Friday, September 27, 2013

Double Orange

One of the wonderful things about having cats live with me is the moment when I realise that something in their lives or relationships has changes for the better. Tungsten is not a being who needs other animals. She is friends with Renn but they are certainly not inseparable. She will sniff the other perma-cats, but if they all suddenly departed on an excursion up the Amazon River, she would not suffer separation anxiety. The orange one, in fact, does not really care for other cats, and when an unfamiliar one comes to close to her, she will hiss or yowl or both.

She is a lap-cat, and after dinner, I usually relax for half an hour with a cup of tea and a book. Tungsten will frequently choose to lie on my lap, curled up and snoozing. As the weather turns chilly outside, she does this more often. The other day, however, found Bear-Bear already stretched out in the far corner of the couch. As soon as I sat down, he came over to claim my lap.

Tungsten, coming up from the basement, appeared miffed at the BB’s presumption. I told Tungsten to jump up anyway. I could tell that she was not entirely averse to the idea, so I kept urging her to join us. I was surprised when she did, and astonished when she not only did not slap the guest-cat away, but actually lie down against him.

Now, one may think that having two cats on one lap would be uncomfortable for me. Frankly, it was, a bit. Bear-Bear is too long to be a good lap-cat, yet he wants to be, so I indulge him every time he wishes. Tungsten, though she did not resent it, had to lie farther out on my legs, so I was forced to hold my knees together to keep her from falling between them to the floor. Yet I enjoyed every second of their presence.

The two orange cats remained on my lap for about twenty minutes. Bear-Bear’s rough purring was continual as he lie perfectly still, his eyes closed. Tungsten was silent, but that just meant she was at ease. I would have been able to determine if she was anxious about the BB being so near; she was not. She had chosen to repose next to him and was fine with it. After about twenty minutes, Bear-Bear rose abruptly, as he will after a period on my lap, and left.

I don’t kid myself that this will be repeated soon. It may, but the next time Tungsten sees Bear-Bear too close, she may throw a fit. But that, I know, will be for show, and will have no substance to it. She has accepted my long foster-cat, and there’s no going back on that.

Joy Before Dinner

Sometimes, the unlikeliest pairings will emerge in a crowded cat household. Unlikely because of who they contain and when they occur. Josie and Tucker are a good example of this.

For most of the time, they ignore each other. In fact, when Tucker is unnerved by new cats, sensitive animal that he is, he will become hostile in a small way to Josie, growling at her from a distance and hissing when she is near. This has occurred recently with the presence of two foster-cats in my home. That reaction on the part of the roly poly one is now starting to fade.

Even when it was strong, however, Tucker and Josie would play. They play for about five minutes each day, and only when I come home from work. I have tried to get pictures of the two of them frolicking - and that is an excellent word for their activities - but have failed so far. I’ve either been too slow (they were done by the time I was ready to record them) or their movements made for blurry pictures. Nonetheless, their shared time together needs to be described.

When I come home, I greet all the cats individually, then go to the bedroom to change clothes. Tungsten usually follows me there. Tucker and Josie will then frequently start to play. They chase each other in the sitting room, their weight making it sound as if silken-shod donkeys are banging about the hardwood. Tucker will run away, then turn and charge back, Josie will deftly avoid his attack (all of this is done at a velocity approximating that of a dinner-rush at an assisted-living old-folks home), hurry behind the nylon tunnel and then go on the offensive.

At some point, the rug will be pushed up into a loopy fold, behind which Josie likes to hide. This is the equivalent of a medicine ball being secretly placed behind a bamboo sapling. Nonetheless, she thinks she has cleverly disguised her presence from Tucker who, more often than not, is lying perdu on the other side of the fold, just as convinced of his cunning camouflage. One will break away and pursue or be pursued.

Then, it is over as soon as it began. The roly poly one and my Chubs lie down separately and wait for dinner to be served. Considering their sizes, they may be too fatigued to continue their play. But it’s done now, in any case.

Each cat is careful not to hurt the other during their roughhousing; indeed, they seem to be at pains to avoid touching at all. I watched recently as Tucker leaped over Josie and tumbled on the other side of her, righting himself for an assault, which never took place because Josie ran away, only to gather herself for her own attack. This goes on for minutes, jumping and rolling and running. Why only at this time of day? I have never witnessed it at any other, and never on days on which I stay home.

The whys and wherefores are mysteries known only to the roly poly one and the Great White. The mood must be right, I guess; my return, the anticipation of dinner, the end of a long day; all may contribute. What isn’t a mystery is the fun that those two have with each other, for that small space of time, and the delight I feel at watching them.

The Ambition of a Cat

Cammie, one of my guest-cats, is certainly making her presence felt. I think she is bidding to become top-cat, which is causing some disturbance in the household.

The principal object of her attention is the current top-cat, Tungsten. She’s always been in charge, and was challenged for her position only once before, by a foster-cat named Wixie. The latter was a big grey and white female, who was adopted long ago with her friend, Mystery, who was also staying with me. I feared Wixie’s attempt to take control from Tungsten because she was much bigger than my orange one and would have defeated her in any physical confrontation.

Cammie is about the same size as Tungsten, though heavier. The guest-cat has not shown any overt hostility to Tungsten, but follows her closely. When Tungsten sits on top of the bathroom counter to drink from the basin, Cammie is lurking behind the toilet. When Tungsten lies on the bed for a snooze, Cammie will hop up and stare at her. Even going to the litter-box, Tungsten will emerge to find the newcomer hiding around a corner. I think my old cat may be feeling a bit imprisoned.

Despite the fact that when Tungsten runs to get away from Cammie, the latter chases her, there has been no fighting. The orange one has been hissing and growling a great deal, while Cammie hisses only at me when I tell her to move along. The guest-girl continues to be friendly toward me for the most part, though getting her used to petting is a work in progress.

Cammie also exerts her authoritative character with the others. She dislikes Renn, but only because my big boy likes to take her place on the cat-tree in the parlour, though once in a while Tucker will lie there. That causes a bit of congestion at times. Cammie will follow and chase the roly poly one, but, as with Tungsten, only if Tucker flees. Cammie tends to rely upon her unnerving proximity for intimidation.

Sometimes Cammie is perfectly amenable to the other cats. She will lie for hours, snoozing, and ignoring her roommates. She will consent to me stroking and petting her, and seems even to enjoy it, though she’s an inscrutable one much of the time. Mornings will often find her lying on a cat-tree or even on the rug in the sitting room, relaxing in the sunshine, if there is any.

But there is a distrust in her of the others, which I am working to ameliorate. There isn’t much I can do actively in that regard, except encourage her to sit quietly with the others, and to calm them when she is near. Tucker is prone to nervousness and will dislike the new girl’s presence. Yet sometimes the roles are reversed, and Cammie is unsettled by the others’ nearness. In that case, she will exit quickly, often hissing, even though the others are clearly no threat to her.

But this all may be a phase. I hope it is. Cammie will make a marvellous friend for someone; she just has to get used to the fact that most humans will want to treat her well. And if she can become accustomed to other cats, and realise that they mean her no harm and may even want to be chums, then she will prosper all the more. This will take time and patience. I think she would do better with fewer cats with which to contend, and to that end the rescue-group with whom I volunteer, the Lethbridge PAW Society, and I would like to see Cammie in another foster-home, perhaps one less crowded. But while she is with me, I will do what I can to show her what a good life can be.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

The New Floor Is In

The renovations in the basement are done. The old carpet, with its multiple, cat-induced stains, is gone, replaced with linoleum. It took longer than expected, but the installers did not charge me any more than the amount that they quoted me, which was a surprise. Though it feels a little cooler, metaphorically speaking, the new flooring will probably be healthier, since my cats left half of themselves behind every time they went downstairs. Now, I will still find cat-hair everywhere, but it will be swept up with little trouble. As well, any intestinal reversals will be simplicity itself to deal with.

Yes, yes, you’re no doubt thinking, that’s all well and good. But how did the cats react to it?

Well, last evening I opened the door to the basement and let them explore. Tungsten was the first to head downstairs. The orange one is fearless, and looked all over. She found it very new, of course, but I had placed a couple of cat-trees there already. (The rest of the furniture will follow in the days to come.) I was worried that the beasts might try to scratch the linoleum, so I thought I would tempt them with something familiar.

Tungsten considered what I had done to the basement to be mildly interesting, but not amazing. She walked around a bit, but was soon upstairs again in her comfy armchair. I chose a black and white, chequered pattern for the floor, as I like tessellated marble, and I think it looks rather collegiate, a quality that will suit the library, once the books return. But it made Tungsten appear the only bit of colour in the room.

Next down was Renn. My big boy has become very brave over the last few years. He hesitated briefly at the top of the staircase. (The effect on the steps is rather like the ‘crazy’ camouflage applied to ships during World War Two to confound submarines’ range-finding, and so I will have to watch the range of my footfalls going down; that’s a minor, though unforeseen, result of my choice of pattern.)

He joined Tungsten in checking out the new look, though his interest lasted rather longer than the orange one’s. Renn is, as you may know, of a scientific bent, and he doesn’t take study lightly. He was downstairs the longest.

Then my Chubs must have wondered what the attraction was, because she lumbered down the staircase next. She is still the nervous cat she was years ago, so she came on slowly. Once there, however, she found nothing frightening with the new set-up.

My two guest-cats took the alterations in their stride. Bear-Bear, like his fellow orange cat, Tungsten, is fazed by little. A destructive hailstorm and a summer of thunder didn’t bother him, so a change of flooring wasn’t going to amount to anything in his estimation. His main concern was how close it was to his next meal-time.

Cammie walked about slowly, sedately, taking it all in. She found nothing too exciting about it; I think she was simply glad to have the extra level open once more. She sometimes retreated to the basement when she needed to be away from the other cats (and me), or when things were a bit a scary upstairs.

And then there was Tucker. He is skittish at the best of times, and it took a long time for me to coax him off the half-landing where he spent a quarter-hour rubbing against the edges of walls. Perhaps he wanted to reaffirm that this was still the same basement with which he was familiar.

But my roly poly isn’t quite the scaredy-cat he once was, and he ventured down, one step at a time, stopping and squeaking on each. But he made it to the bottom, where he cautiously smelled the new fragrances. (Hopefully, the carpet contained all traces of unwanted odours, such as the instances when Tucker wet outside the litter-box due to something troubling his delicate nerves. Certainly, the aroma of new plastic - rather like the smell of the interior of an automobile just purchased - was strong, though not unpleasant.)

Tucker did not range far, and kept close to his escape route. But that will change. Like Renn, he has progressed, and no longer fears everything. Just most things.

And so the cats have been introduced to the new flooring. I think it was a successful evening. I have already replaced one litter-box under the stairs, where the boxes have always been. One remains upstairs. I will move that in stages back downstairs, but I want to make sure the roly poly one is comfortable in the basement before he must go there to relieve himself. As well, there is Cammie to think about: she has had a litter-box in the back parlour (where she was initially confined) since her arrival. She will have to get used to going elsewhere. She knows there were and are boxes downstairs, but I am not sure she has used them. Last night was the first time the parlour was without a litter-box, and I don’t know if she visited the one temporarily placed just around the corner. I’m sure she will use one or another, though.

I’ll leave you with one more photograph, an image which depicts another unforeseen effect of the new pattern on the floor. You’ve heard of “Where’s Waldo"? Now, where’s Renn?!

Monday, September 16, 2013

A Long Cat Takes His Medicine

Bear-Bear has been sneezing. He has been sneezing in great quantities and with vehemence. He also has mucous in his nose, which does not need sneezing to become dislodged. He can be a messy fellow. And, though it is amusing to watch him throw his head back and launch into a sneezing fit, amusement in this case is not good.

Bear-Bear seems to have had his problem for a while. The veterinarian believes it is an upper respiratory infection, chronic but not dangerous. Nonetheless, it is a bother for him and surely cannot but make other infections, should they arrive for a visit, more welcome. Aside from that, speaking practically, it makes his chances of being adopted slimmer. The BB needs a cure.

And so he has begun a treatment with azithromycin. This is not really an animal medicine, but it works well with cats. The drug comes in pill form and as a liquid. Fortunately, I was supplied with the latter. It is a strong anti-biotic and the doctor prescribed a single doze of 1.25 milligrams a day for only six days. Bear-Bear makes giving it to him inconvenient but not difficult. He is a third of the way through his programme already. I keep forgetting to pay attention, but as I think back on this morning and yesterday, I don’t recall Bear-Bear sneezing much, or at all. Last night, he was making noises as he was walking about as though he were trying to sniff, but there was no runny mucous to sniff. Do cats sniff? In any case, I think the medicine is working.

Once his respiratory infection is cured, and I do believe it will be, Bear-Bear will go in for a dental cleansing. He has gingivitis that is making his breath smell very bad. It is probably uncomfortable, as well. With his nose clear and his teeth clean, he will undoubtedly find that his food tastes much better. He may discover a whole range of flavours he simply wasn’t previously tasting. (I don’t need that, in truth: he switches allegiances between Fancy Feast flavours faster than a politician discards principles.) But if all this makes the BB feel better, and improves his odds of being adopted, then I’m in favour of it. This long cat has been getting short shrift, and that is about to end.


Tucker is by far the most sensitive cat I have, probably the most sensitive I’ve met. He doesn’t take change well; he especially dislikes the arrival of new cats.

Cammie, ironically, is less of a challenge to him than is Bear-Bear. Despite her distrust of all my beasts, the new guest-girl does not go after the others (at least not often) and is more frequently at odds with Renn than with Tucker. Bear-Bear, who gets along with almost every cat, has picked on Tucker due to the latter’s position at the bottom of the totem pole. Neither the roly poly one nor the BB wants to be there, so there is some unfriendly competition over the next higher spot.

This has been reported previously. Now, things are improving very slightly. Twice now, I have caught Tucker not moving away when Bear-Bear has been near him. Nearness is of course a relative term. (Alpha Centauri is the nearest star to our own, yet is more than 25,000,000,000 miles away; it’s relatively close.) I do not expect Tucker to allow the BB to get within striking distance any time soon, and there is certainly far for them to go, but better times must start somewhere.

I dislike subjecting Tucker to changes, but he comes through each one, as most cats do. He remains a cheerful little fellow, still ambling over to me continually to rub his fuzzy melon-head against me, to let me know I retain his affection, despite the cats I keep introducing to the household. His loud purrs are a comfort to me. He may deeply feel the disadvantages of life, but he feels the joys just as deeply.

Now, That Is Unusual

What you see in the picture above is indeed unusual. Tungsten and Josie have come a long way from their first days together when they fought like cat and dog. (As cat-owners know, cats and cats will often fight more viciously than any cat and dog, but I’m a traditionalist and must go with the established simile.) But they cannot be termed friends. They will sometimes lie next to each other on the bed at night, but that’s only because both want a particular spot and won’t move because the other wants a spot near by.

In the daylight, however, things are different and my Chubs likes her space. She is not one who enjoys other cats coming up for a sniff or snoozing next to her. Yet, here she was, beside the orange one. I had seen Josie in the armchair earlier, so I think Tungsten jumped up to join her. Or, rather, Tungsten jumped up to lie on the chair’s cushion and Josie was already there. Tungsten likes sleeping in the armchair these days, so it was simply a matter of putting up with the Great White. What surprises me is that the latter stayed.

Yes, what you see is unusual. And I’m not so much of a traditionalist that I can’t stand this kind of change.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Cammie at Her Own Pace

It’s very interesting to me to see how a cat interacts with others in a new environment, and especially how that interaction changes as it becomes used to its surroundings. Bear-Bear fit in quite well at my house, though he still causes some problems. Cammie, conversely, is actually causing fewer problems for the other beasts, but is herself slower to integrate.

She is, however, making progress. It seems faster with me than with the roommates of her own species but that, perhaps, is natural. I don’t use her litter-box or eat her food, after all. I can pet her much more than previously, and more extensively, over more of her body. She hasn’t purred since that first instance (and I am beginning to wonder if I heard that correctly) so I must interpret her reactions in light of other factors. Josie will flick her tail while purring and clearly enjoying something; in another cat, such a movement would indicate simmering anger. I think Cammie may be closer to Josie in this aspect than to a typical cat.

Her hissing is much reduced these days, and she tends to use it more when she is annoyed than when threatened or threatening. She largely ignores Tucker, but the roly poly doesn’t ignore her. He is having a hard time with the guest-cats’ presence, growling (actually a kind of low grumble) when he sees them, and doing the same with Josie. (He has done this before; Josie seems to be a proxy for his irritation.) Cammie also ignores Josie, who has always been the most accepting of any new cat.

The guest-girl’s reaction toward Tungsten is intriguing. I am starting to think that Cammie wants to be friends with the orange one. She will follow Tungsten, receive the latter’s unmistakable hiss in return, but continue to follow, not making a hostile sound of her own. This doesn’t happen all the time, but enough for me to wonder that, if Tungsten permitted, the two may become chums. Another unusual scene played itself out with Bear-Bear. The BB approached Cammie the other evening, was warned off, but kept pressing, not with vehemence but almost with curiosity. The two ended by sniffing noses, after which they went separate ways, without a sound.

The most watchable of her relationships is with Renn. Cammie dislikes my big boy, though I do not believe it has to do with a clash of personalities. Rather, Renn likes to spend time in the back parlour; he always has. He likes the opportunity of using the parlour’s windows out of which to examine the back lawn, doubling his viewing area, as he already has a similar prospect from the bedroom. Cammie, who sleeps in the back parlour and has her litter-box and cat-tree there, understandably, feels that she has some claim to the room. Renn’s stake, based on prior occupancy, is just as valid. Thus, the new girl and my big boy have words from time to time.

Often what transpires between them is a childish stand-off which seems impressive, even frightening, but which is in effect the feline equivalent of two adolescents yelling “Oh, yeah?” and “Says you!” at each other, ad infinitum. Cammie will sometimes trap Renn in a corner. Despite his size, Renn is a reluctant fighter, not the pacifist that Josie is, but not a combative animal, either. Thus, I will sometimes hear growling and grumbling from some part of the house and find, upon investigation, Cammie having run the big boy to earth, from where I must then rescue him.

One of the funniest moments with Cammie comes immediately upon a less amusing incident between Bear-Bear and Tucker. Those two will still sometimes come to a screeching confrontation, which I must defuse. But upon hearing an outbreak of howling anger, Cammie will come rushing from the parlour, hissing and hissing, her ears back, ready to fight. She will hiss at Tucker, at Bear-Bear, at me, then slink off, content perhaps that she has told us once, if she’s told us a thousand times, that she didn’t come to this house to be disturbed by a couple of children.

But all in all, I’m pleased with Cammie’s progress. It is much slower than Bear-Bear’s, and slower than the average cat’s. But who can say what she went through before she was rescued? She bumps my fist with her head when coming into the parlour, and will roll on her back to sleep, even when Renn is in the room, though this would expose her belly to an enemy in the wild. I believe she feels no danger in her foster-home. She is growing accustomed to her surroundings, but is naturally cautious. Time is no foe here, however, and if she is slow to integrate, there is, after all, no reason to hurry.

Tungsten has a Drinking Problem

Tungsten has never drunk water from a bowl, while I have been present. She requires me to run a tap for her, if I am home. She will sit on the bathroom basin’s counter and wait. Often, she will cry out for me to come and run the water for her.

This is not as simple as it seems. You see, I believe she does drink from a bowl. I place bowls of water around the house for the beasts’ convenience, including a small one in the basin of the bathroom. That way, if I am not present, Tungsten, getting up near the tap to see if there is any water remaining at the bottom of the basin, will find the bowl there and drink from it. I have come home and found the water level in the bowl reduced from what it was when I left it, reduced to an extent for which I do not believe evaporation could be responsible. Therefore, I think she does drink from a bowl. But only when I am absent.

I have tried to get her to drink from a bowl while I am present. I have tried to wait her out, refusing to run water for her, placing her near a bowl, showing her where water is readily available. I have used fountains and small bowls, large bowls with ice cubes; she will go without water all day rather than drink from a bowl. When I am present. I cannot stand a cat to go without water too long, so I relent, and run a tap for her. I wish she would all the time drink the water from the side of the stream, but sometimes she lets it run off her fuzzy head. Her methods are neither here nor there.

Please understand that running water for my orange one is no hardship, but I would like her to have the convenience of a large supply of fluid in a bowl. From which she does indeed drink. But only when I am absent.

This habit of hers becomes a bit more irksome in the wee hours. You see, she thirsts at night. (A rather good title for a horror film, don’t you think?). Tungsten started waking me at four o’clock in the morning, wanting a drink. This is annoying, yes, but I can usually go back to sleep again and get a bit more rest before I wake for work at six. I could just ignore her, but it’s hard to rest while a tiny voice, becoming increasingly piteous, cries for sustenance with the regularity of a clock’s ticking second hand. Talk about water-torture.

As I mentioned, this is annoying but not greatly so. Times have changed. Tungsten’s has, anyway. She now wakes me at five o’clock. After waiting for her to finish drinking (so I can turn off the tap, and not leave it running), I am conscious enough to need some time to fall asleep again. Knowing I must get up an hour later, my mind fixes on the passing minutes, and I do not, alas, meet Morpheus once more. This is a problem.

I decided to try a pre-emptive strike against my furry little wake-up call. Because of her previous habit, I still wake about four. I have been returning to sleep soon after, to be woken again at five. Last night, I got up at four o’clock, roused Tungsten from a sound sleep (turn about is fair play) and carried her to the bathroom. She could drink now and let me sleep for the next two hours.

You may have discerned already the flaw in my scheme. The orange one refused to drink. I placed her next the basin and ran the water. She dropped to the floor. The process was repeated, with a similar result. She was not thirsty. I could lead a horse to water, etc… I carried her back to bed, where I could not then regain sleep. I flopped about like a dying turbot, attempting to find rest. The irony is that this morning, Tungsten cried for water at about 5.45, a mere fifteen minutes before I had to get up anyway.

Good friends share everything. Even their drinking problems.

Josie Goes Fishing

It is called ‘Tackle Fish’, and I suppose it resembles a fish somewhat. Seeing it lying on the floor, though, makes me think of a science fiction movie about little creepy things that attack, perhaps microscopic bacteria grown large.

I bought three of them at a bargain store that is going out of business. (By the way, is it just me or is the very fact that there are such companies, as well as pay-day loan shops and soup kitchens, signs that politicians are not making things better?) Anyway, these were packaged with the slogan ‘loaded with potent catnip’. I don’t think they are. The cats have been largely ignoring them, except for Josie.

My Chubs likes them. She will lie on the floor and kick at them, pick them up, bite them and throw them down again. Josie is not an active cat. Even when playing, her position is almost static. But she does play, and it’s good to see her grappling with one of the ‘Tackle Fish’, a rotund, middle-aged cat enjoying herself.

I have dozens of toys that the cats never bother with. I keep buying them. Once in a  while, I’m rewarded with a sight such as Josie provides me while wrestling with the ‘Tackle Fish’. A single successful purchase is worth all the others.