Thursday, December 22, 2011

Merry Christmas To All

And so we come to Christmas once more. This will be my last article before the big day, and I want to wish everyone a happy Yuletide.

Last year, we were just a month into the new house. This year, things are much more settled, and there’s a greater permanence about the place. Tucker, my foster-cat, was heading for a dental operation at this time in 2010, and I guessed correctly that it would hit him hard, psychologically. He licked himself into an injury with stress and had to wear a cone until he healed.

But he did heal and the roly poly one is happy and fat this holiday season. My perma-cats are doing equally well. They could stand to lose some weight - well, at least Josie - but all are in good health and seem to be enjoying their lives. Nothing pleases me more than to see all four of the beasts snoozing away on a cold, snowy afternoon, oblivious to the discomfort and danger outside, and knowing that they are safe and warm inside.

Tungsten continued to be top-cat in the household this year, though she grew more tolerant of Renn, and they have even groomed each other to a small extent. Josie became friendlier and friendlier. Tucker became heavier and heavier.

The year is ending on a note of contentment among the cats, and that makes me feel good. I hope everyone reading this feels equally glad with the year that has been, and if it’s not been a happy one, then I hope the next will be the best yet. Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 19, 2011

All's Well

Two of the cats went to the veterinarian this past week. Actually, Tungsten and Tucker went to veterinarians, plural. The latter is still a PAW Society cat whom I am fostering, so he goes to the doctor that PAW uses. Tungsten goes to another clinic which is closer to me. (Don't worry, the other two cats, Josie and Renn, went for their annual check-ups in the summer.)

All went well with the pair, with some cautions. Tucker is too heavy. He’s gained three pounds in eleven months. All the cats have gained weight; I took the opportunity to conduct their quarterly measurements. Tungsten piled on an extra 100 grams, which now means that she is heftier than three and a half feathers. But it’s disappointing that Josie has gained more. I hope that my new tactic of making the hard-food bowl available only at certain times has simply not had the chance to take effect.

But otherwise the roly poly one is doing well. His teeth are in ‘excellent’ shape – probably because all the eating he does keeps them sharp and polished. He was nervously quiet during the trip to the doctor, and anxious once there. But the verterinarian who examined him was ingratiating, and Tucker was actually purring and curling his feet after a while. Nonetheless, I think he was glad to get back home.

This is Tucker resting. He’s lying on a cat-tree platform but with his forepaws on the back of an armchair. His eyes are closed and he seems to be enjoying this position. Perhaps it was a psychological exam that he needed, rather than a physical.

Tungsten also did well at her appointment. She dislikes the vet’s office – not an uncommon characteristic for a cat – and exhibits fear that she otherwise disdains. She spent much of the time on the examining table pressed against me, curving her little body around me to try to get maximum protection.

I have been a little worried about her. She has been visiting the litter-box to leave, shall I say, softer deposits than usual. These have alternated with the usual harder business. She also experiences slight head tremors from time to time, a kind of nervous twitch. The doctor told me that these could be signs of hyperthyroidism, but that there seems to be no other symptoms of the condition, such as an apathy toward grooming, a ravenous appetite and agression. Well, maybe there’s some of the last trait, but she’s always been strict in demanding obedience from the other cats. The doctor stated that the characteristics that she has may simply be those of advancing age, especially the condition of her waste, as suggested to me by a PAW Society member before the vet-visit. No, there isn’t too much to worry about right now, but I will be vigilant with the orange one. Just today, she spent what must have been twenty minutes grooming herself while on my lap; a good sign.

Yes, both Tungsten and Tucker are active animals, the older one being, I think, the most energetic of all four at times. She is, as I wrote in an earlier article, getting into her later years, and she is definitely enjoying the heating-pad that I bought her. It’s good to observe, though, that she still enjoys other comfortable resting spots, so artificial heat is not indispensible to her just yet.

The veterinary visits were expensive, as anyone who owns a cat or dog would have guessed. Ten minutes’ poking and prodding is certainly profitable to the vets' profession. But it brings me peace of mind. And though the day may come when it will bring not peace of mind but disturbing news, regular check-ups may also alert me in a timely manner to conditions that can be arrested or reversed. So I don’t begrudge the cost – not too much, anyway. Watching my furry friends snooze away on a chilly winter afternoon, I know that they’re worth it.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

One of Those Days

Yesterday, I came home to an interesting scene: the food mat was pushed into the middle of the kitchen, the water had been spilled, the towel was off the new heating pad and Tucker had a deep scratch on his nose. Later, he and Josie threw up their soft-food dinners, which they haven’t done in a long time. A stressful day, perhaps?

I’m not sure what went on while I was gone, but it seems to have been quite a hectic time. Tucker must have crept too close to Tungsten, who doesn’t like him, or scuffled with Renn, who likes to bully him a bit. Either way, it was tough for my roly poly one. All the cats seemed extra glad to see me when I returned. Hmm…

The Way Things Look

Lillian Jackson Braun, the late mystery writer, opined that ‘cats never strike a pose that isn’t photogenic’. I’m not sure about that. Take a look at this one.

I don’t think that it’s true even that all cats themselves are photogenic. After all, to be blunt, there are some odd-looking felines, to put it kindly. The four who live with me are beautiful, of course, so it’s difficult for me to judge peculiarity first-hand. What I believe, though, is that we, as pet-owners, see our animals as perfect. Except in my case, as I mentioned earlier: my cats are genuinely beautiful; it’s not my belief, it’s a simple fact. I can’t help it. There it is.

As wonderful as mine look, I admit that, physically, there are some irregularities about them. Tungsten has a damaged left eye. She’s had it for as long as I’ve known her. The pupil looks larger than the corresponding right one, but there is what seems to be a hole or tear in the iris, or perhaps some tissue lodged there. It has never bothered her. She has not pawed at that eye or blinked it so it appeared to be troubling her. She can see well, though I think certain qualities of vision such as close detail is sometimes difficult for her. And yet this imperfection does not detract from her attraction.

Josie is like a small iceberg. Does that mean she is less capable of affection? Not at all. She’ll drag her ponderous mass up to new visitors and welcome them as my official greeter. She is losing weight, quarter-ounce by quarter-ounce, but still looks like an ice cream cone walking point-end first. She also has a notch in her ear, perhaps from a fight very early in her life. And because of her shape, she sometimes needs help in, shall I say, cleanliness. Yet who wouldn’t want her company for a life-time?

Renn has a failing as delicate as Josie’s. His long hair once in a while picks up litter when he goes to the lavatory. I have to set my big boy down and perform some judicious trimming. I have to be careful because the hair disguises body parts which he still needs, however much the veterinarian has already cut back there. It’s a bothersome chore - more for him than me - which he endures better than he used to. For my part, I do it because it’s a small price to pay to keep him healthy and happy. But what would be too high a price?

Tucker has a bit of strabismus in one eye. His left one squints a bit, though the veterinary told me that there is nothing wrong with it. It makes him appear a bit shifty. But he is a sweet-natured sausage who wants only to have friends, play a bit and rest a lot. His horrific deformity - that little squishy eye - doesn’t make him less of a joy.

The truth is that we see our pets through rose coloured glasses. Or are we looking at them from an ivory tower? Either way, they don’t appear quite as they do to others. As well, we give them the compensation due to innocence. Cats, dogs, horses, hamsters, lizards, and every other animal that is loved as a pet, don’t care about looks. Perhaps they are snobs when it comes to smell, or something we can’t define. Perhaps they are as superficial as we are in their own way - though it doesn’t seem like it. We see that they will love a person based on how he behaves rather than how he looks. We take that into account. They love us regardless of our imperfections, and so we love them in the same way.

That’s the secret of their photogeniety. A cat could be as ugly as Medusa and as deformed as the Elephant Man, but he would be beautiful to us. Missing a leg, an eye, walking with a limp, deaf, needing help to use the litter-box; nothing seems to make them hideous to their owners. We see companions, friends, and in them is beauty, even though it may not look like it.

Monday, December 5, 2011

The Art Critic

Renn became fascinated with a picture on the wall near the lower cat-tree in the sitting room. It may be that he sees his reflection in the glass. It may be that he likes the image in the frame. I’m not sure what his opinion of the print is, but he seems as much an art-lover as he is a scientist.

A Little About Josie

I haven’t written much about Josie lately. She’s my chubby white cat. She maintains a low profile, and keeps a great deal to herself. That’s mainly through her own choice, though I get the feeling she would be a much more social animal if there were no other cats in the household.

She’s a people-cat. She’s not like Renn. My big boy is a people-cat, too. In fact, I think he would be miserable without people. But he gets along well with other cats, to an extent. He likes Tungsten, bullies Tucker a little and enjoys trading blows with Josie when one or the other is in the nylon tunnel. But Josie doesn’t care for other cats. It may be that she doesn’t dislike them; she simply has no use for them. When they get too close - Tungsten sometimes sniff at her tail in passing - Josie lets out a squeak and hurries away.

She’s my pacifist, is Josie. She prefers to avoid fights and altercations. That doesn’t mean she won’t stand up for herself. The cat-trees, especially the taller one in the sitting room, are her favoured domain, and she likes to have her choice of where to sit on them. She likes the top platforms (the top of the lower tree for watching out the window and the top of the higher for snoozing) but can be found on the middle platform of the taller tree when she wants to peer out the window from the right-hand side. It’s quite interesting how complicated a cat’s habits can become… Anyway, the point of this digression is that my Chubs doesn’t care for other cats taking her places on the cat-trees, or trying to take another position close to hers when she’s already there. Renn seems to be the main culprit in these situations, and punches may be exchanged under certain circumstances. But these are extraordinary events, and for the most part, Josie thinks one should live and let live.

Josie came to live with me three years ago, on Christmas Eve, 2008. If you’ve read any of the articles I’ve published here, you’ve probably heard me mention that Tungsten did not take kindly to this big white interloper in her little kingdom. But that’s past now. In fact, just last week, I woke on a Sunday morning to find all four cats on the bed (one of the reasons I like Sunday mornings); a while later, Tungsten, who doesn’t like Josie’s proximity any more than Josie likes hers, was grooming the white one. And the latter stayed put - for twenty seconds or so. But that’s quite an improvement on past behaviour.

There has been quite a change in my Chubs over the last three years. She’s lost a little weight, for one thing. But it’s her personality that has altered. She’s certainly not a different animal now,  and I don’t think ‘friendlier’ is the correct word. She has become more open about showing her feelings, if you will. The time was when an ephemeral brush past against my leg was her principal sign of affection. She liked being petted, but not for long. And she didn’t like a person’s face close to hers.

Now, she ambles over relatively often for a rub on the head. She comes over for no other reason. It’s certainly not with the frequency with which Tucker comes to me for some attention; that’s thirty or forty times an hour, it seems. But Josie will see me in the kitchen and waddle up to me, say ‘hello’ and waddle away again. And she doesn’t even expect food out of it. She even comes to sit on a chair next to mine once in a while as I write at the table.

When I go to her, Josie usually rolls onto her side; when she’s on a cat-tree, she anchors herself with a paw, ready to receive some petting and stroking. She is eager to receive it and purrs audibly during it. Her purr used to be just a silent gurgle in her throat. She retains that, but now expresses herself more strongly. And once in a while, while I’m close to her, talking to her, she’ll sniff my face, which she never used to do.

She’s not a lap-cat, and never will be. But when I am on the couch, with Tungsten on my lap, Renn hard by on my right and Tucker on the couch’s arm to my left, I see Josie watching us. Is she envious? Some animals may be like some people, wanting to be close but not able to bring themselves to that point. I put her on my lap now and then. She purrs and kneads, but doesn’t stay long. She likes it, but it’s just not her thing. So I try to spend time with her on her own terms, which isn’t as easy as providing companionship to a cat who simply flops down beside you while you read a book.

Most nights will find her on the bed with the other cats. Her place is on the near side, against me. If I’m awake when she jumps up, she’ll normally stump up to me to say ‘good night’, have a two- or three-second head-rub, then settle down. She comes and goes during the night, not as settled as Tungsten and the boys.

Josie was about five years old when I adopted her. She’s now eight, probably eight and a half. She still likes to be alone sometimes, but rarely avoids attention when I find her, and comes to me for it more and more. She’ll always be inscrutable in some ways; I will always understand her less than the others, I think. But friendship doesn’t depend on understanding. It’s not born in the brain, or maintained by the mind. It’s an extension of the heart, and Josie’s keeps getting bigger.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Renn at Bath-time

I like baths. I find them relaxing. I find filling up a tub to be just as relaxing as soaking in the water afterward. I think the running water - something many people find soothing - combined with the warmth of its temperature makes for a pleasant experience. And I know I’m not alone in my feelings.

Renn loves bath-time. One wouldn’t expect that of a cat. It’s true that, though he loves studying water, he doesn’t much care for its application direct upon his body. It’s not the actual bathing that he loves, it’s the process that surrounds it. When he hears the water running into the tub, he too runs, straight for the bathroom. Sometimes, I must disappoint him. When I wash the tub I of course run the water. He hurries in expecting bath-time, but is turned away, sorrowful.

What does he do when it’s bath-time? Usually, he knows it’s time even before I start preparing. Showers are the order of the day during the week, when, facing another work-day in the morning, there is little feeling of relaxing the night before. But Saturday night is bath-night, especially enjoyable now that the cold weather is upon us. So Saturday nights, as I start turning off lights, I find my big boy waiting expectantly by or in the bathroom.

Renn becomes very excited, moving about, his back arched - a sign of joy for him as much as is purring - bumping into walls and doors with his flanks, rubbing against all and sundry. He wags his body like a dog does its tail. He continues this while the water fills the tub. I sit with him and rub his chest and the top of his head. He likes that; I rub vigorously, as if I’m massaging liniment into his skin. But he’s too excited to lie still. he gets up, waggles about, bangs into me half a dozen times, then flops over like a heat-stroke victim to lie, purring, for another dose of rubbing.

He will sometimes stretch, curving like a bow, kneading the air - or the bathmat - at the same time. He’ll roll onto his back, his paws in mid-air, immodestly spread-eagled, purring. Then he’s up again.

This goes on for some time until, at last, the tub is filled and I can use it. Then Renn will settle down. He will either curl up and lie on the bathmat while I bathe, or he will watch for drops of water that may be splashed. The latter activity may succeed the former non-activity, depending on the situation. But he remains with me, even after I am finished with the bath.

It’s time for bed now, but Renn, happy in the warm air of the bathroom and the furry comfort of the bathmat, will stay, usually until I get into bed. Then I will hear the soft thumping of his big paws on the hardwood floor. Up Renn jumps to join Tungsten - not too near, mind you - who will probably already be on the bed. Josie comes in a little later, and Tucker likely soon after.

And so we’re all relaxed and ready for sleep, no one more so than my big boy, who will lie unmoving through the night, thankful for a hot bath - a dry one, in his case - and maybe dreaming already of next week’s.

Friday, November 18, 2011

The Coming Cold

My cats appear to be in good health. I am, in fact, taking Tungsten and Tucker to their respective annual check-ups early in December, and I expect little to be wrong with them. But they are suffering from a disease, one from which we all suffer from the day of our birth. They are getting older.

This doesn’t bother the majority of cats. Aging is a slow process and the effects are gradual. Unlike humans, they aren’t aware of time passing; the future to them is an hour away when it’s at last dinner-time. There is, I think, a great benefit in such limitations to imagination. Nonetheless, our pets age.

Tungsten is doing very well. I don’t know how old she is, really. When I adopted her, she was estimated to be seven years old, which would make her eleven and a half now. That is long past being a senior, according to veterinarians, though many cats live to be twice Tungsten’s current age. However, she is an active animal, and can be more energetic than any of my other three. She doesn’t play often, and when she does, it is in bursts. But what bursts. Frenetic, crazed scrabbling and rolling for a string-toy, jumping and reaching and, periodically pushing Josie away when she gets too close to the fun.

But I think Tungsten is feeling the lack of warmth this season. The autumn turned chilly quite recently, and suddenly, as it does in these parts. My orange one is a thin cat; she always has been. There is no fat on her, as there is with Josie and Tucker, and youth is not on her side, as in Renn’s case. She has been sitting on a platform of the bedroom cat-tree that is nearest the heat vent, and also sitting on a platform of the taller cat-tree in the sitting room. I thought that odd, but then realized that it too is just over a heat vent. Finally, she has been lying on cushions that I’ve placed on the floor near a cold-air outtake vent, which, to Tungsten, probably looks and sounds like a heating vent.

This made me think that she has been noticing the cold lately. She has also been lying on my lap with almost every opportunity. She has always liked resting there, but she seems more insistent now, and the change from lying on my lap when the time was convenient for her to lying on it whenever she could made me deduce that it’s warmth, rather than company, that is her primary motivation.

So I decided to acquire a heated cat-bed, or a heating pad that can be put under cushions.

My search was not encouraging. Despite the near parity (and, depending on the week, sometimes the superiority) of the Canadian dollar compared to the American, prices of heated cat beds are much higher here than in the United States, sometimes a third to a half as much again. I considered ordering one from the U.S., but the shipping costs made the total price as much as one from Canada.

However, I did find one for an affordable price - though not a price I would consider reasonable, as it is still higher than elsewhere. But, another cat-fancier has a similar model of cat-heating pad, and it is still working after some years. I decided to buy this one.

I initially put it where Tungsten was lying these days, but I then decided that that would be confusing: confusing for my orange one, who would wonder why the pad kept moving, and confusing for me, because I wouldn’t know if she was sitting somewhere because of the warmth, or because of habit. I concluded that she should simply find the warmth of the pad herself, so I replaced the cushions I’d put on the floor for the cats. I laid the pad on an old towel, then put another old towel on top of it.

At first, Tungsten was reluctant to lie on the towels. The desire to lie next to what she believed was a heat vent was, however, probably too strong to ignore, so she lie down. The warmth coming through the towel seems to be negligible to me, but the instructions that came with the product mentioned that this may be the case; cats would feel the change in temperature.

Indeed, she seems to have taken to it, on a tentative basis. I left the pad plugged in, and thus on, all day, while I was at work, and that evening, Tungsten lie on it more than she had at any other time. As she gets older, her tiny body will lose more heat, and I want her to sit and lie with comfort even in her old age. I have also started experimenting with covering her, at least partially, with a blanket at night, though that policy has met with limited success…

The other cats’ reactions to the heating pad have been interesting. Each seems to be aware of its properties, and have tried it out. Josie always liked lying on the cushions that the pad replaced and so relaxed on the towels, no doubt feeling the warmth beneath her. Renn sniffed at the towel (he’s a great smeller) and, probably feeling the heat on his sensitive nose, sat on the pad. Then he lie down, which he rarely does on anything that isn’t for humans, too. I even saw Tucker lying on the pad just last night.

But none of these three stay for long. They move on to their habitual haunts. Perhaps they simply don’t need the extra warmth, and therefore it feels uncomfortable to them. To be honest, I hope that’s the case, because it means that Tungsten will not have competition for the pad. She is, after all, the one I believe needs it. When the spring comes, followed by summer, I’ll put the pad away, and my orange one can enjoy the natural warmth of the sunny days. But in the dark months, when the temperature falls outside, she’ll be comfortable, battling so far victoriously against the disease that we all fight, in our own ways.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

More Food!

I seem to think, if not write, about feeding the cats a great deal. I am always concerned that they are eating too little or too much, or that the food they are consuming isn’t healthy enough for them, or that they simply don’t like it.

My cats don’t have a lot in the way of hobbies. Collecting stamps is too expensive, star-gazing requires them to be outside and, though I’m sure they would enjoy reading, not being able to turn pages leaves them with little more to read than the titles on the spines of my books. Looking out the window, playing, sleeping and eating constitute not only the great majority of their lives, but also their pastimes. Therefore, I think it is nice if the cats eat their meals because they enjoy them, as much as like them. Tungsten and Renn figure in this aspect, as they have seldom eaten all of their soft food rations, and eat the hard food simply as a staple.

However, this sometimes conflicts with my concern about their health. Josie and Tucker are tubular cats, rounded and heavy. Tucker is gaining weight, while Josie, though losing some pounds, retains the shape of tinned ham, and from the back, when seated, looks like a heavy, white eggplant.

Recently, I have begun a process which I like to call ‘starvation’. Well, no, it’s not as bad as that, though it made the cats look up when I mentioned it. Hehe. Anyway… I have decided to make the hard-food bowl available to the cats only during certain times of the day. Tucker, for one, nibbles from it quite often. It’s a nervous habit with him, I think. He goes to eat two or three kernels of hard food whenever I make a point of kneeling beside him to rub his head or pet him. He purrs and definitely likes the attention - then heads over to the bowl. He does this at other times, too. That adds up.

The bowl will now be on the food mat throughout the night; I figure that the cats sleep through that period and it limits their eating. It will also be available through the day when I am at work, though I reduce the amount of food therein so that they run out during the day, hopefully. This will make them hungry for the soft food, which they need for moisture. (You see the cunningness of my plan…)

On days that I am home, I allow them to eat from the bowl for half an hour after I rise. The fact that the cats all seem to eat then confirms that they consumed little during the night. I put the bowl down again in the early afternoon, and again about six-thirty. Each time, I let each cat visit the bowl and have his or her fill, but only once. Then the bowl is hidden again. By dinner- and snack-times, with their portions of soft-food, the animals are ravenous. Well, peckish, at least.

At the same time, I have discovered a new flavour of Fancy Feast that all the cats seem to like. As with many cat-owners, I have tried numerous brands, varieties and flavours to find something that the cats looks forward to eating. Fancy Feast, though not the best of nutrition, is adequate. Recently, as I have written before, I have found that the chicken pate is favoured to a certain extent by all four of my furry roommates. I sometimes garnish it with trout flavour. I don’t use just trout because half the cats don’t eat it all; they lick the gravy off of it and leave the actual ‘meat’. As much as I like my cats, I can’t spend 50 to 74 cents (depending on where and when I buy it) a tin, just to give them a taste of gravy.

By accident, I purchased the cumbrously titled cod, sole and shrimp flavour, due to interpreting its shade of green label as that of the trout. Having opened the tin, I decided to give it to the animals as a test. To my surprise, all four liked it. Tungsten ate almost all her portion and Renn cleaned his plate, even eating a small second helping. A better test came when I served the refrigerated leftovers (warmed up) for snack-time. Again, the fussy two did very well, eating more than normal. Josie, who has been leaving some of her chicken, finished all of her fish ration, while Tucker… Well, Tucker would eat Velcro if it tasted good.

This may be the thrill of novelty. I will have to test the new flavour further. As well, cats do become bored with their routine meals after a time, so I will continue to have the chicken pate and trout handy, and once in a while will experiment with other flavours and brands, though this can become expensive if the results are negative.

I dislike seeing my cats waiting for the hard-food bowl. I want them always to enjoy themselves, and that includes eating. But sometimes a foot must be put down, for their own good. If my new plan works, perhaps I won’t have to write about the animals’ food habits again, at least for another month or two.

The Corpse

No, he’s not dead, but he does a good imitation of it, doesn’t he? This is Tucker lying on the floor, waiting to be petted. Or photographed by the scene-of-crime specialist.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Not Enough Toys

There are plenty of cat-toys in the house. My three (plus one) have their choices of fuzzy mice, spongy balls, furry balls (rather disgusting now with the fuzz and fur pulled and torn and covered with dried cat spit), mice on a string (which used to be mice hanging from a string but Renn discovered that he could get the mice by chewing through the string and letting it drop; unfortunately, it wasn’t as much fun after that) and little plastic coils that everyone says their cats love but mine largely ignore.

Tucker likes playing with these toys, and Renn does as well, though not to the extent that the roly poly one does. Josie and Tungsten (when the latter plays at all) prefer to wait until I bring out the human-operated feather-sticks and string-toys.

Even so, I think you can see that there are toys aplenty with which the cats may amuse themselves. But some are more enterprising, and find their own sources of amusement. These are simple, cheap alternatives, rather along the lines of a child playing with the box in which a toy comes, rather than the contents themselves.

Tucker likes to play with his food. He will take a kernel of the hard food, scooping it out of the bowl, and knock it about on the floor, chasing it. The little kibble certainly does fly about, gliding over the smooth surface of hardwood and tumbling about the linoleum.

This is harmless fun, for the most part. Often, when Tucker has had his fill of play, he will have his fill of food, and eat his toy. But this isn’t always the case. I’ve found numerous intact kernels lying about the floor, even more frequently lying under furniture. And I’ve stepped on others. I tell the cats not to leave their toys lying about - I can no longer count the number of times I’ve stepped on a fuzzy mouse and been afraid I’ve come down on a paw or a tail - but it’s fruitless. And so, once in a while, I feel something small and hard giving way under my heel, and hear a crunch.

One day, a couple of weeks ago, I came home and found that the cats had discovered a new diversion. This one may have been devised by Tucker, since he is most likely to play with small, rubbery items. But I think Renn had a hand in it. The roly poly one rarely goes into the bathroom except to rub up against me. My big boy enjoys going into the bathroom to watch the water evaporate in the basin or, if he’s lucky and I haven’t fully turned off the tap, to watch the water drip. It’s more probable that it was he who found the new toy on the rim of the bath-tub. If it hadn’t been lying in the middle of the kitchen’s floor, easily seen, I may have had to forego bathing.

Yes, that’s the bath-tub stopper.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Of Courage

Cats come in all shades, physically, mentally and emotionally. Some are born with a certain character, some with another; some are urged by their surroundings in one direction, some in a second.

My big boy Renn was a very frightened cat when he came to stay with me as a foster. I think he may have always had a timid streak in him. He hid from any loud, sustained noise, hurrying away to his safe spot with a low, long groan, the sort emitted by a person who is expecting trouble. In my old apartment, he fled to a box I’d fixed to the top of the kitchen counters. In the new house, he usually retreats under the bed.

He has been getting better, stronger, braver. He quickly grows used to people and comes out to see them after not so very long in hiding. He may crouch low and his eyes may grow large with apprehension when someone new offers to pet him; he will probably not allow any physical contact right away. But when a familiar visitor arrives, he will absent himself only briefly now, if at all. Then he comes out, ready to meet the person; he’ll be quick to dart away at sudden movements, but he overcomes his fears as best he can, because he enjoys people, he wants to be near them, and he likes to be liked.

But a test of his nerves was coming. I purchased new blinds for my windows and, being largely incompetent in regards to matters of repair and installation, I hired someone to put them in. I figured that they may as well be done properly, rather than by me. But I worried about my cats’ reactions. Tungsten wouldn’t care about the intruder, even with all the attendant noises an installation would entail. Josie would be wary but would find a spot to be alone and wait out the episode. 

My two boys would be concerned, though, and frightened. Tucker would hide somewhere distant from the fuss, while Renn would be unnerved and seek shelter under the bed or in a far corner of the downstairs library, where he has hidden before.

After the handyman started his work, Tucker indeed hurried to the bedroom where he jumped on the bed and laid low, literally. Renn retreated beneath the bed. I coaxed him out briefly, but then he returned. I thought it best to leave him for the time being. I worked about the house as well as I could with the interruption of my routine.

It was while I was sitting at the computer in the back parlour that I noticed Renn creeping out of the bedroom. Looking warily into the kitchen, from which a commotion of work was coming, he made his way slowly along the corridor to where I was sitting. He sat in the parlour with me for a while, then lie down and, though his eyes were watchful, he tried to relax - or at least pretended.

But that was the beginning. Over the next few hours, Renn’s fear battled his scientific spirit, and the latter won, just barely. He emerged from the parlour and examined the workman from a distance. When the man moved out of the kitchen, Renn cautiously sniffed the toolboxes and implements. He avoided the visitor but didn’t again run under the bed. He stayed with me, or climbed a cat-tree, but wouldn’t hide.

Tucker came out, too. He scampered away from any sudden noise more than did Renn, but I think he was following my big boy’s example. Throughout the majority of the handyman’s time in the house, all the cats were out and about - avoiding the intruder, but definitely not hiding.

Renn has come along way since the days when he would quake under the bed at the noise of a car pulling into the driveway. He knows that visitors do not always mean bad things are going to happen; in fact, they often give wonderful chest rubs. Life improves every day for someone who finds the courage to explore it. And that’s my big boy.