Friday, January 25, 2013

The Age of Tungsten

How old is Tungsten, really?

The truth is that I don’t know. When she was rescued, it was estimated that she was six years old. The rescue group with which I volunteer had rented a building at the time in which many of their cats resided, and Tungsten was deposited on its doorstep. She was a foundling, without any information provided for her. It was a veterinarian who suggested her age, and that, I believe, was based largely on the condition of her teeth. Her exact age is unknown, and its estimation is an educated guess.

She has always acted mature. The rescue group believed she had lived with an old woman who had, perhaps, passed away. Tungsten’s demeanour was gentle, and sad. In the years that she has been with me, I’ve come to know her well. She is an intelligent animal, who is largely indifferent to anything that doesn’t matter, and contemplative toward that which does.

Hasty decisions are not for Tungsten. She has watched foster-cats come and go (and two who came but did not go) and tolerates their presence, if it’s at a distance. She weighs situations and acts accordingly. It is an adult’s attitude. This contrasts to Tucker, for instance, who is eight years of age and acts like an eight year old - and eight year old human.

She is the top-cat of the household, reserved, not in the way Josie is, staying physically apart from the other cats, but simply because she isn’t quite like the younger ones, and never has been. I have a mechanical game called ‘Undercover Mouse’, which consists of a wand on a nub that revolves around a circular motor. The wand is largely hidden by a sheet. The cats chase the wand. Tucker, predictably, gets the most enjoyment out of it. Renn, just as predictably, studies the toy and its motions. Josie will watch with interest. Tungsten is mostly uninvolved. She will jump on the circular sheet, stopping the revolving wand, after which she seems to think the game a silly one. If she were playing ‘jacks’, she’d simply throw the ball hard enough to give her time to pick up all the jacks at once. It’s an adult’s decision, not a child’s.

Tungsten does have fun. She shoots around the house from time to time, rocketing faster than any of the others. She will periodically grab at Josie, as if showing her who the boss is. She will wrestle with a string-toy. But, usually it seems, games are something childish to her, something to indulge in once in a while, in a rare frivolous mood, but which are, for the most part, for other cats.

When I think about Tungsten’s age, I remember a scene from the Frank Capra movie “It’s a Wonderful Life”. James Stewart’s character, George, is sitting with his father, discussing Stewart’s younger brother, Harry, who is attending his high school graduation that evening. The boy is ebullient and raucous in a good-natured way; Stewart asks if he had been like that, and his father affectionately replies, “You were born forty years old, George.” That’s how I feel about Tungsten.

Now, she has age spots, something to which orange cats are prone, and her face is starting to reflect extra years. She is slowing down a little, and I’m beginning to notice that she doesn’t like jumping high, which she used to do as easily as walking. I will be taking her to the veterinarian for a check-up in a couple of weeks, because she is at a certain age (or uncertain, since I cannot pinpoint that age). But she’s not too old for my lap, nor too old for purring. She still fits into my hand when we sleep at night and greets me at the door when I come home. She jumps onto my shoulders and pushes her fuzzy head against my face.

Any age at which she does those things is young to me.


I don’t know if Tungsten fears nothing or is simply apathetic about most things. These two qualities are sometimes the same, I suspect. My orange cat is not curious about things, as is my big boy, Renn, so her disinclination to run and hide has nothing to do with interest. Loud noises will not shake Tungsten from a restful pose, nor will the dropping of an object interrupt a snooze. She’s not deaf, so I can’t attribute her calm to an inability to hear anything. She is just not disturbed by many things.

She has stood her ground against the biggest and fiercest foster-cats. When Luther was living with us and battled my perma-cats, he found that the tiny terror did not give an inch. Luther, a solidly-built, young and strong male, has no malice in him, and assaulted other cats in an almost playful manner, though screams and fur flew freely. Tungsten did not see enjoyment in the activity, though, and fought with the ferocity of a trapped lynx. Years ago, when I had another foster-cat, Wixie, there was less fighting but as much confrontation. Wixie, too, is a sweetie, a gentle cat who simply wished to become top-cat. This was opposed by Tungsten, who, as she would later with Luther, did not back down. Wixie was twice Tungsten’s size and thrice her weight.

Vacuum cleaners are a bain of a cat’s life. They are noisy, relentless and have a sucking ability that animals don’t understand - similar to the incomprehension many humans experience when the sucking ability inexplicably ceases. Tucker fears the machine, and Renn hurries away to escape it. Josie climbs a cat-tree. Only Tungsten remains. In fact, she has recently becomes emboldened enough to sniff at a running vacuum cleaner nozzle. I ran the fabric cleaning applicator over her fur, and instead of being uncomfortable, she liked it, noise and all. Each of these pictures was taken while the cleaning machine was running, some while I was holding it, which accounts for the blur.

Just yesterday, I caught my foot in the nylon tunnel and accidentally sent it hurtling across the sitting room into the drinking fountain. Water splashed, the metal fountain clanged; Renn leaped from the cat-bed and disappeared, Tucker shot down the basement stairs probably without touching a step, and Josie ran into the bedroom. What was Tungsten’s reaction? “Oh, the cat-bed’s free. Neat.” And she leisurely strode over to the bed and lie down in it, next to the wreckage of the nylon tunnel.

I can’t believe that her dauntless attitude is the result of a life spent struggling for survival before she came to me. As ferocious as she may be, she is too small to have won many combats against determined enemies. Besides, she’s too gentle to have ever been a fighter. Perhaps it comes from intelligence, a brain that calmly and quickly evaluates any situation and reckons the low danger each presents. Her nerves are steel wires, and will not let her jump or start at any sudden sound.

I think Tungsten is just a brave little animal who isn’t afraid of much. I of course try to limit what could scare any of my beasts, and to provide them with a safe home, but I’ve observed that being a cat often means a life of concern and worry. Everything seems alarming to some of them. But not to Tungsten. To her, the world is filled with things unworthy of her attention; she disdains those dangers that frighten others; an easy-going cat without many concerns, one who knows her capabilities and lives within them. Tiny, orange and fearless.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Glad Tidings

There have been a couple of changes here at the house of four cats since New Year’s Day. One has a direct effect on us all, the other is more in the way of good news, connected with someone we know.

Firstly, Rachael is no longer living with me and the perma-cats. She has been taken in by a couple who are better able to foster her. There is a chance that she may not come back to us, but the arrangement at her new residence is temporary. More important, it seems to be working. There were a few problems at first, and may be more to come, for Rachael is a sensitive animal and feels change greatly. But the couple with whom she is with are experienced with cats and in dealing with them, so I have hopes that things will work out well.

She is staying with the couple who fostered, and then adopted, her former roommate, Dude. Rachael, Dude and Marvin were three cats from a household whose people decided to ‘downsize’ their pet population, and so the trio - and two dachshunds - were sent away. The cats came back to the Lethbridge PAW Society, from which they were adopted. Dude and Rachael went into separate foster-homes, and Marvin had to undergo a surgery for cancer in his nose. He no longer has a nose, but neither does he have cancer. It’s believed his chances of avoiding it in the future are good. Dude, as I mentioned, has been adopted - and re-named Doolie - by the couple now hosting Rachael. They thought that if there were a chance that the two remembered each other and were friends, then they should be together again.

So far, that belief is being justified. Rachael recognised her old roommate and, though they may not be bonded, they appear comfortable with each other, and have snoozed next to one another. The integration with my cats was progressing very slowly due to, shall we say, personality clashes. I think my keeping Rachael separated from the perma-cats may have contributed to the length of the integration. In any case, she should thrive with a whole house in which to roam, and a chummy cat to share it with. I wish the little lion the best in her new adventure.

The couple who are fostering Rachael now had previously tried the same with Luther. I fostered Luther for a few months, but he tended to attack every cat on sight. He acted similarly with this couple’s cat, and since he was a very old animal, that couldn’t be tolerated. So Luther came back to stay with me a bit longer. He is a good little fellow, with a disruptive quirk.

But something wonderful has happened. Luther had gone to live with someone else, where he would be the only cat, and thus be free to roam the house and receive all his foster-guardian’s attention. This was good, of course, but it got better. His sponsors, the Lethbridge PAW Society, decided to pair him with a kitten. It was felt that he wouldn’t attack a baby, and sure enough, he did not. The two quickly became friends and Fortune, the youngster (bearing in mind that Luther isn’t two yet), quickly grew to idolise the older cat and followed him everywhere. Not only did Luther have a companion now, but it would probably help him integrate with other, adult cats, if the need arose. But the good news continued.

Luther - and now Fortune - could not stay long in their beneficial foster-home. The young woman taking care of them would be leaving town in the early summer, so a new residence would have to be found for the cats - one to accept both would be better, but one for each if it came to it. Luther and Fortune did find a possible home - a possibly permanent home. They are going on a trial-adoption this very weekend. If this works out, they will stay together and have a loving family to look after them.

So the new year begins well for the cats I have fostered. I look forward to writing more happy tidings here in the weeks and months to come.