Friday, November 29, 2013

Foster Cats in My Life

Having written about Cammie the other day, I thought more about the cats that I have fostered through the past six years. Certainly many people have fostered more; the individuals who are members of the rescue group with which I volunteer, the Lethbridge PAW Society, have sheltered hundreds of cats among them, adopting many, as will happen. It’s even been known to occur to me.

My first foster-cat came to stay with me when I had just two of my own. I did not keep a record of his arrival and departure, but it was some time before the middle of 2010. His name was Lincoln, a friendly, cheerful, all-black male. He was a talkative fellow, who sang and wailed about the apartment. Tungsten and Josie didn’t much care for him, the former hissing constantly in his direction and the latter trying to ignore him. That seemed to set the stage for future fosters. Lincoln did not stay with me for long. His good-nature appealed to a lady who was leaving Lethbridge soon; she and Lincoln liked each other and they went away together.

Next came a pair, Wixie and Mystery, also before the middle of 2010. I believe they came from a family who no longer wanted them. We never really knew why. Wixie was a big, solid grey-and-white girl, with a mask over the top half of her face. Mystery was a light-weight tortoise-shell female. The latter was easy-going and indifferent to other cats. Wixie decided that she wanted to be top-cat, and this did not it well with Tungsten. Wixie started to intimidate the orange one, who knew she was too small to defend her position physically. Josie had no problem with that and was involved in at least one whirling, fur-flying fight with the Masked Marvel. Fortunately for all concerned, these two fosters, who were quite loveable on their own merits, were adopted together.

Renn came after that pair, in May, 2010. He had only one ‘n’ in his name at the time. Anyone who has read this blog for a while will be familiar with my big boy. He was in a foster-home where he was not really appreciated, though he was treated well. He was forced to re-locate after he bit the woman who was trying to clean his bum. To this day, he dislikes having his nether regions washed, and hates having his claws cut. I adopted him. He has become my friend, the first to come to bed with me when I retire for the night, and always eager when I start to run the bath-water. He joins me for movie-time and is a lover of chest-rubs. He’s my lazy dog.

Then, Devon arrived in late August, 2010. He was found by a member of PAW; she glanced out her window and there he was, looking in. He definitely needed rescuing. After he was brought in, he threw up a stomach-full of wood chips, the cedar pieces used to make a decorative ground at the base of shrubs and trees. He had been so hungry he had eaten them. Contrary to some people’s thoughts, cats are not all natural survivors. Devon would not have lasted in the wild, even when the ‘wild’ was the back alleys of a small city. He was a mischievous cat, playing rough with mine, but still, just playing. He was adopted by a co-worker of mine, a woman who, with her husband, already had two long-established female cats. Devon was just as active with them, but has settled down very well and is a loved part of a family - which has grown even more: the couple rescued another cat, and he too now lives with them permanently.

Such was the need for foster-homes that a certain roly poly sausage made his appearance in the apartment where I lived just hours after Devon left, in October, 2010. He was upset with his change of surroundings and wouldn’t eat, so he had to be force-fed. With a look of mild sorrow, Tucker accepted his unwanted nutrition until he started to eat again five days later. He’s rarely been without his appetite since, though he’s had plenty of other problems. I adopted him, too, as I couldn’t be without the no-necked little melon-head.

Luther stayed with me from May until September of 2012. He was a neat little fellow who attacked every cat he could get at. To this day, I don’t know if it was due to play or hostility. If play, then it was relentlessly rough; if hostility, then it was accompanied by no other signs, such as hissing or growling. He had to remain isolated from the others, which was no life for him. Happily, he was taken in by another family, where irony caught up with him. Guessing that he would not attack a kitten, PAW placed one with him when a tiny cat named Fortune was rescued. Sure enough, Luther not only didn’t assault the little guy, but they became friends, and were eventually adopted together. And the irony? Fortune is now larger than Luther, and likes playing more often and rougher than Luther cares for...

We enter more recent times with the advent of Rachael, in September, 2012. ‘Downsized’ by her family, she had difficulty adjusting to so many other cats with whom she was unfamiliar. A wonderful and beautiful creature, she was moved the following April to a household where she is the only cat and, under the care of his new foster-people, has made great strides. I remember her very soft voice and equally soft fur.

Then came Bear-Bear, very soon after Rachael left; a relatively new rescue, he was unwanted by the two people who had had him on trial-adoption for a month. And finally, Cammie came to stay, in July.

It’s interesting watching the cats in my care evolve. Luther didn’t change much, and I can’t say whether he would have. But he did with the companionship of Fortune. My first fosters were with me too briefly for me to see much of their characters. I realise, as I mentioned to someone who commented on another article I wrote, that there has usually been a point with my fosters up to which part of me wishes simply that they would go. They would be disruptive and I don’t think it will get better. I think many people have that feeling with guests, even though they may actually be welcome. But most pass that point - rather like the 'wall' that runners experience, up to which running is an ordeal, after which, even if it may still be hard work, it is much easier. And though the reaction of each foster to his new setting and his new roommates varies, he usually settles down.

As difficult as it sometimes is for me, coming into a new foster-home is much more troubling for the cat involved. He is often taken from a familiar environment, sometimes a safe one, always different, and presented with new cats, new humans and new rules. It’s no wonder that he adjusts only after a time. But adjust he does, just as he does again when he goes to a permanent home. Cats are versatile and adaptable, but I’d like each to be in a situation from which he would never have to adapt again. I’d like to see each in his own lasting and loving home.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Just a Bit More About Cammie

A few days ago, I wrote about how Cammie was stalking Tungsten, to the latter’s disgust. This is just one side to Cammie, and though I’ve written about her progress previously, probably repeating myself, I think it is only fair to describe her in fuller terms.

The truth is that I am very pleased with how my Siamese foster-cat has adapted to her life in our household. She moved from a familiar, though possibly unpleasant, setting to a strange place full of strange cats, from no feline roommate to five. Yet she is learning about them. A while back, she discovered the tall cat-tree in the sitting room, and enjoys lying on the top platform. She also uses a lower platform for gazing out the window. Other cats, especially Josie and Renn, like this tree, too, and for similar reasons. Cammie would hiss and growl when she found one or the other too near a spot that she wanted, but now she tends to put up with them, and with very little protest, as long as they don’t get too close.

Even with the others, Cammie is improving. She and Tungsten sit within a couple of feet of each other while waiting for their soft-food meals to be handed out, though negotiating the obstacle course of other animals on her way to her preferred dining area in the parlour is still a hazardous journey for her, so she believes.

But, in fact, much of her hissing is becoming more perfunctory, something she evidently feels she must do, though she may be realising that it is not really necessary. She will hiss as she passes Josie or Tucker, for instance, but not look at them or increase (or decrease) her velocity while doing so. Hissing for her, I am beginning to understand, is often a way merely of expressing displeasure, not always actual hostility. And she is wandering about more, coming into the sitting room, even when it is full of cats, and she has sat on the couch while I was there, though she occupied the farther corner.

Short of having her adopted, I would like Cammie to go to a less crowded foster-home, where she will have more attention from humans, though it would have to be a special place. Mine could certainly be bettered, but to send her to another location, just when she is growing accustomed to his one, unless there were a very good reason behind it, might prove counter-productive. I am worried much less about her future than I was. She is growing friendlier toward me all the time (though she is a bit of a grouch in the mornings) and will make a good pal for someone, though that person will have to have patience.

But when an untrusting creature does trust, it is frequently a deep trust and one that will grow into affection. If Cammie does not give that fully to me, I will be satisfied, because I know that there is someone somewhere, some day, to whom she will give it.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

My Little Martyr

My roly poly Tucker has had to endure much in his few years. He always seems to get the short end of the stick, especially in terms of his health. He has recently ended a month-long ordeal during which I had to force pills into him three times a day. This was to cure a bacterial infection in his bladder, something which he has had previously. To make certain that this was gone, he had to provide a urine sample. The simplest answer to that problem was to bring him into the veterinary hospital and have a bit of urine extracted directly from his bladder. This would entail a frightening journey for him that I was loathe to inflict upon the little fellow.

The other option was to obtain that sample at home. So I bought some plastic cat-litter. This particular brand was called ‘Nosorb’, and it was to be placed in a litter-box which, in turn, would be locked away with Tucker alone, so that no other cat could use it during a certain period. I was given a very small amount of the litter, which cost $7. I thought I would get a bag of it; not as large as a month’s supply of regular litter but sufficient to fill a litter-box. The quantity I received was not enough to cover the bottom of a quarter of the smallest litter-box I had.

It was this that I put away in the back parlour with Tucker one night. I did not give him food but provided him with a bowl of water. I thought if he were hungry, he might consume some fluids which would then encourage his bladder. But I was not hopeful. Tucker did not enjoy being locked away. He clearly saw no reason for it and began crying soon after I put him in. He continued it through the night. I nodded off at some point, at several in fact, but he would wake me soon after with more crying. I was sure it was all for nought.

But in the morning, when I released the prisoner, I found that he had indeed done the deed in the microscopic quantity of synthetic litter I had given him. He must have been somewhat reluctant using that amount, and probably wondered how parsimonious his human had become that such an embarrassing amount was provided. It would have been similar to one of us making do with a few paltry squares of toilet paper. I was worried moreover that, given Tucker’s history, and the stress of being locked away with a nearly empty litter-pan, that he might resort to wetting on a couch or chair. He did not. I was very proud of him. I took up the sample provided in a syringe, and it was conveyed to the veterinary hospital.

Then, Tucker and I were foiled. The sample contained a huge number of bacteria, ‘too much’, the doctor told me, and it was suggested that Tucker was not entirely clean on the outside where the liquid waste was channelled from his nether regions. These unhygienic spots may have collected some of the bacteria. His bladder may have been clean but the sample was not, and therefore, it was useless.

The alternative was necessary. Tucker would have to be conveyed to the hospital for a more direct sampling. He hates going into the carrier. He is not formed for a smooth transition into a confined vessel, and did not make it easy for me. Then, during the journey there, he provided a sample of urine prematurely. I did not know he had wet in the carrier. It was as useless for testing, of course, as the amount he had given in the plastic litter, and for the same reason. An ultra-sound proved that there was not enough left in his bladder for procurement. The roly poly one made the trip back home not knowing that he would have to go again soon.

The truth is that I believe the infection gone. A huge dose of medicine, eighty-four pills, over the course of four weeks, should be enough to kill death, never mind an infection. This has all happened before, and such a procedure was entirely successful. The roly poly sausage is active, enjoying evening play-time; he visits the litter-boxes regularly and empties himself nowhere else; he is happy and has an excellent appetite. The infection is destroyed.

And yet, I must be sure. So my poor friend will make the trip to the doctor once more. He will be terrified and cry the whole way, and it may again be for nothing, if he wets inside the carrier. But it must be, for his own sake.

Tucker has had to endure much, yet he faces each day cheerfully. He purrs more readily than any cat I have met. I merely speak his name, or look at him funny, and the loud rumble begins, and his forepaws start flexing. He puts his fears behind him, forgotten again, as he seeks only to revel in life. He’s an optimist if ever there was one, and it’s to keep that optimism in the world for as long as possible, and in the best of health, that I must hurt him once in a while. It’s what a friend does now and then. He’ll forgive me. After all, that too is what a friend does now and then.

Monday, November 25, 2013

The Stalker

I have a stalker living in my house. Usually, that’s a bad thing. Anyone who has been stalked undoubtedly has unpleasant memories of it. But I’m an optimist (ask my friends; once they stop laughing, they will confirm this, I’m sure) so if a beautiful young woman decided to devote her life to mine, I would certainly try to find an advantage in the situation. That’s beside the point, however. The stalker I have living with me is making for a tedious and annoying situation. She is, it’s true, quite pretty, and her name is Cammie.

Cammie likes following the other cats, and watching them from a ways away. She will do this with Renn and Tucker, going downstairs after them when they intend to visit the litter-boxes, and waiting for them outside. She will chase them back up the stairs. She isn’t attacking them; if they stop suddenly, she does, too. And if they didn’t run in the first place, she wouldn’t chase them. Cammie doesn’t do this with Josie, perhaps because she barely reacts to my Siamese guest-cat, nor to Bear-Bear. The animal whom she bothers most is Tungsten.

I think it may be a phase the new girl is going through, but it is rather tiresome. There are some days when the orange one can’t go anywhere without her grey shadow dogging (catting?) her tiny footsteps. Whether she goes downstairs to the litter-boxes or into the bathroom for a drink of water, Cammie will follow.

I have a hard time determining whether this is an attempt at play (improbable), friendship (unlikely), a fight (dubious) or intimidation (doubtful). Whenever Cammie does get close, she will stop, even when Tungsten does not know she is near. I saw her creep up on Tungsten and do no more than sniff the Tiny Terror’s tail. That’s not the behaviour of a cat challenging the leader for her position.

Cammie is conscious that she may be assailed when Tungsten is in a roused mood. In fact, Tungsten will never initiate a fight; Cammie doesn’t know this and when she antagonises too much, and Tungsten growls menacingly, the new girl will creep warily away.

To be honest, I don’t fear an attack by one or the other. Fights in my household have always been rare, and have resulted in damage almost not at all. What I am anxious about is that in following Tungsten even to the litter-boxes, Cammie may discourage the orange one from using them when she needs to.

But the Siamese girl must sleep some time, and there are numerous times throughout the day when she is too comfortable or relaxed to bother moving. Tungsten will take advantage of this and go about her business then. And, to be frank, Cammie isn’t always on the prowl. There are moments when she simply chooses not to molest the tranquility of the household.

Other cat collections go through the same thing, I know. And I will readily admit that Cammie is much more adoptable than I thought she was (or, rather, she grew more adoptable more rapidly than I thought she would). As far as anyone is aware, she has never lived with other cats; considering that, her adaptation has been remarkably good. Much of her behaviour is for show; perhaps she feels the need to demonstrate, to me, as well as to other cats, that she is strong and not to be pushed around. She just doesn’t realise yet that her new feline roommates don’t want to push her around. At least, they will ignore her; at most, they will be her friends. Just not yet.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Another Gift

After receiving a gift of toys for my cats - I think the presentation was inspired by their previous stock of playthings being wet upon while they were stored in a box on the floor - my growing population of feline roommates was given a new cat-bed. This one is a little larger than the other two I have, but shares their advantage of having a removable cushion. I find that those are valuable for washing purposes and for inserting a heating pad underneath, if wanted.

Not surprisingly, perhaps, it is favoured by the larger beasts. Though they continue to enjoy the older cat-beds, they have taken to this new one. Each had to try it out after giving it a good sniff. Because I was unsure of where to place it, it was temporarily near the front door. To obviate any draughts coming in, I raised it on a box-lid. This survived until Josie lie on the bed. I came in to discover the lid squashed flat under the bed, like a bug under a stone at a picnic. The cats still use the bed, but it has since been positioned near the fireplace, and on a rug, so as to keep the air around it warm. Unless the Great White crushes the actual floor, there is nothing more for her to flatten.

My beasts will take their ease where they like. Both Cammie and Bear-Bear, for instance, have refused to countenance cat-beds, preferring human furniture, though this may have something to do with a feeling of transience or awkwardness. They are still relatively new to the household, and may feel uncomfortable reposing in a bed that smells so strongly of more veteran residents. Yet the perma-cats resort to their cat-beds every day, and of an evening, when the lights are dim and the air is cooling toward bed-time, they may be found in the cosiness of their own furnishings, now three in number.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

A New Toy Invades the Household

The beasts received new toys a couple of weeks ago. They are called Kick-a-roos and, though I’d heard of them, I’d not known of anyone in this area having them. They came as a gift from a fellow member in the PAW Society, for which I volunteer. The cats have had a varied reaction to them.

Josie seems to like them the best, though she doesn’t play with them so much as roll about on them. Considering her weight, that’s punishment enough for these poor toys. My Chubs can often be found lying near them or beside them - or on them.

Considering the toys’ name, it’s a bit disappointing that my lot have done all manner of things with them, except kick them. Renn comes the closest, as you may see in the photograph below, but even in this case, he was pushing at the toy, rather than kicking it. My big boy prefers to wrestle with the Kick-a-roos. However he enjoys them, enjoy them he does.

Tucker too likes to grapple with them, though, like Renn, he doesn’t kick them. Unlike Josie, I think my roly poly one could work his stubby rear legs around into the right position if he tried. He just doesn’t try. I don’t know that he is aware it is what he is meant to do. He is, after all, the only one of my cats who has failed to comprehend the purpose of the steps placed at the bottom of my bed. But he appreciates the fact that he can get his claws into the soft and sturdy Kick-a-roo, and then give it a good shake.

Even Tungsten, who rarely plays, has had a round or two with the new playthings. She’s usually above such silliness, but once in a while, her feline instincts overwhelm her and she gives a toy an old-fashioned thrashing.

Bear-Bear, my long foster-cat, plays even less than Tungsten, and shows no interest in toys. This is probably for the best since, with his anaemia, he should not exert himself too much. Cammie, my Siamese foster-cat, on the other hand, has investigated the Kick-a-roos, and determined that little fuzzy mice are more along her line, especially when a human tosses them for her.

One thing you may notice from the pictures, though, is that most of the cats find the new toys very comfortable. They are excellently designed for providing a little rest once the energy of play is expended. And what cat can resist the chance of a little rest?

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Onion Loopy

Cammie displayed some strange behaviour Saturday. I was cutting up vegetables to make some soup and, afterward, I stooped to pet her as she came up to me. She sniffed something on my hand and then flopped on the floor and spun about, as if dancing while lying down. The scent of something must have influenced her: it may have been onions (the strongest aroma) or carrots or celery. I haven’t heard of any of those vegetables causing a cat to be a little loopy, but then there’s no reason why it shouldn’t. Perhaps it is just Siamese cats who are so affected. Or just Cammie.

Also on the weekend, I heard Cammie make that peculiar sound that cats sometimes make that is half-way between a cough and vomiting. It may have been an incipient hair-ball. But with Cammie, it was short and striking. In fact, it sounded exactly like the sudden, brief laugh of a baby. Now, you may think that is adorable, but when you are drifting off to sleep in a dark house, with no other human present - that you know of -  it can be downright creepy, an abrupt “Blair Witch Project” moment, especially as it was the first time Cammie had done it.

Just another night with a building full of cats.