Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Rachael, Shaven and Shorn

Rachael made a visit to the veterinary office yesterday. It involved minor surgery, but since she had to have anaesthetic, there was a concern, as there always is under those conditions, no matter the health of the cat. I am pleased to report that she came through the ordeal very well.

She had quite a bit done to her, the poor girl. The principal reason for her visit to the doctor was to have her teeth seen to. A number were in bad shape, and a couple were extracted. The whole lot was cleaned. She may have been suffering some discomfort, even pain, from the condition in which her teeth had been, but should be feeling much better now. While knocked out, other aspects of her health were attended to.

The dreadful mats in her hair were so strongly embedded that it was better just to shave most of her body. Thus, she looks like a tiny lion. Her head and neck were spared, as were her forelegs, giving her the same sort of coat as a bison. But her back legs and the end of her tail retain their hair, too. She looks decidedly smaller. Her weight, as it turns out, is more than nine pounds, which I find incredible, considering how light she feels to hold.

Her claws were clipped, which makes having her on my lap much more pleasant for me. She kneads a great deal, so I no longer have to see spots of blood on my trouser legs. A sample from her bladder was taken for testing. I haven’t heard the results yet, but I expect she will be fine in that regard. This test was more in the way of a precaution, due to her excessive wetting earlier. That has diminished, and she not only using the litter-box exclusively now, the amounts that she leaves there are more normal than previously, and in better shape.

She was active when she returned home, wanting out of the downstairs bathroom where she was put. I let her roam the basement for a while, but kept her downstairs until this morning. She was given plenty of comfort to make her semi-naked state less cold. A heating pad was inserted under the quilt upon which she has been sleeping, and a fuzzy dome of a cat-house provided, as well as another big, warm mat. I brought several items, including the heating pad, upstairs this morning, when she was transferred to the parlour for the day.

She was very hungry last night after her fasting, and wolfed down a small portion of Fancy Feast, and a second, a couple of hours later. I couldn’t give her too much, of course, but I gave her enough to assuage her hunger for a while. I provided a bit more this morning. I am hoping that this opportunity will give her a fondness for Fancy Feast and, later, Wellness or some other nutrition. Before surgery, she ate only Almo by way of soft-food, and I wanted to give her a brand that provided her with more nutrients. I figured that if she were hungry enough, she’d eat even what she previously didn’t like. It’s worked so far; I want her to retain her liking for the different food.

But so far, so good. Rachael improves each day. This surgery, the greater health in her mouth, the destruction of those mats, will make her life much better. Whether she interacts more amicably with my perma-cats remains to be seen, but health first, friendship second. Even though there is less of her now, what there is, is in good condition.

The Cat-beds Come Out

It’s that time of year again. The temperature is dropping - well, this week it’s supposed to go up, but let’s not ruin the flow of the narrative - and the house gets colder easier. My heating bill will rise in inverse proportion to the temperature, and the populace of our little kingdom will need to don thicker clothes. For those who don’t have that option, there is an alternative.

The cat-beds have come out again. For the first couple of weeks, I simply placed them on the floor without the heating pads that I purchased later for them. But then this weekend, I noticed Tungsten lying, folded up like a little boat, on a platform of a cat-tree right above a heating vent. No fool, she. This told me that she was feeling the chill. And why shouldn’t she? She’s always been as fatless as a stalk of celery, and she’s a year older than she was last autumn: twelve and a half. My orange one is still active and healthy - but she feels the cold.

So the heating pads came out next, were inserted in the beds and those that use them are happy. Josie likes a heated bed. Why, I don’t know. I saw this overweight cat lying in a fuzzy bed, with the heating pad on, in the sun. I’m surprised I didn’t have to rush her to the emergency ward with heat stroke. But she and Tungsten both enjoy the beds, so they are set for winter. Renn enjoys squeezing himself into a bed. Tucker rarely resorts to them.

My house-guest Rachael, discovered the heated beds one evening. She appeared to like them, as well. But, if you read the next article, you’ll find that she will need a warm bed more than ever.

Now, if only I could lie all day in a warm bed...

Monday, October 29, 2012

Getting to Know Rachael

My house-guest is Rachael, a long-haired female cat, a ‘dilute’ calico. She’s still adjusting to her new situation, and her new situation is still adjusting to her. She replaced Luther, who was having troubles in my house as a foster-cat because of his almost nonchalant attacks on my perma-cats. Other than that, Luther was a wonderful little fellow. He is now doing very well as an only cat in a new foster-home.

Rachael is not as adaptable as Luther. She had a difficult time using only the litter-box for her waste-disposal. She also scrapped with both my male cats, and then took after Josie. Tungsten is the only one she hasn’t yet fought with, though she looked at one point as if she might. It’s true that such rows are to be expected. But the mere presence of my boys seemed to cause Rachael anxiety, and since she was having litter-box problems, I thought it best to isolate them. So now, Rachael is kept by herself in the back parlour during the day and in the downstairs bathroom at night. I let her out while the other cats are confined for an hour at a time. This is practically the same situation as Luther endured. It’s far from ideal but it will have to do for now.

On the positive side, Rachael is now more controlled with regard to wetting. At one point, she was depositing waste in the litter-box, and then again outside. The Lethbridge PAW Society, for whom I am fostering this little cat, suggested two litter-boxes. As luck would have it, I have more litter-boxes than I have furniture, so I filled a second box with ‘Cat-Attract’ clay litter and the next time I checked on her, Rachael had used both. She continues to do so. More than once, she waited until I scooped the refuse from a box, then immediately used it. The conclusion I drew was that Rachael is particularly fastidious; her long fur is probably a concern to her around litter, and she doesn’t want to visit a litter-box that has been used already, at least until it is scooped. She may be adjusting that attitude, considering the amounts I find in the boxes now, but I think she will continue to need two boxes. If that’s what makes her happy - and clean - there’s no harm in it.

She has also stopped wetting elsewhere, for the most part. I had been using soaker pads to cover my furniture in the parlour where Rachael stayed. She wet on one, two, even three each day. Eventually, it was decided that the pads themselves were causing her to wet outside the box, since she did so nowhere else. With bated breath, I removed the coverings that shielded my furniture from possible cat-urination and left Rachael to her devices. She did not abuse my trust. She has continued to use only the litter-boxes.

Except for one or two instances. She wet in the bath-tub during the weekend, and around the toilet in the downstairs bathroom one night. One may think that she is at least getting closer to the proper articles for waste disposal, and that if I left the toilet seat up for her, perhaps I could do away with litter-boxes all together. But no, she still has some little way to go.

But what a nice animal Rachael is. She is friendly and fun, always wanting attention. She will rub up against me, arching her back, giving a strange creaking sound instead of a meow. She loves the face-rub and to have her sides rubbed vigorously. Like Luther, she will not sit still for attention but gets up, revolves, moves, bumps, then comes back, though late at night, she will lie quietly and enjoy a constant but gentle stroking on the head. She kneads easily, her little forepaws flexing all the time.

She’s playful, preferring string toys (or just string) and, when on a cat-tree, will flip herself upside down to get at it, kicking the underside of the platform above her in her excitement. She enjoys treats but doesn’t care for Fancy Feast, which I find odd. She likes Almo, but since it is not a complete soft-food, I am trying to introduce Fancy Feast gradually, though not without much success. I would like ultimately to get her into something such as Wellness or Blue Buffalo.

I don’t think Rachael was attended to in her previous home. The fact that she and her two cat roommates were returned to the PAW Society (from which they were initially adopted) because the owners were ‘downsizing’ their pet population (including two little dachshunds) indicates the level of attachment they had to their animals. Rachael has a tremendous number of mats in her fur, which will be trimmed this week, when she goes for dental work. She adores being combed, but I'm probably the first to treat her thus. She may have been let outside on a continual basis, where her unconventional pooping needs were unknown. She is very clingy at times, and I wonder if she received much attention at all.

These characteristics indicate a cat requiring a great deal of affection and time. Rachael, like Luther, may do best as an only cat, though unlike that tough little fighter, I think there are plenty of felines with whom Rachael could be friends. Hopefully, there is someone patient enough to give her the chance of a real home that she deserves. Her current situation with me is good but insufficient for a cat who enjoys human company so much, and after the apathy she undoubtedly received in her previous home, a foster-home - or better, a permanent one - where she can receive much more attention would work wonders with this cat. Maybe a new home is just a blog-reader away...

The New Rug

I bought a new rug. The old one was good; it was second-hand, a gift from a friend who thought that I needed a rug in the sitting room. She was right. It suited the look of the room and provided a bit more warmth, which could be felt especially when I was sitting in the armchair or the couch with my feet on the floor. Even with slippers, the bare hardwood could be cool. I imagine the cats felt the same way.

However, the old rug was growing a bit discoloured. The cats had thrown up on it too many times. That was mainly due to Josie, who, when she wretches, must do so over and over, seemingly reaching back to the previous week’s meals for ammunition. And of course, she hurries to any difficult-to-clean-carpeted surface to relieve her queasiness. The final straw was when Rachael disgraced herself on the rug a few weeks ago. It wasn’t the sort that was easily picked up or cleaned.

So it was time to buy a new rug. The floor went without one for a fortnight or so. The cats didn’t care for that, especially Josie. It was not because she had no where to throw up. A determined cat will always find a spot for that. No, she liked to lie on the old rug more than the other cats did. She would flop over on to her side to encourage me to pet her, and when we played. She did that with reluctance on the bare floor.

The new rug is a little thinner than the old, but softer. The cats examined it, sat on it and lie on it. Most thought it was adequate. Josie loves it. The warmth of the floor has been restored to her. She was very active during play-time that first evening. (‘Active’ is a relative term. Josie does not run and leap and climb cat-trees while playing, as Tucker now does. My Chubs rolls about in one place - actively.) She was clearly pleased with my purchase. I am too, since it was cheaper than I had expected. And just as important, Rachael has not mistaken it for a litter-box, yet. Tungsten seems to approve and my Roly Poly likes to skid into it, folding it up like the bellows of an accordion.

It’s hardly a rug woven in the markets of Bokhara, and when it comes to things to put on the floor, my taste is mediocre at best. But the new rug has been accepted by those who will be most in contact with it, so I’m content.

I couldn’t get a picture of Renn on the new rug, so in order not to leave him out, here’s one of my Big Boy - not even on a floor...

Monday, October 15, 2012

Cats With Cats

The relationships cats have with each other are sometimes strange. Most cats like people, though many are wary of them, certainly of strangers. Of other felines, many cats are especially cautious. A cat may never develop any liking for another of its kind, though in that case it usually just does its best to ignore the other animal, and to live its life as a solitary beast, content to be friends with its human.

Sometimes, great and lasting bonds are made between cats, bonds that are so strong, one will pine and die when the other passes away, having lost its best friend. Other times, a little progress is made, only to be swept back in a regression, such as has happened with my foster-cat, Rachael.

I have mentioned before that Tungsten and Renn have become friends. They often lie next to each other when I have a bath, snuggling on the bath-mat. Tungsten is quite tolerant of the big boy’s antics at bath-time, and once he settles down, he sometimes settles on his smaller friend. This past Saturday, Tungsten was quietly sitting on the mat while Renn whirled and rolled and twisted and purred - as he usually does at that time of week. Then my big boy threw himself to the floor and knocked poor Tungsten into the side of the tub. Tungsten picked herself up and walked to the other end of the mat. Being friends doesn’t mean never being miffed at one another…

They like to spend time together, though they don’t play with each other. Theirs is a more sedate relationship, and manifests itself most frequently when they are resting. One will groom the other, though that activity is usually heavily weighted in Renn’s favour, he preferring to receive the attention, rather than give.

Josie, my little loner, has exhibited the greatest changes over the years, I think. Aside from her relationship with me, which has improved (she purrs much more easily than she used to), she has grown a little more tolerant of the other cats. She and Tucker chase each other - but only at a certain time of certain days. They do it when I return from work on weekdays. They run about for five minutes, in and out of the nylon tunnel, into the parlour, down the stairs. Then it’s over. I’m not surprised that my roly poly would play with Josie; he is always trying to get another cat to play with him. Whenever Tungsten shoots through the house on one of her speedy jaunts, Tucker trots after her, hoping this time she will play with him. He’s had no success so far.

My Chubs grooms Tungsten once in a while, always at night, on the bed, if they happen to be in proximity to each other. This past week, I watched her do that, after which Tungsten rewarded her with a smack on the head. I don’t know what that was about; perhaps Josie didn’t, either.

But the Great White’s biggest transition may be the most subtle. I don’t even know if it’s happening. I am finding her and Renn snoozing near each other more often. Usually, they are not in contact, on the bed together but a couple of feet apart; sleeping on neighbouring chairs. The strange thing is that under normal circumstances, Josie does not care for other cats coming near to her. She will give a squeak and swing at them or quickly move away. But once in a while, the need for companionship comes over her, I think. It’s taken only four years, but maybe she's finding a friend.

Cats will change their feelings over time, I think. They will come to appreciate other animals and different people. They are patient when it comes to evaluating a situation. If at first they dislike it, they may change their attitudes. They may not. After years of keeping their distance, they may suddenly become close. They may not. Living with cats is similar to reading a mystery novel, since one must wait until the final page for the solution. Sometimes, however, it feels as if the Great Author has torn out that final page, and I’ll have to wait until He explains cats to me. Then again, He may not.

Rachael Retreats

Rachael is my current guest-cat. I am fostering her for the Lethbridge PAW Society, but things aren’t going as smoothly as I would like. In fact, there has been a bit of a regression for this poor cat.

Initially, her interaction with my perma-cats was guarded, cautious but promising. She growled and hissed at the boys and chased Renn from time to time, but it was nothing serious. I thought, after the debacle of Luther, that this was how the integration of cats is supposed to be. She even consented to eat relatively near to some of the residents.

However, Rachael has turned out to be feeling more than the usual amount of stress. This is not surprising. She had been taken from her home, from people who no longer wanted her (after four years) and dropped into a strange situation with strange and, so far as she knew, hostile cats. She started to fight more often with Renn, and began wetting where she shouldn’t. I had to put her in isolation (the back parlour) during most of the day and during the night, letting her out while I was present to supervise.

This scheme received a set-back yesterday. Rachael tends to stay on a chair in the dining area whenever she is released from solitary confinement; I don’t think this was enjoyable for her but at least she is out with everyone. Whenever she gets off the cushion to venture about, Tucker hurries over to follow her. Last afternoon, Tucker was, for once, not doing anything offensive, though the new girl took umbrage with his presence nonetheless and launched herself at him. This was the first full-fledged battle in which Rachael engaged. There was fur flying everywhere. The new girl retreated to the top of the cat-tree, perhaps realizing that the heavier roly poly had the advantage on her. Despite the circumstances, I was a little proud of Tucker; he didn’t back away and in fact climbed the cat-tree to continue the fight. I wasn’t having that, though, and used the nylon tunnel as a harmless but effective prod to push Tucker down. As when Luther and the perma-cats went at it, I was surprised in this instance that there were no injuries, especially considering that no one has been able to cut Rachael’s claws for some time.

That settled Rachael’s situation for the time being. When I could coax her down to a level of the cat-tree from which I could pick her up, I deposited her in the back parlour, where she will stay for a while, until she calms herself. She continues to spray, though soaker-pads are absorbing some of it. There is something that she finds deeply disturbing about her new environment. Is it just the resident cats? It seems to be the boys only. Yesterday, before the combat with Tucker, she was on the dining table, viewing the world through the window. Tungsten didn’t know she was there and leaped up, inadvertently joining her. Rachael turned to look at the orange one, then returned to the window, untroubled. Tungsten thought about it, and got down again. Josie doesn’t cause Rachael any distress, either, so far as I can tell.

I hope to let Rachael out of the parlour when the boys are securely locked in the bedroom, but obviously that can’t be a permanent solution. When she is free, she tends to wet where she shouldn’t; but then, she does that when confined.

So I will wait her out, spend time with her and try to reassure her. And keep plenty of cleaning solution close to hand.

Tucker's Glorious Victory

It’s been a month since Tucker’s surgery. He has made a remarkable recovery. It must be remarkable, as I am remarking upon it. Anyway, he had a slight complication due to a minor infection. This was cured by some antibiotics; it took less than a week for that problem to be cleared up, and since then, he has gone forward and not looked back.

He is more active than ever, the picture above notwithstanding, and has returned to his usual cheerful nature, purring as soon as I talk to him, when I touch him and, sometimes, just when I look at him. He runs and jumps when playing, and plays by himself often, leaping on toys, knocking them about and rushing around the house. His enthusiasm for action can be a bit excessive, as I will describe when talking about Rachael later on, but for the most part, I couldn’t be happier with his progress, especially since he has suffered none of the subsequent emotional distress that he had on other traumatic occasions.

As well, his wetting outside the litter-box appears to have vanished. I still have boxes in odd places (corresponding to where he insisted on going to the washroom) but will gradually move them to more suitable locations. Until then, I am content to let them stay where they are. Tucker is using them - as are the other cats - and that pleases me.

My roly poly is a joy, and the amount of money I spent on him seems smaller each day he is with me. I was thinking that if something had happened and he passed away even just a week after his surgery, the cost of the operation would have been worth it, because he was happy during that time. Now, four weeks later, he is enjoying life, sleeping on the bed with me and his roommates at night, eating well and literally frolicking. I hope he continues to do so until his last day, years and years from now.