Monday, October 28, 2013

Bad News for Bear-Bear

Bear-Bear has been seeing the inside of an animal hospital quite a bit recently, and will see still more in the weeks to come. He is suffering from a severe problem.

I had reported earlier that the BB was anaemic. His red blood cells are dying and not being replaced. His doctor thinks that there are two probable causes for this. One is cancer. The other is that his own body’s immune system is attacking the red blood cells, thinking that they are a disease. Bear-Bear will be receiving doses of a medicine called prednisone, which suppresses the immune system and may allow his red blood cells to regenerate. This will leave him more open to other illnesses, but at the moment, that is the lesser of two evils.

The prednisone came originally in pill form. Unfortunately, Bear-Bear is not like Tucker. That roly poly sits on my lap like a baby and takes his medicine with little fuss. He gives me a look of suffering, locks his jaws and does little else. A little baby martyr. Bear-Bear is different. He resists. He doesn’t fight or scratch; the BB is too good-natured for such things. He does, however, spit the pills out, something at which he is very good. So, he will be getting the Tungsten treatment: medicine in cream form to be rubbed in his ears.

He will then be tested once a week for a month. If his red blood cells have a resurgence, then his recovery is a possibility, with the help of medicine. If they don’t, then he will likely have cancer.

I am told the odds are that it is indeed a case of cancer, in which case, there would be no help for it, and he won’t survive long.

Whatever the outcome of his tests, he will continue to reside with me. If he is suffering from cancer, he will remain for the rest of his life. I don’t mind keeping him with me. I’ve grown attached to the long-cat, and if his last days are few, then I would like him to spend them with me. Since he was lost or abandoned - we’ll never know which - my house has been the most enduring home he’s known. He thinks he’s here to stay. But then, even when it’s time for the BB to go, he’ll stay with me.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Being Mean to Tucker

I dislike giving Tucker his pills. He needs three a day for four weeks. They are to destroy the infection in his urinary tract. I have to hold him in my lap, nearly upright, so he doesn’t choke on the pill, which I try to get him to swallow with short, mild bursts of water from a fat syringe. He knows when it’s time for his pills. Sometimes he hides, very ineffectively, behind a cat-post. Usually, however, he just cringes, as if attempting to bury himself in a couch or bed, wherever he may be at the time. This is what I see when it comes time to give him his medicine.

But what I love about this teddy bear of a cat is his unquenchable gladness at being loved. Seconds after a pill is forced down his throat, sometimes with water spilled down his chest, all the while being grasped in an uncomfortable position, he can be purring. He holds no grudges and carries no chips on his barely discernible shoulders. A trusting little creature, he has no idea why I do to him what I must do, yet he knows that I continue to be his friend. Three years ago, a family gave him up because he was wetting where he shouldn’t. He still does when he has an infection or is under extreme stress. But I could never get rid of him for that or any other reason. That’s why I give him his pills, as much as I dislike it. I want him to stay with me a very long time. Forever would be nice.

The Paths She May Take

Cammie's new life continues, and she is making progress down her road, though it’s not always in the direction I would like. She is a strong willed little cat, but is missing the opportunity to make friends. She prefers to barge her way through obstacles by throwing her tiny weight around.

She was a terror yesterday, stalking Tungsten, Renn and Tucker in turn. The first two can handle her well enough. Cammie follows Tungsten, who hates being shadowed, but the guest-girl doesn’t make any hostile sights or sounds until Tungsten makes a break for it and eventually comes to a stop. Then there is mutual hissing and growling. She does much the same to my big boy, though she varied the routine the other day by discovering the opportunities the nylon tunnel can give for sneaking up on someone.

Tungsten will be followed relentlessly at times. At such moments, Cammie doesn’t do anything but settle down near her or around a corner. She’ll then act as if she were simply waiting for a train at a peaceful rural station.

If the orange one would realise that a good smack from her would solve much of her problem, things might be different. I don’t want to encourage fighting, and in fact, Cammie wouldn’t take assault lying down, but I think a sharp, short melee would clear the air. Or maybe not.

I feel worst for Tucker, the ultra-sensitive cat. As is the way with animals, Cammie seems to reserve the most aggression for the opponent who pushes back the least. Tucker will run and hide; he will hiss and growl but only as a last resort. He doesn’t want to fight - he’ll provoke, half-playfully, but he doesn’t like hostility of any kind.

Lest you think that Cammie is all chaos, please let me assure you that she can be a sweetie, too, and the more time she has with me the sweeter she becomes. I believe that she enjoys being petted now, and I think she actually rubbed up against me one evening. My smaller foster-cat may simply be one of those cats who doesn’t like others of her species. Or, like one of my fosters past, Luther, she may just need the right one to open her to the world of feline comradeship. Anything is possible right now for Cammie. It’s a new day in her life and her path stretches ahead.

Monday, October 21, 2013

The Quest for Sanitas

Last week was a week of health issues. There were some surprises, and they weren’t good. They weren’t catastrophic, either, so I keep everything in perspective.

Over the Thanksgiving weekend, I noticed that Tucker was going downstairs to use the litter-boxes frequently. In one half-hour period, he went to the basement five times. Unless he had been drinking pots of tea continuously, I couldn’t see him needing to relieve himself that much. He had been wetting outside the litter-box once in a while, and when he spends an inordinate amount of time downstairs, I know that is what he is doing. I followed him a couple of times and was satisfied that he was indeed using the boxes. But why so often?

I was afraid that it was an infection. He had had an operation last year, which virtually prevents blockages in the urinary tract, which had been a great danger to him. Yet now he was trying to use the litter-boxes repeatedly. He likely did not have to go, but an infection would make him feel like he did. That frequently explains wetting outside the litter-box: a cat will try to use the box as he should, but finds that he can’t always go. He thinks he must go - after all, his body is telling him he has to - but can’t. In a cat’s mind, this can become blamed on the litter, so he tries it elsewhere. Eventually, just because he will genuinely need to relieve himself, he will have success, and then he figures that going outside the box is the way it must work from then on.

Anyway, I contacted the veterinarian on call at the beasts’ hospital (Tucker’s urinary problems always occur on holidays…) and she suggested that if it was an infection, which it seemed to be, he could wait a day: I was bringing Tungsten in for a check-up the next day. So, the roly poly one accompanied us. The visit confirmed that he had a urinary tract infection, similar to what he had had before. The cure is a series of anti-biotic pills, three a day for four weeks. He is not enjoying the treatment, but he takes them like a mancat, and he should recover his health in a month. A ‘culture’ will confirm this afterward.

Then, it was Bear-Bear’s turn. My foster cat was scheduled for a ‘dental’, an operation to clean his teeth. He has been suffering from bad breath since he came to my house. This may have been partly due to the upper respiratory infection that was causing him to sneeze and sniffle constantly. Some medicine reduced his cold-like symptoms but did not eliminate them. It did reduce his bad breath. Still, a dental would be good for him.

Prior to the operation, however, his blood was tested, as he would require anaesthetic, and it was necessary to make sure that it would not harm him. It turned out that it would: Bear-Bear, it was discovered, as anaemic.

When he arrived at my house, he was quite active and of a hefty weight. He then became sluggish and lost poundage. It may have been the anaemia taking effect, though I don’t know if it comes on in quite that way. In any case, this condition exhausts him easily, and causes weight-loss. It also makes a cat feel cold much of the time. The BB must have been quite uncomfortable these past nights as autumn has settled in; the days have been very pleasant, but the evenings become chilly. I inquired about anaemia and low temperatures, and found out that anaemic cats feel the cold more, even in summer. So I brought out the third of my cat-bed heating pads and arranged it on the couch in the parlour, where Bear-Bear spends most of his nights. He has not been off of it much since. Not only that but he previously had snoozed curled up, as one does when one is cold. I didn’t think of it at the time, but now understand that he was probably unable to get warm. Now he sleeps spread out a bit more.

Finally, Tungsten, and some good news at last. The orange one went for a check-up to see how she is handling her hyperthyroidism. A blood test is usual at such times, but the veterinary did not think it necessary at this point. Tungsten’s heart rate is excellent, she had gained weight since her last examination, her fur is soft and thick, and she shows no signs of ill health, so the blood test was dispensed with for the time being. She does have a bit of gingivitis, and that will be dealt with in a few months, when a blood test will likely be done. Otherwise, she is doing well.

And so my house has become a sanatorium of sorts. Tungsten and Bear-Bear will always have their conditions, though they are treatable. (The BB’s blood is being tested further; once the results are known, so will his possible treatment.) Tucker’s will be improved, though he will always be at risk. What’s important is that they have good lives for as long as possible - and that ‘as long as possible’ is very long indeed.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Josie Defies Gravity

Lest you feel, after reading about Josie’s bad experiences with digestion, that my Chubs’s life has taken a turn down a poor road, let me share with you this bit of folly.

Josie, despite having one of the least kittenish appearances, does have a playful streak in her. She will enjoy a short, sharp session with a string-toy, or even just a string, and has been seen playing by herself once in a while. Then, if no one is watching, she may act just plain silly.

Here she is amusing herself by trying to walk on a wall. She had been moving her forelegs before I took the photograph, and I think in the second picture she may actually be trying to persuade me that she is defying gravity. It seemed best to tell her that it was indeed an astonishing power of which she was possessed...

Sad Josie / Happy Floor

Poor Josie was not feeling well yesterday. She ate her soft-food dinner with the other beasts after I returned from work. She hasn’t been eating all of her soft-food for the past few weeks. She still looks forward to its serving, and she retains a healthy appetite, but she has been leaving a small portion of each. I think she is just getting old.

I have tried different flavours to entice my Chubs and have settled on one, which she now seems to enjoy enough to eat an entire portion. Yesterday, it came back up on her, twice: at dinner and at snack-time. Not long after each meal, she retired to the library in the basement where she threw up a few times. First, she started crying, which is not something she usually does before vomiting. She sounded like Tungsten, on the rare occasions on which the orange one throws up.

I don’t believe that her discomfort was caused by any microbe or by very bad food. Others ate what she had, and from the same tin. Josie has always had a delicate stomach, and has thrown up numerous times in the past. She recovers quickly; this evening, she was hungry enough a quarter-hour later to be at the hard-food bowl. It may have been that the food she ate was a little tainted but not sufficiently to cause trouble for any other of my beasts.

I don’t know if Josie retreated to the basement because it was where the carpet had been, and cats gravitate toward carpets when they are about to up-chuck. If so, she was disappointed, for she found the new linoleum. If she had barfed on the carpet, I would have been cleaning for hours - and still not rid the fabric of a stain - if indeed I had found all of her efforts. Now, following some cleanser and a quick wipe with paper towels, the floor was clean, and ready to receive another dose of undigested food and bile. Oh happy day.

Bull's Eye in a Bird's Eye

The cats love to watch birds out the windows. Some birds land on the lawns and hunt for worms, insects, buds, whatever provides their diet. Others land in bushes or on the boughs of trees. Others still rest on the edge of fences. Once in a while, some misjudge distances or destinations and hit the windows themselves. This one struck so hard it left a number of feathers behind.

I looked about to find a body but arrived a few minutes after the incident, and found nothing. I think the bird was stunned but not killed, though I can’t imagine he remained unaffected. He hit harder than a previous bird whom I subsequently saw lying on the lawn and intended to bury. By the time I reached it with a shovel, it was sitting up. It flew away eventually, in an rather ragged line…

I’m not sure why birds hit windows. A recent study estimated that more than 22,000,000 Canadian birds are killed each year by hitting houses. How this statistic was derived, I don’t know. The window struck in this instance is a large one, and though many will explain this occurrence by saying that the bird didn’t see the glass, I must counter by stating that certainly it saw the sitting room beyond. One would think that it would have wanted to avoid that.

Birds hitting windows frighten my cats more than excite or interest them. They find it disturbing and, probably, unnatural. But it may merely confirm the opinions they have of their own species’ superiority. After all, cats don’t go about slamming themselves against windows.

Cats' Paws

A cat’s paws are as individual as its personality, it seems. The colouring, the texture of the pads, how the fur grows in or around them, are all distinct qualities.

Josie’s, for instance, may look unremarkable but you’ll notice that not only are her pads of two different colours, black and pink, they are clearly one or the other, with no sharing of hue on one pad.

Renn’s, on the other hand (or paw), are of a similar colouring to my Chubs’s, but with a mixture of pink and black on the pads. There is also the fur that sticks out between the pads. This is due to his long hair. As befits the professorial nature of this cat, it is long and unkempt - though certainly not unclean. He is very hygienic. My big boy’s pads remind me of candy, maybe liquorice all-sorts. He does not like his all-sorts to be touched, by the way. Cutting Renn’s claws is a long process.

Tucker has paws which, in colouring and mixture, may resemble Renn’s, but the fur is much neater, much shorter. His fur is a very soft and smooth brush-cut, though there are correspondingly short tufts sticking out from his paws, in order to protect the pads, I suspect.

Bear-Bear has a little coarser fur than the others, and it shows in his paws. The pads are all pink, as suits this white and orange boy. He has an outdoorsy quality to his character - he lived outside for a while before being rescued, but will never have the chance to do so again, let me tell you - so his fur looks a little less tamed than most cats’, and his paws are longer, narrower. He is, after all, a long and narrow animal.

The most unusual colouring among the cats’ paws belongs to Cammie. Her shimmering Siamese fur is reflected (no pun intended) in her pads, which are puce, light for the most part, though you can see a dark one just behind the paw that’s in full view. She, like Renn, does not care for her feet to be touched.

And finally, we examine Tungsten’s. I would say “last but not least”, but she is the least, in size, anyway. The fur between the pads is white, and shines, while the pads themselves are a strong yet delicate pink. You’ll notice something here that is unique among my cats: the rear-most pad, the largest, is divided into three segments. This feature is rudimentary in the others, but fully formed in the orange one. Her paws are soft white socks that are sometimes placed on my face while I’m in bed. She doesn’t mind me touching them, and cutting Tungsten’s claws is an easy and simple process.

These are the paws of the cats who live with me, as individual as the beasts themselves. They are little extremities that characterise the whole animal, much more so than a human’s feet and hands do him. But don’t worry, I won’t be showing my paws any time soon.

Monday, October 7, 2013

The Tackle Fish Claim More Victims

The new toy called the Tackle Fish seems to be gaining in popularity. I’ve already explained how Josie likes to roll on it and bite it and generally have fun with it. This weekend, I’ve seen other cats take an interest in it. Tucker was wrestling with it, but was obviously too fast for my photographic skills, such as they are. The roly poly one has always enjoyed seizing toys and rubbing them across his furry face: a matter of fuzz-on-fuzz. The picture below, however, shows him after he has finished playing with the Tackle Fish.

Renn also spent some time with the toy. His speciality is knocking toys about, though he will grab them and bite them if they are soft, and the Tackle Fish fulfills that criterion. He will spend a short time with an item, playing with it furiously, then stop. The Tackle Fish knew that it had been handled by a cat, though, by the time my big boy was done with it.

And finally, Tungsten decided to see what the fuss was about. She didn’t play with the toy but found that, as the label had stated, it was ‘loaded with potent catnip’. Well, not quite. The orange one reacts to catnip by sitting on whatever contains it, and doing nothing. Snoozing beside the Tackle Fish proves that it is not ‘loaded’ with anything stronger than a possible scent reminiscent of catnip. But she does seem to be enjoying the effect, nevertheless.

Alas, two of the three Tackle Fish I purchased are no more. A friend came over to visit Saturday evening and, to ensure that she would not trip over the many cat-toys strewn about the floor, I collected most of them and put them in a cardboard box. When I woke the next morning, I went to the sitting room to re-strew the toys, and found that someone who shall remain nameless (it was Tucker! I know it!) had wet over all of them. Rather than take the chance of having half a dozen fuzzy mice, not to mention a pair of Tackle Fish, lying about smelling of cat urine, even after washing, I threw them all out. I still have one Tackle Fish but must now buy a whole array of new toys, especially fuzzy mice.

Maybe it was a subtle way of telling me that it was time for new toys anyway.

The Changes of Autumn

The weather affects us all. Sometimes, it affects us dramatically; other times, it is more subtle. But it makes changes to our lives nonetheless, and cats are no exception.

Readers may recall my published complaints that Tungsten was waking me at four o’clock every morning to run the tap for her drink of water. Four o’clock wasn’t as bad as five, to which she eventually shifted. I didn’t get to sleep adequately, or often, enough after waking at five o’clock for me to appreciate Tungsten’s thirst. Even so, I rose to slake it.

Then, the weather changed. Here in southern Alberta, it seemed as if autumn came abruptly. This isn’t always the case, but it was this year. Going on three weeks ago now, we had a wet, cold day. Though the days that have followed have not been as cold (even if the nights have produced some frost) or as wet, it was clear that a new season had arrived.

Over night, almost literally, Tungsten’s need for water changed, too. I was pleased to realise the next morning that she hadn’t woken me for a drink. She waited until I got up. This has continued, and may (I hope) until the spring (and thereafter, I also hope). The orange one is sleeping on the bed every night again, which she did not do during the summer, even when the evenings were cool.

And so, to the yellow leaves, the frosty mornings and the crisp, something-in-the-air that tell us autumn has come, I can add Tungsten’s change in drinking times, a more welcome sign than early darkness in the evenings, I think.

Yes, weather affects us all. For instance, for some reason, so far this autumn, I’m not so tired in the mornings...