Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Tucker and Civilisation

Tucker’s current difficulties with the litter-box reminded me of how and why my roly poly little friend came to live with me. His previous owners had decided to return him to the rescue group from whom they had adopted him because he was wetting outside the litter-box. He was feeling stress over the arrival of a new baby, and it unnerved his aim. He was returned to the rescue group from which he had come and, as an emergency measure, he came to stay with me.

His world was thrown into turmoil. He reacted badly and had to be force-fed for six or seven days, as he would not eat. He wet on a couple of cat-beds but otherwise settled down after a time. I decided that it would be unfair to him to put him through a similar experience when he was adopted by others, so I kept him. Besides, I liked the roly poly little fellow.

This recent problem with his wetting made me think about how easily some people will give up on pets. I don’t claim to be better than others; I can understand the frustration at having a cat suddenly, and seemingly without cause, urinate on valuable carpets or furniture. I can understand the point of view but I cannot sympathise with it. The thought crossed my mind that my life would be much more convenient without Tucker. The thought also crossed my mind that I would be richer if I robbed a bank. It doesn’t mean that either thought received my approval.

Besides, convenience should not be why we live our lives. If we lived solely for convenience, we would have practically no relationships. Marriage would be out. Children would not exist. I am neither married nor a father, but I don’t need to be to realise that having a spouse and/or offspring is highly inconvenient. Even when the situation is at its most enjoyable, it is rarely convenient. But we do not, thank God, live life for how smoothly it runs. We accept certain hardships in return for the advantages that friendship and love, entertainment and joy bring.

As well, there is the commitment I made to Tucker. I never said explicitly that I would always take care of him. It was, however, implied in my acceptance of him moving permanently into my home. To abandon him when things became difficult for me would be easy, but it would hardly be decent behaviour. Society, civilisation itself, depends upon not accepting mere convenience as a basis for relationships. By keeping Tucker, I have saved civilisation!

Well, perhaps not. But I feel civilised by keeping him. He depends upon me to keep him safe and healthy; he depends upon me without even thinking about it. Cats, dogs and other animals kept as pets don’t. They accept things as they are. They don’t think that perhaps tomorrow they won’t have homes. They trust in the people who care for them. They literally cannot conceive of things going wrong.

I could give up the roly poly one, I suppose. But when he ambles across a room just to push his big melon head against my leg, when he looks up at me with his round moon-face, I see that he trusts me without knowing that he does. And to respond positively to that trust is decent, it’s civilised. I’m not really changing the world, or even making it better, by taking care of Tucker. It may be civilised, but that’s not why I do it. I do it because I like him. I do it because he’s my friend.

The Most Sensitive Cat in the World

Tucker is having problems again. It’s nothing physical, though it leads to something physical.

The cat-litter that I’ve bought for the past five years has changed. I buy Feline Fresh. It’s made from pine and may be flushed down the toilet. Lately, however, its composition has become very coarse, the grains so large that they don’t even fall through the tines of the scoop. As well, though it initially clumps when a cat urinates in it, the clump breaks apart as soon as you try to come to grips with it and, unless you are lucky, most of it disintegrates into particles indistinguishable from the unclumped bits. As one person described it, it is now shovelled rather than scooped.

This led me to consider other litters. I tried The World’s Best Cat Litter, made from corn and also able to be flushed. Three of my perma-cats used it with, so far as I know, little hesitation. My foster-cat, Luther, who is as careful of his hygiene as Howard Hughes was in his last days but as fussy as a surfer dude on a sunny day, didn’t bat an eye at using the new product. Tucker is rather more sensitive to changes.

My first clue was when I came downstairs one day and saw Tucker wetting on the carpet. He was doing it in a spot that he had wet in a year or more ago. Another day, I discovered that he had wet upstairs on a mat where, also, he had previously relieved himself. I knew the only change recent enough to have caused this was the alteration in the cat-litter, though of course it could have been other things. After that, he continued to wet outside the box. He also accomplished number two there.

My first attempt at a solution was to confine him in the downstairs bathroom for a day with a litter-box and nothing upholstered or fabric on which to wet. To my satisfaction, he had used the litter-box by the time I returned from work. But that evening, he wet in three places downstairs, none of them in litter and twice on towels laid over old spots to discourage him from doing so again. He was not discouraged. I was, however.

So now a more drastic action has been taken. The cats are barred from the basement - except for Luther, who spends his nights there in isolated comfort. I have to bar all the perma-cats from the basement since to keep Tucker from going there, I must close the door thereto. The litter-boxes - again excepting Luther’s - have been brought upstairs. It’s inconvenient but necessary. The first day, yesterday, no cat used the boxes all day. That evening, on the recommendation of a friend who knows cats well, I placed a litter-box in as remote a corner as the upstairs has. Tucker almost immediately used it, once for each kind of waste removal. This was a small but vital step.

I thought it ironic that I was now worried that the other cats, rather than the roly poly one, were not using the litter-boxes.

This morning, however, I woke to find that some at least of the other cats had used the boxes. One was Tungsten, who is so tiny that what she produces is correspondingly small compared to the others. Certainly, either Renn or Josie also relieved themselves. Josie, I think, will be the fussiest. She’s a finicky feline, as the commercials used to say, and jumpy. She, Renn and Tungsten were allowed downstairs yesterday at different times to use a box I had kept down there, but, when I checked on the outcome, none had done anything. There are too many smells down there, what with the remnants of Tucker’s indiscretions and my, so far, successful but early attempt to clean after him, using combinations of water, vinegar, hydrogen peroxide, baking soda and dish-washing detergent - and a product called Nature’s Miracle Urine Destroyer; I figured that name has to be the most practical, prosaic and down to earth ever given to a product. Anyway, I was afraid they would find one of Tucker’s spots and figure that’s where they should go now. So all cats - except Luther - are confined to the ground floor until further proof that Tucker likes the litter-box again, which I figure may take a week or two. I’m not taking chances.

The funny thing is that this all stemmed from one scoop of the new cat-litter. I took one scoop and mixed it with a whole litter-box of Feline Fresh, but left a second box untouched. Even when I placed the ‘untainted’ box in a different position, one which Tucker would pass as soon as he came downstairs, he refused to use it. Upstairs is principally hardwood and linoleum flooring; the spot where he wet is no longer covered with a mat. This changes his whole environment and, apparently, his drive to wet on floors.

My roly poly is a very sensitive animal, upset by the smallest deviations from the norm. How long he will need to be excluded from the basement is unknown. But he still purrs readily, still plays and still eats. He squeaks and trills and rubs his head against my leg. He still enjoys life. There is a good side to sensitivity, after all.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Yes, Friends

A while ago, I wrote a small article about how Tungsten and Renn seem to be friends. They lie together, sometimes, on the bath-mat while I fill the tub Saturday nights; they sniff each other’s noses - and other parts - more often than they do others’, and what’s more, they tolerate it. When Tungsten is on my lap and Renn lying next to me, they sometimes groom each other. This started tentatively but has become more confident, and occurs more frequently. When Tungsten is doing the cleaning, my big boy will loll his head back and enjoy the attention. When the orange one is the recipient, she will remain motionless. I was determined to get pictures of the event, and so kept my camera near to hand. At last, I have photographic proof of their growing friendship.

A Miscalculation

As those who have been reading these articles may be aware, I am always worried about my cats’ eating habits. They are worried about them, too, but only in so far as they feel that they never eat enough. Recently, I took Renn and Josie to the veterinarian, who declared them overweight. I find that hard to believe about Renn, but it’s plain to see in Josie. Tucker, too, is a roly poly sausage who just keeps getting both rollier and pollier. I determined to cut back on the availability of their food.

I had previously left the hard-food bowl out at night, and during the day while I was at work. This, I felt, had contributed to the weight gain through excessive snacking. I decided to take away the opportunity for this. I fed the beasts hard-food in the morning when I woke, soft-food at dinner and snack-time (about eight o’clock in the evening) and more hard-food at bed-time. The fact that all the cats expressed hunger thereafter I took as a regrettable but necessary sign of progress.

After a month, it was time to weigh everyone. The results showed that each cat had lost weight, though hardly as much as I had hoped. The average seemed to be about twenty grams, which in a cat such as Josie, is an insignificant amount. But I received a shock when I saw Tungsten’s weight. It had dropped to 2.85 kilograms. She usually hovered (and being so light, she hovered almost literally) about 3.2 and 3.3 kilograms. This tiny animal had lost half a pound!

I felt so bad for her. She had been continually sitting on the food-mat, waiting for the next meal, ever since I began the new regimen. I knew of course that she was hungry but I had know idea that I was starving my poor orange one. She was wasting away. It had not been my intention to make her lose weight; she was the only cat who didn’t need to become thinner. I thought that she ate such small amounts that not being able to nibble through the day and night would have no effect on her. I had made a grievous miscalculation.

I determined to rectify my error. How to do this yet still deny food to the fatties whenever they wanted it? The solution was simple, really. I now provide food for Tungsten whenever she asks for it. It may sound indulgent, but her loss was the equivalent of a 150 pound man losing twenty pounds. I needed to get her weight back up. She had been too skinny to begin. So now, when I think she wants food, I show her the bowl and take it to a room where no other cats are; I don’t want the others drooling over what they can’t have. Tungsten has quickly picked up on the new routine. She will even wander into the bedroom or back parlour whenever she is peckish, thinking to find food there. When I see her do that, I follow with something nutritious.

During the day and night, I put a food bowl on top of the refrigerator. Tungsten is the only one who jumps up there. I’m sure the others could, especially Renn; perhaps not Tucker. So far, none has tried, and the orange one remains lithe enough to fly up there whenever she is hungry. I know she has been eating there during the day because of the debris she leaves behind. And at night, I hear her launch herself from the stove up to the top of the neighbouring appliance.

This  tactic has given Tungsten food but denied it to the others. I don’t like treating one cat differently than the others but the latter don’t have Tungsten’s problem. So it must be for a while. I worry that my tiny terror won’t always be able to leap to the top of the refrigerator. When that day comes, I will figure something out; perhaps Josie and Tucker will even be reduced in size by then. In the meantime, Tungsten seems quite fit, even with her loss of weight. The other day, I saw her on the dining table, bunched up as if afraid. But she was merely coiling those deceptively little muscles. She launched herself into the air and hit the floor eight feet away, running even as she landed, off on one of her periodic hurtles through the house, dashing at top speed for no reason I can discern. She seems a little happier now, an undefinable something in her behaviour.

And her weight? This Saturday, she was up to 2.99 kilograms. I was very pleased. And for some reason, all the other cats gained weight, too. Sigh.

An Award

Random Felines recently presented me with an award, the Sunshine Award. It was very nice of them, and I appreciate the fact that other cat-bloggers take the time to read my articles. The award comes with seven questions that are to be answered.

1. What is my favourite number? I can’t write what my favourite number is because it’s included in some of my computer passwords – the older ones, before I decided that made-up words were more secure than digits everyone knew. But I like eleven; I admire it for being a double-digit number, yet paying homage to the first of all numbers.

2. What is my favourite non-alcoholic beverage? Tea. Though it may offend some, I consider only tea made from tea to be tea; no herb tea, no almond/lactose tea, no raisin-jelly with a hint of silicon tea, no crushed ozone and wild rice tea. Just tea, orange pekoe.

3. Facebook or Twitter? Facebook or Twiitter?!? The world is lucky – or unlucky – that I use the internet only. I don’t think anyone is sitting at home waiting for me to tell them on some ‘social media’ what I had for breakfast today. It’s enough that I write a blog on how frequently Josie throws hers up.

4. What is my passion? My passion is writing and reading. Wait, that’s two. Well, two will have to do.

5. What is my favourite pattern? Having breakfast, then lunch, then dinner, with little snacks in between. Repeating the next day.

6. What is my favourite day? Saturday. It’s a day off with another to follow.

7. What is my favourite flower? It is the cornflower. I like how its bloom looks as though it’s made up of still more flowers.

I have decided to pass on the Sunshine Award to The Cat Cabin, a cat-fosterer at Please have a look at the site.