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.