Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Introducing Marilyn

I would not normally use this space for ‘advertising’, as it were, but it’s in a good cause. All the cats I have came from the Lethbridge PAW Society, a cat rescue organisation here in Lethbridge, Alberta. They have a large number of cats available for adoption but their most pressing need right now is for foster-homes. All PAW cats are lodged temporarily in volunteers’ homes. That’s an advantage of the PAW Society: with cats living twenty-four hours a day with people, those volunteers can describe each of the cats to prospective adopters.

However, this little beauty needs a new home - even a temporary foster-home. This is Marilyn. She’s black and white, with short hair, and is the softest, quietest, most undemanding cat you’ll meet. That is the problem in her foster-home. The other cats are a bit too much for her. They aren’t bullies, and they don’t attack her, but she is cowed by them, and must keep to herself. That’s not good for any cat.

It’s certainly not Marilyn’s fault. Anyone with two or more cats will know just what I’m writing about: sometimes two animals just don’t get along. My Tungsten and Josie fought when they first met - no one’s fault? Well, maybe Tungsten’s in that case... Tungsten wouldn’t tolerate Josie for months. Marilyn is too shy to stick up for herself, and so can’t enjoy herself in what is otherwise an excellent environment.

So if anyone in the Lethbridge area is interested in fostering Marilyn - or better yet, adopting her - please contact the PAW Society at 403-328-6700. Visit PAW’s website at to learn more about Marilyn, and all the other wonderful animals available for life-long companionship.

The Lure of the Scented Outdoors

Spring is here. Though the weather varies daily from cloudy to sunny, wet to dry, chilly to warm, the grass is green, the trees have come out in leaf and birds are everywhere. In my house, which retains its original windows from the 1950s, that means it’s time for the storm windows to come off and the fitted screens to replace them.

This resulted in a revolution in my cats’ world. No longer were they confined to the open front door if they wanted to sniff the fresh air. No more were they condmned to being piled up like a feline high-rise on their cat-tree. And no further need I to drag that awkward, carpet-covered plaything half-way across the room whenever the animals wanted to view the great outdoors.

I have to lubricate the grooves up and down which the window frames theoretically slide, but for now, the sashes move up far enough to give the cats an enjoyment they’ve not had in the new house. Renn was the first to discover the open window. He often watches me when I am in the back garden, no doubt wondering what I am doing (eg. mowing the grass because it’s too long, then watering it to make it grow; that’s a good question, Renn: what am I doing?). The spare room is slowly being transformed into a ‘back parlour’, with a loveseat pushed up against the wall under the window. Its back is perfect for the cats to sit on and watch the outside.

Josie found the open window in the bedroom next. She was so delighted or perhaps just surprised by it that she let out a cry when I greeted her through it from the lawn. It wasn’t long before the other two found the new venue of metaphorical escape. The house may be bigger than our old apartment, but it’s still a rather restrictive world. Now, a wider existence, previously only observed through sealed glass has smells and sounds, as well as sights. The movies they viewed of birds flying and hopping are now talkies.

Because of the interaction and hierarchy in the household, some cats don’t like being up at the windows next to others, so at times there were line-ups. Tucker lie on the bed, forlornly waiting for a space; later, Josie objected to Renn being too near, so she complained and jumped down. It’s a good thing there are two sets of windows that will be open for them.

I worry they will see something that will make them try to get out through the window. The screens, because they are old - and original - are of the strong metal mesh, not the softer kind that became prevalent later on. That alone will deter an attempt to break out, I think, and the screens’ frames are securely in place. This past weekend was a practice run for the summer, though the real test will come, I’m sure, when the weather grows warmer, and the windows are open wider.

So far, the cats are behaving themselves. Tungsten is tiny enough to slip in between the screen and the pane of glass. She looks like a display at a museum. If there were more room, or if a larger cat were to do that, the whole frame of the screen may burst out, even locked in place by the storm window toggles. My fear is that Josie or Renn will see something that excites them and in an attempt to get closer, she or he will use her or his size to push the screen out. I suspect anything of the sort would be inadvertent - but nonetheless worrisome.

But I will watch and weigh the cats’ reactions. They never tried to get through the softer screens at the apartment, which is encouraging, though Tungsten once leaped past me through the open door of the balcony. It’s the only time I’ve ever dragged a cat by its tail. She left claw marks in the snow, but I wasn’t about to let go until I could grab her around her tiny body. I can only hope that a closed screen is a closed door to their conniving minds.

As a post script, I would like to thank all those who have been reading my articles here and have commented so nicely and welcomingly on them. I want to mention that there are a few blogs on which I cannot leave comments myself. Something about the delivery system of commenting doesn’t agree with my computer, and every time I try to leave a response, nothing is posted. It involves the same system in each case, and other methods used on other blogs are successful. So if you were kind enough to write to me, and I didn’t get back to thank you, that’s why.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011


I may have written before about how my cats play, but it, like so much else about them, evolves, so I thought I’d put down how each likes to play now. That way I can compare it to later, when each has become jaded with his or her means of having fun, and moved on to new methods.

Most cats like to play. Even Tungsten enjoys a session now and then. She becomes a different cat when she plays. She’s like Jekyll and Hyde (though, in fact, I don’t think Stevenson’s characters actually played with fuzzy mice - though it’s been a while since I've read the book). Much of the time, I will drag a string toy past Tungsten and she will not react. Then a skinny little leg will shoot out, stopping the toy. She may jump on it, wrestle with it. Sometimes, she will leap into the air after it. Once she jumped what must have been two and a half feet, maybe three, straight up; another time she leaped and bounced off the couch to try to get the toy. Her favourite seems to be what is called a mouse but looks rather like a six inch fuzzy brown worm. I'm not sure if cats can see in colour, but they must be able to distinguish hues because once in a while, in her frenetic spasms, Tungsten will mistake a little furry brown mouse for the toy - never any other colour of plaything. Another time, she grabbed at her own dark orange tail, thinking it was her quarry. She prefers to play on the new sitting room rug or around the vertical scratching post in the bedroom, though sometimes she will race after the retreating string toy. (My orange one has only a single picture because it's so unpredictable as to when she will actually choose to play.)

Tucker used to leap and wrestle with string toys. Since his dental surgery and subsequent problem with licking his skin raw, he jumps much less. I’m sure his rear end, where he licked the fur off from under his tail, was sore and that prevented him from leaping. I’m also sure that it no longer bothers him, but he’s gotten out of the habit of jumping while playing. Now he likes to hurry behind a cat tree as soon as he hears the string toy being pulled out. He hides behind the central post while I gently whip the string around one side, then around the other. He’s never sure where it’s coming from. Now and then, he’ll run after the toy as I’m dragging it away, and sometimes roll over on his back and bat at it as it flicks and flies above him. When he plays by himself, he will frequently stamp repeatedly on a fuzzy mouse or ball with a hind foot, perhaps an instinct left over from nature: stamping on prey to kill it.

Renn’s routine once was to rush to the bed when it was play-time. He would lie on it and roll and flop in attempts to catch the string-toy. Now he prefers the nylon tunnel. He likes to lie inside and try to snag the toy as it pops past one of the holes. His method of entering the tunnel is interesting. Instead of slipping easily into one of the open ends, he shoves himself through one of the two holes in the top of the tunnel, though it is usually on its side at the time. He can barely fit through the hole, so as he struggles to get in, the tunnel twists and bends like a hospital straw. At last, he is inside. Then I usually see only a muscular foreleg or a snout as he tries to catch the toy. It’s behaviour such as this that demonstrates how higher animals understand the concept of games: in nature, cats and dogs would use every dirty trick they know in order to survive. Domesticated, they willingly handicap themselves in order to create a fun setting.

While my big boy provides the most amusing manner of play, it’s Josie who makes me smile the most. My Chubs will sometimes roll about on the floor, like Tucker, grabbing at the string toy as it floats and bobs about her. But more than that, she likes being on top of her beloved cat-tree, where she will lie down and wait for me to toss the businss-end of the string toy in her direction. She flings her front legs wide and opens her mouth; I know she’s trying to claw and bite the toy, but it looks very much as if she’s laughing and spreading her arms in merriment. And if I take too long with one of the other cats before coming back to her, I’ll hear about it. She’ll squeak and groan and, as a last resort, come down to see what’s taking me so long.

I wish I could give my cats more time at play, but to compensate for an ending that comes all too soon, I conclude play-time with some food. ‘Dinner’ or ‘snack’ signals the last of games for the moment. And when she hears one of those words, Josie comes down from her cat-tree even faster than if she’s looking for fun. Taking too long over preparing a meal gives her another reason to complain...