Tuesday, July 5, 2022

Me and My Girls

I don’t know whether it is because of the environment - their home - or the fact that they are usually outnumbered by the males, or whether it is simply my luck in drawing certain kinds of cats, but all the female cats who have lived with me for any length of time have been dominant to a greater or lesser degree.

First, of course, there was Tungsten. She was the household’s top-cat. There was a moment when she was challenged by one of my foster-cats, Wixie (that in itself signifying another dominant girlcat), but, fortunately, the contender was adopted with her more passive friend, Mystery. Wixie was a big, barrel-shaped cat and, if it had come to it, would have beaten Tungsten in a fight. But the Tiny Terror stood up to the newcomer nonetheless, and was still top-cat when she departed.

I recall a time when Renn was new to the family. My big boy then, as now, needed to smell everything with that big nose of his. He had become less shy by this point and wanted to sniff Tungsten, who was on my lap. Tungsten took exception to this and struck him a blow on the top of his head that made my teeth rattle. After that, Renn was most respectful, and they became good friends.

Luther, a foster-cat who had the worrying characteristic of attacking every other cat on sight, grappled very fiercely with Tungsten one evening. Luther, a lean orange boy, didn’t seem to have hostility in him, just aggression. But that fine distinction didn’t prevent some terrible battles, in one of which, the Tiny Terror lived up to her name and, despite her diminutive size, gave as good as she got. (Luther was eventually adopted, paired with a kitten, Fortune. He never had any harshness for Fortune, who grew up bigger and tougher than Luther. They remained friends and playmates until Luther’s untimely death, recently.)

The other cats, newcomers and long-established residents, seemed to comprehend that Tungsten was the queen. She grew more tolerant as she aged, though this was probably also due to her increasing illness. There hasn’t been a top-cat in the household since.

Josie was a pacifist in many ways, but she was also a strong force in the family. When I adopted her as a chum for Tungsten, the two girls fought, physically. They eventually settled down and tolerated each other. Josie acknowledged Tungsten’s superior place in the hierarchy, and, in return, Josie was allowed to do much that other cats could not.

Though usually peaceful, the Great White not only had her differences with Tungsten, initially, but took the orange one’s part in the conflict with Wixie. I recall seeing Josie and Wixie rolling in earnest battle one day, fur flying everywhere. In those days, my Chubs was just that, a hefty girl, not as big as Wixie, but big enough. That was Josie’s last fight; thereafter, she would content herself with mean-sounding growls when pushed too far.

In her old age, Josie became my ‘housekeeper’, my support in the household, and the boys gave her the respect she demanded and deserved.

Cammie’s story, for those who recollect it, speaks for itself. Abused in her former home, she was tough and distrustful. I was rather apprehensive of her myself. She didn’t like the other cats - though for a long time she seemed to want to be friends with Tungsten - or at least was fascinated by her - and let everyone know it.

Her warnings were quite varied, from a sharp bark - “Ranh!” - to a drawn-out growl to a yowl. She and I became friends and she would lie on my neck at night, purring. But she would decide when and where I could give my attention and when she was done with me, I would be dismissed: “Ranh!”

And when she had a stroke and lost her sight, she didn’t waste time feeling sorry for herself; she started adapting right away. Her blindness merely accentuated her expectations to be waited upon: her hard-food and water was close to her heated bed and her soft-food was brought to her - and taken away when she issued the usual dismissal - “Ranh!” She was a true princess.

And now, there is Minuet. She is ancient and deaf; she was brought to a strange environment from where she had lived for sixteen years. She had to deal with an unknown human and unfamiliar cats, any one of whom might have been a danger to her. Madame didn’t shrink from the challenge, however, and made her displeasure known whenever it was incurred. And it was incurred a lot by the other felines - and sometimes by me - in her early days in the Cosy Apartment.

Now, she is more accustomed to her surroundings, and to her roommates. They annoy her less. Yet when she yowls in protest, the others take notice. Hector, the youngster, still does a volte-face, retreating with as much dignity as he can muster. With me Minuet is a little less demanding, but still calls for attention when she wants it, and makes her desire for a dish of soft-food known.

My boy cats can be assertive, both with me and with each other, but none is that by nature. They certainly ask for what they want, and can be quite persistent. This is, of course, different than dominant. While the government of the Cosy Apartment has no one top-cat, there appear to be a number of high-ranking officials, and all of them are female. Luck? Circumstance? Situation? I may never know. But I will always know who is in charge.

Sunday, July 3, 2022

Not Even His White Tuft

I peruse the internet’s sites that feature ads for cats and dogs lost and found in my town. Sometimes I find a cat who has been found or seen who also matches a picture or a description of one who has been lost; I alert the searching owner to this. I am rarely alone in doing this, as other animal-lovers are doing the same thing. I have been able to return two missing cats to their owners after I saw them coming, separately, to my outside food-bowl, and then matched them to images in ads on the internet.

But many cats are not found. I especially dislike seeing notices for missing all-black cats. These are very difficult to differentiate from one another. A domestic short-haired black cat looks very much like another of its sort. There is often a white tuft on his chest or throat; too many have it for it to be a distinguishing mark. My foster-cat, Hector, is an example. It is impossible, seeing a black cat outside, to determine if he is one who is missing, unless he wears a distinctive collar, or has some other, often unnatural mark, such as a scar or tipped ear.

All-grey cats provide a similar predicament, as do brown-and-black tabbies, though the latter frequently have a pattern that is unique. Even so, capturing a cat just to hold it for the owners to come and examine is impractical, as is collecting every outside cat one sees and taking it to a veterinary hospital to scan for a micro-chip.

Thus, even when one is vigilant, even if one is conscientious, retrieving a lost cat is not as simple as it may seem, regardless of how many felines one observes who might be the animal in question. And one can’t simply shelter every cat one finds outside, whether he’s known to be lost or a stray. It’s a frustrating and sad business, watching cats who may be lost or may not be – especially when one knows one is looking at a lost cat for whom so little can be done.

Thursday, June 30, 2022

Gentle Renn

My big boy, Renn, is a gentle fellow. He is easily intimidated by other cats and prefers peace and quiet to go undisturbed. The sounds he makes have always been low and soft, even when giving his characteristic drawn-out warning of something he doesn’t like (such as a trimming of the bum-hair.)

I noticed some time ago that he will often doze in this posture. To me, it looks like a bird, tucking his head back into his feathers. Renn doesn’t sleep like this, but as he slips from waking to slumbering, and maybe back again, he will lie as if demurely embarrassed. I think this symbolises my old friend’s character.

Monday, June 27, 2022

Why My Chores Some Days Take Forever

Almost exactly three years ago, I published a blog-article depicting the reason why, one day, I couldn’t make my bed until two o’clock in the afternoon.

Cammie is no longer with me. But, evidently, the comfort of an unmade bed is still great. Here are my boys impeding my household chores one morning last week.

And, because the lady of the household was not present on the bed, and because Katie Isabella wanted to see a better picture of Minuet’s face, here she is, from the same day. And I had to wait until she moved to vacuum the library’s couch.

Saturday, June 25, 2022

Farewell to Idylland

Though I still have Sunday off, my holidays, strictly speaking, ended on Friday. I will be back to work on Monday. While this is rather regrettable, I must write that I enjoyed my vacation.

The most important feature of my holidays is having time. Everything that I need to do each day isn’t squeezed into the abbreviated period between coming home from work and going to bed. What hours aren’t absorbed by work each weekday are taken up by chores at home, leaving little leisure time. My weekends are occupied principally by what I wasn’t able to accomplish during the week.

But during my holidays, I can take time; if I spend an afternoon doing something, I needn’t worry: I will have more time the next day. As the years have gone by, I have felt and appreciated this aspect of my holidays more and more. This contrasts distinctly with the feeling I have even on weekends.

Thus, the days I spent in Idylland were a pleasure. The lush water-meads, the verdant forests, the purple hills beyond; the small villages; the seashore, sandy here and rocky there; it was all most relaxing, even if – or perhaps because - they were only in the imagination.

Life returns to normal now, though I shouldn’t feel discouraged: after all, there are only forty-nine more weeks until my next holiday!

Thursday, June 23, 2022

Always the Lady

Among the problems that were ascribed to Minuet when she was given up by her previous owner was – along with the non-existent diabetes and the inappropriate wetting, which has been solved – her absence of grooming. This was, it turned out, a falsehood.

To be generous, I can blame the belief that Min doesn’t, or didn’t, groom herself to the fact that her bum sometimes needs cleaning. But she is nineteen years old – over ninety in human terms. While I wonder about such comparisons, since veterinarians rate a cat as senior at the equivalent of forty human years, the truth is that a nineteen year old cat borders on the ancient, and if she is not as supple at that point in her life as she was a decade before, it is understandable.

Minuet nonetheless does groom herself. She tries her best to clean her nether regions, washes her legs and feet, and is quite forceful about cleansing her face after she eats. This vigour is interesting. My other cats also clean their faces following meals, of course; it’s amusing to watch all of them engaged in the same hygienic activity a few minutes after breakfast or dinner. But I don’t think any of them is quite as determined about it as my very-oldster.

Could this be a feature of cats with the adorable smooshed-in countenance? When, for instance, Renn, with his big nose, eats, it is probably his snout that receives most of the debris from his meal. The same goes even for a cat with a more average proboscis, such as Hector. But surely Minuet, with her tiny nose in the centre of a relatively flat face, must have bits of food, or flavoured sauce, almost evenly distributed over that beautiful visage of hers.

It may be, of course, that she is just very conscientious, though I can’t help thinking that the shape of her face makes her dining a little less discreet than the average cat’s. In any case, even at nineteen, Madame intends always to look her best – and succeeds.