Tuesday, March 31, 2015

A Word About Kola

Though Tungsten’s loss is very fresh in my household, there is another loss that is not nearly so tragic. The loss of Kola is all mine, since he is currently residing elsewhere and, hopefully for him, it will be a permanent home. The signs are good, and I thought I’d write a short update on the Floof King, as some readers were wondering about him.

A representative of the rescue-group (the Lethbridge PAW Society) which sponsored Kola spoke with the lady who adopted him. He had a good trip back to his new home, and seems untroubled by the little dog who lives there. In fact, he’s taken over his new canine sibling’s bed, as you can see from the photograph below. He also has eaten next to the dog, and not been bothered by him. I was told that it is plain his new people care for him very much.

I will be calling his new people in a week or two; I write the PAW Society’s monthly newsletter, and include an article on each adoption when it takes place. I will publish an account of Kola’s progress at that time. It will likely be the last detailed message about my former foster-cat. I know I wouldn’t want an erstwhile caregiver looking over my shoulder all the time if I adopted a cat. If this works out, it will be Kola’s new life, and the old one will be left behind. That is how it should be.

For now, we can enjoy this picture of Kola in his new surroundings. And ignore the slightly disdainful expression; if you look at pictures of him from my blog, you’ll note that that face is pretty much how he is when at rest.

Monday, March 30, 2015

In Memoriam: Tungsten

How can a life that consisted almost entirely of sleeping have such an effect on another life? For seven and a half years, an orange and white cat was a big part of my existence, which is ironic because she was actually a tiny animal. This is a long article, reflecting not Tungsten’s size, but her contribution to my world.

Tungsten came into my life in mid-August of 2007, when she was already about seven years old. Tungsten was my first cat. As such, she taught me a great deal about the species; not that she consciously did so. She assumed that I would come fully knowledgeable, and if not, that was my problem, not hers.

I decided to get a cat for company. Several of my friends and acquaintances had cats, and I thought that I could open my home to one. Truth be told, I preferred dogs at the time. But I lived alone, in an apartment, and couldn’t see keeping a dog inside all the time while I was at work. A cat took care of its own immediate hygiene needs. And it was smaller, and so would fit into an apartment better. Even so, I waited until I moved into a larger apartment before getting one.

The cat I chose was Tungsten. That was her name before I even met her. It wasn’t the name by which she was known at the time, but Tungsten was what I wanted to call a pet, if I ever got one, so when I adopted my first, she became Tungsten. Though I don’t choose cats based on their appearance, I was attracted to her picture because of her lady-like posture, and the white fur at her throat, which resembled a bunch of lace. And there was something about her that connected with me the moment I met her. After the initial visit, I told a friend, “She goes to the top of the list.” Following a week’s further thought on the matter, there was no list.

Tungsten was excited when she came to my place but this gave way to a kind of depression. I’ve seen this process in several cats over the years, when they see that they will not be going back to their familiar world. But their mood usually changes soon. Tungsten quickly realised that she was the only cat in her new home, with plenty of space, no competition for the food bowl, and the undivided attention of a human, even if that human was yet a stranger. She slept on my bed that night.

It didn’t take long for Tungsten’s personality to emerge. She was a tiny cat but when she wanted to be heard, her cries could echo in a person’s head. She would let me know when she wanted something. She could be relentless in asking, too. For years, after dinner, she would hound me (can a cat ‘hound’?), while I was making my post-prandial cup of tea, to hurry, so I would sit down and provide a lap for her.

At night, she would lie in the crook of my knees, though later, after neck troubles forced me to sleep on my side, she would join me at chest-level. I would hold my hand so that she could put her rear legs in it, then curl around and rest her head on my thumb. She was that little. Sometimes, I would vary my position and lie on my stomach for a period. This did not suit the orange one, who would whine until I turned over and provided my hand for her to lie in. In the last few months, she had taken to reinforcing her desires by climbing onto my nightstand and knocking things off if she wasn’t getting her way.

A quick learner, she could understand many words and phrases, though ‘no’ did not seem to be among them. I would hold her and we’d look out the window together. “What do you see?” came to mean ‘look out the window’ to all the cats; “all done” means ‘no more’ or ‘finished’.

She drank water from a running tap. I know she also drank it from a bowl, but until her later days, she would rather have died than let me see it, and thus learn that I needn’t have hastened to turn on a tap whenever she was thirsty. As for food… Well, she was a messy eater. She had three teeth extracted very early on in our acquaintance, and I think this kept her from grabbing bits from her bowl properly. I used to tell her that she could make a mess without actually eating anything.

Then came the day when I brought home another cat. I thought Tungsten was lonely while I was at work. She may have been, but not for feline company. Josie and Tungsten got along like a house on fire. You know, the kind with women and children screaming at windows and men leaping from upper floors. They fought. Blood was drawn. Tungsten grew depressed, and I thought I’d ruined everything. I had little idea of how to integrate cats then, but those two helped show me what to do, and what not to do. Josie is at heart a pacifist, and she acquiesced to the imposition of Tungsten’s top-catness. So order was restored.

Tungsten never really reconciled herself to the loss of only-cat status. Though she remained top-cat all her life, she would have preferred to be alone with me. I know that. But the desire to help other cats was too strong, and Tungsten paid for that. It is a regret I have. The tiny terror, however, showed each new arrival what was what. The only real trouble she had was with a foster-cat named Wixie, who wanted to be top-cat. There was fighting, even between Wixie and Josie, and Tungsten realised that Wixie, who was shaped like my later cat Tucker, and just as heavy, had the advantage, and would prevail sooner or later. Fortunately, Wixie, and her friend, Mystery, were adopted, and order was restored yet again.

For a minuscule creature, Tungsten was tiger-hearted. Her best feline friend was Renn, twice her size and more than thrice her weight. They would groom each other, and lie beside one another on the couch. But Renn has a nose as big as his top-cat’s rear leg, and likes to use it. He would sniff Tungsten to excess, and when the orange one had had enough, she would whap my big boy several times across the head. Everyone obeyed Tungsten.

She really did have little fear, only a visit to the veterinarian causing her anxiety. She stood up to cats three times her size, was untroubled by thunder and hail, and thought a vacuum cleaner was a fur-grooming accessory. Her soul was dauntless.

Tungsten used to play; this involved the usual fuzzy mice, string toys, etc. But it wasn’t a big part of her life. It’s not as if she ever needed to lose weight. Even when she played infrequently, she stayed active. She sometimes shot up from the basement and rocketed across the house, to the astonishment of her adopted siblings. When we lived in the old apartment, she would zoom through the nylon tunnel as I walked beside it. She could leap straight up five feet and had the unnerving habit of jumping onto my shoulders. You’ve not been startled until you’ve turned your head and seen a cat in mid-flight coming right at you. The orange one had an imagination, too. I once witnessed her launch herself from my bed, arrange herself in the air as if about to land on prey - feet splayed, claws out - only to land on nothing but carpet and walk away. I learned then that cats can pretend.

Then there was our game. Tungsten and some of the other cats met me at the door when I returned from work. But unlike the others, she accompanied me to the bedroom while I changed clothes. She would get on the bed and wait for me to spread my arms and cry “Tungsten!” upon which she would flop over on her side. This was a relic of her younger days when I would flip her. I still rolled her over as she aged, but it became more of a gentle turn. Sometimes, she would tip herself over. Then, I would rub her fuzzy face, and her sides, the latter quite hard - but she enjoyed it. This would be repeated several times, after which I would carry her to the bathroom for a drink of water. She purred strongly after our game.

But my friend was more content to relax on a lap or a heated cat-bed. This became the norm when she started suffering from hyperthyroidism. I noticed that she had developed a ravenous appetite, so I took her to the doctor. She was prescribed a medicine that could be rubbed into her ear twice a day. This was in early 2013, and so the medicine allowed her to fend off the effects of hyperthyroidism for two years. She became less active from that point, but was certainly not very unhealthy.

About thirteen or fourteen months after this, Tungsten developed kidney disease, and eventually ended up in stage two kidney failure. We fought this at first with extra water syringed into her via the mouth three or four times a days, and then with subcutaneous fluids. She took all this with fortitude. Then, in the last few months, she started losing weight. We fought that with syringe-feeding.

But Tungsten was wearing out, and the end came rapidly. In the last week, her breathing started to sound like an old engine that was failing. She slept in awkward positions, as if she couldn’t find comfort, even in her beloved heated cat-bed. I took her to the hospital on a Sunday, and she was found to be severely dehydrated. She remained there for two nights, on intravenous fluid. It took that long to refill her. When she came home on Tuesday, she was no better. She started pushing away the syringes that brought her food and water, which she had not done previously. She didn’t want to eat and, though she seemed to want to drink, she wouldn’t take water when it was presented to her. She would not drink from a tap anymore, nor from a bowl, and began resisting the syringe.

I think she had developed cancer, the kind that cats seem to acquire these days. It struck hard and fast. The effects her last illness caused were not those of kidney failure or hyperthyroidism.

Whatever the cause, she had come to her finish. She would sit, then stand, then sit again. There was somewhere she had to go, but when she wobbled out of her bed, she didn’t know in which direction she should walk. She was weak and had trouble with mobility, anyway. Tungsten remained herself even so. I brought a litter-box up from downstairs and placed it not far from her bed, for her ease. She could not always climb into it, and avoided the steps I had made for her from old telephone books. But she was a lady, and tried her best to keep hygienic. But she had had enough.

Had she allowed me to feed and water her, the dehydration she had suffered had demonstrated that, even using subcutaneous fluids, I couldn’t have put enough water into her to keep her going. And she had lost half a pound in a couple of months. There was no way I could have fed her enough to keep her weight steady, never mind regain what she had lost. I promised her that I would let her go. I called the animal hospital Wednesday and made arrangements for the next morning.

But Tungsten demonstrated that even at her worst, she could do…her worst. As she had been doing for some time before, when she could still drink, she woke me at five o’clock, on her last day. Despite her enfeebled body, she had managed to get up to the basin in the bathroom, and was asking for water. Thank you, my love; I didn’t need that extra half-hour of sleep, anyway. But she wouldn’t drink when I ran the tap. I gave her some water by syringe, just to wet her mouth and throat, but I knew then that I had made the right decision.

The animal hospital has a little room set aside for terrible events like this. It has an exterior door that leads to a bit of garden with a tree and and a bench. The garden has access to the front of the building, so one can leave without going through the hospital’s waiting room. The exterior door is glass, so I held my friend and we looked out together for a while, as we used to do.

Then, it was time. It was very quick. Tungsten was ready, I think. She lie down, already tired, and she was gone.

All done, Tungsten. All done.

I would like to thank Ann of Zoolatry, who made the wonderful graphic tribute to Tungsten’s memory, on my sidebar. She made one of my friend Bear-Bear last year. I’d like to thank Kim of Fuzzy Tales for asking Ann to create the memorial. And I am grateful for all the sympathy expressed at my loss. It will take a while to thank each person individually, but I intend to.

As if you haven’t seen enough of the tiny terror over the years here, I have included many pictures that I had taken of her. The one immediately below is the final time she was on my lap: ‘her last lap’. And below that, is the last picture I took of her. She looks quite well in it, I think. The image is illusory.

The ultimate photograph is my favourite of her. It was the one chosen for her month in the 2014 PAW Society calendar. She is smiling in it, as you can see, happy, optimistic, trusting. That was my friend, Tungsten.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

A Fog Along the Horizon, A Strange Glow in the Sky

Bright eyes burning like fire.
Bright eyes, how can you close and fail?
How can the light that burned so brightly
Suddenly burn so pale?
Bright eyes.


Song by Mike Batt
From the film Watership Down 
Sung by Art Garfunkel

Friday, March 27, 2015

Bon Voyage, Floof King

I want to thank everyone who has viewed my announcement of Tungsten’s passing, and everyone who has left their condolences on this horrible event. Each comment makes my days easier. I will write more fully about Tungsten later.

This post is a short one, but I wish to let everyone know that Kola was picked up by his prospective adopters on Wednesday. That was the day before Tungsten died, so the occurrence was overwhelmed a bit, which was unfair to the Floof King.

I haven’t received any word on Kola in his new home; it’s early days yet. He knew something was up, and didn’t want to be put in the carrier. It was hard for me to let him go, but this is his chance to have a whole house to himself - barring some humans and a dog - and the undivided attention of his people. Seeing a loved cat with other humans is always difficult, I think, because their ways may not be one’s own, and one must let them interact with the cat as they will. Kola will grow used to his new environment, and he will be loved and love in return.

I will publish any account of his new life that I receive. I write the monthly newsletter of the Lethbridge PAW Society, and always follow an adoption with an interview for an article, so I will be talking myself to the couple who now have Kola, probably within a fortnight.

I wish my favourite talker all the best in his new adventures.

Thursday, March 26, 2015


Tungsten died today. Like Bear-Bear, thirteen months ago, her slow decline accelerated tremendously in her last week. I took her to the animal hospital at eight o’clock this morning, and she left me about twenty minutes later.

I will write more about her life and death another day. This is just to announce the passing of my friend, my constant companion of seven and a half years; the orange one, the tiny terror, top-cat of my household, and feline queen of my heart.

Monday, March 23, 2015

A New Home for Kola

Amid the problems that Tungsten is facing, there is good news, though even this is bittersweet for me. Kola will be going on a trial-adoption this week. The signs look good, however, that he will be staying in a new and permanent home.

His prospective adopters are from High River, a town about an hour and a half away from where we reside. Since Cammie’s mercifully short adoption by someone in Regina, I’ve been very wary of long-distance adoptions. However, this is not like sending Kola to Seattle (there was an inquiry for him from there once). It’s no trouble at all for him to come back from High River if things don’t work out.

But the people who are going to be coming to take him home on Wednesday seem very nice indeed. I haven’t yet met them but have talked to one of them. They are a mature couple, the husband of whom is fully retired and home all the time, so Kola will have company all day. They are experienced cat-fanciers whose last cat passed away at eighteen. They are friends with another person whose adoption from the rescue-society I work with (the PAW Society of Lethbridge) was and is successful. These are all positive signs.

I spoke with the wife of the couple on the telephone. There was none of the ‘yeah, whatever; give me the cat’ attitude that came from the woman who briefly took Cammie home. Kola’s prospective adopter asked pertinent questions and listened to the replies. Significantly, the questions she asked were phrased in a manner that suggested she was looking for ways to make Kola comfortable and happy - does he need this, should he have that - not in a way that conveyed worry that there may be inconvenience or bother. She inquired about whether he liked cat-trees, even though he is declawed, and if there were indications of arthritis, an ailment that sometimes goes with declawing. She wanted to know what food Kola ate and whether he would like to sleep on the bed. This was all good for me to hear.

I will miss the Floof King. Like all my foster-cats, I was reluctant to take him on and will be even more reluctant to let him go. But each day here, he must be locked away in the parlour when I go to work, because I can’t risk Tucker fighting with him, which still threatens to occur. Each night is the same. Kola is wary of all the other cats, though he does interact with them. He is expanding the area in which he lives in my house, but the process has been slow.

Now, he will have a whole house in which to have fun. He will be the only cat, though there is a little dog. I foresee less trouble between the two of them than I have witnessed between Kola and the other cats in my household. He has lived with a dog previously, and I think a compromise will be quickly reached between the animals. Kola adapts quickly. He loves attention and will receive plenty of it.

I will report more when his new people come to collect him and, later still, when I talk to them in a few weeks. While Tungsten struggles to keep the life she has, Kola is given a new one. That is how the universe works.

Tungsten at the Gate

Tungsten is in the hospital at the moment. Last week was a bad one for her. She began throwing up, one day vomiting three times, twice each instance. Her stomach was empty and wouldn’t keep anything down. The subcutaneous fluids would give her water but she would starve unless I could put nutrition into her.

I called the veterinarian and she suggested a simple antacid, in this case Pepcid AC, would help. Indeed it did. But Tungsten was showing no interest in food, so I had to use a syringe to feed her Recovery, a brand for convalescing cats, and those who are not taking in enough nutrition. I thought things were stable, if not improving.

Yesterday, however, the orange one took a turn for the worse. She was very weak and lethargic. Though she did express an interest in drinking some water in the morning, she quickly reverted to an apathetic state. As well, her breathing became laboured, with a puffing sound between inhalation and exhalation. I thought she was dying.

I took her to the hospital; though it was closed, it will open for emergencies. Tungsten has lost another half-pound in weight, and she was very dehydrated. I was clearly not giving her either enough food or water. She was put on intravenous fluids, and kept in the hospital over-night. She is there right now.

I will be giving her subcutaneous fluids every day now, which should keep her hydrated. But unless I can stimulate her appetite, I won’t be able to get enough food into her to keep her going. I will be trying a probiotic called Azodyl. This has helped another senior cat of whom I know who also has kidney problems. If this does not work, however, Tungsten may be facing an irreversible fate.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Tucker and Kola: Together Again

Tucker dislikes Kola. I don’t know why, but I have my suspicions. I think, whether consciously or otherwise, the roly poly one feels the need to emphasise the Floof King’s subservience. It’s a struggle for last place, which is rather pathetic, but that’s Tucker.

I’ve written about this before, but lately there has been a change in their relationship. Tucker still watches Kola like a hawk - a long, heavy, tubular hawk. Now and then, he still chases my foster-cat. Because the opportunity exists only when I am present (due to Kola being shut up in the parlour when I am asleep or absent for long periods), I am able to break up most fights before they start. Thus, I don’t know exactly what would happen; it may be no more than a brief welter of fisticuffs, though I did run up the stairs from the basement one day upon hearing a melĂ©e, to find a tuft of fluffy orange fur in Tucker’s mouth. He was hurriedly trying to eat the evidence of his transgression.

Lately, however, Tucker has been coming into the parlour when the door is open. I am home and he is free to come and go, barring there is no violence. To my surprise, he has been slipping, very timidly, into the room even while Kola is in it, to drink from a small ceramic bowl in which Kola’s water is placed. (Kola prefers the big glass bowl in the dining area but I am out of thick glass bowls to distribute; Josie likes aluminum; Tucker will drink from the aluminum bowl when the ceramic one is not available; everything about cats is a complicated affair.)

I don’t believe that Tucker is doing this simply to invade Kola’s space. He will drink from the little bowl even when Kola is elsewhere. And there is an identical bowl on the floor of the bathroom now (because Tungsten, when she will lap water from a dish, prefers ceramic to anything else.) Tucker will sneak in (though he has no reason to resort to sneaking; that’s how timid he is) and drink from there, too. Part of it is, therefore, the urge to have the taste of water from fired clay. (He doesn’t phrase it like that, though.)

Part of it is also, I believe, a genuine progression in his attitude toward Kola. I will be at the computer, which is in the parlour, and Kola will be sleeping in his cardboard box. That is usually placed near the doorway. Tucker will walk in, skirt around Kola as much as he can, and continue to the water-bowl. He will often look at Kola as he goes past, like a tubby little Brooklyn greaser eyeing the new kid who’s moved onto his turf. The Floof King, for his part, will admirably react with little more than one of his rolling, throaty grunts. As well, Tucker will enter the parlour just to snooze on the ottoman. He used to do this all the time before Kola arrived; whenever I was on the computer, in fact.

I am encouraging Tucker in these endeavours. As long as he behaves himself, I don’t want him to feel excluded from any part of the house, and I want Kola to feel safe with any of the other cats, as long as he is given reason to feel safe. Tucker, I realise, is reluctant to be physically near Kola because of my reaction to his attacks; (‘attack’ is too strong a word in connotation; its denotation, however, is accurate.) He associates proximity with chastisement. He isn’t quite clever enough to reason that I become angry only when he uses violence. After all, the roly poly one still hasn’t figured out the purpose of the flight of two steps I placed at the bottom of my bed a couple of years ago.

If Tucker continues to exercise his restraint, and Kola has the courage to keep calm in his presence, things should be much improved in the household.

Oh, and there is one more factor involved. A few days ago, I had occasion to clean Tucker’s bum. After taking him into the bathroom, applying a warm, wet cloth and then drying the area, no part of which Tucker enjoyed, I opened up the door to release him. The first cat he encountered was Kola.

Tucker flung himself upon the unsuspecting Kola and there was a real fracas as the sausage briefly took out his disapproval of my actions on his unfortunate roommate.

My fault, that time.