Monday, March 25, 2013

My Lazy Dog

I call Renn my dog. He has certain canine qualities about him. His shape is rather like a sheep-guard dog, the breed that herded the sheep in the movie “Babe”. His colouring is the same; his fur is long and loose; his tail is like a dog’s, though it is, thankfully, usually straight up with contentment. He wags his whole body when he’s excited, rather like a dog whose happiness is too much for just his tail. Renn is my dog.

Renn is my lazy dog. He is the only one who rarely rises to greet me when I come through the door at the end of the day. He can usually be found in a cat-bed, a cat-bed too small for him, watching me enter the house, but not bothering to stir himself to say ‘hello’. He will continue to lie there sometimes even until I put down the food bowls for dinner. Then I must rouse him from his prone position - an action which he takes with ill grace - and prod him into the bedroom, where he is served his meal. He can’t eat it with the others because he is so easily distracted - like a dog.

This applies to his soft-food meals only. His hard-food, he likes to have served at the table. (For those of you wondering, yes, I do wash it before I eat there myself.) The food is the same, the bowl is the same, as if I placed it on the floor. But he will sit peering up at the table. Sometimes, he will jump up there in anticipation. Other times, I will place the bowl on the table and, if I want him to enjoy its contents before he loses interest, will have to hoist my big boy up myself. Then he will eat.

At night, he is now the first to come to bed, climbing up (using the new cat-steps) and lying down even before I get into bed. He doesn’t usually move from an established position during the night, and will like to stay on the bed in the morning, complaining when I am forced to lift him from the covers so I can make the bed before leaving.

Lest you get the wrong idea about him, Renn can move, and quickly. He has begun to join Tucker and Josie in the games of chase that they play when I come home in the late afternoon. I don’t know if his self-inclusion is welcome to the other two or not. He can be quite active when playing with a string-toy and will now and then amuse himself with a ball or fuzzy mouse. He will watch with interest, rather than participate, in the revolving wand game, though.

But being lazy is part of Renn’s character. I like it when he snoozes next to me in the parlour as we watch our Saturday night movie. He’s heavily comforting at night when I feel his bulk somewhere on the bed. And I do enjoy seeing him at rest, upside down, on a couch or cat-tree. Laziness is inherent in cats, to varying degrees. It is, much of the time, just how they are. It proves, after all, that my dog is a cat.

More Habits Change

One of the first stories on this blog was about how cats will change their habits, suddenly. This remains a fact, and one that still amuses and mystifies me. A case in point is Tungsten’s recent activity.

My orange one has always been expressive, but not in the ways that many other cats are. Tucker will come up to me and bump his head against my ankle to show me that he likes me. Tungsten will not give me a head-bump except when she is on my shoulders. Then she will turn her head and push it against my face. That’s her idea of a head-bump.

Renn, on the other hand, is a great one for kneading. He will approach me while I am sitting and, placing his front paws in the region of my kidney, start to push inward, first with one foot, then with the other, purring all the while. In this manner, I assume, he demonstrates both that he likes me and is enjoying his current situation.

Tungsten has never kneaded. Once in a rare while, I had noted her pawing the air in happiness. That was it. Then, a couple of months ago, the tiny terror came to bed soon after I had settled in for the night. She always curls up in my hand and falls asleep in that position. This night, she first put her forefeet on my upper arm and started kneading.

She weighs only a bit more than five pounds, but when most of it is on a pair of narrow legs, and the legs are pushing into the side of a bicep, it can exert some uncomfortable pressure. She started doing exactly this. She continued it for some minutes. I tried to point her in another direction, preparatory to lying down, but she would not have it. For ten or fifteen minutes, Tungsten kneaded my arm. I certainly couldn’t sleep while this was going on. At last, she allowed me to coax her into a prone position and we both drifted off to sleep. This activity has become a routine every night. The orange one purrs the whole time she is kneading. Clearly, she is happy, both the demonstration and the actual sensation of which I am reluctant to discourage. So she pummels my upper arm each night upon retiring.

Why did she start doing this? Did she decide one night to show me that she was a happy little cat and then think that the same moment each night was opportune for the display? What put the thought into her head? Will it stop as abruptly as it began? If so, why?

I learn more about my cats and about cats in general each day. The beasts with which I live are multi-dimensional creatures, sometimes deep and impenetrable in their motives, other times (usually when food is involved) as transparent as the finest glass. The alteration in Tungsten’s noctural habits falls squarely into the former category.

But I don’t need to understand my cats to be glad that they are happy. The orange one purrs while she kneads and kneads while she purrs. If this change pleases her, then it pleases me. After all, she doesn’t keep it up all night, and we both fall asleep, eventually.

Tucker's New Diet

Tucker is my weird one. He’s my little odd-ball.

Some months ago, he had a problem with a urinary blockage. After some tribulations, he had an operation, after which he was fine. His litter-box habits have been very good, he is drinking plenty of water and, though he loathes the special soft-food that the veterinary recommended for him, he eats plenty of Wellness brand, which gives him moisture as well as nutrition.

But I’m surprised that he doesn’t get constipated, because he eats the little pieces of fibre that come off the cat-trees and posts. He doesn’t eat the nylon (or whatever indigestible synthetic substance that is used) strings that hold the carpet-like coverings on to the wooden posts and platforms. He eats the tiny bits of carpet themselves. It’s bad enough that he will consume any that he finds on the floor. I try to sweep or vacuum those up when I see them, but I don’t think it’s possible to rid a house of them entirely, not when the house has four cats and six cat-trees. I have no idea how long he has been eating these items but I suspect it’s been long enough to cause a problem if he’s going to have one, and he hasn’t.

I discovered, however, that he actually pulls off bits of a cat-tree to chew. I believe it has happened only with the cat-tree in the downstairs washroom. That is kept there for the possible foster-cat that may come along, and for my cats to scamper over when I have a shower there. There is a patch on the top platform that smells different than the rest of the surface. It doesn’t smell like a cat, but rather like a deodorant. I have no idea how it got there, but Tucker and the others enjoy rubbing their faces on that part of the furniture. Only the roly poly one has gone so far as to eat it. I saw him tug a piece of the fabric out and swallow it before I could stop him.

The fact that it is clearly not food does not inhibit Tucker’s enjoyment of the cat-tree, eating it bit by bit. I suspect it will do him no harm, but I will certainly try to discourage it. I don’t think he has been doing this for long, or that he has done it much, but it is another of the idiosyncracies that this little melon-headed feline has. Perhaps he has heard that fibre is good for the body...

The High Road to Food

Tungsten’s weight is a constant concern to me. Because she is suffering from hyperthyroidism, her body burns too much energy. She can’t eat enough, so she has to take medicine. But she must continue to eat, and whenever she wishes, not just at meal-times. This causes a problem for me, because all my other cats are too heavy, so I must keep most of my felines from eating the food I set out for the orange one.

For months, possibly years by now, I have placed a dish of food on the top of the refrigerator. This ensured that Tungsten, a lithe leaper if ever there was one, could get to the supply, while the others could not. Josie cannot jump so high - in fact, I have steps beside the bed now, because she has trouble managing the short space to the top of the mattress - and Tucker has never been much of a springer. Renn has managed to reach the top of the refrigerator but is a very light eater and wouldn’t take much of Tungsten’s food, anyway.

Now, however, I find that Tungsten is not jumping as well as she had. It may be, as has been suggested, that the medicine she is taking for her condition is temporarily weakening her, and that she will again become the mighty athlete she has been. It may be, alternatively, that age is at last catching up to her. In any case, for the time being, she is having trouble raeching the top of the refrigerator.

I tried placing a chair near the counter to aid the orange one’s access. But it exercised a fascination for Josie and, with my Chubs on the chair, Tungsten was unlikely to use it. Besides, I found that Josie was willing to risk the jump from the counter to the refrigerator more than from the floor to the counter. With the latter leg of the journey eliminated, she could get to the food high up. If she could, Tucker could as well, and Tungsten would have nothing to consume but the aroma of what had been.

I feed the orange one whenever she asks now. My task is complicated by the fact that she does not care for food that has been out all night, and demands a fresh supply. I cannot afford to open a new tin every time my tiniest appetite wants a nibble or two. This situation continues to vex me, though I am sure I will resolve it somehow.

The good news is that Tungsten has gained a little - a very little - weight in the last couple of weeks, rising from 2.48 kilograms to 2.53. This increase of fifty grams is something I welcome but with caution. Until confirmed by future weighings, it may be the result of an anomaly in the scales, a meal that was slower to digest than usual, or a large drink of water beforehand.

If Tungsten’s hyperthyroidism can be controlled by her medicine, though, the problem of the food will become academic. I have hopes that my tiny terror will not be as tiny in the days to come.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Of the Last Chance Cat Ranch

The Last Chance Cat Ranch, a rescue-group and shelter for cats in Lethbridge, Alberta, burned to the ground two weeks ago. I reported it on my blog and the Cat Blogosphere spread the news, for which I am grateful. Here is the latest news on that disaster.

Of the cats being cared for at the house, forty-seven died. Twenty-seven survived, though many were injured in various ways and to varying degrees. There are still animals missing, while three have been seen in the neighbourhood, and traps have been set out to capture them. A large sum of money has been donated, some of it through Paypal accounts, some through the Lethbridge PAW Society, with whom I volunteer; a local radio station has set up a fund, and other businesses, and many individuals, have given freely, including people who likely would have heard of this event through the Cat Blogosphere.

Though a very generous amount has been given, more is needed. Everyone reading this knows how expensive veterinary bills are; some cats are being boarded at a clinic because they have no where else to go. All of this costs money. Some donations were meant to help Ms Ginn, who runs the Last Chance Cat Ranch, and her son, who lost all their possessions.

I learned this weekend that there will be a fund-raising event for The Last Chance Cat Ranch on April 13th, at the Royal Canadian Legion, starting at 6 p.m. If anyone in or near Lethbridge reading this will be available then, his or her presence would be welcomed.

The fire was an upheaval that will be felt by many, and for a long time. A number of the surviving cats have been taken into foster-homes, others are still looking for residences, however temporary. Your warm comments are just as important as money, so please keep Ms Ginn and her charges in your thoughts - along with all the others in the Cat Blogosphere who are in need of sympathy and support.

Tungsten Loses Ground

My household’s top-cat, Tungsten, was diagnosed with hyperthyroidism last month. She had been eating much more food than previously, and wanting still more. As she had always been a light eater, I took her to the doctor and she was found to be on the border-line for hyperthyroidism.

I started her on a natural substance, Thyroid Support Gold, formerly known as Resythro, and gave this to her for more than three weeks. It tasted horrible, to judge by her reactions, but I hoped that it would obviate the need for chemicals that could have undesirable side effects. Unfortunately, the liquid has not had the result for which I’d hoped. Tungsten has lost a little weight, from 2.53 kilograms to 2.49, and her T4 numbers, used to measure hyperthyroidism have increased from 59.4 to 76. Anything over 60 is in the range of hyperthyroidism.

So I have switched her medicine to a veterinary-prescribed substance called methimazole, which is sometimes marketed under the brand name Tapazole. It comes in pills or a compounded cream. I decided to use the latter, to reduce the stress on the orange one that may come from taking pills. I suspect that she would not be overly perturbed at having to swallow pills, even forcibly. She wouldn’t like it, but she is unconcerned by most things that would distress other cats. Nonetheless, the cream is much easier to give and take. It is supplied in syringes, from which a tiny amount is extruded twice a day and rubbed on the inside of the ear.

Tungsten has received her first doses of the methimazole. She wonders why I am rubbing her ear, and tries to see what I am doing, but does not scratch at the medicine or try to scrape it off. I hope this medicine will lower her numbers and restore her appetite and weight to their proper places. She will return to the doctor in a month to find out how well the methimazole has worked.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013


I have bad news to report, though it doesn’t directly affect my cats or me. It is, however, something that involves felines in the town in which I live.

The Last Chance Cat Ranch is a rescue-group operating in Lethbridge, Alberta, and the surrounding area. It is run by Elizabeth Ginn, who has, for more than a decade, taken on the task of helping stray felines, sheltering them and finding them homes. She has worked closely with the rescue-group with whom I volunteer, the Lethbridge PAW Society, and she and the PAW executive have co-operated on projects through the years. Ms Ginn is friends with, and highly esteemed by, the members and friends of the PAW Society. The Last Chance Cat Ranch has no web-site of its own, but you may read about it at this one ( Yesterday, in the late afternoon, Ms Ginn’s home burned down.

There are approximately forty cats missing, many likely dead. This was not a hoarder’s house; Ms Ginn is a conscientious and caring woman, well-versed in feline care and current on all matters relating to it, whether to do with health, legislation, diet or general well-being. She oversees more than a dozen foster-homes, as well. Ms Ginn was not at home at the time of the fire, though her son, who was, opened the doors and attempted to save as many cats as possible. Unfortunately, the heat and smoke were overwhelming within minutes. He was lucky not to have been hurt. The family dogs were saved. Some cats were evacuated, but the fire spread too swiftly for much to be done. A number of animals are in a local veterinary hospital. News coverage in this town is rather abysmal but the fullest report so far may be found on-line (

Ms Ginn has lost everything, but this means little to her compared to the loss of the animals to whom she is devoted. Veterinary costs for the surviving animals will be high, and Ms Ginn’s own needs will require help.

If anyone reading this can spare some money in these bad financial times, it would be most appreciated. Please let me state that I will not have a say in its disbursement; I am told that a fund will be set up at a local credit union. Until then, donations may be received through the PAW Society. If you wish to give to help The Last Chance Cat Ranch, those involved in this disaster would be most grateful.

To donate, just go to the PAW Society web-site ( or click the link on the side-bar to the right, on this blog. You’ll see a donation button on the left-hand side-bar of the PAW site. The process will give you an opportunity to choose where you would like the donation to go, and to comment. Specify that it is for The Last Chance Cat Ranch, and PAW will see that it goes to Ms Ginn’s organization.

Thank you for indulging me by reading this article.