Thursday, November 27, 2014

Josie the Less

Once again, it seems, Josie isn’t getting much coverage in my blog. She’s too unassuming, too diffident for her own good. It’s not that the Great White doesn’t cause her share of trouble. She will take every opportunity to get at Tungsten’s food bowl, which contains tastier, though not better, hard-food than her own. She will sometimes swat at Kola - though at least once recently, I have seen the Floof King actually chase Josie up the stairs from the basement, so maybe that relationship is evening out. But by and large, she doesn’t do much to get herself noticed - at least while I have my camera handy.

Though here she is doing what I like to call the ‘eye/ball’.

But the real reason for my Chubs’s appearance today is to announce that she has lost weight. Josie is half a pound lighter now than she was six months ago. She is still hefty (7.04 kilograms) but not as  weighty as she was in June (7.25 kilograms). I attribute this leavening to the soft-food I feed her. It is Merrick brand and, unlike most good food, my beasts seem to enjoy it, and have for some time. Josie in particular looks forward to soft-food meal-times. I buy five flavours regularly, the five that are popular in my house, so that variety is maintained. Josie will eat all five, and a good-sized portion at each serving. Now that I think of it, I have not seen her at the hard-food bowls as often as was the case. I would like to reduce the amount of hard-food served still further, but the reasons I can go only so far in that direction need another story. For now, I don’t want to detract from the Great White’s achievement.

Who knows? In time, I may have to stop calling Josie my Chubs...

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

The Mystery of the Mice

A mystery has come to my house recently. It involves the fuzzy mice that constitute the large portion of my cats’ toys. Everyone has or has had (before they were lost forever under couches, dressers and beds) the small fuzzy mice for cats to play with; they perform yeoman service in our household, scattered about the floors for the cats to attack and knock about whenever they feel like it.

Lately, they have been coming to the bedroom while I sleep.

This does not unnerve me, for two reasons. One, I know these toys are benign and mean no one harm. Two, I don’t believe they are moving of their own accord. Each morning for the past two weeks or so, I have woken to find at least a single, often two, sometimes three, fuzzy mice on the floor of the bedroom.

It has been different mice each time, or at least not the same ones, and they are not always left in the same location. In fact, one found its way onto the saddle of the taller cat-tree in the bedroom.

This narrowed the range of suspects in the case considerably. Renn enjoys snoozing in that spot during the day, but never at night, when he is comfortably curled up on the bed. Quite often, at least in the late hours of the night (as opposed to the early hours of the morning), the saddle is occupied by Cammie, who rests there after a full day of annoying Tungsten, telling the others to keep their distances and generally exerting her personality. She will lie in the saddle and look out into the dark and contemplate existence, alternate possibilities, time travel and such. Or whether to go and eat something. But only she uses the taller cat-tree after bed-time.

But if the mystery of who brings the mice to the bedroom is, to my satisfaction, solved, the question remains as to why she does it. She does not bat them about the house until they end up there; I would hear that and wake. No, she evidently carries them in her mouth, or perhaps slides them in with so little violence that the movements are silent. Is she bringing toys to keep her company during her nocturnal vigils? Are they trophies? Are they little furry things to care for?

It’s one of the riddles that will remain unsolved until that day when all riddles are answered. And it may not be the least important riddle to be answered then.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Crushing Tucker's Head

I have described the game Tungsten and I play. Now I will write about something Tucker and I do. I call it ‘Crushing Tucker’s Head’.

Tucker will periodically come up to me and rubbed his tubby body against my leg. Sometimes he’s saying ‘I like you.’ Other times, he’s saying, ‘I like you; play with me.’ On those occasions, I will chase him into the sitting room, where he will throw himself full-length on the rug, stretch and squeal as I grab his head. Then I pretend to crush that big melon. (Actually, I just rub his furry noodle, and he pretends I’m crushing it.) He squeals and reaches up to grab my hand, so he can drag it down to bite it. He has the proportions of a human infant, however; his stubby little forelegs are short, and have trouble seizing my hand. Once in a while he is able to pull it away and successfully nip it. This surprises both of us, and he pauses, worried that he’s done something wrong. (Tucker is about as violent as a Quaker.) I usually answer that query by doubling my efforts to crush that softball-sized noggin, and we’re off again.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Kola's Chance

The Lethbridge PAW Society, the rescue-group of which I am part, received an inquiry about Kola a couple of weeks ago. I am fostering that floofy mancat in the hopes that someone will choose him to live with forever, and this call was the sort of thing we wait for. However, the woman interested in Kola lives in Seattle, in the United States. That’s not a bad thing, but it does involve distance.

I am wary of any long-distance adoption now, following the unfortunate and abortive adoption of Cammie, earlier this year. The trouble with distances and adoptions is that if something goes wrong and the person wants to return the cat, that person may not consider the distance to travel worth the trouble; the cat may be handed off to someone else or put in a shelter. If faced with a returned cat, the PAW Society will do anything to make certain the cat comes back to it, rather than go elsewhere.

Even with these dangers, a long-distance adoption isn’t always a problem. Many of the rescuers whose blogs I read have had happy experiences, giving homeless cats wonderful families who live far away. Indeed, the PAW Society has, as it was pointed out to me, had cats adopted by people who then moved to distant locations. And certainly, Kola is one cat who has almost nothing that could initiate misgivings in a new adopter. His hygiene is excellent, he is not a fussy eater, he is friendly and playful, and has no trouble with other cats.

So what was my concern?

The person interested in Kola was very specific about what she wanted in a cat. Again, this is rarely a problem. Everyone who has adopted a cat has had certain qualities they would like to find in a new pet, though many of us are willing to forego most of them, especially when we find what an appealing little beast we’ve ended up with. There is nothing wrong with wanting particular qualities in a cat. After all, a person will be, hopefully, living with that cat for the rest of its life.

But the specificity of this person’s requests, combined with the distance, gave me some anxiety. I worried that if a person were exacting in what she wanted in a cat, she would be exacting in its fulfillment of her expectations. While a cat - or dog or person, or car or home - may check off all the boxes on a list, the situation may evolve differently in person. And when Kola was in person in Seattle, he would be hundreds of miles from everyone he knew.

The rescue-group shared my concerns yet, like me, they wanted the Floof King to have his chance. If his destiny lie half-way around the world, then he should go half-way around the world. But the worries remained, thanks to the memory of Cammie’s unhappy sojourn in Regina. As it turned out, Kola did not have one of the qualities that his prospective new person wanted. He is not a lap-cat; not yet, anyway. He is friendly and hurries over to urge me to pet him. He enjoys attention and seeks it out. He lies beside me to receive it. But he is not a lap-cat. He may be some day, perhaps soon. When he first came to stay with me, he didn’t like lying next to me. And with a different person, he may be on a lap immediately. Who can say? But the woman in Seattle wanted that characteristic right away.

What if Kola were a lap-cat yet, when he arrived at his new home, he would have nothing to do with laps? Cats are like that. Would he have been unwanted as quickly as the woman unwanted him when she heard by telephone that he didn’t care for laps?

So Kola remains with me in foster-care for the time being. But he is a very adoptable cat, and even long-distance homes are not out of the question with this furry boy. All he needs is someone who realises that the cat they get may surprise them with qualities that will make them laugh and smile, grind their teeth, keep them up at night, boast to their friends, shake their heads… In other words, all the things one gets from a member of one’s family.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014


Most cats like warmth, which I find strange, considering that their body temperature is on average higher than ours and they are covered in fur, sometimes thick fur. Yet they enjoy lying in the sun on a hot summer’s day (which doesn’t preclude them later trying to find shade or a spot of cool floor on which to relax) and they like heating pads.

I have two beds in which heating pads have been inserted, and, in the parlour, several folded towels under which a third pad has been placed, for the comfort of my foster-cat, Kola, who spends much of his time in the parlour. But Cammie, who has not discovered or for some reason dislikes the heated beds in the sitting room, has found the heated towels to her liking.

Every week, before movie-night on Saturdays, I vacuum the couch in the parlour. I take the heated towels off, and set them aside. This last weekend, Cammie came in while I was cleaning and, evidently seeking a little warmth on a chilly night, looked for the heated towels. I had placed them on a round side-table. The fact that they were not in their usual spot did not deter the Siamese Princess. She knows nothing of electricity; to her, the towels are warm because they are the towels - wherever they may be.

The towels were displaced only briefly, and soon, Cammie was back on the towels, which were back on the couch. This simply goes to show that when a cat wants something, she will find it, wherever.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Strange Bowl-fellows

A month ago, I published pictures of Renn and Tucker eating almost together from the hard-food bowls, an unusual event. A week ago, I was able to record this occurrence, even more unusual. The cats’ dinner is usually about three-thirty on my days off, and an hour later when I work; their snack-time is approximately three hours subsequent, and the hard-food bowls are made available once more about nine or nine-thirty at night. That means the beasts receive only a ration of soft-food (though it is as much as they want) in five or six hours. This plan to encourage more soft-food consumption is working; the cats are ravenous come snack-time, and there is a happy and somewhat disgusting sound of six animals eating when I put down the stinky goodness on the floor. (Well, it’s in dishes, which go on the floor; the beasts themselves often toss it about the linoleum.) Nonetheless, they are hungry when the hard-food is presented once more.

How hungry? Enough for Josie and Cammie to eat this close. Cammie dislikes Josie. I believe this stems from a fight many months ago which may have pitted my Chubs against the Siamese Princess. Despite her lean and athletic form, and her claws which grow too sharp too fast, Cammie was easily worsted. The damage was not serious, and has not been repeated, thankfully. But the animosity on the victim’s side has lasted. Josie dislikes Cammie, too, I am afraid, though not to the extent felt by the other for her. They trade non-connecting blows from time to time, and Josie passes much too close now and then to Cammie for the latter’s comfort.

And yet, hunger can make cats do astonishing things. The images you see below are like a lion and a gazelle coming to drink from the same water-hole at dusk; a truce forms spontaneously, as they realise that they both need water to survive. Here, however, you have two lionesses: the older, heftier veteran, already a champion of one battle, and the leaner, younger comparative newcomer, wary and watchful, who puts on a fearsome show, but is really not a fighter.

Night falls in the jungle, and the scenes of would-be battle are covered with the sounds of eating. But notice how they keep an eye on each other, even as they chew…

Friday, November 14, 2014

At Sea

Most cats love to sit in boxes. I understand that, for some reason, they like enclosed spaces. (I understand the fact, not the reason.) Even a shallow-sided box, a lid or a shell of cardboard will attract them. They will come over to the box, step inside and lie down. This brings them comfort, perhaps even delight. But sometimes, they look a little odd, even silly, doing it.

I’m sorry to declare that my foster-cat, Kola, the king of floof, falls into the latter category. I put down a box from which tins of cat-food had been removed, and he immediately came over and got in. I certainly don’t object to this; if it makes Kola feel good, then more power to him. But he looked like a Tribble stuffed into a matchbox.

But, true to his feline nature, he cared nothing for what I thought, and continued to bob about in his little craft for an hour. For more than sixty minutes, I had to walk around and over this dismasted schooner adrift in linoleum doldrums. I think it was only dinner-time that caused him to abandon his cardboard vessel.

Sometimes, a person and his cat understand each other well. Sometimes, they are in tune, their wavelengths perfectly matched, like an expert ham-radio operator listening to his favourite foreign station. Then the beast sees a box, and all comprehension is lost.

Tungsten's Game

My oldest cat, Tungsten, has never played much. She used play at string-toys with me, and would zoom through the nylon tunnel when I walked beside it. I’m not sure whether it is age or apathy that is slowing her down these days. It may simply be disdain for my other cats foolish enough to leap and spin and chase things. But there is one activity that the orange one still likes. It’s one that I share with her alone.

When I come home from work, I go to my bedroom to change clothes. Tungsten always follows me. The other beasts will wander about, knowing that it’s dinner-time. Josie and Tucker may pursue each other. Their top-cat, however, comes into the bedroom and gets up on the bed. I spread my arms and shout her name.

Years ago, I would seize her and almost flip her over on the bed, then she’d wrestle and try to nip my hand. Now, she’s too old for such gymnastics. She will sometimes stoop, as if about to roll, but she doesn’t. In fact, she looks like she’s cowering and in fear of receiving blows from my hand. But she’s really just preparing. Periodically, she does flop onto her side - her current version of a tumble. These days, I grab her and gently ease her over. But then, she likes it a little rougher. I rub her fuzzy head until my hand is a blur, massage the sides of her face as though I were trying to use her fur to start a campfire, and finally, rub her boney sides with my fingers, while she claws at the bedspread, trying to stay in place. It looks as if she’s undergoing some painful torture, but when I stop, her little motor is rumbling.

This is often repeated several times. If I think we’re done, I will look at Tungsten. She may stoop, ready to fall over. That means she’s not finished. So we repeat the process. Then at last, I gather her up and take her to the bathroom for a drink of water, and I can feel her skinny frame vibrating.

This is our routine, something we’ve always done, in one form or another. Once in a while, a spark of youth fires through her, and we will wrestle, my hand against her whole tiny body. But mostly, she’s passive and simply enjoys the sensations, the interaction between us. I think it makes her feel good. I know it does me.

Friday, November 7, 2014

The Thanks I Get

A short time ago, I put the storm windows on my house, in preparation for the coming cold months. I wrote about it on this blog and joked that the thanks I received for working hard in the blustery chill was to be ignored by six cats all ensconced in warmth and comfort.

But in reality, this is why I do much of what I do. Pets should not have to worry about being cold or hungry. As with children, if our pets don’t take warmth and contentment for granted, then we, as their protectors, are doing something wrong. Adults have to worry, about themselves and about those under their care. The price we pay for independence (or as much as society allows us) and responsibility is consciousness of the disaster that waits to overwhelm us if we do not constantly strive to stave it off.

It’s true that I would have to work at a job even if I didn’t have cats. My own survival would depend on it. But much of what I manage to snatch from under the daily grind goes to the cats. I come home and they start demanding food almost immediately. I scoop their poop from litter-boxes in a manner that, in terms of human waste management, went out of style a century ago. I play with them and give them their medicines and arrange my time around their needs. And then, when I am done my chores and they are satisfied, they fall asleep in soft beds.

A week ago we had our first snowstorm of the season. This was the scene outside.

And these were the scenes inside. This was the thanks I got for all my efforts: the storm windows, the feedings, cleaning bums, waking up at two o’clock in the morning to run drinking-water, carting thirty pound bags of litter home on my bicycle and spending my savings on their health.

And I could not be thanked better.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Nip in the Air

Some time ago, I participated in an on-line auction and bought a cat-hammock. It is, in fact, a Ham-Mick, made by Forty Paws. A very good purchase it was, too, as it is always in use by one of three cats (Tucker, Josie, Kola) and sometimes a fourth (Renn). But Tucker, though he enjoys snoozing in the hammock, especially, for some reason, after nine o’clock at night, has a reaction that is different than the other cats’.

When the hammock arrived, it was liberally covered with cat-nip. That has a bad effect on some of my beasts (Tungsten, for instance, becomes almost comatose). But after a brief shake, the hammock was put together and ready for use.

Periodically, however, Tucker will detect a smell of cat-nip strong enough to go a little loopy. He rubs his fuzzy face up and down, back and forth. He rolls and twists, this way and that. It’s a very mild reaction and he seems to enjoy himself without getting carried away, though sometimes he ends up a little distance from the hammock, demonstrating his true roly-poliness…

And though I wrote that Tucker did not get carried away, he does sometimes push the hammock from its place. I’ve found it half-way across the dining area, on its way to the bedroom. Then I know who has been having a little fun, and that there’s a nip in the air.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Observing the Observer

I try to keep an eye on my cats’ habits, so I will know as early as possible when something is amiss. One of the traits of which I am particularly watchful is their trips to the litter-boxes in the basement.

Early in October, Renn appeared to be having trouble urinating. An overnight stay in hospital did not result in much but a diminution of my bank account, though I think that the doctor’s suspicion of a mild inflammation, pressing on Renn’s bladder, caused my big boy to think he had to go when he did not really need to. That has long since cleared up and all my cats appear in good health right now.

But they cause me worries nonetheless. Soon after I took Renn to the veterinary, I noticed that he was spending an inordinate amount of time downstairs. That usually means time spent at the litter-boxes - unless it is Tungsten trapped by Cammie, ready to ambush the orange one on her way up the stairs. So I waited until my big boy thumped down the staircase once more and did not return after a few minutes, and then followed him down.

He was at the litter-boxes, to be sure, but he was not interested in using them, except as a means of getting to the back of the space under the stairs where they are kept. As you may know if you’ve read my blog for a while, Renn is my scientist, a scholar of all things. He had evidently seen something that aroused his curiosity: a spider, perhaps, or a centipede. It had likely come out of or gone under the drywall there. All Renn would need is to see the object once, and he would return repeatedly to stare at the spot where he had last observed it.

Renn caused me some anxiety in this matter, and, though many of the alarms I experience in regard to these beasts are false, they are better than real ones. In watching out for the cats we care for, we have to be as observant as my big boy himself.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

The Leap

Tucker is not built for agility or speed. His is not the form of a lean jaguar, leaping from branch to branch in the Amazon jungle. Nor is he like the cheetah, a blur on the African savannah as it charges after its prey. Rather, Tucker is lumpy and tubular, like those rolls of Pilsbury dough, ready-made for baking into cookies. Seen from the rear, his swiftest gait looks like an overweight dancer from the Folies Bergere trying to keep up with the front end of a pantomime horse.

So it was with trepidation that I witnessed the roly poly one contemplating a jump from the middle of the tall cat-tree in the sitting room. The platform on which he was sitting is perhaps three feet off the floor; not high, really. But Tucker, having finished looking out the window, was thinking of crossing a distance that was horizontal, as well as vertical. He wanted to snooze on the armchair, and didn’t want to go to the trouble of climbing down the cat-tree to do it. The space that he had to cover was, for a stubby-legged cat, considerable.

He hesitated on the platform for half a minute.

“I can do it… No, I can’t… Yes, I can… It’s not far… I can do this… I’d better not… What if I fall?… I won’t fall… I can do it…”

A dozen times in that period I thought of telling Tucker not to try it. I had visions of him plummeting three quarters of the way to his destination, 18 pounds of fat cat smashing onto the little round table beside the chair, or striking the chair’s arm with his chest, his baby-like forepaws scrabbling ineffectually at the fabric as he flipped over backward and fell to the floor. I think he had the same visions. But I refrained from saying anything, as I thought my outburst might catch him just as he was taking off, and throw off his balance (such as it is).

Then he leaped.

It was a perfect arc, right to where he wanted to go. He hit the cushion of the chair as though he were the arrow shot by Errol Flynn in the tournament scene in “The Adventures of Robin Hood”. Except the arrow weighed a few ounces. Tucker sank the cushion six or seven inches into the chair, and I’m sure I heard the furniture’s springs shout obscenities. But they, and Tucker, recovered quickly. He spent minimal time getting comfortable before settling down. He was probably stunned and dizzy. Then, tired out from his unwonted aerobatics, he slept.

My fur-wrapped little dirigible.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Cats and Candy

I am not a big celebrant of Hallowe’en. In its modern form, it is far too commercialized and conventionalized for me, and I have no affinity with its original pagan form. However, children enjoy it, and I like to give out candy to them because I recall being a youngster and disliking the people who were home but refused to give out treats at their houses. Besides, when there are few children, I get to have whatever candy they don't.

The cats’ reaction to the evening varied. Tungsten, of course, disdained to react at all, and spent the whole time in her heated cat-bed. The night was a pleasant one for the end of October, so there was almost no chilly draught from the door being open so often. But she is old and likes the warmth of her cat-bed at any time, so she is certainly not going to bother making a fuss over such nonsense as giving out candy to strangers.

Renn doesn’t like people coming to the door. He quickly warms to them after they arrive and, if they stay a while, he will often come and lie beside them while they sit on the couch. But this to-ing and fro-ing unnerved him a bit, so he remained in the bedroom. Josie too stayed there, but because she has a habit of checking out the door whenever it is open. She would go outside if she could. So she kept Renn company.

Kola too is a greeting-cat, and his fondness for coming to the door to see who is entering is why he was banished to the parlour for the duration. He was quite excited by it all and had his lasers on, to give the best show for all who were coming.

Cammie normally gravitates quickly toward whatever noise or ruckus is in the making, but I think the continual ringing of the door-bell frightened her a bit, so the Siamese princess took refuge on her tall cat-tree in the bedroom.

The cat who surprised me was Tucker. There was a time when he would hide at the slightest intimation of a newcomer. But he has been growing bolder - in that respect, at least. A visitor some weeks ago remarked that the roly poly sausage didn’t run and hide when she came in. Indeed, he is standing (or lying) his ground and braving whatever may come his way. So it was on Hallowe’en. Repeated ringing of the door-bell did not drive him to seek cover and, though he did not appear enthusiastic about the whole evening, he kept me company in the sitting room.

So it was not too bad an evening for all concerned. Children had fun, the cats were not too alarmed, and I got the leftover candy.