Friday, September 30, 2016

A Million Pieces

I have two sets of drinking glasses, one tall and one stout. Each comprised four glasses. Each now comprise two. I like glass, rather than plastic, but glass breaks, especially when it is dropped on a hard floor.

I observed this occurrence a few days ago when, drying the dishes after washing them, one of the stout glasses slipped out of my hands. I nearly had it a couple more times before it finally evaded my grasp. One realises that one’s primary concern is for one’s pets when one yells at them to get back even before one resorts to cursing and swearing.

Renn was nearest, and he was easily chased away from the danger zone. Josie was up a cat tree anyway, and stayed there, while Tucker ran for the bedroom, no doubt to warn all and sundry that the sky was falling. Cammie did what she usually does when she hears a loud noise or commotion: runs toward it to see what’s going on and possibly to give those involved a piece of her mind. She did not like being driven back to the bedroom.

With the beasts locked away or in hiding, I could clean up the mess. I have never seen a single glass, and a small one at that, shatter into so many fragments. There must have been thousands. It looked like the aftermath of a crystal hailstorm. I swept and vacuumed, vacuumed and swept. After an hour, I had gathered everything I could then see, and let the cats out again.

I am still finding the odd piece, sometimes right in the open. That’s frightening; my first concern is the cats’ feet, of course, but with each regular cleaning, I collect more remnants that were missed by earlier efforts. It is a bother, and all because of a half-second’s slip. But at least no one was hurt. Did I learn a lesson? Yes: for now, I am drying the dishes over a counter, where they have less distance to fall. How long that lasts until I forget or grow lazy is anyone’s guess. But I suspect there may be more breakages in the future because I am, as one book described certain people, someone who prefers a glass salt-shaker that doesn’t work to a plastic one that does.

No, that’s not an oblique reference to you, Renn.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

His Fear of Food

If you have been reading this irregular record of my cats for a length of time, it will come as no surprise to you that Tucker is a sensitive creature, even for a cat. This is an animal who, when he wants to show affection, will come from across the apartment to rub against my leg, but the slightest movement on my part while he is doing this will send him scurrying away. It may be expected, then, that his reactions to food are also sensitive.

The roly poly one throws up his food, usually the soft-food, now and then. It’s not often, but it happens. When it does, he is afraid that he will be chastised. Sometimes, when I have groaned at having to clean up a mess, Tucker has taken it personally; the other cats do not. Thus, I have tried to refrain from any adverse comment when the chuck is upped. That’s difficult when someone disgraces a bedspread or something similar. But, no matter my reaction, Tucker takes it hard. This time, he threw up in the nylon tunnel. It wasn’t a great amount; it rarely is, with him. But it left him temporarily afraid of soft-food.

Don’t be alarmed. This is Tucker of which I write, after all. He is eating and, actually, eating well. And he is no longer frightened of tinned nutrition. But when it is soft-food meal-time, the sausage-cat still hastens to hide - in the nylon tunnel. Why he chooses this spot, the location of what he may consider his shame, in which to hide, I don’t know. But that is where I have been giving him his initial bowls of food. He is no more reluctant to eat his portions now than before, but he nonetheless prefers them, at least at first, in the nylon tunnel. He eventually comes out, and second or third helpings (as I wrote above, he is eating well) are provided outside the tubular environment. And just in case you’re wondering how fat I want my pets, each helping is little more than a heaping teaspoon’s worth. I don’t think any one cat of mine has eaten more than half a small tin at one sitting.

And so, while I serve Josie’s meals to her on my bed (yes, I know; that’s begging for ruined bedclothes), Cammie’s on her cat-tree or the library bookcases and Renn’s in his cylinder-house, I cater Tucker’s while he lies in the nylon tunnel. This will undoubtedly change, and change suddenly, in a week, a fortnight, or a month. It usually does.

I see some people serving their cats’ food in bowls on the kitchen floor, in a spot designated for food, every meal-time. That doesn’t happen in my household. Here, I have cats who fear their food, but who look forward to eating it nonetheless. Here, I have Tucker.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Toying With Sleep

I hadn’t noticed it before but, though all my cats - indeed, all cats - love their comfort, Josie seems to seek out that little extra. The Kick-a-roos aren’t used much for kicking anymore, though they are still wrestling partners and chew-toys for the beasts. Tucker also likes to lie behind one to try to seize a string-toy as it gets pulled by him. The Tackle-fish, sole (!) survivor of a school of three, serves similar purposes. But Josie has another use for them; perhaps an obvious one, but not one her roommates have discovered.

Now and then, I will find my Chubs using the toys as pillows. I don’t know if feline bodies are made for using a pillow, but Josie seems to find them comfortable even so. They apparently have a strong appeal when the possibility of lying in sunshine offers itself. Perhaps they impart that extra bit of heat to a fuzzy face.

I do like seeing the Great White taking her leisure. She doesn’t seem to sleep more now at thirteen years of age than she did at five, when I first adopted her. But when she sleeps, she is the picture of rest. Especially with a pillow tucked under that little head.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Diabolical Diabetical Debacle

Tucker’s improvement with regard to his diabetes suffered a set-back last week.

Due to his lower dosage of insulin, I had been testing him with individual readings twice a day. After happily low numbers, his reading one morning had increased to the neighbourhood of 17; this after 10 or 8 had become usual. What’s more, after an injection of two units, of insulin the number was still about 17 five hours later. It dropped to 15 by five o’clock that evening.

I was perplexed, to say the least. I thought the insulin in the pen I was currently using had gone bad. It was almost gone, so I theorised that the remainder was spoiled. I threw it out and started using a new pen.

In speaking with the veterinary, however, I was told that the insulin was probably not bad. She suggested that the numbers were an almost normal reaction to a great reduction in Tucker’s insulin dosage. In other words, low numbers resulted in low dosages, but these in turn caused the numbers to rise. This doesn’t seem to auger well for continued diminishing numbers.

I have taken Tucker’s readings several times since and, in the mornings and the evenings, he is hovering around 16. Because I am not able to test him in the middle of the day, due to being at work, I am not giving him more than one unit of insulin each time; I have no idea how low he goes in the middle of the day. Come Saturday, when I can test him around noon, I will determine, in consultation with his doctor, whether to raise the roly poly’s dosage to two units again.

This is a disappointing development; worse than that, it is confusing. However, when I think about it, things are still going well. Tucker’s diabetes is under control. He is receiving medicine that allows him to run and play and purr. He and Josie chased each other about the apartment just yesterday, when I came home. He can jump up onto chairs.

That his condition was being reduced so much so rapidly (after just a year of treatment) was encouraging, but perhaps not quite realistic. I do believe that he will need less and less insulin; evidence for that has been shown already. But he and I can wait. We have time and technology on our side. Even if the diabetes never fades, Tucker will have a happy life. And that makes mine happy, too.

Friday, September 16, 2016

That Ruddy Cat

Judging by the title, one may think that I have taken up the habit of Victorian-era expletives. Dash it all, it’s not true. I use ‘ruddy’ in its literal sense: reddish.

Renn has always had a red tinge to his fur, at least that along his flanks. But most of the time, one had to have light shining upon it at an angle to discern the hue. Now, his fur’s colour has changed. As one can see even in the photograph below, the red is now more obvious; it seems to go through several shades, as well.

When Renn was much younger, he had grey hair behind his ears, grey hair of a different texture than most of his hair. And once more, a contrasting colour, red in this case, is of a different texture than the surrounding fur. The grey hair eventually disappeared - how many of us envy that reversal of the aging process? - and I wonder if the same will occur with the red.

Perhaps the red itself is a sign of advancing years. My big boy is only nine years old; with good care and continued health, he could have as much time yet remaining. If the colouring trend continues, I may end up with another orange cat, without even another adoption.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Renn's Inner Demon

Renn is an interesting cat. He is the only beast in my household who enjoys a vigrous - very vigorous - chest rub. He also will get on my lap to knead my stomach. In the house, he kneaded my kidneys from the side. Oh, and he likes to imitate a demon from Hell.

It’s not what you’re thinking. My big boy’s behaviour is not always angelic, but it is never diabolical. No, this approximation occurs inadvertently and only at certain times. Renn likes to have his head rubbed, as furiously as his chest. Tungsten too, tough little creature that she was, enjoyed a speedy head-rub. Renn’s consists of me placing my hand right around his head, then rubbing so swiftly that my extremity becomes a blur.

At this time, his third eyelid crosses the eyeball and obscures it completely, only to retreat when I cease my action. The eyelid slowly slips back to its starting point, to advance once more when I rub again. That the animal enjoys the feeling of the rub is demonstrated by his rough purring, sometimes accompanied by drooling.

But while his head is being thus massaged, the third eyelid colours my big boy’s ocular orbs a bilious greyish-yellow, his mouth, partly-open, displays his fangs, and his purring could be misinterpreted as supernatural growls. It is an interesting moment that I have yet to capture by camera.

I think I’m safe, however. I’ve yet to see his head spin about or hear Mercedes McCambridge say unpleasant things to me. And the green bile he spews now and then is, fortunately, unconnected to head-rubs.

Eventually, Renn returns to normal and relaxes, sometimes on my lap. After that, the only otherworldly phenomenon I experience is the numbness in my legs, if he stays too long there.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Slender Pickings

I was this morning showing someone pictures of my cats - I do that from time to time, whether people want to see them or not - and came across a photograph of Josie from a year and a half ago. I was startled at the difference in her shape. She seems clearly to have lost weight and, though I knew this to be the case, seeing the comparison gave me a surprise.

I don’t believe there is anything wrong with Josie. When she went to the hospital for her dental procedure not so long ago, I had a blood panel performed on her, and she was declared healthy. And since the first image shows her at the beginning of April, 2015, and the second in September of 2016, I believe it is a satisfactory amount of time in which to lose a pound and a half. That is what my records show her weight-change to have been.

She eats well. Though she doesn’t eat as much as she once did - I could count on my Chubs to finish everyone else’s dinner, even before everyone else was finished it - that changed years ago when I started feeding what I think is better food. Eating a little less, and eating healthier are the causes of her new, slimmer appearance.

I will of course maintain a watch on her well-being. I have no choice; the slightest deviation from routine starts me worrying. It is automatic. But I think that Josie is simply shedding the poundage she should never have had. With the dangers of too much loss in mind, there may nevertheless come a day when my Chubs is no longer a chubs.

Monday, September 12, 2016

High and Mighty

All cats like high perches, but of mine, only Cammie enjoys jumping up onto the bookcases in the bedroom. She may be the only one lithe enough to accomplish it. I don’t know why she has decided to do this now and then. She doesn’t do anything in particular up there; I think she may just enjoy the commanding aspect she gains from it. She leaps from the near by cat-tree, which is about four high. The bookcases are, I think six and a half feet tall. The princess has to cover a lateral distance of three feet or so, as well. Not bad for an eleven year old.

Cammie reminds me in some ways of my late friend Tungsten. She too would jump to high positions. As she grew older, I was afraid that she would hurt herself getting down, so I would offer her my shoulders. Tungsten liked to lie on them, so she’d climb onto my shoulders and I would bring her down, like an elevator, and she would step off at a lower level. Cammie, after visiting the litter-box for a deposit of number two, rockets around the apartment, startling the other beasts; that is what Tungsten did, flying across the house, an orange missile. I think if the tiny terror had lived, Cammie would have tried to be her friend. I don’t know why I believe that; perhaps it was the princess’s constant shadowing of Tungsten. The latter wanted nothing to do with the newcomer, though, and would hiss ferociously at her proximity - just as Cammie does with any of the others.

But Cammie is her own cat, after all. Why she enjoys the heights of the bookcase, I don’t know. But as long as she can fly up and down again without trouble, I’ll be happy to see her there.

Friday, September 9, 2016

A Victory in Tucker's War

Last weekend, I performed another ‘curve’ on Tucker, something I do once a month to monitor his diabetes. I was surprised by the first reading, which was a lower number than that with which he had ever started the day. I decided to give the roly poly one only a single unit of insulin, rather than three, his usual dose, an indication of how low his numbers had dropped. Throughout the day, his numbers remained very good, though rising toward the evening, when I gave him two units.

This pattern I repeated for the next couple of days, though on Monday, I called the doctor to confer with her about Tucker’s new condition. When I was able to reach her a few days later, I was pleased to be told that the ‘curve’ showed that his numbers were within the ‘normal’ range. The doctor advised me to check Tucker’s numbers before the insulin shot he receives every evening, and if they were within ‘normal’ range (4 to 8), I should refrain from giving him any medicine. When I checked the sausage-cat’s number at about five o’clock, it stood at 6.6. He needed no insulin that evening.

This morning, I checked him again, prior to his morning dose, and his number was 10.5. This is just above ‘normal’, so I did give him his medicine, but only one unit. I will read his numbers again this evening.

I am heartened by this development. After twenty-four hours without insulin, Tucker’s blood-sugar number was only 10.5. I find that reasonable, considering what he has been battling lately. Even if his numbers do not remain within ‘normal’ parameters, if they rise to no more than ten or eleven, then he will have achieved a victory of substantial proportions. He has been receiving insulin doses of three units twice a day for some time now; prior to that, he had been getting four units. Since he received his first insulin injection on September 2nd of last year, I think his progress has been excellent.

I will stay guarded in my optimism, as the roly poly’s latest readings may be anomalies, though I suspect not. A drop even to just one unit of insulin twice a day will be something to celebrate. He continues to be cheerful and active in all other respects, and that, in turn, makes me happy.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

The Thankful Tag

This entry is a little different than others I’ve written, as it is more about myself than the cats. (All of the cats’ ears just went up, and their indignation is rising; they didn’t think there was a ‘myself’ beyond serving their needs.) A blogger pal over at Tomcat Commentary by Tim tagged me in a ‘Thankful Tag’. Like Tim’s dad, I don’t generally indulge in ‘tags’ and similar things, but, as he wrote, this is a fun one. And I appreciate that other bloggers read what I write, Tim’s dad going so far as to list mine among five that he enjoys. So I sat down to think about myself a bit.

Though the rules for this ‘tag’ are flexible, I decided to follow Tim’s dad’s lead, and list five things that make me happy, five pieces of music that I love, and five blogs that I enjoy.

There are many things that make me happy though, being rather undemonstrative, this may not always be apparent.

1. My cats. They drive me bats sometimes, often around meal-times, and I would have twice as much time and money available without them. But when I think of what I could spend the time and money on, there aren’t many other things that would bring me such joy.

2. Writing. I enjoy writing, though paradoxically, I assert that the act of writing is often difficult and frustrating. But there is a sense of accomplishment when I have completed a work, and it makes me feel good.

3. Listening to music. I enjoy classical and baroque music, a genre of solo piano music and some folk and pop. In the “Narnia” stories, by C.S. Lewis, the divine lion Aslan creates the world by singing. J.R.R. Tolkien’s account of the creation of Middle-Earth and other lands is a tale of angelic music. So it is with terrestrial music; it too can transcend and create.

4. Being able to return to bed and sleep a couple more hours after waking at six o’clock on weekends to give Tucker his insulin. On weekdays, I must stay up and go to work. Days off, I go back to bed - usually to be kept awake by Cammie or another animal walking over me.

5. Learning. I don’t really care for all learning. Learning something new at work, for instance, means only more work. But learning in my field of interests brings an understanding that is akin to a door opening to a new world.

My short list of music certainly does not include all that I like, nor should it be taken for a list of my favourites, as I will probably think of one I enjoy more than any other as soon as I publish these. In no particular order, and with links to them on YouTube, here is the music.

"Bright Eyes" – sung by Art Garfunkel (comp. Mike Batt): from an excellent film adaptation of my favourite fiction book, Watership Down.

"If You Could Read My Mind" – written and sung by Gordon Lightfoot: my favourite song.

"The Mary Ellen Carter" – written and sung by Stan Rogers: a great toe-tapper about perseverance.

"String Quartet in E flat major, Opus 0 (Adagio)" – composed by Franz Josef Haydn: beautiful melodies from a young Haydn.

"Flight of the Eagle" – composed by Brian Crain: breathtaking landscapes rendered into music.

Before I list the blogs that I favour, please know that these are not all of the ones I like or even all of those I follow. None of these bloggers need reciprocate with a ‘tag’ of their own, as I know that some of them are very busy, and others may not search the internet all that often themselves. So, again in no biased order, these are some blogs I would recommend others at least to visit.

1. Feral Cat Behavior ( Yes, note the American spelling. Mary Anne is a cat-rescuer who, though she has some dedicated volunteers helping her, is running essentially a one woman-rescue in a district that is not always kind to homeless animals. She rarely refuses to help (I can’t think of an instance). Take a look at her blog (she doesn’t add to it every day) and maybe extend a helping hand now and then, if you are able.

2. Musings on a Small Life ( The lady here is a fellow Canadian, living in the humidity capital of Canada, it seems, along Lake Ontario. She has insights into work, neighbours and life in general, some wonderful photographs, and two loveable mancats.

3. Strange Company ( Undine has cats and loves them, but her blog is about the weird and wondrous, scary and bizarre, from unsolved murders to ghosts to disappearances. This is one interesting column; where she gets all this stuff, I have no idea!

4. Read Like Me ( You may know Poppy Q, the big New Zealand cat who lives with her mum in the Antipodes, and has her own blog. But her mum has a blog, too, and gives short reviews of the books she reads. She must go through five or six a week (voracious, indeed) and throws in the odd motion picture, too. Her reviews are concise and to the point.

5. Tober, the Thorntown Library Cat ( Sadly, Tober died late last year from cancer. He had been the cat-in-charge at his town’s library and blogged about that fine institution, and the life he led there. His successor is Chance, another orange boy, like Tober. Chance has some big paw prints to fill, and, as with his predecessor, doesn’t blog every day. But if you get the opportunity, visit Chance. He’s a fun, observant fellow.

That’s it for this long-winded entry. This was hard work but fun. I’ll be back to writing about the cats who dominate my life in the very next article.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

The Changeable Cat

Cats are creatures of habit. They will do something or behave a certain way forever, eternally the same, maintaining an unalterable routine. Until they change.

Josie has changed. She has lost weight, a pound and a half over two years. I attribute this to a better diet. When she went to the hospital for her dental procedure, a blood-panel was perform on her and she was found to be in good health, so I think she is simply getting in better shape. She can now clean her bum by herself most of the time - she was too round, previously - which suggests that she is at the weight that is natural for her body: literally, a better shape.

She has become more affectionate, always wanting pets, and purring more loudly than ever before. I like that, though she is a labour-intensive animal.

But the most noticeable new characteristic is that she does not mind being held for a while. My Chubs formerly hated being held and would squirm until she was put down. These days, I can pick her up and hold her for several minutes before she requests to be replaced on the floor. I stroke her tiny head and speak to her; she purrs and is quite tolerant of my grasp. This is a great change in her behaviour.

Cats’ personalities do change, over time. Some change more than others. Some, of course, never change. This is like humans. We all know people whose character is not the same as it once was, and we know those who are just the same as always. All my cats have altered over the years of our acquaintance, and I am happy that they have all done so for the better. Like Josie.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Travels with My Ants

The ant problem in the apartment appears to have solved itself. I received much advice for dealing with the pests, advice for which I am grateful, but none of it seemed to work for these ants.

I had tried ‘ant-traps’, from which, I could see, the insects had taken food - and, presumably, poison - but they didn’t have much of an effect. Baby-powder was suggested to limit their movement, but the wall through which they were passing is lined by the hot-water pipes for heating, so they could simply crawl up and along them. Corn-meal is supposedly tasty to ant appetites but impossble for them to digest but this time, I think they just loosened their belts like uncles after a Christmas dinner and carried on. Orange oil was put forward as a deterrent. I sprayed enough to win a spot in an Anita Bryant commercial, and though it seemed to slow them down, it did not end their invasion.

Nature seems to have brought its own solution. Since I moved into the apartment, I have had the odd six-legged visitor. Mine is one of those semi-subterranean flats, half-buried; not quite basement, not quite ground-floor, so I expect the occasional ant or spider. This does not bother me much. Come the end of July, however, and the ant nests start sending out colonists to found new settlements. It’s an exciting time for ants, and features the winged variety hoping to fly off to new worlds. It was this time, and those ants, that were causing me annoyance.

Now, I think the colonization season is largely over. In the last few days, I have seen only one or two ants. I may be overly optimistic; I may be seeing the entomological version of the tide being drawn out to sea before a tsunami strikes. But with the the autumn approaching, the ants are calming down naturally, and keeping closer to the nest. I hope my problem is finished, at least until next summer.

As domestic difficulties go, it was never a big one, but even so, I think Renn is relieved. Right, my big boy?

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Dog Day Afternoon

There was a surprise visitor to the apartment this week, someone who had never been here before. His name is Raf and he is a dog. His guardian brought him when she came to pick up some rescue-group paperwork. He was kept on a leash but even so, the reactions of the cats were interesting.

I can’t recall if any of the beasts had seen a dog before, except for Cammie, who had lived with a canine roommate. The princess stayed in the bedroom the whole time and, though she saw Raf, she didn’t evince much of a reaction. I don’t imagine she would have behaved much different toward him as she does toward her feline siblings.

The others were wary, to say the least. Tucker and Josie retreated to the heights of cat-trees. Renn skulked behind an armchair at first, but then, the brave boy, sneaked out to take a closer look. The atmosphere seemed more one of astonishment and surprise than of fear; amazement at this strange creature who had been allowed into their home.

And the object of these sudden emotions?

Terrifying, isn’t he? Actually, Raf is a friendly little fellow, very nervous and jittery, but willing to make friends with whomever doesn’t startle him too much. I can’t imagine the scene had dog and cats come within sniffing range.

Thank you, Raf, for enlivening the cats’ afternoon.