Friday, January 28, 2011


This time, there is good news. A couple of Wednesdays ago, Tucker was again taken to the veterinarian, because the medicine given initially to help fight the infection he has developed was ineffective. This time, he was given a shot of something called Convenia, an anti-bacterial medicine designed to fight skin problems. He was also prescribed another ointment, for direct application to the problem area.

He is improving. The troublous area has healed quite a bit. To tell the truth, I don’t know if it’s healed as much as it should, but it seems to be developing a scab, which, I guess, is part of the healing process. Tucker may always have a little round scar, but as long as it’s under his fur and troubles him no more, he can live with that.

He continues to wear a funnel-shaped cone to keep him from licking the troublesome area, but I remove it when I have him under my direct supervision. At those times, he does not seem compelled to lick the spot. I know he wants to, but every cat wants to clean that area, and it is probably itchy, as well. But if these are the normal reactions of a cat, and not those of one suffering a physical ailment, then that’s satisfactory, and he’ll have to put up with them until he’s completely healed. The difficult judgement for me will be to tell when the spot is healed enough for him to do without the cone, and not re-damage the area by the normal grooming he will want to perform. To be safe, this should mean another trip to the veterinarian, but I hesitate to do that due to the extra cost. That may sound negligent - after all, it’s the roly-poly one’s health that is at stake - but anyone who owns a pet knows how expensive it is to visit a doctor just to have her say, “It’s looking good. Thanks for coming in.”

Tucker has adjusted himself to wearing the cone, though he certainly dislikes it. He endures it through the night and during the day when I’m away. He’s learned to ascend and descend stairs with it on, to eat and drink water, and is no longer as depressed with it as he was that first week. He comes into the bedroom every morning as soon as I turn on a light and squeaks to have the cone removed. He doesn’t sleep on the bed since having to wear the funnel; I’m hoping he will return once it is permanently taken off. I replace the cone when I go to work, but the half hour before that he is free to groom. His gladness at having it removed is obvious.

He is a smart animal, and knows he’s not supposed to lick a certain spot. Sometimes, I will see him move to groom where I think he shouldn’t and after scolding him, will discover that he was only near and not on the formerly infected area. I will tell him that it’s all right, and that he can continue, and he does. With the cone off, he is lively and active, and has even chased Josie and ambushed Renn. Once the collar is gone forever, the old Tucker will be back, I’m sure.

The other cats are, unfortunately, getting less attention during this time than I would like to give. Renn continues to improve in his own way. I’ve had friends over to the house on two different occasions recently. The big boy still runs to hide when someone arrives, but each time now, he comes charging out for attention not twenty minutes later, as had been the case, but only two or three minutes later. He has long since ceased to run when I come through the door. Instead, he meets me there with the others.

Josie has, I think I’ve mentioned previously, become the boss of the food bowls, despite deferring to Tungsten in other matters. My Chubs has become more vocal in recent months, when demanding that I hurry when serving the soft food, and when playing. She has also developed a fondness for a particular dining chair’s cushion. When I am sitting on it, and she wants to take my place, she will appear restless, even try another chair, but find it lacking something. When I move, she is quick to fill the vacancy. It’s becoming her place.

And Tungsten remains top-cat, though there is less of her. She went to her annual check-up a week ago. (Speaking of veterinary expenses: a ten-minute examination resulted in a bill of more than $60. It was necessary; an annual exam is as important for pets’ health as for humans, especially when we, er, I mean they, become middle-aged.) The orange one has lost half a kilogram of weight since last year. She’s tiny, so she can’t afford to lose much. The doctor said that she is still adequate for her size, but such a loss may be a symptom of kidney disease. Another symptom is increased need for water. Fortunately - at least in this case - Tungsten drinks from a tap that she needs me to turn on, so I can monitor the frequency and length of her drinks. There has not been a noticeable surge in her thirst. But I will borrow a scale to weigh the orange one every three months until her next exam, just to make sure she isn’t diminishing any further. In the meantime, she continues as she has been, bossy, quiet, cuddly and annoying at all the wrong moments. (Licking my face just as I am drifting off to sleep, for instance.)

Things have been interesting lately, but when a cat’s life gets interesting, its human starts worrying. I hope there’s nothing more interesting at the new house in the future than a fuzzy mouse stuck under a couch, or the anticipation of a tin of soft food opening.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Trouble for Tucker

This past week has been a troubling one for Tucker. The visit to the veterinarian went well, and Tucker returned with fewer teeth and a good chance for healthier gums. Later came a problem.

Tucker has always been sensitive. When he first came to live with me, he became despondent and refused to eat or drink for four or five days, having to be force-fed during that time. He eventually recovered and became a happy cat who seemed to enjoy his new home and roommates.

I had expected trouble because of this sensitivity but it took a form that surprised me. In his anxiety, he started cleaning a portion of his rear end, and cleaned it so often and so vigorously that the fur was worn off of it, and the skin beneath became raw. I didn’t notice it until a few days into the problem. 

In response, he was equipped with a funnel-shaped collar, to prevent any more attentions to the area, and some ointment, called Hibitane. The past few days have been unpleasant for Tucker. At first, I refrained from putting the cone on him overnight, so he could have a decent rest, but he tended to abuse the privilege and continued to lick himself. Now, he wears the cone all day and all night, except for a few minutes under my direct supervision, when I give him some relief from it. He can’t drink properly when the cone is on, nor can he groom himself, so I take it off for a little while in the evenings, as long as he doesn't try to lick where he shouldn't. When he eats, the poor boy looks like a vacuum cleaner.

In the meantime, he is unhappy. The cone often creates a state of semi-paralysis in which he will lie still, facing a wall or a piece of furniture. When he started to move after the first time the cone went on, all I heard was he crashed into one object after another. His whiskers and peripheral vision have been neutralized.

However, he is making efforts. He has even ventured downstairs, which is hazardous with the cone. He came into the bathroom Saturday night while the tub was filling. That’s usually Tungsten’s time to spend with me, but the new boy wandered in (clunk...scrape...clunk) and the orange one actually tolerated him lying next to her. Then Renn came in to watch the water run...

Tucker goes to the veterinarian again on Wednesday, because the Hibitane prescribed has proved ineffective. I think the anxiety over visiting the doctor the last time is gone, and the drive to lick where he shouldn’t is now physical for Tucker. I hope that that will repeat itself, so that once a new medicine clears up the raw spot, Tucker won’t feel the need to attend to it any more.

In the meantime, the other cats are doing well, though no doubt wondering why their newest roommate has a big funnel on his head.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Into the New Year

The new year has begun. Everyone here at the house finished the old year in good spirits. Christmas is being (present tense, as we’ve not finished the Twelve Days yet) kind to us, bringing gifts, food and tranquility (the latter being as important as anything, in a household with four animals). The cats received many presents (more than I did, in fact!), toys that they enjoy playing with, whether with me or by themselves.

Not everyone has entered the new year in good health, however. Tucker is scheduled for a dental operation on 7th January. He has some teeth which must be removed; the rest need cleaning. The veterinarian explained that his bad teeth may have been hurting him for some time. Cats do not show pain readily – though the slighter forms of discomfort certainly bring out protests fast enough. Tucker has never been reticent about eating, whether soft food or hard; I hope that’s a sign that he has not been bothered too much by his teeth.

He will go for his operation early in the morning and return to the house in the late afternoon. I’m not sure what to expect. The first time Tungsten had to have a tooth removed, she came back rather stunned, and sat on her food mat for the rest of the day. She had trouble chewing hard food and I felt bad at how frustrated she would become trying. But at last she found an alternative place in her mouth to crunch the kernels, and she recovered well. The second time she went, she behaved as if she had gone for nothing more than an exam, despite having had another tooth removed. She chewed her hard food that same night, with apparently no difficulty.

Tucker was very despondent when he first came to stay with me, and I always worry that that reaction may repeat itself after a tramautic time. However, he, and the other cats, survived the move to the new house with no bother at all, and when he comes back from the surgery, he will be returning to a familiar setting, which I believe he likes, and to familiar roommates. I hope that those factors make all the difference. Even so, he will be sore, possibly ill from the anaesthetic and probably just plain out of sorts. A contrast with Tungsten that will aid his recovery, though, is that Tungsten’s taste for soft food is mild. She eats it, but rarely consumes everything in her dish. Tucker would suck back tins of the stuff at a sitting, if allowed. I don’t fear that he will starve. Tucker would gladly forego hard food for more of the soft.

Tucker’s arrival in my household was one of the changes that occurred last year. In fact, Ren’s arrival counts, too. I find it hard to credit that he’s been with me only since May. Perhaps Tucker’s advent at the end of September made the big boy seem like an old part of my life. Speaking of Ren, he continues his fascination with water, whether it’s still or running. I wish he could tell me what interests him about it so much.

Other new aspects of the cats’ lives include Josie’s growing friendship with me. She has always been a friendly cat. It’s why I chose her to be a companion for Tungsten. My Chubs couldn’t help it if the orange one didn’t like it that way. But over the past few months, even before we moved to the house, Josie has been asking me for attention more often, seeking me out and trying to be near me. Just this week, she twice jumped up on the table where I was writing and lie down across my papers. She had not done that before. Naturally, I obliged with petting for as long as she liked.

I’ve also noted that though Tungsten is the undisputed top-cat here, even she will yield the food bowl to Josie when the latter comes for a nibble. There’s no fighting; Tungsten understands the situation. But I’ve seen my Chubs swat Tucker – with not too much force – away from the food. It was similar with the foster-cats, Wixie and Mystery. The latter was the dominant cat in that pair, yet recognised that Wixie would not be denied when it came to food.

Tungsten has found a new spot to lie in, a hide-away in a bathroom cabinet to which only her small size admits her. As well, she has found an old spot for comfort. I at last put cushions back on the dining chairs. She has always enjoyed curling up on them for a snooze, and didn’t take long to find that they were back.

With regards to the cats, what I am most thankful for in the new year is that they get along so well. There are sometimes growls from Josie (she sounds like a grumpy old lady) when Tucker wants to play and she doesn’t; the new boy will pursue her too closely. And once in a while, Tungsten will hiss, especially at Ren. But that’s because most of the time, she allows Ren to come near her, even to lie next to her. Now and then, though, Tungsten wants to be alone. But the facts that she and Ren snooze beside each other, and that Josie and Tucker will play chase together, are remarkable. It’s a marvel to see the four of them go for days without a harsh action among them.

Josie came to live with me two years ago on Christmas Eve, and at the time I thought Tungsten would never like her or another cat. But if my orange one can change for the better, and can learn to tolerate others, then anyone can.