Thursday, July 18, 2013

Worse Was Yet to Come

It’s a trait of mine, born of experience - not always mine - never to say, “It couldn’t get any worse.” Life will go out of its way to prove you wrong.

If you’ve been reading this blog, you may recall the storms I described a couple of weeks ago. The hailstorm left flash-floods in my town, though they were no where near as bad as they were in other parts of my province. Last night went one better - or worse - than that example, though again, it was not as catastrophic as the earlier storm was in other locations.

We had been warned of thunderstorms, but I didn’t think it would be so heavy or fierce. The rain came first, of course.

This was followed by the hail. It was so strong that it was raining leaves, and the wind was fierce enough to drive the hail almost horizontally against my west-facing windows. I feared the glass would break.

The water accumulated quickly outside. It rapidly surpassed the levels of a couple of weeks ago, with water rolling in streams down the street. Then something unprecedented occurred. In Saint John, New Brunswick, there is what is called the Reversing Falls. The tide in the Bay of Fundy is noted for the heights it can attain because it forces water up relatively narrow channels. One of those is the mouth of the Saint John River, so at times, it looks as though the current is flowing backwards. I was reminded of this as I watched the water reverse itself and come back up the street.

Then it broke over the curb and flooded my front lawn. The whitish/grey spots are collections of hail; the brownish spots are seeds casings, branches and old vegetation.

Eventually it surged up my driveway and into my back lawn.

This is what the street looked like from my windows. I didn’t go out to explore because for two hours, I couldn’t get out of the house. The water was five or six inches deep all around. My house was an island. I could have course have easily walked away if I had had to, but I have yet to buy new rubber boots…

This is the debris left behind my house. The force of the wind and rain that fixed leaves to the walls may be imagined.

During the storm, I noticed a moth was clinging to the outside of my sitting room window, on the lee side of the house. He was probably thankful to reach relative safety. On the other side of the building, the eaves would not have protected him. He stayed in one place, glued to the window, all night.

The cats were, of course, frightened. Josie hid downstairs and Renn stuck it out as long as he could, but his bravery is newfound and it couldn’t take the storm. He joined Josie. Tucker hastened under the bed. Cammie, my newest foster, stayed gazing out the window in the parlour until the hail came, then she hid under my computer table, as far from the window as she could get. Tungsten and Bear-Bear remained in plain sight in the sitting room, but even they were nervous.

There was a casualty, however. My old micro-wave oven expired during the storm. The house's lights flickered numerous times but the power did not go off. There was, however, a particularly close bolt of lightning that brought an immediate crack of thunder - the only time I have ever flinched at thunder. I wonder if there was a surge that the old oven’s plug couldn’t handle. The oven is at least 35 years old, weighs close to four tons and has never given me a problem. I rarely eat anything cooked in a micro-wave oven, but it was handy for thawing items or warming the cat’s soft-food. It provided excellent service - even electronics were made better in the old days. It died an honourable death, having done its last duty just the day before.

Fortunately, the water receded, drained or simply soaked into the ground a few hours after the rain passed. I was pleasantly surprised at the speed of this, though it had happened with the previous storm, too. I could go to work in the morning. Hurrah...

I like storms. I like lightning and thunder. I used to enjoy, as a child, watching a storm approach, the air growing charged, the sky black, and then the downpour, often followed by a gentle rain. Whatever happened to those? I hope I don’t see a storm like last night's again.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Fitting In

As I have written previously, Bear-Bear has had the easiest integration of any cat whom I have had under my care. This foster-cat continues to do well. He has not been accepted by his fellow felines, but they long ago decided to tolerate him, though he and Tucker seem subtly vying for second from the bottom in the hierarchy.

Bear-Bear appears to be making the most progress with Renn. My big boy and the new fellow remain the only ones to sniff noses, and though Renn will growl in a mild way at Bear-Bear, he will do likewise at Tucker, if the roly poly one bothers him.

Last night, I found evidence that Renn is a bit more complacent about Bear-Bear’s presence than are the other cats. Since Cammie has moved into the back parlour with her own cat-tree, the cat-tree that was there has been moved, at least temporarily, next to the one in the bedroom, giving extra platform space for looking out the window. I wondered if anyone would use it, since only a few pairings among the cats will allow two to be side by side at the same time. But then I saw this.

You’ll note that my big boy is as far away from the guest-cat as possible, while remaining on a platform. The pleasant surprise is that he jumped up there at all, with Bear-Bear already on the other cat-tree.

So the slow process of growing accustomed to new things goes on. Cats are more easily upset by changes than are humans, I think. Humans can rationalise why things have been altered; why they must be altered. Cats can only live with the results. But seeing these two viewing the outside world, at the same place and at the same time - if not quite together - is a result I can live with.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Getting to Know Her

The movement of Cammie from the downstairs shower-room to her temporary quarters upstairs provided some interesting insight into her character.

She fought against being put into a carrier for the short journey. She screamed and twisted and grabbed for inanimate objects that would anchor her, that would keep her from falling into the abyss of the carrier. But she did not scratch or bite me. She could have. As anyone who has a cat knows, a human carrying, or attempting to carry, a cat can do little to prevent even the fattest, most lethargic of felines from spinning about and tearing, scratching or ripping. Only quick reflexes or lithe agility will prevent injury. So Cammie could have done me great harm at any point.

She did sink her claws into a leg of my trousers, but it wasn’t to hurt the person she saw as doing something malevolent to her. It was to fix herself in one spot. And of course I could have been damaged inadvertently, as she flailed about. But a deliberate attack upon me did not occur. And through the long evening of trying to figure out how to put her into a carrier, I saw that she did not like me at that moment; she would not have cared if I had been consigned to the deepest regions of Stygia. And yet, she did not harm me.

What does that say about Cammie? She came to the PAW Society, the cat-rescue group for which I volunteer, with a history of being abused. I would have appreciated her feelings if she had struck out at me; I would have if I had been in her place. I can think only that Cammie is simply an innately harmless creature.

That’s not to say that she may not sink her claws into me at some point. One of my previous foster-cats did exactly that when I prevented him from chasing another cat immediately after a fight. (I know, never interrupt a cat-fight, but it was my chance to separate them.) The cat in question would never have wittingly hurt me, but he was still in combat mode and I…I was in the way. So yes, Cammie may scratch at some point, depending on the provocation. But considering that she received the greatest provocation short of actually being hurt, yet did nothing harmful makes me conclude that she is just not constituted that way.

So I begin to acquaint myself with this unique animal, and hope I will be able to describe in her greater detail later, perhaps to a prospective adopter. She will never fulfill her potential in a foster-home, but I may some day know what that potential is.

Cammie Upgrades to Windows

There have been a couple of changes in the household. Last week, Rachael went back to her long-term foster-home after staying with me for several days. I had been pleased to see her. She was rather hissy and growly the first day, understandably, but after that she was very friendly, friendlier than I remember, which, I believe, is a tribute to the care she has received from her long-term foster-guardians. Nonetheless, after being stuck in one room for seven days, with only periodic visits from me, Rachael was undoubtedly happy to get back to her usual haunts and routine. I am told that she made her feelings known by being extra appreciative of her foster-guardians after her return.

This left the back parlour free for Cammie to move up from the isolation ward (the downstairs shower-room). The journey, though a short one, was traumatic for this poor orphan. She fought being put into the carrier but was eventually installed therein. Then she escaped while I was out of the room for a few minutes. In that way of cats, she managed to push the top door of the carrier open an inch and squeeze herself out. And she wasn’t going back in. I earned her enmity in trying to replace her. For the rest of the night, she growled and hissed at my mere presence.

The next day, a lady from the rescue group with which I volunteer, and of which Cammie is now part, came over and slipped the new cat into a carrier with no trouble at all.

Cammie is now safely in the back parlour. She has windows out of which she can look. She has more room, comfy furniture and a nice view, even fresh air. Her first day was a hot one, so the air conditioner was on for much of it. In the evening, that was shut off and the windows opened. Cammie had no idea the windows opened. She was astonished. And then she was frightened. I came back in to the parlour later to find her hiding at the base of her cat-tree.

The noises from outside were indeed intimidating to a little creature unused to them. Crows were having a raucous time on the back lawn, and there was an automobile show in town this weekend, so people were driving up and down streets showing off their vehicular knowledge by pressing down on accelerators. Her curiosity got the better of Cammie after a while, though, and soon she was peering out at the wide world; eventually, she was lying on the sill of the window itself.

She passed a quiet first night, ate and used her litter-box. When I brought in her soft-food breakfast this morning, she came out, remembered that she hates me, hissed and went back to hiding. But she will get over that. Now that she is in the back parlour, she will see me often, and I can come and go without bothering her. I will talk to her but not press her to be friendly. Now, she can get used to me at her own speed.

Monday, July 8, 2013

A Long Cat Hangs Out

Every cat has its own style of doing things. One looks eager, another timid, a third apathetic. It also depends on what it is doing. Looking out a window, for instance, depends for its posture on where the window is, its structure and what the cat has to lie or sit on while looking out.

My foster-cat, Bear-Bear, is a long, tall beast. His tail is the longest I’ve yet seen on a cat, and perhaps he has trouble deciding where to put his limbs. Since he has taken to sleeping on the bed at night, those limbs often end up in my face. He likes being cosy with a person.

But when peering out a window, he will often hang his front legs over the edge of then platform. Sometimes, he will let them dangle their whole length; other times, they will be drawn up a bit. In any case, they show just how long a cat he is. Relaxed and easy-going, Bear-Bear’s pose shows his character, as well as his style.

Sunday, July 7, 2013


Who can determine why cats make friends with some and not with others? They seem to judge the acceptability of others with the same unfathomable criteria that we humans use. Sometimes, the reasons a person likes one individual and dislikes another are obvious; sometimes, they require a little thought. But in the case of cats, we can only surmise, really.

Tungsten some time ago came to accept all the cats who are now counted as mine. Josie, Renn and Tucker were resented at first, but then tolerated. My top-cat gave her permission rather quickly for Bear-Bear, with his affability, to stay and not be hated. But her particular friend is Renn.

I’ve mentioned before how they groom each other, and how they will lie next to each other, on the bath-mat come bath-time, for instance. That’s not to say that the tiny terror doesn’t exert her authority when Renn makes her physically uncomfortable; on the bed, for instance, my big boy will try to get close to me and sometimes doesn’t regard how he is trampling the smaller orange one. Tungsten reminds him. But most of the time, they are friends.

I’ve written all of this before, of course. This repetition is no more than a preamble to these pictures of Tungsten and Renn enjoying the sitting room armchair together. I like seeing my cats enjoy each other’s company – or at least not minding each other’s proximity. My household feels more like a home when I see its occupants sharing.

I Have Seven Cats

Yes, I have seven cats, temporarily. Bear-Bear is my home's foster-cat-at-large, Rachael came to stay for a week last Wednesday, and now, there is Cammie.

You may have seen Cammie in a little space to the right of this article. The cat-rescue organisation for whom I volunteer was called by someone who reported a cat in what she termed an 'abusive' situation. Whatever the circumstances, let’s just say that Cammie has not had it easy for the last few years. She’s eight, hadn’t been spayed and has been moved about too much – albeit necessarily – in the last few weeks. She is currently in my downstairs bathroom.

Remaining there any amount of time would depress even a cheerful animal, since it is hard and almost windowless: there is a window but it has a ground glass pane and is too far up the wall to view anything but a diffused light. But when Rachael vacates the back parlour, Cammie will take her place, and have access to a view and fresh air.

I have been spending time with Cammie, sitting on the floor, reading, and talking to her, trying to get her used to me. She is distrustful, to say the least. She allows me to pet her, sometimes, but clearly doesn’t care for it. She doesn’t play, and the only joy in her currently confined existence is a dish of soft-food (Fancy Feast’s ocean whitefish flavour is what she looks forward to). She has excellent hygiene habits.

What would benefit her, I think, is a foster-home with no other cats, where she can roam a whole house or apartment at her leisure, watch the people there and decide to trust them in her own time. That would be facilitated by being able to see them all the while. Even when she goes into my back parlour, she won’t have access to the rest of the house, and won’t see me all the time.

This is not to write that she would not do well with other cats. I have no idea how she would do. From what little I know of her, she seems to have a strong will, to know what she likes and dislikes, and would probably stand up for herself. But introducing her to the five other cats in my household at once is probably unwise, and there are few means of allowing her to meet one or two at a time. A foster-home with one or a couple of easy-going felines or a dog would, I believe, be fine, especially if the animals already there were as nonchalant as Bear-Bear, yet another of my foster-cats.

Cammie is a priority for a better foster-home than I can provide, but foster-homes of any kind are scarce. Most of those who are willing to take in cats, have already done so to their capacity. For now, Cammie will be staying with me. Hopefully, she will realise that I am no threat and want to get to know me better. Until then, I will let her dictate the pace of acquaintance.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

The Return of Rachael

Yes, one of my former foster-cats has returned, though only for a week. Rachael is a quiet, long-haired female, whose sensitivity made it advantageous for her to be placed in a foster-home with no other cats. She has been doing well there, where she can roam about the whole house and receive the undivided attention that her guardian has to give her.

That guardian, a long-time, and devoted, volunteer of the PAW Society, the cat-rescue group whom I too help, is on a deserved holiday for a week. Rather than leaving Rachael in her house, alone except for short, daily visits to stock up food and water and clean the litter-box, it was decided that Rachael should come here, where she would have some company.

She is staying in my parlour, where she stayed so long before. No one thinks her condition would be improved by letting her out among my crowd; that did not help her when she was my foster-cat. She is, unfortunately, in isolation for her time with me, but it is only for a week.

I thought initially that it may have been a mistake, bringing her here, uprooting her from known surroundings. Considering her sensitivity, I thought it might be worse than keeping her in her foster-home, albeit alone. But Rachael has clearly improved in her new foster-care. She was growly and hissy the first day here – as who wouldn’t be? But the next day, she was her old self, quietly talking in her tiny, rusty-hinge way, coming close to me for petting and not at all seeming stressful. An improvement I noticed was that she came with only one litter-box. She previously needed two, as she was very fastidious, and refused to use one that she had already soiled. This appears no longer to be the case, and she satisfactorily uses a single box. I am conscientious about scooping the contents, just in case, but I noted that she has used it twice on at least one occasion, and has had no complaints about it.

She is plainly bored here. If she were staying for a long time, I would cautiously re-introduce her to the perma-cats. My other foster-beast, Bear-Bear, would be an excellent start to integration; I can’t see him inducing nerves in any animal. But Rachael will be gone relatively soon, so she remains in the parlour. She has fresh air, a view, a choice of comfortable places in which to snooze and, thankfully, the temperature has fallen during the day, for the time being. The first full day of her time here, I felt constrained to turn on the air conditioning; though the rest of the house was bearable, the parlour receives the full warmth of the setting sun in the evenings, and Rachael’s long hair must have heated her considerably.

Tonight is movie-night, and my movie-time couch-pal, Renn, will have to do without this evening, as I will be watching a film with Rachael. I suspect she will be as interested in what’s playing as my big boy. But she may enjoy a bit of companionship nonetheless.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

And Now, Fireworks

There were more scares for the cats on the evening of Canada Day. Fireworks were set off from the park very near to our house. Usually, I can see them exploding from my windows, but this year I could not. As well, they sounded nearer. Those who shoot them off may have moved them to a different location within the park this time.

In any case, the cats did not know what to make of them. It was perhaps not strange that they reacted differently than during the late thunder- and hailstorms. They were not as afraid of the fireworks as they were of the thunder and hail. Certainly, the man-made noise sounded different, but I would have thought was just as unnerving.

Naturally, Tungsten and Bear-Bear were the least affected, though they seemed interested. Josie was at the window trying to find out where this newest, unknown threat to our home was originating, while Renn alternated between peering out the window in the bedroom and lying on the end of the bed, anxious. That’s an improvement for my brave boy.

Tucker is always an interesting study. He has his hiding spots – the most extreme of which is in the basement, under a library armchair. But when he is unsure of whether to be afraid enough to hide, he waits by the entrance to the corridor that runs behind the sitting room, connecting the parlour to the bedroom. I think this permits him the opportunity to hasten to any safe destination, while giving him views in several directions. My roly poly is not one governed by deep strategic thinking; his call of the wild has long since gone mute. Yet, once in a while, he displays an intuition that would serve him well in nature, for a few seconds, at least.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Sultry Times

From stormy weather to hot: the temperature is soaring this week, up to 29 degrees Celsius (that’s 84 Fahrenheit) tomorrow, though with the humidity, The Weather Network tells me that it will feel like 38 (100 degrees Fahrenheit). That is – and this may be an opinion, an objective observation, personal to me and to no one else, but I must state that it is my belief that that is, in a word – hot.

Certainly the cats agree with me. They are dealing with the sultry weather as they usually do, seeking out cool floors and doing as little as possible, at least for the most part. However, the behaviour of my beasts still baffles me from time to time. Josie will, even on unendurably heated days, lie in the sunshine. It’s true that she will seek out the more temperate basement, where she lies comfortably on one of the library chairs, but she does this even in cold weather. Usually, though, she seeks a middle ground: the comfort of a rug, but in the shade.

Tucker imitates the dead, as he does habitually, but reposes on cool linoleum. He nonetheless resembles a sausage in a frying pan.

Tungsten’s habits have changed somewhat for the summer. Though she still enjoys lying on my lap, she has taken to enjoying the sitting room armchair, which she has not done before. Is its fabric cooler than the couch’s? I wouldn’t have thought so. But its back shields the sitter from the big picture window and, perhaps, psychologically, it feels more in shadow than other seats.

Renn is untroubled by being seen by the great outside world. When he is not perched at an open window (more on that in a future article), he likes the height of the tallest cat-tree, where he can imitate a limp rag in peace.

Bear-Bear is the only cat who keeps resorting to the bedroom on hot days. It faces west and though it does catch the evening sun, even then, the light does shine much into the room, being screened by trees. The bedroom is probably the coolest chamber in the house, and its temperature the most constant.

But I have a secret weapon to use against the blaze of summer. I have central air conditioning, which I have not possessed in previous residences, and which I use when the thermometer’s mercury passes 26 or 27 degrees. Surprisingly, it does not cost me too much. I nonetheless turn it on only come the hottest days. This morning, when I started to perspire merely pulling myself from bed, I knew that today was going to be a good example of such a time.

And so the beasts will relax in relative comfort, hopefully feeling the effects of the air conditioner, which I have selflessly turned on for their benefit alone. It’s true that I will also be within the confines of the artificially cooled house, but that is merely incidental. I am doing this for the cats. Honestly.