Monday, April 23, 2012

Of Sunday Mornings

I like Sunday mornings. Sunday afternoons are all right, but Sunday evenings are to close to the work-week, so they don’t find favour with me. But I like Sunday mornings.

It seems that Sunday mornings are different at my house than other mornings that I may have off. Perhaps it’s the feeling of leisure-time, of easy-going hours. I usually have chores to do even on my days off, so Sundays are never free of some sort of toil, but they seem different nonetheless.

The cats feel it, too, I think. I believe that they can distinguish between the days of the week - well, at least the days of the week on the one hand, and the days of the weekend on the other. Perhaps they watch for clues. Renn knows that when I go downstairs to get the popcorn-maker on a Saturday evening, it’s movie-night, and he hurries into the back parlour to get a good seat. (No, he doesn’t watch the film; he lies next to me and purrs.) And Tungsten and the others don’t get up before I do on weekend mornings. Monday through Friday, I wake to find only Tucker on the bed; Renn is at the window, Josie is out in the sitting room and Tungsten is in the bathroom awaiting a running tap, for some water. Weekends, all four stay snoozing on the bed until I rise.

So it is with Sundays. I wake, get the cats some fresh water, make my breakfast. Tucker occupies his time with rubbing up against my leg forty thousand times, Renn with looking out the bedroom window and the girls with relaxing in the sitting room. After breakfast, I have some tea. That’s the sign for the cats to find their places for some serious snoozing, in order to recover from a full night’s sleep. In the picture above, Tungsten, drifting off on a platform of the cat-tree after gazing at the new day a while, has just woken.

Later, the cats will often be found in the sun while it still shines of a morning through the big window of the sitting room. Josie is much more of a sun-cat than she used to be. Renn likes the rays, too, but not as much as the others. Besides, slumbering in the light may take him away from the bedroom window, where there are birds and people to hear and see, and scents to sniff through the screen. All the cats like that window, though Tucker frequently lies on the sill of a window in the back parlour. My roly poly one still can’t make friends with the others, though they could probably stand sitting next to him by now. He, timid fellow that he usually is, is wary and, except when making trouble, keeps a bit of a distance.

But everyone enjoys a Sunday morning. The beasts are relaxed and purr easily. I like it when my cats purr. I like Sunday mornings.

The Trouble with Tucker

I don’t know whether Tucker is stubborn or just a little dense. I know that sounds harsh, and it doesn’t affect how I feel about the softball-headed, no-necked little sausage. But I don’t think he is the brightest comet to light up the feline firmament.

A week or so ago, I came home from work to find the house a mess. There was black and white fur everywhere. It looked like an Ewok had exploded. Instead, I realised that it had been Renn’s temper. He will pick on Tucker from time to time, which I discourage whenever I see it. Tucker will, however, provoke him now and then; he will provoke the other cats, too. One early morning, about five o’lock, I woke to hear Tungsten in the sitting room, growling and hissing. I knew who was to blame, and yelled at Tucker to stop staring at Tungsten. About fifteen minutes later, I heard Josie growling and hissing. I yelled at Tucker to stop staring at Josie. This is how he ends up with scratches on his nose.

This time, I returned home and saw the aftermath of a battle. The nylon tunnel was thrown across the room; a cat-bed was knocked to one side; there was, as I mentioned, fur everywhere. There were even a couple of poops where the fur had flown the heaviest: one upstairs and one downstairs. I knew what had happened.

When Renn bullies Tucker, the roly poly one immediately submits. Sometimes, however, he will swat at my big boy when the latter turns away. He will also swat at Renn just in passing. This time, Renn, not blameless in these things himself, was provoked once too often, and the two boys had a fight of the sort that cartoons depict as a swirling hurricane with fists and stars flying out of it. At one point - two points, actually, Tucker was so scared he did what he shouldn’t do outside the litter-box. There were no serious injuries; I don’t think the claws were out all the way. Tucker had a scratch on his forehead that took out a tiny bit of his hair.

For most of the evening, Renn wouldn’t let Tucker anywhere near him, growling low and threateningly whenever the roly poly one came near. He was fine with the other cats and with me. By night-time, things were almost back to normal, and though Tucker was wary around the big boy, Renn had pretty much forgotten the incident. One would have thought a lesson had been learned.

But Tucker is a little dense; just a little. While milling about, waiting for dinner, half an hour after I’d come home, Tucker swatted at Tungsten, who hissed vilely at him. The orange one won’t stand for any of Tucker’s nonsense, any more than will Renn. But just a short time after having his intestinal contents scared out of him, the roly poly one was looking for trouble again.

Tucker is a little dense; just a little. But look at the pictures. He’s a cute sausage of a cat, and no matter how difficult it is for him to be taught, he makes me smile. In the photograph above, he seems engrossed by what’s on my computer screen; he’s even ready to appropriate my tea and biscuits.

As troublesome as Tucker is, I hope Renn doesn’t kill him any time soon. I’m not finished being amused by the fellow.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Rolling with Renn

Many cats like to roll. I don’t think all do; in fact, I know some of mine don’t.

Tungsten will roll when she’s happy, such as when I come home from a day’s work. She will follow me into the bedroom and, while I change my clothes, roll about the bed. She will also roll when she wakes from a good sleep. At both times, she likes to have her chest and belly rubbed vigorously. But she never seems to roll at other times.

Josie rolls even less. She will fall over with a thud that must be a bit painful when she wants some attention. She will thereafter let out grunty squeaks if I don’t come over and pet her. But she doesn’t wait long for me, and she doesn’t roll.

Tucker doesn’t roll, either. He will lie down and subside half-way onto his back, with his paws frozen in the air, as if he had been turned to stone and pushed over. Eventually, his legs will sag with gravity in a manner which, for a cat, should hurt somewhat. But he evidently finds it comfortable. And in any case, he doesn’t roll.

Renn rolls. He sometimes does it after waking from a snooze, sometimes after a soft-food dinner. He likes the top of the tallest cat-tree, if he can get there before Josie occupies it. He rolls this way, then that. He hooks his claws onto the short parapet around three sides of the uppermost platform and twists and turns. His lower body goes one way, while the rest goes the other. His head is upside down, and he rubs the top of it on the carpeting that covers the platform. Often, he ends his rolling with a stretch.

My big boy likes strong sensations. When I rub his chest, it must be with a force others might see as harsh; Renn, however, stretches his legs, purrs and curls his feet with pleasure. I think that’s why he likes rolling on the cat-tree. The superficial material, though comfy to lie on, can be like a brush if one digs himself in for a good, concentrated rotation. Moving first left, then right, then both directions at once may give Renn a feeling akin to being stroked all over with a comb - which he also likes.

More than any other cat in the family, he is a voluptuary. This joy he takes in what his senses feel, combined with his scientific pursuits, makes me think that he would have made a most characteristic gentleman of the Age of Enlightenment: mind and body, reason and sense, work and pleasure. I’m sure Renn and the likes of Isaac Newton would have gotten along. And I’ve no doubt that Newton enjoyed a good roll under the tree, waiting for the apple to drop…

Spring Again

Over the last weekend, spring arrived in our part of the world. The vernal equinox occurred, in fact, the week previous, and the weather has been growing warmer each day, on average. But Saturday was the first day I felt I could have the door open to the screen. I put the smaller of the two sitting room cat-trees up against the screen door and all the cats took advantage of it. As far as they were concerned, it was the first day of spring.

Monday, April 2, 2012

The Bargain

A friend’s cat died over the weekend. He was not a very old cat, fourteen, I believe, which veterinarians nevetheless say is a senior feline. But this cat had not been well for some time, and his life ended with help from his closest human.

It made me think about people and their pets, or, rather, why people have pets. I don’t suppose many humans consider the end of an animal’s life, when bringing a cat or dog into their home for the first time is so much like the beginning of it. Yet we live longer than cats and dogs, and, in almost every case, we outlive the pet whom we welcome as part of our family.

It is a strange bargain we make with these beasts. It is just that, a bargain. We become friends, and friendship is not a gift, it is not free. It is a blessing, but it comes as a deal. “I will be your friend, and you will be mine,” we tell these animals. We take care of them, provide them with food and shelter, medical care when necessary; we see them through illnesses, changes in address, additions to the household, and the neighbour who doesn’t like them. In return, they give us companionship, entertainment, joy. We give each other love. Like marriage, this contract’s most important clauses are not written but felt.

Part of the bargain is about what happens when our pets grows old, become irreparably sick or assailed with great pain. We know it will happen but we try to ignore it for the greater part of the animals’ lives. Yet it intrudes at last, and finally. Not every cat or dog will die in his sleep, full of years, knowing nothing of discomfort. Too few end their lives this way. The majority, it seems, need us to help them at this time.

A human who is infirm of body can still use his mind, for it’s the mind that sets us apart and above the rest of life. A futile body, useless limbs, rebellious organs, are tragic and terrible, but people have risen and continue to rise above such afflictions. A cat or dog cannot. He is smart, cunning, clever, thoughtful - but not enough to live only in his head. So when the body fails, we, their friends, must make a horrible decision. We help our loved ones die.

This is the price of the bargain we make. To end their pain, we must endure it ourselves. We hope that it lessens with time, and it usually does, but it lasts forever, regardless.

And yet, those of us who make these bargains and pay their cost will go on to make more. We adopt another cat, another dog; not as a replacement, but as a successor. We know how this bargain will end, too - the same way the last one did. And when that one runs its course, we make another, and another; sometimes several at once. We will keep making these bargains until the bargain we made with our own Guardian is called to account.

We do this, knowing well the consequences, because the bargain is worth it. It is suffering and agony, it is sorrow and loneliness. It is joy and amusement, strength and comradeship. This is the bargain. This is love.