Monday, July 25, 2016

The Warden of the Marches

Cammie knocked the screen partially out of my bedroom window Saturday night. It occurred, of course, just as I was getting into bed. There was apparently an intruder-cat outside taunting the princess (actually, it was just another cat, passing by and looking in the window); Cammie takes great exception to such visitors. In her rage, she knocked the screen, with its frame, out of the window at one corner.

The screen did not come completely detached, and Cammie did not try to get out, though I was taking no chances and as soon as I saw what was happening, I grabbed her, tossed her onto the bed and shut the window pane. I don’t know whether Cammie would leave the apartment that way or not; I do believe that, in the heat of a moment, she would rush out after another cat, but probably not if she thought about it. But the cool-headed princess is not what I was worried about; it was the angry Cammie who may have wanted to tackle the intruder.

The next morning - after a stifling night spent with the window almost shut - I pushed the screen back into the window, something easily done, then devised a means of securing it. In my old house, I screwed small, t-shaped plates to the outside of the window frame to keep the screens in place. I didn’t believe I would have to do the same thing in the new apartment. And I cannot, as the frames are not wood, but plastic. However, a simple thin but strong metal plate across the corner of the screen’s frame should suffice. This will keep the frame from popping out more than an inch at that corner, which is the danger-zone. I will secure the library screen similarly.

I never thought that the whole screen coming out would be a problem; I feared Cammie tearing the screen itself. Unlike window screens of my youth, which were metal and stiff, these, like most products these days, are plastic and easily destroyed. That the princess may rip a hole in one is still a concern.

Cammie becomes incensed at what she views as intruders. I have a suspicion that, as much as she knows she is loved, she may still be anxious about her place in the household, and worry that she will be supplanted. It’s bad enough that she must share her home with three feline siblings. But a stranger inserting himself in my affections? That possibility will not be tolerated, so invaders must be warned off in no uncertain terms.

Thus, the princess dons her armour now and then, and maintains a watch on the marches of our little kingdom, especially at night. She is not to be trifled with; now that she has found her home, she intends to keep it, and keep it safe.

Friday, July 22, 2016

I Load Sixteen Pounds, and What Do I Get?

Tungsten used to be my lap-cat. She enjoyed curling up and snoozing. The orange one was certainly no trouble and felt very light. Her six, and in later days, five pounds, made it seem as if there was no one on my lap at all.

After she died, I didn’t have a lap-cat. I still don’t, but now and then, some of the beasts who still live with me decide to try it. Josie rarely, Renn now and then, Cammie less than Josie. The one who most often settles down for a slumber on my legs is Tucker. He doesn’t do it every day, and when he does, he doesn’t always stay for long. Sometimes, he does.

I find a cat lying on a person’s lap to be a sure sign of comfort - on the cat’s part - with, and affection for, the human. There are many other places a cat can lie that are more comfortable. Even a carpeted floor would be less undulating than a lap. It must be like resting on an assembly line made of rollers. Even taking into account the feline capacity for nearly boneless contortion, the human lap cannot be the most convenient of locations. And yet, there they lie, sometimes falling into a deep sleep, they are that much at ease.

So I will put up with Tucker’s fourteen pounds (I know what amount is in the title; it made the reference to the song better) and be glad of it. He’s telling me that he likes me, and likes being near me; that I make him feel good and secure. For that, I’d load sixteen tons.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

The Extraordinary in the Ordinary

Josie is my ‘ordinary’ cat. It’s why, I think, she is featured in this blog the least of my four beasts. Nothing about her leaps out at one. She didn’t come to stay with me because she was abused, as was Cammie, or abandoned, like Tucker, or in need of an urgent foster-home, as in Renn’s case. I adopted her as a companion for Tungsten, my first cat.

Once in my home, Josie showed herself to be friendly, spirited, fun. But again, nothing special. She was not a big, curious animal like Renn; or a goofy furry baby, like Tucker; or a tough-skinned softie as is my princess. She was Josie. Her health has been good, her appetite by and large normal. Rarely did she stand out, though I quickly became attached to her.

The local newspaper provides space on Saturdays for rescue-groups in the district to advertise cats and dogs who are available for adoption. One of the things I do for the organisation to which I belong is write its advertisements. The toughest ones are for cats such as Josie, the cats who don’t have any outstanding characteristics. They aren’t terrifically shy, and need patience; they are playful but not exuberant; they are cute but not beautiful; they don’t have intriguing fur-patterns, or strange-hued eyes, or extra toes. They are, in fact, ordinary.

And yet each one is a character in his own right. My Chubs has grown more and more friendly with time - though she was always the chummy sort - and her purr, though not really melodious, is joyful to hear. She likes to play but is lazy, so she lies on the floor and tries to catch a string-toy as it swings past her. She will live in tolerance with Cammie, but once in a while antagonizes her - just for a chuckle, I think. When she is hungry or thirsty, her demands come as shrill screeches that make me laugh and want to plug my ears at the same time. When she does run, her flabby stomach waddles beneath her most ungraciously. And her head really is about two sizes too small for her body. But when I am in bed at night, she will lie beside me, looking at me, purring.

Josie makes me think about all the ‘ordinary’ cats looking for homes, those who aren’t cute or exotic, those who aren’t extroverted or bouncy. Each one has a personality waiting to captivate someone, and each will be a best friend, if given the chance. Too often, these days, many people, myself included, look for the overtly intriguing, the blatantly unusual. Instead, we should cast an eye toward the mundane, the normal. When we do, we may be astonished at the extraordinary in the ordinary.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

How to Jinx a Cat

Two of my cats have been having physical issues lately that, though they may count as medical problems, don’t seem symptomatic of anything severe. Both issues are of unknown causes.

Cammie has had what I have concluded is an allergic reaction to some foods. This manifests itself in reddish blotches on the sides of her head; they periodically break open with small amounts of pus and blood. They are very minor and give her no problem, so far as I can tell; they are not itchy in the least, and she is not bothered even when I touch them. As I have written in the past, I think they come from shrimp in her diet – an ingredient I have eradicated – but may also be caused by other elements of fish.

Recently, however, these spots have become rarer, and when they occur, they are not as severe, even compared to the rather mild look of most instances. This has been the case, interestingly, since her bout with a urinary infection. Those who follow the princess’s exploits may recall that she was given the anti-biotic Clavamox for the infection. It appeared to clear it up – much more swiftly than the veterinarian expected – though it gave her a secondary problem of vomiting. That too was overcome. But I wonder if the Clavamox, doing its duty as an anti-biotic, affected the alleged allergy that brought the sores to her head. If this is the case, will the effect last?

Then there is Tucker. He has had Horner’s Syndrome, an idiopathic condition (veterinarian for ‘I dunno’) which cast the third eyelid across much of his right eye, and caused the pupil to constrict. (The pupil still reacted to light and darkness, but was always smaller than the left.) Other bloggers have mentioned that their cats have had this condition and some have stated its duration to be many weeks, while not having been a major problem for their cats. A friend here told me that a couple of her cats suffered Horner’s, as well, but only after surgery in which anaesthetic was given. Tucker too had surgery a while ago, and received anaesthetic, but his bout of Horner’s came some weeks afterward.

In any case, it was noticed on Tuesday that his right eye appeared less covered by the third eyelid. Sure enough, that tissue is much less prominent now, and almost back to the corner to which it should stay. Also, his right pupil is almost back to a size matching the left. I think his recovery from Horner’s Syndrome is advanced. What is causing it is as much a mystery as what initially instigated it.

Having described the improvements two of my beasts are enjoying, I fully expect a relapse for them, and some sort of minor disaster to overtake the other two, in accordance with the laws of jinx. (No, I don’t mean Mr Jinx over at ManxMnews). However, I thought I would take the risk to share the news of better health, something that is good to read about and even better to write about.

Friday, July 15, 2016

Storm and Stress

Most early summers, it seems, southern Alberta experiences at least one severe rain-storm. The worst, so far, of this year, which has been a relatively wet one, occurred Wednesday evening. It started with thunder and continued with rain. The precipitation came down hard and heavy for about twenty, perhaps thirty minutes, in my part of town. Elsewhere, even within the city, there was hardly any fall of moisture at all. There was even some hail, which I dislike; aside from destroying crops in the country, hail can block drains and cause flooding within minutes. Fortunately, it did not happen this time. (Though, afterward, I overheard a householder across the alley commenting that there was water coming into her basement. The basement in my old house never flooded, but I think of it every time we get heavy rain.)

The cats were unnerved by the weather. Cammie hides at the first sound of thunder. She is quite frightened by it, and seeks refuge under the bed or behind the library’s bookcases. Renn disappeared, too. I believe he slinked under the bed. For a big mancat, he still struggles with his bravery - which is much stronger than previously. Still, this storm was extraordinary.

Josie and Tucker did not hide, but they moved as far as they could from the external walls. The rain fell with force and made a tremendous noise. I wonder if they knew it was the rain, or merely associated the disturbance with the precipitation. Certainly, they could see the rain, if they ventured near the windows.

The evening, for the beasts, was not improved by the fact that the storm abated, then returned - trickery that they must have found disconcerting.

But at last the tempest receded for good. The cats-in-hiding emerged. Renn arched his back and wanted attention; he seemed embarrassed by his lapse of courage. Cammie was consoled with some time on my chest, where she purred and recovered. The four of them spent the rest of the night smelling the wondrous scent of freshly fallen rain. That at least was some compensation for both storm and stress.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Tucker's Secret Identity Revealed

I have always found Tucker to be the least feline of cats. He doesn’t sound like a cat, he doesn’t run like a cat, he doesn’t look like a cat. In fact, now that I think about it…

Friday, July 8, 2016

Conversations with My Cats

I like talking to my cats. Something that Deb wrote in her blog Just Cats, and my response to it, has caused me to think about the verbal interaction I have with my pets. Deb wrote that she loves to converse with her cats. I can certainly sympathise with her. However, I hadn’t give much thought until now as to why talking to animals may actually be beneficial to the relationship between them and humans.

Cats are among the more advanced animals; intelligent and capable of learning quickly, they can acquire the knowledge of a great many human-language words. To select just a few my lot knows, I can cite “dinner” and “snack”, “bath” and the phrase “what do you see?” But actual words probably form the least important component of the value in talking to your pets.

When I was trying to accustom Cammie to living in her new home (it was meant to be a foster-home at the time; I’ll give you a moment to roll your eyes),  I would talk to her whenever I went into the room in which she was then sequestered. I didn’t initially try otherwise to interact with her. But she grew to know my voice. It became familiar to her, it went with my presence, it demonstrated that I was there and that I acknowledged that she was, as well. Speaking to Cammie let her know that she meant something to me, though she may not have known exactly what.

This leads to another aspect of conversing with my cats. It conveys mood. Cats, like dogs, likely derive much more understanding of their humans from the latter’s moods than from their words. Sensitive creatures, they can tell what a person is feeling; egocentric creatures, they are usually concerned with how those feelings affect them. They undoubtedly use a person’s voice as a tool for comprehension. My cats can certainly determine when I am pleased or tired, vexed or amused; watching their reactions to how I say their names at different times, using different tones, confirms this.

Musing upon this led me to wonder if there is real value in the ‘baby-talk’ that many use with their pets, ‘baby-talk’ that most people think is ridiculous - and that most people use more often than they admit. It is a speech pattern that is exaggerated. Like all exaggeration used at the appropriate time and place (satire and caricature come to mind), it can make a point or teach a lesson, possibly more clearly than other means. I was once told that cats have the mental capacity of toddlers, though I suspect that this is an under-estimation of feline intellect. Even so, this suggests that speaking to a cat in this manner does the same thing as speaking this way to a child: it translates complex meanings into a simpler, perhaps more fun language. I myself would never do this, however. I hope you know that.

So what does all this mean? It means that conversing with cats is not just comforting to a human, but is advantageous to the greater harmony and understanding between that human and his feline friends. Besides, I like talking to my cats.

Monday, July 4, 2016

A Few of Their Favourite Spots

Every cat has his favourite spot. I’m not referring in this case to a location in his home in which to lie, somewhere that he enjoys sleeping. I’m writing about that spot on his body that he loves to have rubbed or petted. Every cat has one and all of mine has a different one.

For Josie, it is on the face, preferably under the chin. She is normally a restless cat under attention. Even when receiving pets or strokes, she will stand, revolve, turn, walk about, then come back for more. But when my Chubs’s little chin is rubbed, gently, almost imperceptibly, she will freeze and her world freezes with her. She will accept the attention for pretty much as long as I want to give it.

Renn is quite different. When he knows he can get it, he will roll over and present his chest for a long rubbing session. He is much less enthusiastic about a tummy-rub; for him, it’s that big mancatly chest of his. He will stretch one foreleg out, then the other. My big boy is a shy animal but if someone will sit down and spend time on a couch, he will eventually come out, sit down beside the stranger and let the chest-rubbing begin. Then he will know you’re the right sort.

Tucker’s spot is the back of the neck. You may wonder how I can find it in a creature who doesn’t have a neck. Let’s say, the rear of the head where it joins the back. He likes a deep rub - not hard, but deep, and sustained. Renn, and certainly Josie, would complain if I rubbed them that severely, but not the roly poly one. I think it eventually proves too much for him because he asks me to quit after a while, but he nevertheless loves it.

As for my princess, her favourite spot needs two: her and me. Cammie loves to be petted while she is on my chest. Once there, she need have nothing special done to her; just a pleasant stroking of her furry head and back. But high up on my chest as I lie down, high enough so that she can bump my chin now and then, she will purr and purr. She will move to face one side, then move to face the other; sometimes, she will stand, walk away and come back, to settle down once more. She doesn’t enjoy anything else as much. (Please excuse the photographs, as it is difficult to record an image so close and with only one hand free.)

Each cat is different, and though there are a limited number of spots on his body, there are as many favoured places as there are body parts. If you can find that place, you will have found a way to his heart. Or at least a way to keep him from hissing at you.

Sunday, July 3, 2016

Miss Standfast

Friday was our national holiday and, as is usual on Canada Day, fireworks were set off by the city authorities. This results in a good time for most people – but animals have a different opinion on the activity.

In the old house, I could see the fireworks explode from my front window. I lived only a short distance from Henderson Park, where they are let off. Naturally, this scared the cats. I was interested in how they would react this year, as our apartment is much farther from the site.

A factor in this year’s response, however, would be the acoustics in the new home. For some reason, some sounds are perceived as quite near, when they are in fact far away. When celebrations are taking place and music is performed in Galt Gardens, the town’s central park (almost ten blocks away), I hear the music as though it were being played just across the alley. But if I left my building and stood in the parking lot, not fifteen feet away, I can hear little. So what the fireworks would bring this July 1st, I couldn’t predict.

As it turned out, the cats were not terrified. They seemed to be able to differentiate fireworks from thunder, which they dislike. Cammie will hide under the bed at the first hint of a storm. But even as the fireworks were exploding, she came into the bedroom, somewhat nervous, but not taking refuge in a secret spot. The boys were nervous, as well, but maintained a mancatly reputation.

Who surprised me was Josie. She was in a cat-tree in the bedroom when the sound effects began. They were deep and booming. My Chubs ventured to look out the window but, even were our new home facing the right direction, we would have seen no shower of lights. The noise was more of a curiosity for the Great White than a fear and, before it was over, she had settled herself down for the rest of her interrupted nap.

Josie is now thirteen, pretty much as active as she has always been and in good health. Mentally and emotionally, I guess, she has decided that being scared of fireworks is for kittens. She still doesn’t think them a good time – but they aren’t bad, either.