Monday, December 20, 2010

Merry Christmas To All

Everyone is settled in at the new house in time for Christmas. The tree is up and the stockings are hung. I remember when I just had to hang one next to my own. Then came Josie's, which by rights should be a huge one, considering her size. And now there are two more.

It's difficult to believe that all the fostering I've done has been in just the last year. Lincoln came to stay, briefly, last Christmas. He was followed by Wixie and Mystery, then by Devon, and finally by Ren, who came to stay permanently (though I didn't know it at the time). The Yuletide has been, for the past few years, a stressful time for Tungsten. Josie arrived on Christmas Eve of 2008, and Lincoln showed up at Christmas-time of the following year. This year is quieter, thanks to the smooth transition the cats have made to the new house, and to the acceptance by the orange one and my Chubs of first Ren and now Tucker.

Things continue well for us. Tucker has a dental appointment scheduled for the new year, and I worry about how that will affect him. The operation, to remove a couple of teeth and to clean the rest, will of course be professionally done, but the new boy has a history of despondency after a big event. However, he eased into his new home after the move quite well, so perhaps this won't be traumatic for him. After all, he'll be coming back to a familiar home.

Depending on what I have to say - or what the cats do - I may or may not publish anything on here during the Twelve Days of Christmas, but I wanted to put something up before the big day itself. I hope everyone has a Merry Christmas and a happy start to the new year.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Home Is Where the Cats Are

I have moved my residence. My cats have come with me. I anticipated problems, principally with the two males, Ren and Tucker, based on their earlier behaviour when presented with changes of home. I was surprised and pleased when none of the cats had an adverse reaction.

My four feline roommates actually had a better time of packing and moving than I did. Packing was an ordeal; a person never realises just how many individual items he has until he has to put each one into a box, resulting in dozens and dozens of boxes. The cats were seemingly unperturbed by all this fuss. They used the boxes, which were everywhere in the apartment, as new pieces of furniture, and as a playground. I would see Josie hiding behind a box, readying to launch herself at Tucker as he walked around a corner. Ren lie on top of a box and lazily tried to touch Tungsten as she passed beneath.

And now we are all in our new home, and each of the cats is finding his or her favourite places. Tungsten, never one for the exotic, likes to snooze on the bed or finds a spot downstairs in the basement when she wants to be alone. Josie had been partially ejected from her favourite spot on top of the cat-tree in the apartment, as Ren liked that place, too. Now, two cat-trees provide vantage points out the front window, and Josie isn't fussy as to which she lounges upon. Ren enjoys viewing the vicinity from the cat-tree or reclining on one of the boxes I've yet to unpack. Tucker can often be found on one of the cat-trees' lower platforms.

Certainly, the house provides advantages that the cats have taken up with enthusiasm. There is much more room in which to run, and I've seen Tucker and Josie chasing each other, especially up and down the stairs leading to and from the basement. Sometimes, I'm not sure who is pursuing whom, or even if a chase is involved. I'll hear running, and it may simply be running for its own sake. But all the cats except Tungsten - whose dignity limits such flamboyant exercise (and whose weight doesn't need it, anyway) seem to enjoy the extra space that they now have.

Some changes to behaviour are strange. Josie has taken to rolling in the bath-tub, when it's dry. Perhaps she likes the residual smell of bleach, used to clean the tub. Maybe it's the feel of the metal tub, in contrast to the fibreglass of the apartment. At least once a day, I see her waddle into the bathroom, jump over the rim of the tub and enjoy a good series of revolutions.

Tucker now sleeps full-time on the bed. Tungsten doesn't care for the crowd that's there now. Unconcerned with the other cats walking past her during the day, or with another curled up almost touching her on the couch, my orange top-cat is most fastidious as to her company at night. I'm glad she allows me room in the bed somewhere.

Once in a while, the size of the house - though not large, its developed basement makes its living area about twice the size of the old apartment - creates a consternation in the cats. Josie, in particular, sometimes feels a bit lonely. I will hear a distant cry, as of a lost animal; I call out that I'm upstairs, in the sitting room, or in the kitchen, and my Chubs will come trotting up from the basement and come over to me for a rub and a pat on the head. She was just making sure she wasn't alone.

For that matter, my own security is challenged once in a while. In the apartment, I liked to keep track of the cats, to make sure they weren't somewhere they shouldn't be, or somewhere I couldn't find them. I would periodically search them out, for my own peace of mind. Now, I do the same thing, though the need is more practical, I think. The doors in the house lead not to a corridor in a locked building, but to the outside world, and even inside, there are more places for a cat to come to grief, however unlikely that may be. And now, of course, finding the cats when I worry about them is more difficult. I always find them safe - safe, usually sleeping and wondering what the fuss is about.

But I continue to check on them nonetheless.

P.S. As an addendum, I may add that this weekend, I officially adopted Ren. He'd been a member of the family for long before this, though, and paperwork means nothing to him, but it formally means that if he ever goes to a new home, it'll still be with me. Just as practically, it means that Tungsten and Josie are stuck with him. You can guess their thoughts on that - or at least Tungsten's...

Monday, November 15, 2010

Cat Habits

I’ve found that cats are creatures of habit, even more than humans. They probably feel comforted by being able to do the same things in the same ways at the same times in the same places. My cats are like that. Their habits concern eating and sleeping, playing and sleeping, greeting visitors and sleeping. They sleep a great deal. Yet I’ve found that these habits can change, suddenly, succeeded by new ones. Why? I don’t know.

Tungsten, for instance, has a particular way of lying on my lap. When she lies facing me, her head is to my right. When she climbs, jumps or, periodically and painfully, crawls her way onto my shoulders, which is her favourite position on me, she always faces to my left. She drinks from a dripping tap. She can drink from a bowl, of course; I’ve seen her do it. But she prefers the tap, and will sit on the bathroom counter by the basin for hours to do so, if need be. Sometimes, especially if I’m sleeping, she will give a particular meow, asking for the tap to be turned on. I’ve been told to ignore her, and she’ll quit. This means ignoring the meows, which grow weaker and weaker, sadder and sadder, as if she were perishing from dehydration, ignored and abandoned. I usually get up and give her a drink. Even this habit, though, has changed: she has altered the position from which she drinks and turns her head to the right now, rather than to the left, as previous. Why? I don’t know.

Josie has a specific way and place for sleeping at night. The other cats do as well, but hers is to lie between me and the edge of the bed, facing the doorway, with her chubby body perpendicular to mine. Her big bum will be up against my side and her head near the bed’s edge. What prompted this attitude? I don’t know. She also used to lie on the back of my couch, so much so that it is now permanently deformed, bowed under her great weight. She would lie in a horse-shoe shape, and, initially, gravity and her bulk pulled her off from time to time. Then, after doing this for a year or more, she stopped lying there. Now she’s back. Why the changes? I don’t know.

Ren has an interesting habit. He has been fascinated by water for as long as he’s lived with me, and probably much longer. As I’ve mentioned in previous articles, he will sit by the bathroom basin and watch the water run. He has sat on the rim of the tub after a shower (mine, not his) and observed drops run down the vertical surfaces. This habit he has broken, and he rarely does it anymore. His new habit is to stare at the bowl of water kept on the bathroom floor. I’ve known him to stare at it for up to half an hour. Sometimes, he will reach out with his paw and tap the surface of the liquid; sometimes he will change position and stare at it from another; once in a while, he will cock his head, to get a different angle. This patient gaze will, much of the time, end with a drink, though rarely one long enough to justify the wait beforehand; other times, he will simply walk away. It’s the scientist in him; he is always observing. But what is it about a bowl of still water that fascinates him so? I don’t know.

Tucker hasn’t been with me long enough to learn too many of his habits. He’s still creating them. He has started sleeping on the bed now, when he can find space, and though he has been eating out of the ‘communal’ food bowl, he still prefers the one in the library, that had been placed there during his days of isolation when he first arrived. When he is hungry, and there is too little food in the bowl, he will wait at the library door for me to fill it. Why doesn’t he go to the other food bowl? I don’t know.

But all of the cats’ habits are destined to receive a shock. At the end of November, I will be moving to a new home, a house. I of course will be taking my feline roommates with me. What will they make of this change? How will they adjust? Who will adapt the quickest? Who will be most upset? I don’t know.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Mainly About Tucker

Tucker, the new foster-cat, is doing very well. His depression ended after about five or six days. He started eating again, drinking water on his own, and after, I think, four days, he no longer had to be force-fed with a syringe. He stopped using his hiding spot behind the bookcase and was eager to leave the library and explore the apartment, and meet the other cats.

The reason he was kicked out of what had been his home for five years was his intermittent use of the litter-box. He would periodically relieve himself elsewhere. As I’ve mentioned before, this indicates either a physical problem - too many cats using the box, litter not being changed, a medical problem with the cat - or an emotional one - stress, principally. Tucker used the litter-box provided for him at my apartment right from the start. He did wet outside of it on two occasions, and in two very specific places. I had put down cat-beds for him to use, if he wanted. He never did, so far as I could tell, sleeping instead on the top perch of the cat-tree in the library, as Ren had done. Tucker did, however, wet on the cat-beds, first one, then, when that was removed, the other. Previous foster-cats had used them as little as had Ren, so their smell would have been on them as much (or as little) as on the mats I spread out on the floor when a new cat arrives - or on the books and furniture in the library, for that matter. Tucker was specific in using those cat-beds. Before and since, he has been scrupulous in utilising the litter-box.

Aside from his despondency, Tucker’s integration has probably been the easiest I’ve experienced with any of the foster-cats at my apartment. Ren doesn’t like him, but aside from the big boy’s long whining growls, the only trouble has occurred when Tucker jumped up on the bed to find Ren already there. Other than that, things are going smoothly.

In fact, Josie seems to have found an occasional playmate in the new boy. I’ve seen them chasing each other, one zooming through the nylon tunnel at the other, ambushing one another from around corners. It doesn’t happen all the time, but they are definitely playing. Josie seems to like smacking the nylon tunnel when Tucker is in it, then pursuing or being pursued by him when he emerges.

Tungsten doesn’t like Tucker, but I think it’s his presence to which she objects, rather than the cat himself. She will hiss and growl at him, but otherwise ignores him.

Tucker is a smart fellow, and learns quickly. He knows his dinner- and snack-times, when the soft food is served, and is impudently vocal when he thinks I’m taking too long. He seems to enjoy the odd bite of bread. One day, I found a piece of pumpkin loaf had been nibbled, the plastic wrap having first been torn away. I suspected Josie, my resident heavy-eater, or perhaps Tungsten, who will prowl the counters for snacks when I’m not looking. The next day, I heard a noise in the kitchen and, when I investigated, saw Tucker rush out. A loaf of bread, the bag ripped and a corner nibbled, was on the floor. Later, a sandwich I had set aside to take as a lunch to work had been sampled. I think I must buy a bread-box.

I’ve seen him eating soft food with his paw. I’ve observed cats dipping their furry toes into water, then licking the liquid off. Tungsten has done that when she’s come across a glass with just the last drops of milk at the bottom, and couldn’t reach them any other way. But scooping up food with a paw is a new one. It was suggested to me that Tucker may be the next step in evolution for cats. If I come home and find him sitting at the table with a knife and fork, I’ll know. If only I could teach Tungsten to use a napkin.

He has also started imitating Ren’s manner of snoozing on his back, spread-eagled. Not the most modest pose for sleeping; there were other habits I wish he could have picked up from the big boy... He also likes lying on his stomach, stretched out with his legs straight behind him. He reminds me of a bathing beauty on a beach.

Tucker is very friendly. His purr, which starts quickly, is deep, and he will spontaneously rub up against me. When he is feeling particularly amiable - or if soft food is being prepared - he will rub his face against my shoe, continuing in his action so that his whole body rolls over and flops onto my foot. He enjoys playing, though he seemed afraid of a simple stick at first, backing away from it. I encouraged him to swat at it, and his initial efforts were frightened little taps that were suited more to testing if a stove-top was hot. A week later, he was hitting that stick with force if it came near him, and pursuing it, trying to knock it down or capture it. Now, enjoys a good playing session and he will grab at the thongs of a ‘cat-o-nine-tails’, of which previously he was afraid.

I have let Tucker out of the library at night, and it has caused very few problems among the household. He wants to lie on the bed - it’s astonishing how quickly the various foster-cats have found the comfort of that place - but it’s already pretty crowded, and I don’t know which cat will want permanently to give up some of its space for him. Though I woke one morning to find all four on the bed, Tucker seems satisfied for the moment with the cushioned chair next the bed.

As for the others, they are doing well. Josie seems a little more active, what with running about with the new arrival. She could certainly stand to lose weight. Tungsten is more tolerant of, or perhaps simply indifferent to, this latest foster-cat than any other. I’m sure she considers herself above such comings and goings. I regret that she and Josie no longer chase each other, the latter seeming to prefer Tucker. The orange one is kindly - or perhaps I should say, not unkindly - disposed toward Ren’s presence, allowing him to sit or lie near her, which is quite the favour for her to bestow.

And Ren no longer immediately runs for the ‘roofless cave’ (a lidless box secured to the top of the kitchen cabinets) to hide whenever the door-buzzer sounds. He still scurries for it, but he is now waiting longer before running, and he descends to meet a visitor sooner than he used.

Things are going well with the three cats I have. And the fourth.

Friday, October 8, 2010

A New Fourth

Devon no longer resides with me. That little sausage of a cat has been adopted by a very nice young couple and is now living with two older female cats in a house. He's a fortunate animal to have been adopted, and this time, he's moved into what will be his permanent home.

A few hours after Devon left, Tucker arrived. That's how pressing the need is for foster-homes for cats. The PAW Society received a call about a cat that was not using his litter-box for his waste-extraction processes: he was wetting on floors. When a cat does that, there is always an explanation; in this case, it may have been due to stress that accompanied the arrival of a new baby. Cats are sensitive, and new people, new noises, new smells, new commotions, all affect the animal. With some work and patience, the problem can be resolved. But Tucker's owners had much to deal with and couldn't help him. So he was evicted, and has come to live with me.
Tucker is a stocky fellow, black and white, with tabby stripes just visible on his sides, like ribs, and under his tail. He has big eyes and a 'short' face, in that it seems a little pushed in.

Like all new foster-cats at my apartment, he lives in the library, isolated during the day, until he becomes accustomed to things. The first couple of days that he was with me, he squeaked and cried and came over to me, pushing at my hand to indicate that he wanted some petting. Then the truth of his situation set in: he was in a new home, and not going back to the one he'd known since kittenhood. He was excited by the novelty at first, but then he probably became lonesome, then despondent. He spent several days in a hiding spot, not eating. He had to be fed by syringe, given a medicated food to keep up his supply of nutrients and water. He is now coming round, and has nibbled some of his regular food.
It's been several days since his arrival and Tucker is doing better. I am still feeding him by syringe, as he is still only pecking at his food and not getting enough. I've no idea if he is drinking enough - or any - water, so he must get some of that forced into him too. The strange thing is that, except for not eating, he appears to be getting used to his new surroundings. He is more alert and active than he had been, wanting to come out and explore. I keep him in the library during the day and arrange his food in a way that will tell me if he's eaten any. I can also monitor his use of the litter-box. He's been leaving deposits there, so I know that he's getting more water than his body needs - which is better than the opposite.

It's ironic that the one big problem that he doesn't have is the one due to which he was evicted.

But I know that he, like the other cats at my place, loves to be combed. On the weekend, before he became discouraged, he stretched out on the small table, purring with every stroke as I combed him, and when I stopped, he got up and tapped me once on the head to get me started again. So he does have a history of having his whims indulged, like every loved pet.
My three are unsure about Tucker. The first time I let him out of the library, he explored a bit, but the others were snoozing at the time. The next day, I opened the library door and Ren and Josie established themselves at the threshold to stare at the newcomer. Tucker hissed and growled a little, perhaps to show that he would not be intimidated. I'm not sure if he convinced the others, since he didn't leave the room. Ren even started going into the library; I think he was trying to make friends, for he arched his back - Ren does that as if rubbing up against someone, but he doesn't actually make contact; nonetheless, it's a sign of amiability. Tucker thought he'd better stay on the defensive, however, and hissed. Ren, who is not a fighter, backed away.

So for now, I and the PAW Society are guardedly optimistic about the new boy. He's doing better but not well enough for our liking. We want to see him gobbling food like Josie, my Chubs. Well, maybe not eating that much...

Tuesday, September 28, 2010


My cats are always surprising me in the things they do. Sometimes, it's an instructive surprise, telling me something new about one's character. Sometimes, it's an annoying surprise. Sometimes, it's even a pleasant surprise. No, really, that happens. Sometimes.

I was asked recently if cats will use a litter-box even if they are shown it just once. They do. It's instinctive for them, as it is for a dog to ask in his own way to go out when he needs to use his litter-box, which is nature. I've seen a cat outside relieve himself and scrape dead leaves over the spot. My foster cat, Devon, uses two litter-boxes. Since he sleeps in the library, he will use the box that is kept there for his convenience. Other times, he likes to use the litter-box in the store-room, the one all the other cats use. I think it makes him feel part of the group. He will, in fact, go a whole night without relief, then use the common litter-box as soon as he is released in the morning. But it's good to know that he will also use the box in the library, if need be.

When a cat relieves himself outside the litter-box, there is generally a reason for it, one that can be corrected with a little deduction. Perhaps the cat is in physical difficulty and needs medical attention. Perhaps he is suffering from stress, and this is a symptom. Once in a while, it's as simple as being repulsed by the litter with which the box is filled. But they are compelled by their natures to use the litter-box. This brings me to the surprise. I was emptying the store-room litter-box the other day. Ren went into the store-room and started crying. He cries and sings and yowls once in a while, but rarely while stationary. I hurried in my task and replaced the litter-box, which he promptly used. He was waiting for it to be returned.

Ren also likes lying on my slippers. He seems to do it only while waiting for my return from work. He greets me at the door, as do the other cats, and there are my slippers, flattened and covered with long, fine hair.

Tungsten has taken to waking me by licking my face. If this were at the time I had to get up, it wouldn't be so bad. She'll do it, however, in the middle of the night. Not every night, though, and she will often do it when I am just on the verge of sleep, not quite there but not awake, either. One may ask what she wants, why she is doing it. I don't. She purrs while doing it. I push her away and she purrs more. She does it because she thinks it's funny.

Then there is the reaction to the comb. I have tried brushing my cats, but each and every one hated it. It was a struggle to get them to sit still. Tungsten would yowl as if I were murdering her and Josie would throw all her weight into the fight for freedom - and with her, that's quite a weapon. Then she developed a mat in her hair, and another was coming. So I was given a comb to use on her. What a difference her reaction was from the brush. My Chubs lie down on her side, purred, stood, roamed about bumping her head against things, came over for more combing. Now her hair is smoother and she's happier. Devon, Ren and Tungsten all enjoy being combed. Perhaps the brush's tines were too fine; perhaps they grated; who can say? But this was a good surprise.

And finally, a startling surprise. I was preparing dinner one day last week, standing at a counter in the kitchen. Suddenly, a clattering bang resounded, so loud I thought someone had dumped pots and pans at my apartment door. Then I saw, from the corner of my eye, Devon literally bounce off the window. He had jumped onto the stove, rattling across the burners (thank goodness they were not on) and against the window (thank goodness (again) it was closed; the force of his propulsion would have carried him through a mere screen), hit the floor and ran off, hiding under a chair with a puffed up tail. What had startled him so? I'd heard nothing unusual; the other cats were alert and startled but it was obvious that they were reacting to Devon, and not to what he'd heard - well, that applied to Josie and Ren. Tungsten of course snoozed through it all. A few minutes later, Devon was fine, roaming about and bothering my Chubs, as if nothing had happened.

All together, a week of surprises with my cats. As usual.

Monday, September 20, 2010

The Spirit of Morris

I have at last devised a formula for getting my cats to eat a decent amount of soft food. This is perhaps the fifth or sixth winning formula with which I’ve come up in the three short years in which I have had cats living with me.

As cat-owners know, Morris, from the 9Lives brand commercials, is not that much of an exaggeration. It’s true that most real cats don’t give voice-over narrations to their lives, but otherwise, real cats are as finicky as Morris, who won’t eat anything but 9Lives. One may wonder why his television owners bother having him try anything else. I don’t. I’ve been attempting to get just the right mix for a long time.

All four of the cats living with me like Fancy Feast, to varying degrees. Tungsten doesn’t eat much as it is, but she seems to enjoy that brand. Why don’t I simply buy a pantry-full of that, then? Well, I don’t have a pantry; beyond that, I don’t think Fancy Feast is the best soft food to feed cats. The ingredients list a great many chemicals and dyes which, not good for humans in the food we eat, aren’t any better for cats. And just as humans find that the best tasting food isn’t always the healthiest, so it is with pets.

I have tested numerous kinds of food on my animals, and in numerous combinations. I don’t care to do that, because a constant change of diet can’t be good for them. I have found a brand called Wellness, the turkey and salmon flavour of which seems to appeal to the majority of them the most.

One of the problems is that, being fussy, like the fictional Morris, few of them will eat Wellness after the tin has been opened and the contents refrigerated. I’m uncomfortable with simply leaving the remains of an opened tin in a cupboard, uncooled, until the next meal-time. The others would be unaffected by any mild spoliation that occurred, but Josie has a very sensitive stomach. In case one thinks I’m being too considerate, one must remember that a vomiting cat has a practical affect on its owner’s time and activities. And his carpet.

Fancy Feast is a favourite even in an open tin and out of the fridge, though the best scenario is a new tin of that brand at room temperature.

It is, strange to relate, the fact that I am now caring for four cats that has resulted in the best solution to the food problem so far. A tin of Wellness, which is a denser food than others, will suffice for four feline dinners. Even Josie will cry for her plate of newly opened Wellness, and Tungsten, my tiny-eater, does a good job with her portion. Having Ren and Devon present and hungry will help empty a complete tin. That solves the refrigeration dilemma. For the cats' evening snack, provided at about eight-thirty or nine, I serve out a portion of Fancy Feast which, as I mentioned, is enjoyed even from an older tin, and therefore I needn’t give it all out at once, and can refrigerate the remains for the next day.

One may wonder what all the fuss is about. After all, I also serve hard food, California Natural, which is reputedly a very good brand. All the cats crunch away at that, and, indeed, they get most of their nutrition from it, I imagine. But cats never seem to get enough moisture, which of course is vital. My cats are no different: they don’t drink enough water - they want less than they need - so obtaining it through soft food is important. In turn, finding the right incentive and/or combination to get them to eat that soft food is also important, even if one must resort to less than the best brands.

Besides, if one saw Josie hurrying in front of an approaching dish of soft food, squeaking with delight at the prospect of her imminent dinner, one would know why I like to give my cats something they enjoy.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Devon, the Fourth of My Three Cats

No, my arithmetical skills aren’t suffering. I still have three cats, but, for the moment, I have a fourth. His name is Devon.

Devon arrived on the last Friday of August. I had been contacted by the PAW Society a couple of days before that, asking if I could take a cat in as he had no where else to go. Devon had been living in a foster-home with a woman who had taken excellent and affectionate care of him, but who was moving to a new home which didn’t allow pets. This was very short notice. I considered the situation at my apartment to be still in transition, with Ren, also a foster-cat, having come to me exactly three months previously. He was still getting used to his new home, and certainly my two permanent cats were still getting used to him. However, Devon was an emergency, so I agreed to take him in.

What a wealth of personalities cats have – if, as a friend wondered, ‘person’ality is the right word. I suspect that as one advances in the evolutionary chain of species, the more character each species has. Dogs and cats are the most easily observed by humans, for obvious reasons, but horses and other farm animals have, I’ve been assured, distinct traits that could be described as personalities. Devon has demonstrated to me yet another in a cat.

He was shy at first, and I made him the usual hiding spot behind the bookcase in the library. He used it once. Then he made it clear that he was an explorer; true, a timid one, cautious, and ready to run back to the base camp at the first sign of trouble. But his expeditions became longer, and if he was driven back to his safe spot, he left it again a minute later. He wanted to see this new environment. First, of course, he examined the library – and me. He didn’t find them stupendous, but neither were they completely without interest.

Since every cat is different, so too is their method and speed of integration into a household. I had a feeling that Devon wouldn’t benefit from being cooped up. As early as Saturday, I let him out into the wider apartment. The three cats already here spent the majority of the day staring at him. No doubt intimidating for the newcomer. But I was most worried about Ren. He is new himself, and I was anxious that he would feel threatened. Tungsten was simply getting fed up with these new cats coming and going, so one more was just another to growl and hiss at for a while. Josie was intrigued but, as she does, wanted to keep her personal space inviolate.

But things have proceeded more smoothly than I had anticipated. By the next day, all three cats already resident were returning to their routines. True, Devon upset them whenever he appeared. After all, one can’t relax completely when one must swat at a new cat and threaten his life. After initially respecting the hierarchy, Devon then tried to get the others to play. He would chase the girls and jump on Ren when he wasn’t looking. This was not appreciated, and even the gentle Josie grew annoyed, growling in a particularly cranky manner.

That phase passed and, though it’s still early days, Devon is taking a more measured approach, settling for sniffing noses, or slowly approaching one his new roommates rather than charging in. So far, the situation is reminiscent of Ren’s progress. And, except for a short period when Tungsten hissed at Ren as much as at Devon (“I hate you, new cat,” she seemed to say, “and I don’t yet care much for you, either, Ren, while I’m at it.”), the apartment is remarkably peaceful. As cat-owners know, however, that may change tomorrow.

To humans, Devon is friendly and gentle. It didn’t take him long to roll over (a la Ren) to get a chest-rub. Unlike my big boy, though, Devon likes to play Nibble the Finger. Tungsten will do that as well sometimes, but, eight years older than Devon, she has fewer teeth, and those she has are duller. But Devon means no harm and never breaks the skin. He does indent it somewhat. What’s important is that, like Ren, he appears to want to be friends with people, and that makes a great pet. He likes to play, whether by himself or with others. He especially loves his squeezable ball with which he rolls about.

Devon is a strange-looking fellow, with the most uncat-like face I’ve seen on a feline. He’s obviously part-Siamese. The colouring of his fur and much of his wide countenance resembles that breed. But one of his parents was just as obviously from a bulkier sort. Devon isn’t heavy, though: a compact and strong little body. He’s energetic, running as much as walking, and throwing himself into play-time with enthusiasm. I realised today that only Tungsten of my cats makes a sound that approaches a meow. Devon issues squeaks and squeals closer to a dolphin’s ‘ack’ than a cat’s sound – but he’s the quietest guest you’ll ever have in your home. His tail is short and bent, and may have been broken at some point, though it’s still full of life, and his eyes, which show a tinge of red in the pupils in certain light (and in every photograph – when he doesn’t close them all together) are crossed.

Devon has now been released from his incarceration in the library, put there every night to sleep and let out when I go to work. Until then, he had spent his day, no doubt bored to tears, isolated, but safe. I counted the cats before I left that first morning of freedom; I hoped to have the same number – and in the same condition – when I returned. So far so good.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Ren (Renfrew Foster), My Third Cat

Ren came to live with me at the end of May, 2010. Like the other foster-cats I've looked after, his was an emergency re-location. He and his brother, Charlie, were living without problems in a nice couple's household, when Ren bit the woman who was caring for him. She was cleaning his rear end which, being that of a medium-haired cat, sometimes needs cleaning. I've no idea why he bit her. I doubt that his handling was rough yet he is hardly a naturally aggressive cat. Anyway, it was a hard bite and the couple decided that Ren had to go.

I can't say I blame Ren's former guardians. They had taken good care of him and to them, his action must have seemed an inexplicable attack. I can't blame Ren, either, for, having come to know him, I can't understand why he would have bitten anyone. The only thing I can imagine is that it was an accidental provocation which the woman didn't recognize as such, and which Ren felt needed retaliation. Under such conditions, the couple taking care of him considered it impossible for Ren to stay.

So Ren came to live with me. As is often (though not universally) the case, he was frightened and confused at the sudden change in his surroundings. He had been well cared for in his previous home and must have wished he was back there. I made him a hiding spot behind a bookcase and he used it immediately. But after a couple of hours of observing me, he came out, tentatively. Over the next week, he came out more and more, though he was quick to resort to his hiding spot when he felt frightened.

Relatively swiftly, though, he adapted to his new environment. I let him out to explore the apartment and meet his roommates. His energetic attempts to make friends did not meet with approval from the more reticent cats in my household. But he persevered. So did they. No one was going to make them become friends with any new interloper so quickly. He found me a more positive subject.

Ren is a big black and white boy with medium-length hair. It seemingly doesn't shed easily, but he leaves much of it behind whenever he lies on cloth or upholstery. He is gentle and passive with me, his sounds small for a fellow so big. His greatest protests come in the form of a drawn-out whine - and when I need to remove him from where he wants to be, he'll appear to add weight to his fifteen or sixteen pounds. He's as heavy as my Josie, but spreads it better.

Over time, Ren has managed to ingratiate himself with my first cat, Tungsten. I suspect it's because he respects the tiny orange one's dominance, retreating at a growl or hiss. One time, Tungsten dealt Ren a blow on the top of the head that, if converted to human terms, would have stunned a man. Ren is respectful but still tries to be friends. With Josie, he figures he can be a bit more exuberant. As a result, though I have seen them play, they also fight. Since Ren initiates the interaction, he gets the blame and is incarcerated in the library for a few minutes. Upon emerging, he immediately rubs up against me, telling me he's sorry and asking if I still like him. Unlike human prisoners just released, he means it.

Ren is a scientist. An empiricist, he likes to watch things to determine how they work, what they do, how they affect their surroundings. His favourite subject is water. He's taken to coming into the bathroom after I have a shower and observing the drops of water roll down the sides of the tub. And the sight of water running from the tap astounds him; perhaps he's never seen vertical water. He had to reach out and  touch it, try to draw it toward him. I've seen him examining a moth and a fly; unlike other cats, his first instinct was to watch them, rather than kill them. They were new and therefore interesting.

This characteristic impels Ren to meet new people. Countered by his natural timidity, it's a struggle for him when new humans appear. He will hide. He may hide for their entire initial visit. He'll listen, collecting evidence, determining if the visitor is friendly. He'll venture out the next time. And once he knows a person is friendly, he hides for a shorter period each time the person shows up.

But as well, he wants to meet people because loves companionship. He loves to have his chest rubbed, lying still, purring roughly and deeply. But when your hand is tired or you need it for something else, you may withdraw it, and Ren will remain, lying against you. I've seen him play with fuzzy toys, zoom through a nylon tunnel for the fun of it; I've seen him watch birds and falling leaves; I've seen him knead the air in joy while being petted. But his love of company strikes me the most about him. He craves it, and it brought him out from his hiding place when he first came to live with me. The way of "The Cat that Walked by Himself" is not Ren's way.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Foster Cats I Have Known

Before I talk about my third cat, Ren, I thought I should describe the others who have lived with me as foster-cats. Providing shelter to cats who need temporary homes can be interesting. The PAW Society here in Lethbridge, Alberta, takes care of many cats until they can find them permanent homes; in the meantime, the cats go into foster-care. There are never enough foster-homes.

I've fostered four cats for the Society so far. I've found that explaining to my resident cats that the new addition will be subtracted soon does nothing. They still resent the interloper.

My first foster-cat was a black one named Lincoln. He was an easy-going fellow who was cordially fought by Josie and largely ignored by Tungsten, though she would hiss and growl when she did come upon him. But Lincoln didn't seem to mind much. He was talkative. He would yowl and sing from one end of the apartment to the other. I've no idea what he was saying, and the other cats didn't enlighten me. They simply wished he would shut up. He wasn't that bad, though. He hid for a couple of days in the room in which I kept him, but started coming out of his safe spot to explore his room, not long afterward. Soon he was out all day, though back in his room for the night. Josie would threaten him, but it wasn't taken too seriously - she's simply not a fighter; my Chubs just wanted to make sure her place was secure. Lincoln was adopted fairly quickly.

Then came two who will long be remembered by my resident cats. Wixie and Mystery, both female, had to be removed rapidly from their adopted home, at the request of their owners. Their permanence there was not as long-lasting as it had been hoped, though they were evidently loved and there was no complaint ever made against them. Wixie was the more frightened of the two, though Mystery was probably much upset by being thrust into a strange world. She was a little tortoise shell creature with an insistent meow. Wixie was a two-tone girl, solidly built, with a mask of grey fur over her otherwise white face. Mystery was dominant and ate less than Wixie, who loved her soft food. It was over that that their personalities switched. Wixie (the 'Masked Marvel') would push Mystery aside to get at the latter's soft food, and Mystery would let her. I suppose the principle is the same as when a person drives a car, very much in control of it, but gets out of its way if it starts rolling down a hill at her.

Though (or perhaps because) Mystery would boss Wixie about, sometimes cornering her, literally, and slapping or growling at her, Wixie took to asserting herself with Tungsten. I wanted Tungsten to stand up to the newcomer, but there is a morose streak to my orange one, and she would simply seek out a quiet place and sulk, though she'd scrap if she had no where to go. Josie was left alone, perhaps because Wixie sensed that Tungsten was the one in charge, and therefore the one to defeat.

Wixie and Mystery were typical of cats in that they learned a routine quickly. They loved their play time, and started letting me know they were ready for it hours before I was. Mystery enjoyed chasing a stick, around and around, until she grew tired, after which she would lie on the floor and expect it to come to her. Of course it did. Wixie liked trying to grab the stick as it poked out from under a quilt. They knew their dinner and snack-times, too, the Masked Marvel growing so excited at the prospect of her gourmand feast that she would spin about in circles, crying with delight.

But Wixie was actually quite shy. When called to come over for a petting, she would arch her back, rub her face along a wall and shuffle over with a diffident air. But she was purring the while.

Mystery and Wixie were adopted together. Though they were never best pals, going somewhere new as a pair would have helped them tremendously. It's always nice to have someone familiar in an unfamiliar place.

And now, there's Ren...