003, and have been calculating her age accordingly. Recently, I put some of my computer files on disc in order to preserve them and came across Josie’s vital statistics from when she was adopted. Her birthday was estimated to be in 2004, not in 2003. She was born at mid-year; since she was a kitten when discovered, it would have been clear that she was not very old, and the rescuers certainly knew what the year was. I must have been aware of the correct year of Josie’s birth originally, but at some point, it became 2003 in my mind.

So the Great White is actually twelve and a half years old, not thirteen and a half. She remains my senior cat and, in spite of this, in good health. And Josie has demonstrated that, while age is just a number, youth is just a bad memory – mine, in this case.

Friday, November 18, 2016

Lonely No More

The lonely cat-bed of previous weeks was bothering me. It was a perfectly good cat-bed, with a heated pad in it, going to waste. I had switched it with the other cat-bed and, in its new position, it was used, just as its twin had been. So it was the location that was the problem. I had been going to remove the heating pad and place it under the towel in the library, a spot Josie enjoys, if no one was going to use the lonely cat-bed. But I decided to try another strategy.

I moved the cat-bed to a less hidden spot. Though all the cats had known where it was, in its corner - in fact, Cammie had spent much time there last winter - the location seemed to be a deterrent now. I placed the bed in front of a bookcase instead. For several days nothing happened. I watched as Tucker now and then sniffed at it, then moved on.

Yesterday, however, I came home to see Cammie in the bed. Indeed, she seemed so comfortable there that she didn’t get up immediately to come and greet me, which she usually does. Later in the evening, she returned to the cat-bed in its new position.

The princess, who seems to be the most frequent habituĂ©e of the heated beds, didn’t spend all night in it, and won’t be there all the time on any other day. But she knows that the cat-bed is there, and that it is heated. She is not afraid to use it, and that is what I was hoping to achieve. Once a cat is aware of something, she likely won’t forget it. Cammie, if no one else, will use both cat-beds and, if one of her roommates uses one, she will probably use the other.

The weather has grown colder this week, and we’ve had freezing temperatures, seasonal for November, but different than what we have been experiencing so far. I am pleased to know that, on cold days and colder nights, my beasts will have another comfy spot in which to snooze.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Lord Lytton Would Understand

It was a dark and stormy night. Well, it was dark, and a wind can come from a windstorm so, yes, it was a dark and stormy night.

In southern Alberta, especially in Lethbridge, the wind blows quite a bit. Though days with sixty mile per hour winds are not common, neither are they so rare as to excite much comment. But now and then, there is a windstorm that causes a lot of noise. The night can become blustery; it is probably the sudden gusts that cause the most trouble.

The cats are used to southern Alberta weather. The wind doesn’t bother them very much; they grew accustomed to the noises of an apartment building - people using the stairs, people across the alley fixing their cars, showers running somewhere. But when the night grows gusty, the beasts become a bit alarmed.

I don’t think they are frightened, but they are wary. Their attention is commanded more often and to a great degree. When I went to bed Sunday night, Renn joined me right away, which he always does. Josie lie down next to me soon afterward, and it normally takes her some time to do so. Tucker waddled in and climbed the steps to the bed before I fell asleep; he usually takes his place much later in the night. Cammie too retreated to the bedroom, taking her position on her cat-tree. There was apparently strength in numbers this night.

Our apartment is a snug little refuge. The windows are relatively new, and seal well, which is good, as they face west, the direction from which the wind predominates. The heating is efficient. And there is a human to which the cats look for protection. They think of us in the same way little children think of their parents: all powerful, the purveyors of all that is good, the dispensers of punishment, those who keep them safe. We can’t do all that they think, of course, but when the wind howls and the temperature drops, it’s nice to be able to provide them with peace of mind. It’s a fair trade: they do the same for me.