Tuesday, September 30, 2014

The Expanding World of a Foster-cat

Kola is, right now, an example of what happens when a cat grows increasingly comfortable with his surroundings. As I wrote yesterday, he is becoming more used to Cammie, and though Tucker still frightens him - you must be a pretty shy animal to be frightened by that sausage - Kola takes chances moving about even with Tucker in sight, which he hadn’t previously.

During movie-night this past weekend, Kola didn’t care for the crowded parlour. He didn’t want to share the couch with me and, after Renn came in and took the heated towels’ spot, the foster-cat decided to see where else was comfortable. He often lies on the hammock next to the micro-wave oven, but this time, he investigated one of the cat-beds - the heated cat-beds. I could see him from where I was sitting in the parlour as he tested the waters of the cat-bed’s cushion, and found them warm. He reminded me of my big boy in his caution. But, after trying first one foot, then the other, Kola thought the heated cushion to his liking and settled in. He has been back several times since.

He also enjoys my collection of plastic bags in the closet. So does Cammie, to the extent that I accidentally locked her in one evening. I hadn’t been able to find her and, though I checked the closet, did not see her among the bags. I discovered her some hours later. She had been asleep the whole time, I think, and so suffered no ill effects.

Like the parlour, Kola and Cammie take turns among the bags in the closet. There’s little chance of me missing Kola nestled in there, his floof making him seem twice Cammie’s size. Kola is still a little hesitant about remaining in there long, since Tucker could sneak up on him from the other side of the door. And I don’t like a cat being in there unsupervised - Cammie's time alone notwithstanding - because I am afraid of them smothering. I tend to check for movement, or at least breathing, from time to time.

Bit by bit, Kola is expanding his world, just as he is expanding his acceptance of and by the other cats. I’m glad of that. My beasts’ world is limited enough, and I don’t like to see one of them, whether permanent or foster, having to be restricted because of fear or timidity. Kola has a long way to go, but he’ll get there. After all, my house isn’t that big.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Learning From History

I am not by nature a patient man. It’s not that I can’t wait for something. I’ve waited long for many things, and for many things, I’m still waiting. Rather, I like things to be established from the beginning. If I move into a house, I want the walls already spotless, the furniture in place and the books on the shelves. When I come home from work, I want my dinner waiting for me. Since I have no maid or valet, you may imagine how often my impatience is rewarded.

Cats have shown me that many things, including relationships, are not to be rushed. They must evolve. Few cats come ‘owner-ready’, which is why so many would-be pets are returned by people who object to them crying their first night in a strange house, or hissing at new people. I knew this before I had a cat. But by watching cats grow accustomed to each other, and to people, I see that simply waiting can achieve much. Cats are intelligent, but even more willful. They want what they want, and if you try to coax them into wanting something else, they usually want what they want more.

So I employ the strategy favoured by the Roman general, Quintus Fabius, who avoided battles unless necessary, preferring to wear down his opponents. It seems to be working with Cammie, who now seeks out my lap for prolonged petting sessions and submits to being stroked even when she doesn’t really feel like it. She still hisses at me when she’s grumpy, which is often in the mornings, but by means of attrition, I appear to be wearing down her defences.

I am not the only one who is using the Fabian methods. Kola, whether he knows it or not, is doing something similar. He has a small-scale fascination with Cammie, and has not been put off by her annoyance of his presence. There have been growls and hisses, the Siamese Princess has chased Kola from one level of the house to the other. But the floofy one returns to sit near - though not too near - Cammie.

Yesterday, before going to bed, I checked on the cats, as I always do, and found Cammie on the cat-tree platform in the parlour, looking out the window. Kola was on the back of the couch, a couple of feet away, looking at her. I had heard no warnings against proximity from the princess.

There will be continued fights, anger from Cammie, and more scenes of Kola fleeing for his life. But there are also scenes such as the one below. The parlour is where Kola feels safest in the house. It’s ‘his’ room. But both Renn and Cammie use it, as well. The fact that he has to share his refuge with others fits in well with Kola’s unwitting scheme of slowly ingratiating himself with the princess. Only time will tell if this situation will develop for good or ill. In the meantime, these cats are writing their own page of history.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Cats in the Land of Nod

Cats love sleeping - as I do - and my lot are no different. But each has his own way of enjoying their self-induced unconsciousness. I like seeing them relax, get comfortable and take advantage of the peace that they find in our household. Well, it’s peaceful most of the time. In the first picture, you see Cammie in the depths of Bear-Bear’s old bed. The BB would not be offended by the Siamese princess taking over his furniture, but he might give a ‘raa’ of surprise. Cammie sleeps in the traditional curled fashion.

Josie, however, is too fat to curl. She can bend at extraordinary angles, it’s true, so that she will sometimes, especially when in a cat-bed, resemble an extremely stout croquet hoop. But when on my bed, my Chubs likes the full-length method.

So too does Kola. Under all that floof, he is actually a relatively lean animal, with a tiny head and a delicate body. He favours the towels I’ve put on the parlour couch. They tend to flatten quickly under even a light-weight cat, but they do have the advantage of a heating pad, of which my foster-cat seems to approve.

Tungsten, being a tiny creature, is often the cutest sleeper. Here she is fitting very well into one of the cat-beds, raised up on a box and provided with a heating pad under the cushion. As thin as she is, she doesn’t need the heating pad just yet, really, as the weather is still very balmy. But that doesn’t seem to trouble her.

Now, we enter into the realm of the strange. You may have seen my pictures of Renn’s idea of relaxation. Bent and twisted, he resembles a cat who has fallen from the balcony of a cinema onto the seats below. My big boy does have a different view of the world, though, so why shouldn’t he take a similarly distinct policy toward sleeping postures?

And then there’s Tucker.

Passed out on a hardwood floor, at an usual angle by which his feline joints must feel pressure and his not insubstantial tummy droops oddly, he nonetheless feels very much at ease. He will snooze in this situation for some time, the world slowly dissolving into nothingness around him. As bizarre as it looks to us, it is the way cats sleep in Heaven, if you judge by Tucker.

I suppose I may look to my cats rather unusual trying to sleep in my bed each night. But then again, I must adopt whatever shape I can, in order to rest around, between and under a houseful of cats.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Renn Welcomes Autumn

This story may be considered a companion piece to one I wrote last week about the changing leaves on the trees in my town. The leaves are turning colour on my property now. I have four big trees on my back lawn, and each spring they come into leaf in a counter-clockwise order. The tree on the right, as you are looking at them, sprouts leaves first, to be followed by the one on its left and so on. In the autumn, the order is reversed, and the leaves change colour and fall in a clockwise direction. The tree on the farthest left is now almost bare, while that on the far right is still verdant.

My cats watch the leaves descend to the ground, of course, but none watches them with the intensity of Renn. My big boy is, as you may know, somewhat of a scientist. Everything is grist for his mill of observation, and over the weekend, when breezes stirred the boughs of the trees, the leaves fell continuously. Renn’s head jerked from leaf to leaf as he grappled with the meaning of this phenomenon. I like to think that he understood what was occurring, perhaps with a recollection of previous years’ autumns. Certainly his, and his roommates’, behaviour is changing, adjusting to the cooler temperatures. The fact that this week is actually quite warm doesn’t affect this, any more than it does the changing hues of the trees.

Each day brings something new for Renn to wonder about, to study. My big boy is a perpetual scholar, always learning from the world about him. One day, when we’ve both moved on to another place, he may tell me all the things he’s come to know during his life. What a conversation it will be.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Caught Red-pawed

Each day, when I leave for work, and each night, before I go to bed, I place a small bowl in the basin of my bathroom, and fill it with water. This is so that Tungsten will be able to drink from her favourite spot, even if I am not there. She has almost never drunk from the other water-bowls scattered about the house. She almost never drinks from the bowl in the bathroom basin - when I am home. She always gets me to turn on the tap for her, sometimes waiting a long time for me to do it, often calling me to come in and turn it on for her.

But I leave the bowl because I know that, if thirsty, it is to the basin that she will go. I have come home more than once to find the level of the water in the little vessel reduced. Someone has been drinking from it; evaporation could not account for so much loss. Kola, who also resorts to the tap in the bathroom, is locked up in the parlour while I’m absent, to spare him Tucker’s depredations. The other cats drink from more conventionally placed receptacles. So Tungsten must be drinking from the bowl.

Until the other night, I did not have proof of this. Woken by a commotion between Cammie and Kola (who is free to roam at night, when most cats are sleeping), I saw Tungsten lapping up water from her little bowl. She continued to do so until after I made sure the troublemakers were separated. I suppose the orange one decided that having been caught in the act, she may as well drink her fill.

But be assured that having caught Tungsten this once will not mean that I will be relieved of my duty of turning on the tap when she wants a drink in the future. Just because I witnessed her drinking in this manner does not mean she will admit ever to having done it. Logic and reason have never made much progress when arguing with a cat.

Especially this one.

Friday, September 19, 2014

September Days

Autumn is impatient this year. There are still a few days until the calendar changes the seasons, but the leaves have their own schedule. We don’t get a great deal of variety in southern Alberta when the colours turn. There are few reds, and not so many more oranges. Various shades of yellow are what we get, but it can still look pleasant.

Our problem is the wind. It comes up every autumn and blows all the leaves off the trees. Sometimes, it strips the branches very soon after the green disappears; at other times, it gives us a chance to see some beauty in the autumnal hues. Most of the trees haven’t lost their verdure yet, so the wind is waiting…

The air is still warm and, in fact, the days have been very nice, balmy, of the sort that I would have enjoyed in the heat of summer. Even the nights enjoy moderate temperatures right now. The windows of the house remain open to the screens; I like that, as it means the cats can be entertained by what they smell and hear, as well as see. Soon, they will watch the descending leaves, not knowing that they are signs the screens will soon be off and the storm windows on. But for now, my feline friends will admire September.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Josie's Progress Report

A month ago, I became concerned that Josie was suffering from a hairball that would not go away. She was throwing up fluid, either clear(ish) or brown. This was not her sensitive stomach bringing up food that didn’t agree with it. So I put her on a schedule of hairball remedy. It’s not an arduous schedule: once on Saturdays and once on Sundays, I shoot three or four millilitres of goo into her mouth which, upon swallowing, will smooth the way for any hairballs to leave her wide body.

The results have been good. I realised this weekend that my Chubs has not thrown up any fluid in a couple of weeks. To be honest, I don’t know if there is or was a hairball involved. But the vomiting has ceased, at least for now. Since I don’t know for certain what the cause of her problem was, I can’t be any more certain that I am providing the solution. But I will continue to give Josie the hairball remedy. If my suspicions about the cause of her troubles were correct, then this will, hopefully, prevent a recurrence. If not, then she will need to be rid of hairballs anyway.

The Great White is doing well. She is eleven this year, and has been free of any major health problems in her life. Because she can’t reach her bum to clean it, I do that for her periodically. She enjoys that as much as she enjoys the delicious malt flavour of the hairball remedy, "which all cats love". (The unfortunate malt taste follows the unfortunate fish taste of an earlier medicine.) But a few minutes washing her nether regions, and a couple of oral injections of goo a week are a very small price to pay for health. Now, if I could only get her to commit to some weight-reducing exercises...

Friday, September 12, 2014

The Flavour of Warmth During a Taste of Autumn

The temperature fell precipitately in southern Alberta last week. It is climbing again, and is supposed to be almost summery next week. It is only September, of course, and the weather is usually quite pleasant in this month. The extremes of August are past and those of November are yet distant. But now and then, especially in this part of the country, temperatures fluctuate wildly, for brief periods, creating very cold days in the summer, and warm days in the winter.

Seeing Tungsten crouching on a cushion like a little (very little) old lady pulling her coat tight against herself in the teeth of chilly winds made me think it was time to bring out the heating pads for the cat-beds. I decided to take the opportunity to clean the two matching cat-beds. I brushed them and removed a shopping bag’s-worth of cat-hair. The collection was a neutral beige, as it was an amalgam of hair from half a dozen felines. Then I threw the beds’ components into the wash.

The result was clean and, once through the dryer, free of most of the remaining hair that had been clinging to them. I think the majority of the hair ‘came out in the wash’, as the saying goes - literally, in this case. There must have been half a pound of cat-hair on the sides of the washing machine’s drum. I’m glad most of it did not drain.

Then the heating pads were inserted under the cushions and Tungsten was reintroduced to one of her favourite spots. She abandons cat-beds during the warm months, but enjoys them in winter, even if the temperature doesn’t fall very low. Right now, she continues to come to bed with me, but I anticipate a time when she will cleave more frequently to the cat-bed. I don’t mind. Her comfort was, after all, uppermost in my thoughts when I cleaned these cat-beds and put in the heating pads. Kola, who is restricted to the parlour now only when I am absent, has his own heating pad under a blanket of towels on the couch in that room, and, as you can see from the picture above, he and Tungsten are not the only ones to love the warmth.

But it’s for my skinny senior cat that the cat-beds were renewed, one placed at a slight altitude, so Tungsten would not have to worry about Cammie’s attitude, whenever the Siamese princess passes. I think it’s a success so far: I didn’t notice that smug little smile on the tiny terror’s face until just now.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Kola Goes Around in Circles

Several foster-cats ago, I bought a toy for my beasts. I think it is called a Track-ball. I’d heard many good things about it. I brought it home, and none of the animals knew what to do with it. I think they still don’t. Periodically (and I’m using the term as geologists and palaeontologists use it to describe the eons of Earth’s history), one of my cats will knock the ball about. Renn will roll it around, jump about a bit then walk off. If Tucker is lying next to the toy, he will absently paw at it. And Tungsten uses the cardboard in the centre to scratch at while she’s stretching. That’s how it remained until Kola came to visit.

He doesn’t play with it all the time, or even every day. But when he does, he has a great deal of fun with it. He'll throw the ball about in its groove with frenetic energy, jumping over the toy, then running away, only to rush back at it with renewed violence. Then he will swat the ball some more and repeat the process. Sometimes, the Track-ball will be pushed all over the kitchen/dining area.

Kola is eleven years old, but he has a great deal of energy and vitality. He likes to fight with a string toy, and he will flip about like a stranded carp attempting to grab it. He also chases the fuzzy mice in the back parlour, which is his room. Recently, I found eight of them under the ottoman. I felt as though I had been feeding a slot-machine in Las Vegas, giving him more and more little fuzzy mice to play with.

My newest foster-cat has much of the kitten left in him, as much playfulness, as my Tucker, but with much more energy. It’s entertaining just to watch him entertain himself.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Not Always the Little Menace

A few more words about Cammie before I move on to other cats. And I do have other cats, though you may not know it from this blog. Cammie seems to take up quite a few articles here, but only because it is her personality that is changing the most right now.

From the previous article, you may think that she is a non-stop trouble-maker. But she is not. Even with the roommates whom she annoys - or tries to annoy - the most, she is not always a little menace. Tungsten will tolerate her from time to time, as may be seen in these photographs; and if the orange one periodically doesn’t mind her, then there’s hope yet.

Much of the time, Cammie is sleeping, or resting or snoozing. There is so much to do in that line, after all. So many ways to take one’s leisure. I have mentioned that she uses Bear-Bear’s old cat-bed. I realised after I had written that, that it is the only cat-bed she does use. She once stepped through another cat-bed, but that was the extent of her use of it. However, the princess doesn’t need a cat-bed to enjoy being lazy. Sometimes, she just needs the sun.

And so, Cammie lives her days in what I hope is comfort. I don’t know whether she is happy or not. It’s hard to tell with her; as befits one from the Orient, she is, as the stereotype used to run, inscrutable. Sometimes she purrs, so I think she is content, at least sometimes. And that’s frequently the most that we can hope for ourselves, too.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Turning the Tables on Cammie

Cammie likes to play. Sometimes, she plays with fuzzy mice, or a fuzzy ball. She will twist and spin and chew, and from what I can see, have a delightful time. Then, she will play with a string-toy, though I have to be on the other end of that. She will pounce and jump and roll, trying to get that long caterpillar-like object on her end. And she likes to play with the other cats.

Unfortunately, this isn’t the type of play in which Josie and Tucker indulge, pursuing each other about the sitting room to their mutual satisfaction. No, Cammie enjoys stalking the other cats, waiting for them behind corners, confounding their movements and, when they try to get past her at a run, chasing them.

There is no real aggression to these activities. The Siamese princess is merely having fun. It’s not fun that the other cats like, but it's what he likes. Even when another feline warns her off, as Tungsten does, she takes the warning in relatively good humour, and creeps off, disappointed but not angry.

So it is with some ill-concealed amusement that I see my newest foster-cat, Kola, turning the tables on Cammie. Kola has not, so far, been afraid or even put out by Cammie’s obvious annoyance at the new boy’s stalking. He has held his ground, as if in ignorance as to what may be causing the princess’s irritation.

The other day provided a good illustration. I was emptying some items into the rubbish bin - which is why it is in the middle of the kitchen floor in the photographs below; that is not its usual spot. I then saw this drama develop, and so stopped to enjoy Cammie’s discomfiture.

Cammie will periodically slip into the cupboards under the kitchen sink. She does this when frightened (eg. of thunder) but also just when she has a mind to. She will go in by the door on the right and come out by the door on the left. This time, Kola was patiently waiting for her.

Growling did the princess no good. Kola ignored the sounds. Eventually, Cammie felt that she should simply try leaving. She did so carefully, as if expecting an attack. Kola, however, doesn’t do such things; he’s declawed and knows his disadvantages. Besides, he’s not the violent sort.

Once out of Kola’s vicinity, Cammie trotted away, expressing her displeasure by continual hissing. Doubtless, the others watching experienced a certain amount of Schadenfreude - though just as undoubtedly keeping straight faces.

Cammie means no harm, no more than Kola does. Her behaviour may be a mild attempt at establishing paramountcy over the others - though shadowing Tungsten, as she does, doesn’t seem to be a part of any power-play. For the most part, she just likes to be left alone. Annoying her roommates is just that, a little fun for herself at others’ expense. And who among us hasn’t had a bit of mischief in the same vein, now and then?

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Tucker the Lump

Most cats are odd in some way. Tucker is odd in many ways. He loves his comfort, to be sure, but he also loves being inside tunnels. This is strange, because he doesn’t like actually being enclosed in blankets or similar swaddling. But when I am sweeping the sitting room floor, for instance, I will turn over the rug that’s there to sweep underneath it, thus making an improvised tunnel. Tucker, who distrusts brooms, will nevertheless remain on the rug so that I can fold part of it over him. He will then lie perdu, thinking that no one can see him.

Combine that with his laziness and you have a situation much like that from last night. It was time to retire for the day, and the boys were snoozing on the bed. Renn’s position need not have changed, but the roly poly was close to the pillows. He needed to move. I thought I would coax him from his comfy spot by turning down the bed over him. It just made him want to stay all the more.

I think my big boy’s look in the second photograph says it all.