Monday, December 31, 2012

The Bounty of Christmas

I was fortunate enough to receive a number of gifts this Christmas, all of which are greatly appreciated. I thought I’d show two of them here, since they are cat-related.

The first is a set of steps. I had mentioned to friends that Josie was having trouble getting up onto the bed at times. This may be because of her weight or it may be due to laziness. Unlike the other cats who jump up on to the bed, she does not land rear feet first. She throws herself upwards then seizes whatever she can (ie. blankets, sheets) with her forefeet’s claws. This is inconvenient for her and costly for me. So a short flight of steps were made for me.

They are hand-made, varnished and have little felt pads on the bottom to protect the hardwood floors. The structure is heavy enough not to move whenever weight is put on them but light enough to be easily portable. This is a simple yet excellent present, which must have required not a little time in the making.

Josie has tried the steps and know how they work. Cats are naturally conservative creatures, though, and she will no doubt continue to jump up the side of the bed for a while. But I show her the steps as a reminder now and then, and she will start to use them when she realises that they provide easier access than leaping, an activity for which she is not really built any more.

Another gift was a sort of tapestry, featuring a cat asleep on a bookshelf. This item is not made for covering a floor; my cats’ clawed feet would see to its demise soon enough, but as a wall-hanging or a covering for the back of the couch, it is most attractive. Books and cats seem to dominate my life, so the subject is appropriate.

Though the principal colour, or perhaps I should write, background colour, is black, the tapestry is quite vibrant, and the details come out well in these photographs. The books depicted all have cat-related titles.

Christmas was a very pleasant time for me this year, and not just due to these and other generous gifts. Though sick (rather violently) the Friday before Christmas Day, I had recovered completely by the time the big day itself arrived. I suffered a complete loss of appetite which, for someone who enjoys eating as I do, was a disaster. I was, however, hungry by Christmas dinner. The cats shared a little of my turkey, except for Renn, who has an aversion to human food of any kind. This is a contrast to Tucker, who eats almost anything.

I hope everyone’s New Year’s Eve is enjoyable and safe, and the new year itself begins - and ends - happily.

How Tungsten Spent Christmas Morning

These pictures are self-explanatory. Tungsten, who is starting to feel her age, I think, has always been as thin as the page of a book seen end-on, so she enjoys radiant warmth. And nothing is as warming, physically or otherwise, as a good fire. I placed a cushion in front of the hearth so that she could enjoy her time even more. This is how the orange one spent Christmas morning.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Merry Christmas to All

The year is coming to a close and I probably won’t be writing any more in my blog until the next one opens, so I will take this opportunity to wish everyone a happy Christmas.

This has been an eventful year, cat-wise. First and foremost, Tucker had a major problem with his urinary tract. If anyone who doesn’t know of it wishes to read of it, please consult my previous articles; I won’t go over it again here. Suffice it to say that I am thankful that the roly poly one survived and, indeed, is thriving.

Josie and Renn continue largely unchanged - and I’m grateful for that, too, because I like them the way they are. My orange one, Tungsten, top-cat of the household, is healthy and vigorous at twelve and a half years.

I have a new foster-cat, Rachael, who is making strides in trustfulness and friendship. Luther, my previous foster, who went to another home to give him more room, had a pleasant surprise: a new feline friend. He was introduced to a kitten, Fortune, also up for adoption through the Lethbridge PAW Society, and the two of them hit it off. They play together and relax together, without any hint of hostility. That makes me happy, because it increases Luther’s chance of integrating successfully with other cats, and of being adopted.

So 2012 is ending cheerfully at my house. But there have been losses among the rescue group with I volunteer. Several of the cats associated with those who work with the PAW Society died this year, leaving irreplaceable gaps in the lives of those who loved them. But that is why Christmas is always a good way to finish a year, with its hope of good will and promise of redemption and re-birth. Life continues, and demands attention in its selfish but wise way.

I hope this Yuletide finds everyone hale and content, and that the new year brings luck and happiness to all. Merry Christmas!

Josie of the Four Years

Josie came to live with me on Christmas Eve, four years ago. She was meant to be a companion and friend to my first cat, Tungsten. She turned out to be the former, but not the latter, though they do tolerate each other. Thus do our pets confound our plans.

Josefina von Chubs was five years old when I adopted her. She had been rescued from a truck engine, where she had been clinging as a kitten, in fear and, possibly, for warmth. The owner of the vehicle had tried to pry her from her perch but could not. That would be the fear bit, I imagine. So he drove to a location where he knew a cat-rescuer lived, with the Josie-to-be still under the hood. She was unharmed but probably quite jarred. Josie was rescued.

I can’t imagine her as a kitten. When I decided to meet her, she was living in a very cat-crowded house. She received care but not, I suspect, much attention. I am told that some people were interested in her at one point but she did not come out from under a table to meet them. I imagine conditions in the over-populated house kept her on edge.

Eventually, I asked to be introduced to Josie. She was brought to another location to meet me; she was very excited, purring and bumping her head against everything. I thought that this was a cat who would be friends with Tungsten. It turns out that that evening, Josie was rather uncharacteristically ebullient. She is not exactly taciturn, but she is rather aloof. She may have been simply excited at the strangeness of the event. I decided to take her in on what turned out, for that rescue group, The Lethbridge PAW Society, one of the first ‘trial-adoptions’, which has become a standard policy with them.

I have recounted elsewhere in this blog how Josie and Tungsten did not get along and how worried I was that I had made a mistake. But things calmed down and the two cats learned to co-exist. Josie soon became my Chubs, and is of course part of the family.

Josie has evolved over the years but slowly. She’s grown fatter. It’s easy to determine that she’s overweight because she spreads out like a Baggie filled with Jell-o when she lies down. As well, her head is small compared to her body. But she is eating a little less these days, actually deciding that she has had enough, when there may very well be some food left for her in the dish. But she is eating better now, too. I am always open to giving the beasts a better quality food; whether they are open to eating it is another thing. When she is hungry, though, she will let me know, and greet the appearance of the hard-food bowl or a dish of soft-food with a cry that sound quite like a cheer.

She is the mistress of the food-bowl. Even Tungsten, our top-cat, makes way when Josie, like the Duchess in “Alice in Wonderland”, lays her pointed chin on someone’s shoulder. Josie eats first, which may explain her heft.

My Great White has always been open to playing, though she has rarely been energetic about it. She still enjoys the string-toys the best when I am playing with her. But in the past year, probably less than that, she has developed a relationship with Tucker, based solely on chasing and being chased, but just when I return from work in the evenings. I will hear them running about in the sitting room and kitchen while I am changing in the bedroom. These two heavy animals sound like bowling balls rumbling across the hardwood floors. One will dive into the nylon tunnel, then shoot out to surprise the other, or hide behind a fold in the carpet, only to race away when the other rushes by. Their games are always short-lived, but they enjoy them, so I do, too.

Josie was never a lap-cat, but recently, she has acquiesced to being pulled up and placed on my lap. I have grown to know her well enough to realise that she enjoys the attention these days. She will lie down and purr as I rub the back of her neck, or stand up and knead my legs, She also likes a soft, steady rub under the chin. When she is on a chair, I will kneel beside her and start petting her. She will get up, revolve, then settle down again in exactly the same place and position. Getting up should not be mistaken for being finished.

She is older now, nine years of age, and, though still able to get around perfectly well, she seems to find it hard to jump up on the bed, needing - or is it simply wanting? - to pull herself up as much as propelling herself. I will look into getting a set of steps for her. Other than that, she is doing well. A veterinarian warned me against her increasing weight, and I am concerned about that. The doctor suggested that Josie may develop diabetes later, and require injections. This would cause Josie to resent me, and me her, so the theory goes. But Josie doesn’t hold grudges. Because my Chubs can’t reach her rear end to clean herself properly, I have periodically to do it, taking her to the bath-tub and applying warm water and a cloth. She cries and grumbles and scrabbles on the bottom of the tub; being held in place during this great indignity causes her distress. But afterward, when I’ve dried her and lifted her out and told her she can go, she hurries off, cleans herself ‘properly’ (as much as she can) and rests from her ordeal. A minute later, she purrs when I pet her and apologise. My Great White doesn’t hold grudges. And I could never feel angry at helping her.

So Josie celebrates the completion of her fourth year with me. She is cranky sometimes, though that’s nothing new. She wakes me on holidays by walking across my back and sides to let me know the food-bowl should be made available. She’s lazy and her bum is messy now and then. But she is usually the first at the door to welcome me home after I’ve been out, and she purrs loudly and unashamedly these days when I rub that little head of hers. Four years isn’t a long time for a cat to be with someone, really. Twenty-four wouldn’t be long enough for me and Josie.

Monday, December 17, 2012

The Christmas Tree Rises

The Christmas tree is up again, and once more, the cats have left it alone. I placed the glass ornaments higher up and the metal bells lower down. This would hardly discourage the cat determined to play with them, of course, but it’s the best precaution that I can take if I still want the tree to be decorated.

This year, I went once more with the fake tree. I prefer the real sort, but I am inept at stringing lights on, around and through the branches, so I decided last year to buy a small, fake tree with the lights already attached. “Simply add ornaments,” the instructions might read. This season, I saw one location at which small trees, about four feet tall, were being sold with disposable stands attached. The stands were of plastic, with a little basin for water, and were nailed, or otherwise, fixed to the bottom of the trunk. I think that’s a good idea; it solves one of the big problems with getting a real tree to stand straight and with stability.

As I put up the tree, the cats seemed more interested in the box it came from than the contents therein, though there was some sniffing. Renn, surprisingly, did not give the new object a moment’s thought. Perhaps such a bland and scentless item did not interst my resident scientist. Tucker likes to ring the bells on the lower branches once in a while, but usually by running under them during a play-session. Otherwise, even he leaves the tree alone. He was the one I was most worried about, though he gave me no trouble last year, either.

I thought Rachael might cause a problem or two. Though she spends much of her time in the back parlour, I let my guest-cat out to roam the house whenever I can. She too sniffed at the new tree but ignored it thereafter.

So far, the beasts have given me no worries directly related to Christmas. They are undemanding and usually want nothing more in the way of gifts than an extra-long session of playing and some treats. If only humans were so easy to please at the Yuletide…

Christmas Gifts!

Christmas gifts that I purchased for other people are beginning to arrive. What surprised me is that they are arriving on Sundays. The Canadian Post Office stopped working on weekends decades ago, so I thought. In this age of the servive industry working hardest at making things convenient for itself rather than for the people it serves, I thought that I was lucky to receive anything on weekdays, never mind weekends. But for two consecutive Sundays, I have received parcels, delivered to my door by the Post Office. I must apologise to that institution for some of my complaints. But not all of them.

Naturally, the cats were interested in what had come. The smells that accompany a box that has travelled through the mail must be tremendously stimulating for a cat. Certainly Tucker thought the parcel was interesting. Tungsten too wanted to examine the box.

Once I had opened it, the orange one became quite excited at the Styrofoam ‘peanuts’ inside. Evidently, their smell is an appealing one and Tungsten had a piece out and was nibbling on it before I could take it from her, despite the fact that I was ready for that sort of thing. She is very quick. Maybe I shouldn't have been taking pictures of her reactions at the time...

I was glad that this particular parcel arrived this weekend, as it must now be forwarded to another address, and I think, with ‘priority’ post, it will get to its intended destination in time for Christmas. I enjoy giving presents and only wish that I could come up with ideas sooner than I do. But then, if I did, what guarantee would I have that the person I am buying for wouldn’t get the gift on his own before Christmas? The Yuletide can be a kind of quagmire - but one that I am glad to wallow in for a couple of weeks.

My Big Boy

Renn is my big boy, a long, heavy cat, but, despite what a veterinarian once said of him, not, in my opinion, over-weight. His weight suits him. Besides, he eats very little for his size. He is healthy and happy.

But he is certainly a big fellow. His facial features are big, something he shares with his four biological brothers, and he has plenty of muscle. But he is lazy. He can jump and leap and run when he wants to, but he’s a lazy animal. When I come home from work in the evening, Tungsten and Josie and Tucker are there to greet me at the door. Renn is usually still in a cat-bed, looking at me. That he likes me is undoubted. He just doesn’t feel that he needs to rise on every occasion to show it.

He loves the heated cat-beds and can often be found in one or the other, though he doesn't fit in them - at least so it appears. I sometimes must turn him out if he and another cat are occupying them and Tungsten is feeling the cold. I bought the cat-beds with the orange one in mind, what with her advanced age and thinness, and though Renn deserves comfort as much as any, he’s my youngest pet and doesn’t need the warmth as much as my oldest. When I rouse him from his slumber - or just his lethargy - he whines and grumbles. I’d never heard a cat do that until him. He’s lazy.

Renn does like to play but even then, his size gets him into trouble. He can zoom through the nylon tunnel but once in a while, he miscalculates and takes it with him. Other times, he tries to tackle a string toy that he sees through a hole in the tunnel, and that can lead to problems.

For his size, though, he is a timid fellow. But he’s come a long way since he used to run and hide at every sound, even from somewhere distant. He enjoys our regular visitors and can often be coaxed into meeting new ones. He doesn’t like fuss or disturbance, and would much rather lie easy on a cushion or bed, relax next to a bath-tub filled with steaming water, or receive a chest rub from a human. He’s a gentle giant. He’s my big boy.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

The Failed Commando

Tucker has still to take medicine. The roly poly one had an infection after his surgery and, though that was cured after a week’s worth of pills, it came back. Evidently, the veterinarian was taking no chances the second time: Tucker was prescribed more than eighty pills, to be taken thrice a day for four weeks.

The medicine certainly worked. The infection cleared up within a few days, and the continued doses of anti-biotic have probably killed every germ Tucker ever had. He’s so clean, I could eat off him. (Those who have cats know that felines are consumed by their humans anyway - one or two hairs at a time.) But I must give him his pills for another week or two, until they run out.

My little sausage of a cat doesn’t like it. He takes the pills relatively easily. Considering the stories I’ve heard and read of some cats and their medicine, Tucker is being very kind to me. I pick him up, sit down with him on my lap, making sure to keep him upright as much as I can so nothing goes down the wrong way. I put the pill in his mouth and follow it immediately with a jet of water from a small syringe, trying to shoot it at an oblique angle so as not to choke him. I then give him three or four more little syringe-fulls of water to make sure the pill has been swallowed. He can be tricky. But in any case, considering his bladder troubles in the recent past, any water that I get into him is all for the good.

But the point is that Tucker does not care for his medicine. He will try to avoid it. He thinks that he is trying hard. Perhaps he believes that he is quite clever about it and cannot for the life of him figure out how I discover his hiding spots. Consider his tactics. One is to hide in the nylon tunnel. If the tunnel suddenly weighs fifteen pounds, I know where he is. I simply tip him out like the last drops from a milk bottle.

Another idea is to run to the bedroom and hide in a corner. His camouflage there proving ineffective, he then leaps on to the bed, flattening himself on the comforter like a flounder. This, to him, is the equivalent of a ghillie suit to a sniper. If he were ever to enlist in the army, however, the first casualty of war would not be truth, but Tucker.

The other day, his complete lack of skill at deception reached a zenith, or perhaps nadir would be more accurate. He heard me preparing the syringe and pill and betook himself to a new refuge, where I would be certain never to find him. He was hidden, he knew, practically invisible to any search. Well, it was at least true that I couldn’t grab him until I’d stopped laughing...

Still Learning

I am still learning about my cats. I see new things in their characters every day. Sometimes it’s a refinement of my acquaintance with them, a new detail to something of which I’m already aware.

Tungsten is a good example. She likes to play, but infrequently and briefly. When she does, it is usually by herself, shooting through the house, upstairs, downstairs, across the floor, up a cat-tree. Sometimes, she will pounce on a toy and fight it for a few seconds. Then again, she may attack Josie; not harshly - there’s no hissing or growling involved. She will jump on my Chubs, who will then trot away, sent off with a few smacks.

But once in a while Tungsten will consent to play with me and a string-toy. I discovered something new about that just recently. Tungsten is much more likely to leap on the string when it is being pulled toward her, than away. As she sees the end of it approaching, she will crouch, coil herself, wiggle her bum and then attack, frenetically and almost as if panic-stricken. She will flip about, grabbing this way and that, sometimes seizing her own tail (I have a string-toy that is a long, brown caterpillar-like object). Then she will stop.

Since I noticed that the direction of the toy’s advance is decisive to her participation, I’ve been able to get the orange one involved a bit more. Not much more, for in large part she holds herself aloof from the silliness of playing; that is for lesser cats. But now and then, she condescends to enjoy herself. But I think she is usually satisfied lying in a heated bed, being petted, and teaching a human about cats.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

The Visitation

Sometimes cats are weird. An animal’s senses are sharper than a human’s, and therefore it can pick up stimuli that a person cannot. I understand that, but it doesn’t make it less strange when a cat suddenly and inexplicably - at least to me - stares at a blank wall. It can be downright eerie. One day last week, the four perma-cats gathered at the tall cat-tree and started casting about, watching, or trying to watch...something? Even Tungsten, usually indifferent to almost everything, joined the group.

Was it a whistle that I could not hear (or is that dogs?)? Was it an insect that had gotten into the house on that autumn night? Was the house ‘settling’? Or was it a homicidal ghost and my trusted and most affectionate pets were collecting to tell it that there was a perfectly good human to kill, so why bother with cats?

In any case, the visitation did not last long and the felines went their separate ways. When it comes to gathering at cat-trees, this is the way I prefer to see them.

Monday, November 19, 2012

More on Tucker? Why Not?

Just in case anyone reading this hasn’t had his surfeit of Tucker, here’s another report.

It has been a few weeks since I wrote about him, and he did undergo a major operation. The poor fellow wasn’t through yet. As reported earlier, he suffered an infection. What's new is that, once the first infection was cleared up, he acquired another. This necessitated a further visit to the veterinarian. He was poked and prodded some more, and some of his bodily fluids despatched to Calgary for analysis.

He had two kinds of bacteria at once, and has been given a new medicine. It comes in the form of a little pill. The instructions on the package say to give him one pill three times a day. How can I give him the same pill three times? That would be impossible, as he swallows each pill and it dissolves in his stomach. Once that semantical difficulty was overcome, all I had to do was force Tucker to take his medicine. He must take three pills a day for 28 days. My poor roly poly.

He is remarkably easy-going about it. He doesn’t fight much; his resistance is passive, and he has become adept at hiding the pill, even after several mouthfuls of water injected by syringe to make sure it goes down. But I haven’t lost a pill yet. And my roly poly doesn’t take umbrage at his manhandling. I tell him afterward that he is a good boy and I rub his fuzzy head. He purrs.

He is a cat who wants to be happy. I believe that he likes his little world and enjoys himself most of the time. I judge his well-being by how he plays and how he purrs.

He is currently feeling very good. The latest infection had him feeling low, but he has conquered it and is his old self. He has discovered something about the new rug. He can slide on it. When we are playing with a string toy, he will throw his forefeet out in front of him and push himself with his rear legs, as though he were a sled. It’s one of the silliest things I’ve ever seen. Trust Tucker to come up with it.

He also plays peek-a-boo with me. I was picking something off the floor next the bed last night. Tucker was on the bed. I looked at him over the edge of the bedspread, then ducked down again. He started purring immediately. When I peeked over again, he lowered his head quickly, only to raise it when I lowered mine.

It’s moments like that that make me feel the amount of money spent on the little fellow’s health to be insignificant. But then, I’d be kidding myself if I thought each of my cats didn’t give me a similar moment every day.