Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Thought for Food

My cats’ diet is a continuing source of worry for me. Perhaps I should say that it’s a ‘continuous’ source, since I never stop thinking about it. Cats aren’t so fussy that they will starve themselves to death. Tungsten, for one, cares little for the rest of the world, so the idea of her conducting a hunger strike over social conditions is a fantasy.

I had to force-feed Tucker when he first came to live with me because he was too despondent to eat. Starvation was unlikely but if cats don’t eat for several days, their internal organs will suffer, perhaps irreparably. But honestly, I’m not concerned about my three (plus one) having problems like that. I worry that they are not getting the proper nutrients, I worry that they are not consuming enough water (cats never drink as much as they should) and I worry that they simply aren’t enjoying their food.

All the animals eat California Natural brand hard-food, chicken and brown rice formula. I don’t know whether they like it or eat it because there is no other hard-food offered. They seem to know that hard-food forms the bulk of their diet and the soft-food is given as a treat, since they feel they are able to be choosy about the latter.

I feed Fancy Feast as the soft-food in my house; I’d rather serve better quality brands but Fancy Feast is what most like most, if you know what I mean.

Tucker and Josie are easy to please, Josie more so. My Chubs likes almost anything that I give her in the way of cat food. There are a few varieties of extra-healthy tinned food for which she doesn’t care, but they are few and far between. Tucker comes a close second, though he doesn’t care much for fish flavours. He’ll eat them, but he prefers others. He is also picky about what, on a dish, he consumes. When I gave him a portion of Spot’s Stew brand food, I discovered afterward that he had eaten everything but two peas; they lie squashed and abandoned.

Tungsten eats very little even at the best of times. Putting the food-dish in front of her four or five times will get her to eat more than she would really like, but it’s never much, and I don’t want to force any cat to eat anything unless it’s a matter of survival. I can count on one hand the times that the orange one has eaten everything in her bowl.

Renn is my major worry. My big boy should have one of the strongest appetites, considering his size. He’s not fat, like Josie, or on his way to being fat, like Tucker, but he’s a long, lean creature as heavy as my Chubs. He eats from the hard-food bowl, which is always available, but he doesn’t resort to it often. It doesn’t seem necessary for him. Yet he’s not suffering from a loss of appetite, as he looks forward to a bowl of soft-food at dinner- and snack-times. And that’s when I feel bad.

Renn doesn’t seem to like much in the way of cat food. I’ve tried about twenty flavours of Fancy Feast, ten different varieties of Blue and associated brands, California Natural soft-food and others. There is nothing that he loves, or even is inordinately fond of. Some days he will barely sniff at his food before walking away. And he whines when I try to push food on him. It’s true that he seems to like the taste of fish (the opposite of Tucker’s views on the subject), but just the taste: he will lick a bowl-full of fish bits, but not eat any, leaving dried pieces that the other cats won’t finish up for him.

Fancy Feast chicken flavour pate (everything sounds tastier in French: “Pass the hen-paste” just doesn’t have that je ne sais quoi when rendered in English) is what he likes the most. I have been giving all the cats that, and Renn has eaten most of his portions when they comprise that flavour. I hope this isn’t a passing phase.

Though I would spend significant amounts of money if I could find something my big boy loved (something they all loved would be better) and was good for him, I can’t keep experimenting, watching him nibble a little then have to throw the balance out. The worst is when I bring him his soft-food bowl. He sits up with his eyes wide and his face expectant - usually to be disappointed. At least he hasn’t refused to eat some of the new flavour; he actually appears to enjoy it - so far.

I will give my animals human food once in a while as a treat, but their reactions to it are mixed. Tungsten and Tucker love chicken, whereas Josie (surprisingly) does not. There is actually something my big white won’t eat. Renn won’t touch human food, either. Tucker would live on our diet, if it were available. He likes even fruit, something I discovered when, in order to discourage him from leering at me while I ate, I offered him some. I assumed he would sniff, perhaps lick, then turn away. He not only licked it, but chewed it up and wanted more. I did not renew the offer, fearing the consequences on his insides. But I think the roly poly one would and could eat anything.

That fact in itself sometimes worries me. I worry when they don’t eat enough, when they eat too much, when they don’t like food, when they don’t eat in their usual manner. It makes me wonder why I have cats, the anxiety I experience. It’s enough to put me off my food.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Mercury Rising

Southern Alberta is usually hot in the summer. It can be very hot. I prefer temperatures no warmer than 20 degrees Celsius, and it’s been in the high 20s and even into the 30s for a few days now. The spring was wet and cool, even chilly. Then, as has happened the last few years, we pass a point at which that weather vanishes and is replaced by heat and aridity.

Cats feel the heat, just as humans do. I am never sure, however, how much they feel it or how badly it affects them. After all, these are animals covered in fur - in many cases, a great deal of fur - and who nonetheless lie in the sun. Surely, the high temperatures are doing them no good, perhaps even harm.

Activity is reduced. Play is more desultory than dedicated, and the cats lie about more than usual, which is a great deal to begin with.

Fortunately, the basement of my house is permanently cooler than the ground floor. It can feel somewhat close and airless, but from the heat it is a refuge that I’ve used recently myself. Josie and Renn seemed to like the basement from the beginning. It’s where my Chubs usually heads when she wants to throw up. After all, it has carpeting. But since I’ve installed a couple of comfortable armchairs there, those two seem to curl up in them more frequently than anywhere else. That’s fine by me, especially if it keeps them cool. I have a large bowl of water in the downstairs washroom for their convenience. It’s Josie’s preferred source of water; Renn likes to stare at the contents.

I worry more about Tungsten and Tucker. They rarely go to the basement, though they have been there and know it’s cooler than the rest of the house. The orange one will come down when she’s missing me, and consent to lie on my lap, if I’m at the computer, which isn’t often. Tucker is an upstairs cat. Thus, the two of them probably feel the heat more than their housemates.

I can tell that Tungsten is warm when she would rather lie on the floor than on my lap. She also stretches her forelegs in front of her when she’s feeling the heat. She likes lying on top of the refrigerator these days, as she can, I think, feel any air moving in through the open window by the dining table.

Tucker likes being horizontal on the linoleum or hardwood. He will lie with his stubby front legs stretched before him, his head in between, as if he’s giving obeisance to some invisible cat deity. He also reclines on the window sill of the back parlour, though all the cats like lying on the sill of an open window.

Their behaviour at night, too, changes with the temperature. They no longer sleep on the bed with me, though Tungsten starts out there, and most of them wind up there on weekend mornings when I sleep late and the morning is the coolest part of the day. My orange one finds it all most suspicious as I can’t bear even the flimsiest sheet on such warm nights, and Tungsten thinks there is something amiss when a blanket is not covering me. She approaches the situation cautiously, and lies down in her usual spot warily. And I can’t have her rear paws in my hand, as I usually do at night, since she stretches her legs out to disperse the heat.

There is water by the food bowl upstairs and I leave a shallow bowl in the basin of the upstairs bathroom. I do that because Tungsten will go to that basin and wait for water to be run from the tap. She disdains sitting water - as long as I am present to run some for her - but I’ve seen her, when impatient, lick drops from the bottom of the basin. So I decided to put a larger amount there. For the first few days that this was done, I was certain she had been drinking from it, as she did not immediately go to the basin for me to run water for her upon my return from work every day. She has recommenced that, though I think she still sneaks water from the shallow bowl. However she gets the fluid, I’m happy, as long as she is drinking.

I’ll be happier when I again need a blanket or two at night.

Sunday, July 10, 2011


Sadie died a few weeks ago.

Not many people knew Sadie. I was acquainted with her only by name and, in a manner of speaking, reputation. She was a black cat rescued in Taber, Alberta, by the PAW Society of Lethbridge, in the spring of 2010. She was living a precarious life in back yards and alleys, and bolting an occasional meal on the property of someone who left food out for a feral colony. Sadie was new to the colony and was trapped in order to be spayed. Once captured, it was clear that she was tame, and homeless. She was taken in to the PAW Society so a permanent home could be found for her.

At first, she was withdrawn and sad, but this seemed to have been caused by a severe infection in her mouth. Unfortunately, this necessitated the removal of her teeth. However, afterward, once she had recovered physically, she was a more out-going and active cat.

What sort of cat was Sadie? She was tentatively friendly, suggesting that she had had a home at some time in her past. Was she lost? Had she been looked for? Forgotten? Had she been abandoned? No one will ever know, just as no one will ever know about the majority of rescued cats. Sadie liked people but distrusted them initially, the result of months or more living alone and from day to day on what she could forage.

But now, slowly, she learned that she was safe, even if her current home was only temporary. She liked to sleep on the bed in her new place. Cats enjoy feeling close to the people who treat them well, and I think sleeping in the same spot and at the same time as a human friend gives them a sense of security and comfort. Sadie had no teeth remaining but eating was still a favourite pastime of hers. She was ready for a permanent home.

Sometimes things don’t work out as we would like. Sadie started eating less, which is usually a sign of something amiss. She lost weight. This was gradual, but the end came quickly. She died in the afternoon on her foster-guardian’s bed, with friends near by, and surrounded by familiar and comforting smells. Sadie’s guardian had looked forward to her learning how to play, how to enjoy the sunshine - how to be a cat again after her time surviving outside. The little daughter of the house thought of Sadie in the same way others might think of a baby, and still doesn’t understand that Sadie is gone.

No one knows what caused her death. No one knows her actual age. No one knows how she ended up alone amidst a group of feral cats. She was one of millions of homeless cats, one who was lucky enough to be taken in, but unlucky enough to have been homeless and unloved for too long. I wanted to write about Sadie because I think every life should be acknowledged, whether its affect on the world is good, bad or indifferent. Sadie’s influence on those around her was, I know, beneficial; everyone smiled when they met her. Would the world have been so greatly improved had she lived? Maybe not greatly, but it would have been better. It would have been better because everyone smiled when they met Sadie.