Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Cammie of the Sundays

Cammie has a weekend morning routine. It doesn’t occur every Saturday, but usually on Sundays. After I get up at six o’clock to give Tucker his insulin, and to feed the beasts, I go back to bed for a while. About eight-thirty, I feel a cat leap up onto the bed near my head; from her weight and the fact that she is trying to avoid any other cat who may be present, I know that it’s Cammie.

As I generally sleep either on my side or my stomach, the princess will proceed to walk this way and that across my back, purring the whole time. She will pause to lie down, partially on me and partially off, only to start roaming again. At last, I turn onto my back and she comes up to my chest, lying down near my neck, her head about half an inch from my chin. There, she will stay - albeit moving from facing toward the left to facing the right, then back again, several times - while I stroke her head and rub her chin. Periodically, she will bump my face with hers.

This is our principal time together. Cammie will usually brave the boys, who will be at the bottom of the bed, and sometimes even Josie, who may be lying not far away. The princess purrs as if she is enjoying her time but also as if she is fulfilling a quota; I feel as though she may be thinking, “Yes, this is adequate; continue; a bit more…”

Eventually, she will leave, abruptly, though not quite without warning. At some point, her purring will fade, diminishing in strength and volume. When it vanishes completely, she will spring away, often with a croaking statement. It may be a thank-you, or it may simply be a checkmark in the box designated ‘operation completed’.

But, in the end, Cammie would not do this unless she enjoyed it, and wanted to spend a while with me. It takes little time, fifteen minutes or so, possibly twenty. I will sometimes wake half an hour later (Sundays I try to sleep somewhat more than on other days), to find that she has jumped back on the bed, this time satisfied to lie next to me. She may never be a lap-cat or even a cuddler; most of the time, she is guarded and aloof. But she shows in her own way that she likes me, and that we are friends.

Monday, August 29, 2016

Knowing the Nose

I kept Tucker’s nose under observation (my eyes were very much on his nose...) over the weekend. I received some helpful suggestions of what the problem might have been but, fortunately, I think it is, after all, a scratch that has been mildly infected. The spot looks more scabrous now, after a few days’ passage.

I will of course maintain a watch on the roly poly’s proboscis until the scab is healed - or otherwise - but I think it is another case of Tucker’s nose having been put where it shouldn’t. He sometimes thinks he’s a tougher fellow than he is, and that gets him into minor trouble now and then.

Even so, such problems as this seem to be a source of constant concern. The smallest injury may, at least in my imagination, turn out to be the end of a cat’s world, so vigilance must be maintained. It really is better to be safe than sorry, even if that safety comes at the price of a great deal of worry.

Friday, August 26, 2016

On the Nose

Tucker continues to claim most of my attention with his latest physical ailment. I don’t think this one is serious, though it is puzzling, and therefore something to watch closely.

A few days ago, the roly poly one developed a small but vivid redness on one side of his nose, like a small scratch. That is, in fact, what I believed it was. It would not have been the first time he had annoyed another cat enough to have received such punishment. But the next day, the ‘scratch’ had grown, and last night I noted that it covered even more area.

This morning, it is no larger, but it is still present. It resembles a random pattern of blotches, very small and on the right side of the front of Tucker’s nose. I have applied Vaseline to it twice, as it looked a little dry, as well as red. I did this before when his nose suffered a bit of a crack during his time with a cold. Then, he did not mind me putting some ointment on his nose; this time, he reacted differently, and I wonder if the skin there is tender or otherwise sensitive.

Since the ruddiness has spread since I first observed it, I have ruled out a scratch. It may be an infection of some sort, or an allergic reaction. Tucker has not eaten or drunk anything unusual recently, so I suspect it is not an allergy. He remains the same in all other aspects: he is happy and cheerful, plays and retains a good appetite.

The pictures were my attempt to photograph the redness on his nose. Readers may want to enlarge the images by clicking on them. When happy, Tucker likes to rub his face on the spindles of the chair’s back, purring all the while. These were the best I could achieve, and what anyone sees of the nose and its mystery is, I'm afraid, minimal.

I will keep an eye on the nose, and if it changes any further for the worse, I may have to take the roly poly one to the veterinary hospital, something which we both want to avoid. The problem may be a passing thing; Tucker has had enough physical troubles, and I would like to see this one simply fade away. We will remain vigilant.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Their Personal Best

In keeping with the recent Olympic Games, held in Brazil, this past weekend saw a record established in a sporting event held at my apartment. All four of my cats threw up within a twenty-four hour period. I couldn’t be more pleased at their success.

I don’t believe any of their actions were indications of health problems. Each of their upsets was different, and can’t even be traced to a similar cause. This indicates the individuality of their sporting events, and how they approach them, in a disgusting sort of way.

Josie vomits the most. She also regurgitates the most. She has a very sensitive stomach, and some days, she will throw up all her food, though the next she will keep it down. Hard-food, soft-food, it doesn’t matter; some days, it all comes back up. Often, she will yodel before puking. This time, I didn’t even hear her, and found a neat little pile on the bedspread later on. I had to wash the bedding anyway.

Tucker was next. He too usually gives a warning; in his case, it is in the form of heaving. Not this Saturday. It was like a quick flip in a judo competition. It was done in a second. It was done on the sitting room rug. Like my Chubs, the chuck he upped was soft-food, but of a different brand, and at a different time of day. It was on the same rug, though.

Cammie surprised me. She rarely throws up. She sometimes chokes while gobbling her hard-food; I wish she would chew the kernels more carefully. This time, however, something disagreed with the princess’s stomach rather than her throat, and she left a mess on top of a bookcase. At least it was easier to clean than a rug. And hard-food was the culprit.

Finally, there was Renn. My big boy vomits least of all the four. Perhaps he didn’t want to be left out this day. His actions have to do almost exclusively with hairballs. He coughed one up, in keeping with his tradition. But his technique was spectacular. I was privileged to have witnessed it. It exploded out of him and hit the cats’ favourite Kick-a-roo dead-centre. A champion archer couldn’t have done better.

After washing, wiping, pouring, scrubbing - and laundering a bedraggled Kick-a-roo - the rest of the day was uneventful; my furry Olympians took their leisure. Everyone was fine after they, literally, got it out of their systems, but, unlike the human athletes in Rio de Janeiro, there was no partying; the beasts went to bed early. They didn’t even wait for the presentation of medals.

Monday, August 22, 2016

His Sense of Playfulness

The comic actor Martin Short identified a necessary characteristic of the ‘buddy movie’ genre. He said that at one point in the film, the two leads (constituting the ‘buddies’ of the genre) have to be in a moving automobile, look through the windshield and simultaneously scream in terror at what is hurtling toward them.

I am reminded of this to an extent when I interact with Tucker. He has a playful quality about him that reinforces the impression that he is a big, albeit furry, baby. He will be sitting or lying about and I will approach him with the clear intent of seizing his head, or grabbing his face or ears, or some such thing. He knows it is in fun and will squeal like a film character being attacked in a horrible but amusing manner. Think of Bill Murray being slimed in Ghostbusters.

If it is true that cats vocalise only to humans, as has been discussed on this blog recently - and this is an assertion which I don’t doubt - then Tucker can be screaming only for my benefit (and maybe his own) and must be pretending. He knows that he is not about to be hurt (he is purring all the while), yet reacts as if he is going to be dealt a mortal blow. It’s part of our game.

How this game developed I can’t say. Other cats may play similarly, but squealing in fake fear is not something I’ve heard about in other animals. Why Tucker does it can only be due to a sense of playfulness, to a quality special to his roly poly personality. It may change, it may disappear, but for now, he and I are enjoying ourselves.

Friday, August 19, 2016

The Unbusy Bee

My cats aren’t very playful. They do play; I play with them, and they play by themselves, now and then. Rarely, they play with each other. But they don’t play often or for long.

I try to interest them in different things. I change the toys that I use. I provide toys with which the beasts may amuse themselves. They use them: Cammie will carry about the yellow and white mouse and deposit it near her cat-tree in the bedroom. Tucker enjoys knocking the plastic rings from milk jugs about; there are usually half a dozen under the microwave oven stand at any given time. But by and large, the animals are a passive lot.

I alternate the entertainments available and produce new ones; these changes create some excitement, sometimes, for a while. My latest attempt has been a toy called The Busy Bee. It is a simulated bee on a narrow plastic wand, suspended from a clamp that can be fixed to a door handle or furniture leg. I could not find the Cat Dancer in my town and so thought I would try this substitute.

After the initial and predictable period of all the cats looking at the new device for varying amounts of time (I think Cammie hissed at it once), they largely ignored it. Renn did play with it intermittently the afternoon I brought it home. My big boy can be most energetic when he wants to be, and he jumped and grabbed and chewed at The Busy Bee, briefly. Since then, the new addition has been unused. I think I’ve walked into it ten times more often than any of the cats contemplated playing with it.

And so it will probably join the other toys and would-be attractions worth which I attempt to stimulate the energy of my lethargic pets. It, as are the others, are brought out at different times, and are joined by new purchases, but I feel rather like the parent who buys a room-full of toys and gadgets for his children, only to hear them complain of their boredom. The Busy Bee will go into storage for now, to be dusted off in a couple of weeks or a month and shown to the reluctant recipients again. Given the frequency and directions by which my beasts change their minds, the toy may experience a busy day yet.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Walk a Mile in Them, Renn

I came across Renn trying on my shoes during the weekend. It’s not a habit of his, but it reminded me that I had seen him do something similar six years ago, when he had first come to stay with me. I have no idea why he lie on my footwear in 2010; I have no idea why he was doing it now; I have no idea why he hasn’t done it much in the interval. But the pair of photographs make for good then-and-now pictures. He hasn't changed much to look at, has he?

Monday, August 15, 2016

The Intelligencer

Almost every night, she takes up her position. Cammie sits on her haunches, or lies with her legs folded under her, on the carpeted shelf by the sliding door in the sitting room. The door is open but the screen, of course, is closed. She trots in as twilight coalesces, and takes her place.

I can’t believe that the princess sees much from where she reposes, almost at the floor. Sometimes, she lies on the top perch of the cat-tree next to the screen, but usually on the shelf, ten inches or so above the floor. I think what she may observe is secondary or tertiary to what she hears and smells, two senses which, for a cat, must be as open to stimuli as sight, if not more.

So she sits there, usually for a few hours, collecting the fragrances and the sounds, and the odd sight, from the neighbourhood, as it closes for the night. She learns what the deepening dark tells her; her spies come to her on the breeze. Now and then, there is excitement: an intruder-cat to be warned off, or a passing human warily to be watched. But usually, this is a retiring time, with the world providing information and gossip quietly, and in small pieces.

Cammie will miss the open door come the cold months. But the apartment has advantages over the old house, with its storm-windows and screens that came and went. Even when the temperatures drop, a slight aperture may be arranged in the sitting room, a little window within the window, large enough for a small black nose, or a twitching ear. The duties of the intelligencer know no seasons.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Little Miss Needy

Josie is much more demonstrative in her affection than she used to be, but today, she was very needy. I had only to come into the room in which she was lying for her to waddle over to me, purring, and flop down in front of me for some attention.

The morning and early afternoon I spent in accomplishing chores, including cleaning the kitchen, but after all the work was done, in the mid-afternoon, I was able to give my Chubs some time. I lie on the bed next to her and rubbed her chin, her favourite form of attention, for about twenty minutes straight. At some point, Cammie came in and, seeing me lying down, figured my chest was free, so she settled there for a while, despite her proximity to Josie. Petting two cats simultaneously is rather like that old trick of patting the head while rubbing the stomach, but a human with more than one cat masters some surprising – if narrowly valuable – actions.

Eventually, the princess left and Josie seemed to fall asleep. After I left, she actually was calling out to me, so I came back and gave her an epilogue of attention. Then, she seemed sated.

I don’t always give in to the beasts when they demand my time; to do so would require more hours in the day, never mind just those I had free. But at the back of my mind is the knowledge that some day, these roommates of mine will no longer be with me, and though I will have anyway regrets over doing or not doing various things for them, I don’t want to remember any of them and think that I should have taken these few minutes or that quarter-hour to spend with them. It’s why whenever one rubs up against my leg, I acknowledge it. One day, it will be the last time it is done.

So, I like to indulge the cats when I can. Fortunately, they are not always so demanding as Josie was today. This evening, she seems happy to have me pet her when I see her, rather than having me always with her. I seem to be on call, rather than in attendance – at least until the next time Little Miss Needy summons me.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Back to Normal

Renn is feeling normal once again. He was better Friday evening, after I returned from work, and even ate a small amount of soft food at dinner-time. By Saturday morning, there was no sign that he had been under the weather. I think it may indeed have been a reaction to the flavour of food he was served. Though it had never troubled him before, I won’t take the chance that it is a permanent change; my big boy will not be receiving that variety again.

Saturday night was bath-night, and Renn was once more excited about the weekly event, demonstrating that all was well with him. I thank all those who expressed concern over his health and wished him well. Everyone reading this knows the worry a human suffers when a pet is inexplicably sick, and the relief felt when he recovers. Now, it’s back to living with Renn and the others as they are when they are normal…

Friday, August 12, 2016

My Big Boy's Feeling Small

I was going to limit this article simply to showing how Renn, like Tucker, is another heavy cat who enjoys his lap-time. Unlike the roly poly, my big boy (two pounds heavier than Tucker), likes to sit or lie more or less facing me. This allows him to knead my stomach whenever he wants. In the house, he used to knead my kidneys; now, it’s my stomach.

But last night, Renn threw up. He almost never vomits food but did so twice, once about 10.30 and then again four hours later, this time mainly liquid. He sometimes throws up a hairball, but I can’t remember the last time he was sick. He did not lie on the bed last night as usual, and was not in the hall this morning, waiting for his soft-food breakfast. He wasn't interested in food, and lie on the couch in the library.

It may be a passing thing. I fed Renn some Fancy Feast ‘seafood feast’, which I don’t give to the girls, because I think it causes Cammie’s ‘head-rash’ and may make Josie throw up (though in her case, it is almost immediately afterward). The boys have always enjoyed it and not suffered for it. Perhaps that has changed. I won’t be giving my big boy that variety again, just to be sure. Hopefully, he will be feeling better when I return home tonight.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Hissing, as I Hear It

My cats don’t hiss a great deal, except for Cammie. That’s probably to the household’s credit, as hissing denotes some form of disapproval, though its degree depends on the cat. But each animal also hisses in a different way.

Cammie is the obvious example among my beasts. She has always used hissing for a number of reasons. She will use it if threatened - or thinks she is threatened. This comes with the hideous grimace, the flattened ears, the narrowed eyes. She uses this only against other cats, though once upon a time, she used it against people, too, including me. The princess reminds me of Tungsten, the way she hisses in extremis. I used to tell the orange one that hissing made her look quite unattractive. I think that miffed her.

But Cammie also hisses to show that she is displeased. She doesn’t really care for being picked up, but will tolerate it, if I pet her while she's in my arms, or show her a view out the window that she doesn’t usually see. When I put her down, however, she throws a hiss over her shoulder at me as she walks away. It is not unfriendliness; I’m just being told off. These expressions of annoyance are rarely accompanied by facial distortion.

Renn’s hiss is interesting. When he is angry or annoyed, such as when I am trying to cut his claws, he expresses it with a whining groan that start high and drops until it is almost a growl. He does hiss, however. It is merely an opening of the mouth to allow sound to issue. There is no evil look on his face, no violence conveyed by image. Imagine a large man standing apathetically still and simply stating, “I will hurt you,” in a plain monotone, and that’s how my big boy’s hiss comes across.

Tucker is rather unfortunate in his hissing, as his best seems to be a kind of throaty, saliva-spotted hawking sound, similar to that made by a young child trying to speak German with a mouth full of mashed potatoes. It is not intimidating. It's a baby ewok attempting to curse his nannie. Fortunately, the roly poly one does not become upset enough to unleash his rage too often; I have heard it vented only against the odd intruder cat, from behind the safety of a window.

I’ve left Josie to the last because I cannot recall ever hearing my Chubs hiss. She is quite an easy-going cat, and though she does become upset, she vocalises her complaints as whiney inarticulation, like an old woman shaking her fist at smart-alecky young ’uns. It is quite unfeline. But then, whatever a cat does is feline, by definition. Josie’s felinic anger is just a bit different.

So even in its fury, irritation, fear and exasperation, each cat shows that it is unique. It is those examples of uniqueness that make my life interesting. Even if I get told off now and then.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

A Brush with Eccentricity

I like brushing the cats. Most of them enjoy it, and it leaves them feeling smooth and clean, ridding their coats of the loose hairs that cover them as they shed, which they do every second of every day. They look great afterward, for a minute or two. I think they feel good, as well. But each of my four react to brushing in different ways.

My Tungsten used to purr during a brushing session, but was always on the move, as if trying to get away from it. I had to be gentle with her, as it was always as though I were trying to brush a furry bag of bones, she was so thin.

Cammie detests being brushed, though a little less than formerly. I thought it may have been the smell of other cats on the brush, but she has her own, and still reacts the same. I can usually manage a few strokes before the princess begins hissing and growling. Her permission lasts too short a time to obtain a photograph of it.

Josie takes after Tungsten to a certain extent. She will initially lie down, purring, ready for some attention but then, when I start brushing, my Chubs stands and attempts to leave, only to collapse a few feet away, expecting to be brushed some more. This can go on for some time.

The boys love their brushing. Tucker will throw himself on the floor in anticipation, and start purring before the tines of the brush touch him. He enjoys a firm hand and his fur shimmers afterward. When I am done, he will squeak for more. The strange thing is that the roly poly one vigorously licks one of his forelegs the whole time that I am brushing. He sometimes even nibbles it. I make sure that he does no damage - the brushing doesn’t go on for so long as that - but I find it odd. It may be an uncontrollable reaction, like the kicking of a rear leg when a certain part of the tummy is rubbed.

And Renn needs to sniff the brush. My big boy is a prodigious smeller, with that large nose of his, but he feels compelled continually to smell the brush as it is being used. As may be imagined, this causes some inconvenience, as I cannot brush him properly without risking a punch to his proboscis. Yet he loves being brushed. He especially enjoys a rough grooming of his chest. That is when he at last stops trying to sniff, and relaxes. But he gives his throaty purr wherever the the brush strikes him.

Even when being groomed, my lot are an entertaining bunch. Strange and eccentric, they are individual in every way. They are, after all, cats.

Monday, August 8, 2016

Closer Yet and Closer

Cammie continues to progress in her relations with me and the other beasts. I’m sure they all progress, but Cammie has had farther to go. She still hisses at her roommates when they come too near, or when she thinks they may. On the weekend, she trotted around a corner and all three of them were lying in the hall (I think they were anticipating dinner). Watching Cammie negotiate that passage was like seeing a soldier walk through a minefield.

But the princess also tolerates her siblings more often than she used, and, though wary of them, permits them to get closer than was the case previously. Having her sit with one other, or more, at the bedroom window says a great deal about how far Cammie has come.

And she is growing closer to me. This Saturday, I returned to bed to have another couple of hours’ sleep after waking at six to give Tucker his insulin injection. Cammie frequently chooses that time to lie on my chest and purr. This takes up another ten or fifteen minutes. Sometimes, she will find me on my stomach, in which case she will walk this way and that over my back. This day, she lie on my neck and groomed the back of my head. Of my other cats, only Tungsten has groomed me, and she too liked to lick my head while I tried to sleep. Those who aren’t cat-people may find this an unhygienic prospect. But to me, it is immensely gratifying.

But it didn’t exactly lull me to sleep…

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Knowing Me, Knowing You, Uh-huh

Firstly, I want to thank readers for the suggestions they made regarding my ant problem. I have already implemented a couple of the solutions. It may be difficult to determine if they are working, as the ants were never present every day, and may invade only for the release of the colonists, and then retreat again. But whatever keeps the invaders out of my home is a success.

Today’s musings are related to yesterday’s, regarding communication between man and cat. Angel Abbygrace, in her response, observed that cats and their owners may develop their own language, a means of communicating that only the two of them comprehend. I can believe that. The point corresponds to what I had already been thinking about, after an incident on the weekend.

Tucker likes to sit at the dining table with me while I write. He snoozes and I scribble away. He also likes to sit there while I eat a meal, but that may have to do with another set of factors. Anyway, recently, he was lying on a cushioned chair, gathering some rest, when he dropped to the floor. I immediately realised something was amiss.

How did I know? It may have been that he remained where he landed for a few seconds, though I was aware of something wrong right away. I also suspected that it was not serious. I watched as the roly poly one trundled into the sitting room. The way he hunched himself was a second clue. I guessed what was coming.

I stood behind Tucker and, as I anticipated, he started to heave. I was able to get him off the rugs and onto linoleum before he vomited. It was not a serious episode, just the usual product of a sensitive stomach. Tucker sometimes does this after eating - though he doesn’t do it often, thank goodness - but once in a while it occurs for no discernible reason. Less than a minute later, the sausage-shaped cat was back on his chair, ready to resume his interrupted snooze.

We come to know our pets so well that even a small behaviour, if it is abnormal, can register with us, and alert us to something that is different. The action need not be a bad one: Josie will slap her rat-tail in the manner of a cat who is annoyed - others have pointed out when they thought she was angry - and yet this does not mean the same in my Chubs as in other felines. She will flick her tail while she is purring and clearly enjoying a chin-rub.

It’s all part of living with something vital to your life, the way a farmer can read a sky for weather, or a general a battlefield. Cat-fanciers’ expertise is in knowing their own cats. And I am certain my own cats know me in a similar fashion. It is intimate knowledge, that which comes with constant interaction, attention, careful consideration…and maybe a little affection. It is part of living with friends.