Friday, February 27, 2015

Even Princesses Knead Someone

Though everyone who reads this blog may be heartily sick of reading about Cammie, she features prominently simply by virtue of her continued changes. That’s not to claim that the others are stagnant little creatures who give me something to write about only when they are throwing up - well, they’re not just that… But Cammie’s progress as a trusting animal who is learning more and more about living with others is very interesting and, at times, astonishing.

She has kneaded before, but it has always been a case of her merely flexing her paws while on my lap. I can feel her claws extrude and contract as she purrs. But last night, she did something she had not done before: she sat up and kneaded while shifting from one foot to the other. It is, admittedly, a small change, though I think it demonstrated a bit more openness in her feelings.

Whenever I sit at the dining table to write, I can be sure of my Siamese princess making an appearance and wanting on my lap. Just as Renn materializes  whenever I take a moment on the sitting room couch, so too Cammie teleports from wherever she may be to the floor at my feet when I sit down to write. Writing with one hand while petting or stroking a cat with the other is rather like that trick of patting the head while rubbing the stomach, though the latter is easier.

Something else has been happening. Though Tungsten still gets upset with Cammie following her too closely or rushing at her from around a corner or through the nylon tunnel (I can see the orange one’s point in this), I have observed Tungsten creeping close enough to the princess to sniff her. This has occurred thrice, so far as I know. Cammie is a bit unnerved by it but, unlike her reaction to Renn or Kola, she does not hiss or growl at Tungsten. She never has. She will hurry away, though it seems to me with more caution than fear. I am certain that in another decade, perhaps two, that pair will be able to tolerate each other. A bit.

Until then, Cammie will be her own, independent, individual self - only a little more so.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

A New Campaign in Tungsten's War

Tungsten went to her veterinary appointment on Friday. The resulting information from the tests conducted upon her was not good, but not very bad either. My orange friend is in second stage kidney failure, retaining about half of her kidney function. Usually, the doctor told me, cats don’t exhibit signs until they lose three quarters of the organs’ functions, so I was lucky Tungsten showed me clues relatively early on.

This is of course bad news, but it’s not a death sentence. I intend to try some kidney diet on her, though it is anyone’s guess whether she will accept this and, if she does, how long she will continue to accept it. Failing that, I can try some food made for seniors. There are other articles I can use on her, including some pro-biotics and a supplement for binding phosphorus.

The orange one’s big need is for water. I will be setting up more bowls for her. An indication of her desire for more fluids is her apathy in allowing me to see her drink from a bowl - previously, she felt that she had to maintain the fiction that she didn’t drink from bowls; that way, I would feel compelled to provide her with running water from a tap. (She doesn’t know that I’d give her water in any form she likes, so long as she drinks it.) As well, Tungsten doesn’t seem as reluctant to accept water from a syringe sometimes.

Good news did come from the examination, however. Her T4 values, measuring her hyperthyroidism, remain good. The normal range is between ten and sixty. Tungsten was at sixteen and now is at nineteen.

Something a bit frightening occurred the night following the veterinary visit. Tungsten began visiting the litter-boxes, very suddenly and very often; every few seconds, in fact. She would do what she had to do, come out and immediately go back in. She was wetting, small drops each time, so she was not blocked. It was as if an infection had assailed her without preamble, causing her to think she had to go when she hadn’t really. Then it stopped. The episode lasted about an hour and a half.

The next morning, it occurred again. It was of shorter duration, but Tungsten felt such need that she sought other places to go, even though I brought a litter-box up from the basement to the main floor for her convenience. She probably felt that the litter wasn’t helping her, so she would try other locations. This too stopped suddenly.

Finally, it happened a third time on Sunday morning. Tungsten was so needful to go that she tried everywhere, chairs, carpets, hardwood floors, leaving little spots of urine at each. Then that ended, as well. She has since recovered fully, and has not been restless at night as she was during the weekend. She is leaving proper-sized lumps in the litter-boxes.

I called the after-hours veterinarian Friday night and she suggested I bring my friend in the next morning. But Tungsten’s swift recovery that night suggested to me that this was related to stress and not an actual infection. Its repetition the following two days - and its abrupt stop each time - made me more certain that she was beset by stress caused by the doctor’s visit. I took a chance and did not bring her to the hospital. It was risky, I know, but I think I was right. She is doing well now, except that she woke me early today using her new method for getting me out of bed when I don’t want to: roaming the top of my nightstand and knocking items to the floor. I wish there were a diet to deal with that…

So my top-cat enters a new phase of her war against her conditions. I will be getting the food and the supplements, pouring more water into her and making sure she eats. A friend has a cat in a similar condition, a cat who has lived for three years with the same problems, and is now nineteen. Tungsten isn’t yet finished with life; as long as she’s comfortable and content, I want her living a very long time.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

The Time of Her Life

I worry about my cats, but most about Tungsten. She’s the most senior, and has the most prominent and chronic health issues. She has hyperthyroidism and incipient kidney troubles. She’s estimated to be fourteen and a half now, but I keep thinking she may be older.

In the last few weeks, the orange one has given me cause to make an appointment for her with the doctor this week. There is nothing definite that presents itself, but it seems to me that my household’s top-cat has aged more than she should have very recently. She spends more time sleeping, and when she’s not in her heated cat-bed, or on my lap, looks to be feeling the cold more. A year ago, I would try covering her with a towel while she lie snoozing, to give her added warmth, but she kept throwing it off, or lying on top of it. Now, she tolerates it much more, as if she needs it.

Tungsten has always had a stately pace, as befits the dignity of her position in her little kingdom. Now, however, it seems more deliberate. She still can jump on to the couch to find my lap, though frequently I lift her up. I give her water by syringe to supplement her own drinking, and when I place her on the floor afterward, she shakes her head, naturally. But the simple action throws her off balance.

My little friend feels thinner to me. She has been a slender animal for as long as I’ve known her. I suspect that she was the runt of her litter. But now I perceive her backbone as more prominent. I am useless at judging the weight of things just by holding them, so I can’t tell casually how much she weighs. I could borrow a set of scales, but I decided to take her to the veterinarian for an examination, and she can be weighed there.

To be honest, I don’t think anything is seriously wrong with Tungsten, but I want to catch any problem before it reaches that stage. This is the time of her life when age does start to accelerate, I think, so I will abide by the hints I believe I’m getting and make sure that she is all right. I am buoyed by the fact that it was observed a few days ago that Tungsten does not have an old face, an old look to her, and buoyed also that her spirit, demeanour and attitudes remain unchanged. So if she - and I - have anything to do with it, Tungsten will stay with me for many a year yet.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Cold War Over a Warm Bed

Cats have favourite spots in which to sit, as much as humans. I knew a person once who needed to sit in the same seat in a restaurant every time he visited it, and if he could not, he would sulk in a corner, literally. Cats can be much the same, though they have an excuse for such behaviour: they’re cats, after all.

In my house, the preferred spot is the cat-bed next the entrance to the back corridor. I consider it Tungsten’s spot. She is entitled to it, by authority (as top-cat), by seniority (she is older than all the others) and by tradition (she is usually in it.) It has a perfectly-sized heating pad under its cushion, and Tungsten’s tiny, boney frame is perfect for curling up within this warming shelter.

Her only rivals for it are Josie and Renn. As soon as she sees the orange one leave for some purpose, to ask for food or to visit the litter-boxes, my Chubs rumbles over the cat-bed and settles herself down. Renn’s usurpation is less frequent, but he can sometimes be found flopped over the whole of the bed, and then some.

There are other cat-beds. One, identical to the favourite, is just three feet away. It too is heated. Indeed, it is used quite a bit. Josie and Renn resort to it, as do Cammie and Kola. Tucker, oddly, likes Bear-Bear’s old bed, a little farther away. But Tungsten has an aversion to this second bed. I think it may have something to do with the fact that her spot is elevated on a cardboard box. It formerly sat atop a taller box, but this required more effort for my old orange one to attain. Even so, the lower box keeps the bed off the hardwood floor and, though the heat in both would obviate any draught felt from the floor, I think the box gives a spring to the bed’s bottom that would otherwise not exist.

I have been trying to find a similar box, six inches high and wide enough to keep the bed from falling off, but so far have had no success. So the bed by the back corridor remains the favourite. When Tungsten comes from having a nibble at her food-bowl only to find the Great White amply filling the cavity she had been enjoying, the orange one’s dismay is apparent. Perhaps Renn is sprawled across the length and breadth of the bed, like a cat photographed in mid-fall from a great height. Tungsten stands and stares at the interloper, as if unable to credit her eyes. Then she will turn sadly about and sit by the heating vent in the bathroom.

The heat doesn’t flow all the time. So there is the pathetic spectacle of an old cat hoping to stay warm on a cold floor. Will she go to the second, equally warm bed? No. What about the BB’s old bed? Heaven forbid. The human bed, between the pillows? Sometimes, but only when the human is absent, and Tungsten can’t make the piteous impression on him that she does sitting forlornly by the heating vent.

So I oust Josie or Renn from their comfort in the favoured position. More often than not, my Chubs, without a grumble, will waddle over to the second bed and curl as best as her bulk allows. She is happy there, but not, I suspect, as happy as she had been. Renn gives up with a groaning whine. Yes, he knows he’s a third Tungsten’s age, strong and fit, with long, thick fur that keeps him warm, but really, is that the point?

Nonetheless, age has its privileges. As top-cat, Tungsten must have her old, skinny body warmed as she wants it. She forms herself into a ball and closes her eyes, knowing that she may now sleep where she deserves to sleep. Until the next time she leaves her bed.

Monday, February 9, 2015

A Pedicure for the Princess

Cammie went to the animal hospital this weekend, though her visit was not due to any health concerns. In fact, being in good shape, her claws grow rapidly and sharply, and therein lies the problem.

The Siamese princess is improving in her trust all the time. When she is on my lap, which is at least once per day, she has allowed me to handle her paws, so long as I continue to pet her. She is not yet at the point of permitting me to cut her claws, and dislikes strangers coming into the house to do so. Yet when she is taken to the animal hospital for a trim, she is docile, perhaps stunned by the environment.

This time, I was able to accompany Cammie. She was handled by myself and the technician without trouble. Her rear claws were trimmed as well as her front; this elicited only a short hiss and grumbling from my foster-cat. Afterward, I took advantage of the situation and held her as I do Tungsten, and she didn’t object. She hurried back into her carrier without prompting, no doubt knowing, as I told her, that we were “all done.”

Later that day, I picked her up again and held her, for no more than ten seconds, while petting her. She neither growled nor hissed, and didn’t object in any way. I put her down quickly, though, so that she touched the floor again before she could display disapproval, while being held was still acceptable. I will try to do this at least once a day, increasing the time she is in my arms with each attempt. Her trust in humans is growing, and will, I am certain, reach the point at which she will allow me to cut her claws and even carry her around the house.

For now, however, this is how enthused Cammie was with the day.

Friday, February 6, 2015

Kola Loves Boxing

A little while ago, I wrote about how Kola’s enjoyment of having his back and neck rubbed produced actions akin to swimming. I am beginning to think that my foster-cat is quite the athlete, because he also enjoys boxing.

Like most cats, the Floof King gets rambunctious now and then. His favourite means of showing this is to rush into the parlour, up the arm of the couch there and on to the platform of the cat-tree by the window, where he will throw himself down, roll about and challenge me to a fight. He did the same one day while on the tall cat-tree in the sitting room.

When I put my hand up to him, he swats it. I will attempt to seize his swiftly-moving paws, which he will punish with more whaps. If I grab him somewhere, he bleats like a goat encountering a troll on a bridge and tries to hit me. The pupils of his eyes grow enormous and he’s filled with energy and defiance.

Some people have suggested that cats should not be encouraged to do this, because it leads to biting, scratching and other anti-social behaviour. It may very well with certain animals, but I think it depends on the human’s approach to it more than on anything else. I will play with Kola for several minutes, exchanging blows and giving him quite the work-out. But when we are finished, I tell him, “all done,” and he accepts that. I let him calm down and a minute later, he’s purring because I’m stroking his fluffy fur.

Similarly, Tucker will try to bite me when I innocently crush his melon-head. If he becomes too enthusiastic, I chastise him gently, and he calms down, a little guilty, as if he has done something wrong. I make sure he knows he hasn’t. Kola has none of the roly poly’s guilt, but he knows we’re just playing. I feel that responding negatively to his invitations would be what would inspire anti-social behaviour - or, rather, no social behaviour. Even if he wants to keep boxing, his actions will peter out if I stop participating. And if I don’t want him to box, I will say, “all done”, instead of “no”, demonstrating the difference between inappropriate timing and not being allowed to play at all.

I think any pet can pose a danger if it’s not instructed to know what is in fun and what is not. Kola knows, and when he’s shown me how skilled he is at pugilism, he relaxes and expects to be fussed over and petted. That’s better than a gold medal at the Olympics.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Jam on the Moon

Some of my cats are messy eaters - I will discourse upon their habits later - though Tucker is not normally one of them. I think it is because he enjoys food so much. The roly poly one usually tries to get everything he can from a dish when he likes what’s being served. And of course, he is a clean animal. I must sanitise his nether regions now and then but that’s because, like Josie, Tucker cannot reach to all distances of his tubular form.

There is one food over which he will create a little mess. I enjoy pastries now and then, especially Pop-tarts. I will warm them in a toaster (especially useful when they are a little stale) and consume them with a cup of tea. (There are few things that don’t go with tea.) Tucker too likes Pop-tarts. I’m sure they aren’t good for him - any more than they are for me - but I don’t think they are harmful to him. And I give him just a small portion, the size of my thumbnail. This is due principally to greed on my part: I want as much of the pastry as possible for myself.

But I share a small bit with my sausage-like cat. When he particularly enjoys a food, he will watch its consumption by others with an intensity that is unrivalled by the worst fanatic. He will purr in anticipation, and when presented with his little ration, will gulp at it as though ravenous.

It usually leaves him with a small smear of jam, however. In the bad telephonic photo above, it can be discerned just below his nose. It almost invariably happens that a tiny spot of filling remains somewhere about his mouth. He is normally oblivious to it until he starts cleaning his face. Then the discovery invigorates his tastebuds once more and he savours the last bit of his treat.

And it looks funny on his round moonface.