Thursday, June 27, 2013

Bad Dreams

Do cats dream? I'm sure they do. Dogs do, as well. I don't know if the twitching whiskers, jerking feet and flicking tail of a sleeping cat signify that it is in the midst of a somnolent adventure, but it's my belief that these are indeed symptoms of a dream in progress.

Tungsten is, so far as I know, the only one of my cats who has bad dreams. This is ironic, considering that she is the least troubled by fear while awake. She will remain indifferent to loud noises and new people. She keeps the others in line with a hiss or a growl, the occasional swat. She is fearless, the tiny terror of the household.

Yet when she sleeps, she enters a realm of which she is not the mistress. This makes sense, I think, since in the waking world, she is confined to her small but safe existence here in the house. On the far side of Morpheus, she is free - or perhaps forced - to roam in places she has been, places she has seen, places she can barely imagine. Events are unreal, people and creatures fantastic. Even she must experience anxiety and concern under such conditions.

Tungsten will wake from sleep abruptly at times. She will often then cry out. It's not a cry of fear at this point, nor of pain. It's a call, a call for me. Whenever she cries out like that, I go to see her. She never makes such noises when she is demanding service - the tap turned on for a drink, dinner to be served now not later, me to sit down so as to provide a lap. I know those comments and protests. The cry of a bad dream is plaintive and almost kitten-like. When I speak to her after a nightmare, the orange one begins purring immediately, and loudly, for her. She likes me to pick her up at such times, her little body vibrating with relief. Then, after a minute or two, she becomes almost embarrassed - she is, after all, thirteen, and long since an adult. She shouldn't need comforting after a bad dream. She wants down, and she resumes her nap, or wanders off to nibble from the food-bowl, anything to show me that it wasn't such a big deal, after all.

Her age was estimated to be six years when she was presented to the cat-rescue organisation from which I adopted her, a year afterward. She did not seem to have been through anything terrible when she was taken in, yet she appeared sad, apathetic. That is not her character; she is strong and superior. But perhaps, once in a while, when she snoozes, she returns to the situation that made her so melancholy. Maybe she goes back to a time and place when she was not loved, or the person who had loved her had gone, for whatever reason. It may be that she was alone and confused as to what was happening. These are the elements of nightmare for many humans, never mind a cat.

Tungsten will likely have these dreams all her life. But they are rarer now than they used to be. Now, when she wakes, she usually stretches, purrs and likes to have a vigorous chest- and flank-rub. I like to see her wake like that, happy at a restful nap, and ready for another. On those occasions, the dreams must have been good ones, when jerking feet are running through green fields, flicking tails show contentment, and whiskers twitch because of a smile.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Hail and High Water

Thursday, June 20th, was stormier than the preceding day. It started, if I remember correctly, in the late afternoon, when the sky clouded. It wasn’t overcast, which may have promised steady drizzle, but came on in glowering banks of clouds that reached high into the sky. Another thunderstorm was in the offing. Lightning flashed repeatedly and the thunder was making the cats nervous. But they put up with it well. Then the sky grew darker and hail started falling. It fell hard and faster, and was the worst hailstorm I’d experienced.

We were safe enough in the house. I’ve been here for two and a half years and the basement hasn’t leaked yet. I’m told that concrete made before about 1960 is superior to that which came after (I wouldn’t be surprised, since most of what came after was inferior), and so my house (built circa 1955) would be unlikely to flood. In any case, I wasn’t worried, though the ferocity of the rain and hail overflowed the eavestroughs, and sent water over the gutters of the roof as if it were coming out of a tap. The picture below looks as though the windows are steamed up. They aren't; that's how fast the precipitation fell.

The cats did quite well, standing up to the storm. Tungsten was on the bed at the time, trying to catch a little sleep. She woke and, though maintaining her usual attitude of indifference, certainly didn’t try to go back to sleep. Josie hid under the armchair again, while the boys, who were steady during the thunder, couldn’t abide the hail, and hurried downstairs. I followed them after a few minutes and urged them to come up. Renn did, hastening into the bedroom, while Tucker followed a few minutes later.

Bear-Bear seemed fascinated by the storm for the most part, and watched the hail fall. He is a brave fellow and seems not to be easily unnerved.

The hail lasted for quite a while, as hailstorms go. The rain that fell with it came down so quickly that it didn’t drain fast enough to keep the streets from flooding; I expect the volume of hail may have choked the drains temporarily. A small, rushing brook formed at the edge of the street outside my house, a brook which eventually fed a large lake at the end of my drive-way.

The hailstorm, but was just a precursor to the storm that followed. This one dropped rain alone, though it accompanied it with lightning and thunder. People I spoke with afterward were surprised at how long the lightning continued to light up the night. I think it was still flashing at about two o’clock the next morning. Thunderstorms don’t usually last five hours; they settle into rainstorms long before that.

This storm seemed to stretch across most of southern Alberta. It was still sprinkling the next morning here in Lethbridge, but farther north, it continued raining all the next day. River levels rose everywhere, particularly in parts of Calgary, and in Canmore and High River. The last named town has been evacuated in its entirety; I’ve not lived through a storm which did such a thing. Usually, parts of a community are emptied, as with some neighbourhoods in Calgary. High River, though, lived up to its name and the stream that passes through it, the Highwood River, engulfed most of the town.

Lethbridge itself was relatively untroubled by events; we were fortunate. The Old Man River (yes, that’s its actual name) rose and threatened to cut off the newer west-side from the rest of the city, but that did not actually happen. News reports state that southern Alberta was badly hit. If a map of the province were divided horizontally into five bands, most of the damage will have occurred in the fourth most southerly band; in other words, the disaster to southern Alberta was strongest north of me and my cats.

Seven years ago, a report on the dangers of flooding, commissioned by the provincial government, recommended a ‘flood mitigation strategy’ to prevent such catastrophes. The government balked at spending the $300,000,000 needed to implement the plan. Now, three times that amount is being set aside to help recover from the floods. If anyone knows of a government in the last fifty years that has acted, rather than merely reacted, let me know.

Anyway, that’s my political diatribe for now. My cats are wondering where the food is. They know what’s important.

Monday, June 24, 2013


It was a dark and stormy night. Really. It thundered pretty strongly here in southern Alberta last Wednesday. (I am still catching up on my articles after repairing my ability to post on my blog from home). As is sometimes the case here, the sun shone even while the rain fell and the thunder boomed. In the third photograph, you may observe rain, sun and rainbow, all at once.

The reaction of cats to thunder is always interesting, from a purely analystical point of view. If one has cats, one cannot help but sympathise with them, as well. But watching them, one sees their personalities reflected in how they behave. Tungsten, of course, was largely indifferent to the fuss, though there was one large crack that made even the tiny terror herself take notice. For the most part, however, she sat comfortably, if not quite unconcerned.

Bear-Bear too seemed to take the storm in stride. He spent much of the time on the cat-tree that I had put in front of the screen door to catch the scents. The loud bang that disturbed Tungsten’s usual equilibrium made the guest-cat wonder if his position was the wisest, so he retreated to the food bowls, where comfort may always be found.

Josie is not often nonchalant when it comes to noise. She is usually not frightened but is easily startled, even alarmed. But these reactions are not the same as fear. Thunder brought a different emotion and she sought the safety of the space under the armchair. She remained in the sitting room, though, and came out once I spoke to her. It’s touching how, like children, cats will often put faith in a trusted human to protect them. A calm word from their person, and things are much better. The scary sounds remain, but somehow they are not as bad. I wish we all had someone to talk to us like that.

Among the perma-cats, the boys have always been more timid than the girls. Tucker is always skittish and Renn associates anything loud with anger: raised voices send him scurrying for cover. He is much braver than he was, and it’s a rare event now that does more than impels him to lie on the end of the bed. The bed is his safety-zone, and he feels that above it is just as good a spot as below it, where some animals may feel more secure.

Tucker too sought the shelter of the bedroom, but he chose a more traditional type of location. He has hidden behind things previously, not always to his advantage. He seems to think that any vertical object affords protection from discovery, and therefore does not take his length and girth into account when hiding. Nevertheless, fear is not a rational sensation, so what one does when feeling it is not always reasonable. To his credit, he too came out with a little coaxing.

The night ended with clearer skies, if I recall, and the fresh fragrance of the hours after a summer rain. We weren’t to know that worse was to come the next evening.


I am on holiday! I have been for the past week, which partially explains why I have not been adding to my blog in that time. I say partially, because I would have added to my blog but I could no longer add to my blog from my home computer. Previously, I had trouble connecting to various sites on the internet, which included a number of cat-blogs which I view regularly. My computer’s hard-drive was wiped out and its contents re-installed. It was after this that I discovered that my capability on the computer was even more severely restricted.

But a friend and I were experimenting with various solutions and I found that by updating my ‘Google’ programme, I was able to access my ‘Blogger’ account and thus add to my blog. I’ve no idea if the update I have made will cause new problems, but it has solved one of the old problems, and, in the realm of computers, that’s good enough for me. (It does make the font used abnormal, either too large or badly spaced, but it's working so you may have to adjust your eyes a bit; sorry about that.)

My holiday is so far very enjoyable, if only because I don’t have to go to work. I won’t go anywhere exotic; my job’s wages do not extend to allowing me to travel beyond the confines of my house, other than for food and other necessities. The way prices are rising, they may not permit even that ere long. I am accomplishing a number of chores during my days off that were too time-consuming to perform on ordinary weekends or evenings after work. These include giving the cat-trees a good cleaning; I use the laborious but effective method of the damp rubber glove to roll the annual collection of cat-hair off the surfaces. I could have constructed another cat from all the fur thus gathered - only I can’t afford another cat, so I just threw it in the rubbish bin (the fur, not an actual cat). I will steam-clean the hardwood and linoleum floors and have cleaned the garage. There are any number of smaller tasks that need completing, tasks that could be done on other days but use up just enough time to make one not want to do them with the limited time available after work or on weekends. Thus, I utilise my holidays.

As always, my cats provide the centre of my activities, and the reason for most of them. The beasts give me the entertainment that comes in other circumstances through travel or associating with new people. I can count on my cats for that. Lest anyone reading this thinks that all I am doing on my holidays is work (and why is it that working at home, even for no money, is more enjoyable than getting paid for it at a job?), allow Josie to illustrate what I myself am indulging in for much of my time off.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

A New Cat in a New World

Bear-Bear is adjusting well to living with me and the perma-cats, but I think he is having a bit of a reaction. I’ve seen this in other felines when they come to stay with me, either temporarily or otherwise. They often appear adventurous, friendly, inquisitive at first, and then suffer a bit of a relapse, turning a little melancholy or even depressed. The reaction varied greatly among the cats I’ve observed.

My first cat, Tungsten, explored a bit when she first came to live with me, looking into this, looking into that. Then she retreated to the bedroom and lie on the bed for the rest of the day. But that night, she slept with me and was fine in the morning. Tucker, on the other hand, became so distraught at being put in a new setting that he stopped eating, and had to be force-fed (it sounds worse than it is) for almost a week. Then, he too, recovered and became the happy little sausage he remains.

No matter the environment from which the cats come, no matter where they find themselves, being wrenched from the only home they’ve known, at least for some years, is a big adjustment. Others must learn to be indoor-only cats, after a period outside, with all its freedoms and dangers. One can be homesick for surroundings that were indifferent, even unpleasant. The attraction of the familiar can be as strong, if not stronger, than the advantages of a better life.

Bear-Bear has been a cheerful, easy-going fellow since he came to stay with me. But I’ve noticed that he is a little quieter now, and has resorted sometimes to a corner of the siting room behind a cat-tree. Other times, he lies on my lap, plays and wanders about talking. I think he is feeling a little neglected. I intend to spend more time with him, especially in the evenings, inviting him to play and sit with me. The perma-cats know my routines, and have their own. They seek me out when they want attention, knowing that I rarely deny it to them, even if it’s only a few minutes’ petting. Bear-Bear doesn’t know he can do this.

I think I will also try to encourage him to sleep in the bedroom, possibly as a precursor to sleeping on the bed. There may be room for one more there… I will get a comfortable cat-bed for him and see if he will consent to sleep there on the floor. Later, he can work his way up to the bed. I think that last night, he slept on the cat-tree by the window, not an uncomfortable spot, and one from which he can view the nightscape outside when he wishes. But it made me think that he must be feeling a little of an outsider, which I don’t want.

I will also keep an eye on his health. He is an unknown quantity to me and therefore needs extra watching and a little more attention than the others. I believe he’s a naturally happy boy, and requires only small things to stay that way: a full tummy, a soft bed and affection. But I suppose that’s all most of us need.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Into the Social Whirlpool

The interactions of my cats interests me. Their relationships change from time to time. I wish I could write that my cats are all friends, but in fact they are not. The two who are closest are Tungsten and Renn. Why those two became chummy, I don’t know, but they will groom each other and lie next to each other, even against each other, which no other cat does, with them or with another. They frequently sniff each other, Renn always initiating the action; Tungsten could probably do without it, but my big boy seems to like being near the orange one.

Tucker’s relationship with Renn is complex. When he first came to stay with me, Tucker bullied Renn somewhat. The former is older, so it was a natural hierarchy. Then, Renn usurped that position, and the poor roly poly was pushed to the bottom of the totem pole. A recent scene (comical, from one point of view, not from another) demonstrated this the other day. I had to trim some hair on Renn’s bum. Considering the length of his fur, he is very good about keeping it clean. But this time, there was some litter stuck where it shouldn’t be. My big boy hates having his bum trimmed. That’s understandable. He groaned and growled but endured the humiliation. As soon as it was over, I opened the bathroom door to release him. The first cat he met in the corridor was Tucker, whom he slapped half a dozen times before stalking away. The roly poly one was left hurt and bemused. As the bottom of the totem pole, this is his lot. Yet he continues to act the child, rushing up the cat-tree when Renn is at the top, causing screams and threats to issue from my big boy. Tucker knows his place - and uses it to cause trouble. He will also poke Josie when she isn’t looking; a battle between those two would probably resemble that ‘executive toy’ that has the balls on strings knocking against each other.

Josie, my loner, would not suffer from being an only cat. She has become much friendlier with me through the years, and her purr is a ready one now. She does, however, like to play chase with Tucker, but almost solely when I come home from work. They did play one other time, near bed-time, but that was unique. The strange thing is that at most other times, Tucker will hiss and swat at my Chubs. This, I believe, has little to do with personal animosity. It is a transference of sorts, and occurs whenever a new foster-cat is brought into the house. This round began with Bear-Bear’s arrival. It is deminishing, but remains.

Bear-Bear has thrown some confusion into the household. His easy-going nature has allowed him early permission to roam free at all hours. He doesn’t sleep on the bed - yet - but he can go anywhere he likes. He is more of a pacifist even than Josie. The Great White will defend herself vigorously if assaulted, but Bear-Bear will turn and veer away from any sign of trouble. His mere presence has shaken the norm, yet the perma-cats are adapting.

Part of that adaptation comes in showing him his place. Tungsten is already ceasing to growl and hiss every time she sees him. It must have been tiring to show hostility to a cat who was largely indifferent to it. But just to make clear who is top-cat, the orange one will wail her dissatisfaction at certain times, lest we forget that she is displeased at the interloper’s existence. Josie, who was the first to show that she was unconcerned with Bear-Bear, regressed somewhat when he was allowed complete freedom, and hid under the armchair while he walked about. Tucker sees an opportunity to move up a rank, and periodically tells the guest-cat where he belongs. Renn is split in regard to the newcomer, now usually greeting him with a sniff but still warning him when Bear-Bear inadvertently makes him feel trapped. Yet I would not be surprised if those two become friends.

Yes, the society created by my cats for themselves is a simple yet complicated one. This paradox seems to come naturally to an animal so sensitive that it can become ill from stress when its routine is disrupted, yet appears constantly to be changing its habits. I myself am partly to blame for this zoological whirlpool, though: after all, I started out with one cat, six years ago. Today, I live with five.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Cat-hair Buttons

It was time to consider putting away the cat-beds in our household last week. The cats lie on them much less in the warm weather. Higher temperatures, especially at night, are later in coming this year compared to last, however, so the cat-beds, and their heating pads, remained out longer. But the beasts seem to be enjoying the cat-beds regardless of the encroaching heat this spring, and so I decided to leave the beds out for their enjoyment. As well, my plan to buy cat-hammocks to replace them during the summer months has hit the financial pot-hole that has disrupted so many well-intentioned mercantile journeys. So the beds remain.

I did remove the heating pads, though, and washed the beds. I used a brush first to remove as much hair as possible from the material. I ended with enough to construct another cat, and still more came out in the wash. Then I put the beds in the dryer.

The beds are very good examples of their kind. Just the right size for big cats to overflow and little cats to curl up in. The cushions are removable and their padding, a thick, flat mattress of sorts, is also removable in turn. This allows me to wash the bed and cushion covers. I explain this so as to illustrate the outcome of drying these items.

When I examined the beds and cushion-covers after they were dried, I did not find any excess hair. Nor did I find any in the dryer. It was only when I was putting the mattresses back into their covers that I found the missing cat-fur, the fur that had defied removal by brush and washing machine earlier. The hair had resolved itself into dozens of buttons, disc-shaped weavings of cat-hair. They looked like the blood cells that are depicted in animated diagrams of veins and arteries. They also look like Werther’s Originals. In any case, they were not stuck to anything, since the inside of the cushion-covers are smooth and vinyl-like. I simply scooped them out and threw them in a rubbish bag.

I assume that the combined heat and centrifugal force of the dryer accomplished this task. I wish I could find a way of duplicating it with other masses of cat-hair, for its disposal afterward was very easy. I suggested to Tungsten that she could periodically slip into the dryer and go for a spin. I assured her that I would keep the cycle on ‘gentle’. I think she muttered something about claws, and about my having to sleep sometime.

It was just a thought.

The Skinnies and the Fatties

I have two kinds of cats in my house, plus another who doesn’t fall into either category. The pairs are the skinnies and the fatties.

Tungsten has always been thin, with no fat on her at all. Her slender form has only recently become a concern, since she has developed hyperthyroidism, and will lose weight even if she eats a great deal. I’ve chronicled her fight to regain some poundage, but what is new is that her weight is stagnating. She is holding steady around 2.65 kilograms. That isn’t very bad for her, but it is not good, either. She can’t seem to increase her numbers any more than that.

The other skinny is my foster cat, Bear-Bear. This fellow surprised me by losing almost two pounds between the time that he came to me a month before. One would think that I was starving him, and perhaps, inadvertently, I was. He obviously needs to eat as much as possible.

These are my skinnies. The solution has been to re-introduce the brand California Natural to the hard-food bowls at my house. This food is, I believe, not quite as healthy as the Blue Buffalo with which I replaced it, but is still good for cats - barring the recent recall of salmonella. The arrangement and timing of the availability of food has been altered somewhat, as well. Soft-food is fed to all at dinner-time (about four-thirty each afternoon) and snack-time (about eight o’clock each evening). I also give Tungsten and Bear-Bear a helping of it in the mornings before I leave for work, and at night before I go to bed. California Natural hard-food is available throughout the day from the time I wake up until dinner-time; it then disappears until the next day. Blue Buffalo is always at hand except for the evenings. It comes back out at night. There is also California Natural available around the clock on top of the refrigerator where only my skinnies can get to it.

With this complicated arrangement, I hope to allow the skinnies access to plenty of both hard- and soft-food. The California Natural must taste better than Blue Buffalo (which to my simplistic mind suggests that it is not quite as healthy) for it is eaten in far greater preference. I am hoping that it will pack on the pounds for the skinnies while keeping the gain among the fatties at a minimum.

Did I mention the fatties? They are Josie and Tucker, of course. I am sure they will increase due to the accessibility of the California Natural. Over the past few months, their weights have remained constant, so I will see how they fare on this new regimen. I may have to allow them to grow in girth in order to keep my skinnies gaining.

But if you have been reading this blog for any time, you may have noted a missing number. Renn is neither a fatty nor a skinny. A veterinarian considered him overweight once, a couple of years ago. It’s been difficult for me to agree with that assessment; no one who sees my big boy thinks he is overweight. He is heavy, but he is also larger than any of my other cats. His legs are like turkey drumsticks and he’s as long as a border collie (see illustrations from previous post.) It would be hard for me to curtail his food supply without starving him, as he eats, neither like a cat nor a dog, but like a bird. So if he wants to eat more, he is welcome to it.

I am therefore stuck right now between the skinnies and the fatties, with Renn watching from the sidelines.