Thursday, January 26, 2012

I Have Four Cats

Tucker is no longer a foster-cat; he’s been adopted. I suspect that those who know me in person are not surprised to learn that I’m the one who has adopted him.

The roly poly one came to me in the last days of September, 2010. He had been returned to the Lethbridge PAW Society, the rescue group that had saved his life long before, because the family who had kept him for five years no longer wanted him. He had been wetting outside the litter-box. He came to stay with me instead. It was a temporary measure. I had every reason to believe that it would indeed be temporary, as previous foster-cats had been.

But except for my first foster-cat, Lincoln - who was adopted quickly - and Renn - more about him below - Tucker’s predecessors were not agreeable to my permanent cats. I wouldn’t expect any new cat to be loved by them, especially Tungsten, who resents new arrivals who challenge still further her place as my only cat. But for different reasons, Wixie and Mystery, and then Devon, did not fit well in the household. The former pair, specifically Wixie, wanted to oust Tungsten as top-cat, and my orange one, though she bluffs and postures, realises that she won't win a fight against an animal twice her size. So the situation was tense and unhappy. Even Josie got into a fur-tearing brawl with Wixie. Fortunately, Wixie and Mystery were adopted and things returned to normal. I liked that pair, and would have had no trouble keeping them if it were not for the effect on the perma-cats.

Next came Renn, or Ren, as he was spelled then. He was very timid and did not stand up for himself. Thus, though Tungsten did not care for his advent, she saw that he was no threat to the stability of the kingdom. That was a problem for me, because it removed a bar to keeping Renn. I eventually adopted him.

Then came Devon, who wanted to play with everyone. No one wanted to play with him. Devon, a cross-eyed little sausage, rarely takes hiss for an answer, and kept pressing. Things became unhappy again. But luck was with us - and Devon - and he was adopted relatively swiftly. He now resides with three other cats and is just as playful as ever - but his feline roommates, though tolerating and even liking him, are not shy about putting him in his place when playing is not wanted.

And finally Tucker. If you’ve read my articles, you may recall that he had a tremendous difficulty adjusting to being evicted by his previous family. He stopped eating and drinking and had to be force-fed. When he had dental surgery, it affected him so much that he nervously licked himself raw and had to endure a cone and medicinal rubs. He was very shy, a timorous fellow, and retains his timidity. The roly poly one would have been disconcerted and confused by another change in his settings. Every cat is, of course, but some take less time to come around, some are barely affected, to all appearances. That would not be Tucker.

I felt that it would be too hard on Tucker to go to a new home. He would adjust eventually, of course. Cats have great adaptability. But it would be a relatively long time for the little fellow, and I think he would be miserable during that interval. Certainly it’s any amount of hubris to claim that he wouldn’t find a home as wonderful as mine in which to live. There are plenty of wonderful people waiting to love a pet. But Tucker is used to the other cats, and they are used to him, even if there is no love amongst them. He’s accustomed to being with me; I think he likes his home and his human. His human certainly likes him.

So Tucker is home now, and has been for a while. He may have known it all along; it took me longer to realise it.

I won’t be changing the title of this blog as it may cause some puzzlement. I won’t be changing its electronic address, either. I’m not sure I would know how. In any case, just remember from now on to add one to the three in the title. I have four cats.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

When the Fur Flies

Attending to the needs of my cats isn't always easy. They have so many that one loses track of when one last attended to them. I try to groom them regularly now. I never used to, brushing them when I remembered to do so. Now, it's a weekly ritual, every Tuesday evening.

I don't actually brush them. I tried different brushes but some of the cats disliked them, and the ones who accepted the brushes, did so without enthusiasm. So I switched to the comb. For some reason, this appeals to them to a greater degree. They all like combing-time, but their behaviour may make one think otherwise.

Three of them will not stand stay put while I comb them. Tungsten tries to get away and seems not to want to be combed at all. Yet she purrs happily while I comb her. I have to be most careful with her; she feels like nothing but skin and bones under the comb's teeth, and so I am very gentle with her. She appears to like it but longs to leave at the same time. Then, when I move on to the other cats, she follows me, and clearly wants more. Frustrating creature. This is the result of a minute's combing of Tungsten.

Josie more evidently likes the feel of the comb. She will stay in one place for longer periods, lying on her side, twisting her head and brushing her face against the teeth of the instrument. Her purr will become loud and unabashed. Then she will stand, turn, walk away, push her fuzzy head against a chair leg, then wander back for further attention. This is not unusual behaviour for my Chubs, since she often does the same thing while I am petting her. Her fur becomes silky under the comb's movement, and I think she feels it to be a beauty treatment, as if she needed it. This is the result of a minute's combing of Josie.

Renn loves the comb and doesn't care who knows it. He's an emotional beast and, just as he grows excited at the prospect of a bath (mine, not his), so too does he wax exuberant under the comb's ministrations. His rough purr will begin. My big boy lies on his side, then on his back, ensuring that the comb will give him the chest-rub that he loves so much. Then he will get up and throw himself down again, rolling about, almost somersaulting in his enthusiasm. But not once will he move away, as the others do, and when his time is over, he will sit and watch wistfully while his roommates get their share. Renn's fur is long and tough, and I use more force in combing his than the others'; if I don't, he will barely feel the effects. This is the result of a minute's combing of Renn.

Finally, Tucker. The roly poly one's reticence falls somewhere between Tungsten's and Josie's. He obviously enjoys his combing, his medium-pitched rumbling starting quickly. He will lie on his flanks, but not patiently, and doesn't care for the comb going too far down his sides. But he doesn't want the grooming to cease, either. He moves away, but not enough to tell me he's done, just enough to make it difficult to do a decent job. I pull him back and he rolls over, purring. He has soft fur, with a thick undercoating, which comes off readily. It is very fine but almost bushy, and combs away in clouds. Though he grooms himself often, Tucker develops mats easily, so I tug as softly at them as I can. This is the result of a minute's combing of Tucker. As you can see, his fur likes the comb more than any other cats'.

Combing is good grooming, keeping the cats' fur soft and clean, and therefore healthy. Aside from this, the cats enjoy it - despite their superficial reactions - and brings a person and his pet closer together. At the very least, an animal knows that you are bringing him comfort and affection. It's something for them to look forward to, a weekly ritual of joy for them. That means it's one for me, too.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Of Those Who Purr

Each cat’s purr is as distinctive as the cat itself, I’ve found. That is the case, at least, with my three (plus one). They even purr at different times and for different reasons, but that would be a whole new article.

Take Tungsten for example. She has a quiet purr much of the time. Sometimes, it’s a gargling type that one can feel in her throat but can’t hear. She is often on my lap on those instances, and I feel her contentment. Usually, however, it’s audible, and sounds like a hand slowly drawn over a level surface covered with smooth, round pebbles. Other times, when I come home after being out unexpectedly, her purring will be stronger, perhaps reflective of her feelings; she did not think I would go and was glad that I was back. After all, if I broke my routine and left her, how could be sure I would return? Her purr of relief is similar to the purr she emits after waking from a bad dream. There are times when her motor is so strong that her little thin body vibrates.

Josie used to purr inaudibly, just the gargle-like vibration in the throat I get from the orange one. Then she developed a stronger, louder purr, her two-tone purr. Now she starts her little motor going quite often. It’s not an attractive sound, really. It resembles the phlegmy, wet noise a person with a very bad cold might have. Yet I love to hear it. It took a long time for my Chubs to purr loudly and frequently. It’s rather an unattractive sound, objectively speaking, yet it's also serene and affectionate music.

Renn’s purr is rough and almost staccato. It isn’t continuous like the girl-cats’, but resembles the revving of a big truck’s engine. It’s the sort of sound that makes you want to clear your throat in sympathy. It can last a long time. When he is lying next to me, getting a chest-rub, either gentle or otherwise, the purr will go on and on. Eventually it subsides in volume, but not in feeling. Gradually, it will disappear, but you get the sense that it is like trying to reach zero by dividing a number by two: it diminishes eternally but never ends.

Finally, Tucker. The roly poly one has a very ready purr. He starts his motor as soon as you start petting him or stroking his head or neck. It’s a deep sound and steady, and is rather at odds with his habitually anxious or startled expression. It has endurance and will continue for as long as you are touching him. He also has a reserve purr, a low, gravelly one, deep in his throat, that he uses when you simply place a hand on him or talk to him kindly. It reminds me of someone who is embarrassed but pleased at the same time.

I like hearing my cats purr, as anyone who likes animals would. On Sunday mornings when I wake up later than usual, with the quartet of beasts on the bed with me, I’ve been able to get them all purring at once. It’s like keeping four tops spinning simultaneously. It’s a neat trick, but one we all enjoy. The sounds generated may be at odds with each other, but it has a harmony nonetheless.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

A Good Time Had By All

Christmas was enjoyable this year. I didn’t get the whole Twelve Days off, unfortunately. That would have been nice, though the relaxation gained would probably have been disturbed by the stress of not getting paid for that period of almost two weeks. So I went back to work.

The cats seemed to enjoy the holiday, too, as short as my time off was. There was no fighting and very little hissing. I had a fire going in the grate on Christmas Day, even though the temperature was ten degrees centigrade - about fifty above, Fahrenheit - with no snow on the ground at all. Southern Alberta was a dirt brown colour. But I thought I’d have a fire anyway. A good one was going when Tungsten decided that it generated a nicer warmth than her heating pad, and settled down with her bum toward the flames.

The orange one has once again started to join Renn on the bathmat when I have a bath Saturday nights. Showers are no big occasion for those two, but baths demand an audience, even if they sleep through it. This past weekend, Tungsten was sitting sedately waiting for the tub to fill, and Renn was, as usual, roaming about, butting into walls and doors, arching his back, purring, falling down, rolling over. He becomes most excited at bath-time. At one point, he flopped down and knocked Tungsten off her feet and into the side of the tub. There was no harm done, though, and my big boy was soon calm and snoozing with the orange one in the warm, comforting air.

Even though Tungsten wasn’t bothered by Renn’s exuberance, she may have had something to do with the second scratch on Tucker’s nose. Josie is another candidate for its infliction. The poor roly poly’s proboscis seems to attract claws, though this time it wasn’t as bad as the first. I’d heard the day before a fierce screaming session from the ground floor when I was in the basement. By the time I arrived on the scene, all was calm. I didn’t notice Tucker’s nose until later. He seems none the worse for it, though, and I’ll wager that he hasn’t learned his lesson, either.

Josie has taken to enjoying a new place to lie. When I decorated the house and tree for Christmas, I put to one side the empty box from which the various ornaments were taken. If a cat can’t get into a box, the next best thing is to be on a box. Josie thought this spot was nice. Then, I put a little ‘cat quilt’ on it. It’s a small, thin quilt that I bought through an on-line auction. I wouldn’t have thought that it would make much of a difference, but it’s become a spot to rival the top of the tallest cat-tree. Josie loves lying on the little quilt on top of the box; she even snoozes there. I’ll have to arrange something similar when the box is re-filled with Christmas decorations and packed away. The other cats have tried it, but my Chubs likes it the most.

So, though Christmas has not been overly exciting, it has had its events. We live a quiet existence at our household, and the cats prefer it that way. A bit of weekly excitement, such as bath-time, a tussle now and then, and a new place to sleep. As long as the food continues to come regularly, that seems to be all my cats need for a good holiday.