Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Renn's Side-effects

In September, I discoursed about Renn’s fur. Specifically, I wrote about how much of it was being tinged with a redness to an extent not previously seen. He had always had a ruddy hue to his black hair, but it was usually observed only in certain light. By this time, it had become apparent in every-day illumination.

Now, the hair along his flanks has taken on other qualities. I mentioned in the prior article that Renn had had grey hair behind his ears that was of a texture different than most of his hair. This is again happening, but along his sides. Some, though not all, of the fur there is growing longer than its surrounding fur, and, as much as the redness is growing, so is a whiteness. And, as with the hair that used to grow behind his ears, this is of a coarseness not common in the rest of his coat.

I don’t think these are indications of problems; they are likely just changes that my big boy is undergoing as he ages. After my earlier description of Renn’s hair, I was informed that the process was called ‘rusting’ and was indeed a sign of creeping age. Even so, I will get Renn checked out by a veterinary in the new year, when funds are available. Though I no longer take the beasts in for regular examinations ($60 or more for three minutes’ prodding and listening is a bit much, I think), I will have them checked more often. The big boy and Cammie will both be seen to, just because they haven’t been lately.

Until then, however, I will watch Renn, and see what other metamorphoses he undergoes. With that cat, though, the old saying is apt: “The more he changes, the more he stays the same,” despite his side-effects.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

A Tail of Affection

I have written about Josie’s tail before. In January of last year, I described how that appendage sometimes whapped repeatedly when its owner was enjoying herself, though it also whapped similarly - but not identically - when she was annoyed, a more common application of tail-motion. I have detailed its appearance, how it resembles a rat’s tail in shape, but has a rare colour-scheme.

Now, I will write about something that, I believe, is relatively new for the Great White. She uses her tail to show affection. Other cats have done this, I know, even some of mine; wrapping their tails around a person’s arm while lying next to them, for instance. Josie’s use of this manoeuvre is a bit different.

My Chubs will sometimes saunter up to me, always when I am standing; turn and, with her bum against my leg, gently whip her tail around my shin, hold it there for a second or two, then whip it away, only to repeat the action. She will do this numerous times, most often when I am standing at the counter in the bathroom, washing my hands or brushing my teeth, but also when I am in the kitchen. I always acknowledge her display, of course, and she wanders away, that rat-tail straight up and its bearer pleased.

I didn’t notice her doing this before we moved to the apartment. It is the latest addition to her list of demonstrations of regard, which, as I have written previously, has grown over the years. I see that purring and head-bumps, even drooling, are not the only signs of happiness and care a cat can show and, if I pay attention, I may find all sorts of evidence that my beasts have decided, after all these years, that I meet their standards.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

The Cry of the Warriors

We have had intruder cats passing by the windows of the apartment previously. Sometimes, they stop to look at my animals within. Most seem quite unconcerned by the disturbance they cause. This time, I noticed less the cat outside than the reaction to his presence.

Three of my cats gathered at the bedroom window to view this intruder. (Of course, he was not actually an intruder, any more than others in his position have been. They have a perfect right to walk by on the lawn outside. But try telling my beasts that.) Alerted by Renn’s vocal disapproval, Tucker and Josie hopped up to see this audacity for themselves.

While Josie remained silent, Renn gave definite indication of his outrage. He is a big, muscular animal, and venting his astonished anger on this occasion produced a fittingly menacing sound. Starting at the mid-range, his whine dropped slowly like a descending bomb, growing deeper and more furious. It was a challenge and a warning.


Tucker too took umbrage with this breach of the neutral zone that he seems to think surrounds the apartment’s exterior. He crouched low in the saddle of the cat-tree and glared at the feline beyond the glass. Following my big boy’s lead, he gave forth his own defiance of the stranger.


He sounded like ‘this little piggy that went “wee wee wee” all the way home.’ A deflating bladder of bagpipes would convey greater danger to a trespasser. The stranger must have wondered why I was keeping a beached seal on a cat-tree.

I would never let my pets out of the apartment, of course, unless it were on a leash of some sort, and probably not even then. But I quake to think of what would happen if they escaped. Josie might exist for a long time on body-fat. Cammie is fast and wary, and her distrust might keep her alive. Renn, as shy as he is, might intimidate by his size. Tucker might survive by being elected a pack’s mascot or jester. That’s really his only chance.

So I will keep him – and the others - safe inside. But I know that blood-curdling shriek will turn my dreams into nightmares.


Really, it sounded like a baby passing gas…

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Her Youth is Just a Bad Memory

Josie was found in the engine of a truck. She isn’t the only cat of whom I’ve heard such a story. I suspect that a number of them climb into automobile engines for the warmth they feel there. It’s probably how some homeless cats come to be found in parking lots. My Chubs was a kitten then. I adopted her when she was an adult in 2008.

The interesting thing is that for many years, I thought that Josie had been born in 2003, and have been calculating her age accordingly. Recently, I put some of my computer files on disc in order to preserve them and came across Josie’s vital statistics from when she was adopted. Her birthday was estimated to be in 2004, not in 2003. She was born at mid-year; since she was a kitten when discovered, it would have been clear that she was not very old, and the rescuers certainly knew what the year was. I must have been aware of the correct year of Josie’s birth originally, but at some point, it became 2003 in my mind.

So the Great White is actually twelve and a half years old, not thirteen and a half. She remains my senior cat and, in spite of this, in good health. And Josie has demonstrated that, while age is just a number, youth is just a bad memory – mine, in this case.

Friday, November 18, 2016

Lonely No More

The lonely cat-bed of previous weeks was bothering me. It was a perfectly good cat-bed, with a heated pad in it, going to waste. I had switched it with the other cat-bed and, in its new position, it was used, just as its twin had been. So it was the location that was the problem. I had been going to remove the heating pad and place it under the towel in the library, a spot Josie enjoys, if no one was going to use the lonely cat-bed. But I decided to try another strategy.

I moved the cat-bed to a less hidden spot. Though all the cats had known where it was, in its corner - in fact, Cammie had spent much time there last winter - the location seemed to be a deterrent now. I placed the bed in front of a bookcase instead. For several days nothing happened. I watched as Tucker now and then sniffed at it, then moved on.

Yesterday, however, I came home to see Cammie in the bed. Indeed, she seemed so comfortable there that she didn’t get up immediately to come and greet me, which she usually does. Later in the evening, she returned to the cat-bed in its new position.

The princess, who seems to be the most frequent habituĂ©e of the heated beds, didn’t spend all night in it, and won’t be there all the time on any other day. But she knows that the cat-bed is there, and that it is heated. She is not afraid to use it, and that is what I was hoping to achieve. Once a cat is aware of something, she likely won’t forget it. Cammie, if no one else, will use both cat-beds and, if one of her roommates uses one, she will probably use the other.

The weather has grown colder this week, and we’ve had freezing temperatures, seasonal for November, but different than what we have been experiencing so far. I am pleased to know that, on cold days and colder nights, my beasts will have another comfy spot in which to snooze.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Lord Lytton Would Understand

It was a dark and stormy night. Well, it was dark, and a wind can come from a windstorm so, yes, it was a dark and stormy night.

In southern Alberta, especially in Lethbridge, the wind blows quite a bit. Though days with sixty mile per hour winds are not common, neither are they so rare as to excite much comment. But now and then, there is a windstorm that causes a lot of noise. The night can become blustery; it is probably the sudden gusts that cause the most trouble.

The cats are used to southern Alberta weather. The wind doesn’t bother them very much; they grew accustomed to the noises of an apartment building - people using the stairs, people across the alley fixing their cars, showers running somewhere. But when the night grows gusty, the beasts become a bit alarmed.

I don’t think they are frightened, but they are wary. Their attention is commanded more often and to a great degree. When I went to bed Sunday night, Renn joined me right away, which he always does. Josie lie down next to me soon afterward, and it normally takes her some time to do so. Tucker waddled in and climbed the steps to the bed before I fell asleep; he usually takes his place much later in the night. Cammie too retreated to the bedroom, taking her position on her cat-tree. There was apparently strength in numbers this night.

Our apartment is a snug little refuge. The windows are relatively new, and seal well, which is good, as they face west, the direction from which the wind predominates. The heating is efficient. And there is a human to which the cats look for protection. They think of us in the same way little children think of their parents: all powerful, the purveyors of all that is good, the dispensers of punishment, those who keep them safe. We can’t do all that they think, of course, but when the wind howls and the temperature drops, it’s nice to be able to provide them with peace of mind. It’s a fair trade: they do the same for me.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Chin-rubs, Please

Each of my cats has its own idiosyncrasies. All cats do. Each has its preference when it comes to attention, and where they enjoy being petted or stroked. Josie used to trouble me because she wasn’t a lap-cat, nor did she lie beside me while I read or watched a movie. To give her the attention she deserved, I had to dedicate a specific time and place. As you may imagine, this was not always easy when opportunities are limited. I sometimes felt that she was being cheated.

But since moving into the apartment, the Great White has developed a new way of enjoying moments with me. It’s the chin-rub. She’s always been partial to them, but now they are her main source of physical pleasure. Frequently, all it takes is for me to walk into a room for Josie to fall over on her side, inviting me to give her scratches under her little head.

These usually comprise just the minimal movement of my index finger back and forth against her fur. I can feel her purr even before I start. She will periodically stand, turn in a circle or walk away, only to return to where she had been and drop down again. Thereupon, I resume my rubbing of her chin.

The advantage of this action is that I can work at my computer and attend to Josie, lying on the bed next to it, at the same time. I can type swiftly with one hand (actually with one finger and a thumb) so, though design work suffers, actual composition continues adequately. I am never at my computer for long, but if Josie is enjoying herself, I will find something to do on it.

Eventually, the rubs leave my finger and hand sore, but I don’t worry. After ten or fifteen minutes of chin-rubbing, my Chubs appreciates simply lying on my hand. Her purring continues, and she closes her eyes. At last, like most cats, she decides that she has had enough for the moment, and moves, usually to another spot on the bed. My duty is done, her quota is filled.

It never seems to take much to give pleasure to an animal. A kind word, preferably in a funny voice; a few minutes of petting; some play: these can make a cat or dog happier than a hoard of gold will a human. And, unless you’re the sort who wouldn’t bother to stroke a cat’s head in the first place, such gladness in an animal will create similar gladness in you.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Hand Me Down My Sleepin' Shoes

There are, as may have been implied in recent articles here, many places in the apartment in which a cat may sit or lie in comfort. The spots they actually choose from time to time therefore surprise me. This is where I found Renn last evening.

And then, apparently curious about what my big boy found so enticing about the spot, Tucker decided to try it out. This was just before bed-time.

Life continues to be interesting with my cats.

Monday, November 7, 2016

In Her Place

I don’t think there is any place in the apartment that is reserved for a particular cat. There are those locations several like - the saddle of the tall cat-tree in the bedroom, for instance - but if one is already there, and another wants the spot, the second lives with the situation until it changes.

Once in a while, though, one of my feline roommates decides that where another is, is exactly where she wants to be at that moment. And by ‘she’, I mean Cammie.

Friday, November 4, 2016

The Naming of Beasts

The names people give to their pets are often interesting. My cats’ names are mostly rather ordinary, though there is a reason for that. The only cat of all those whom I adopted and also named was Tungsten.

Tungsten is my favourite element. If I’d had a dog, I could have named him Wolfram, which is another name for tungsten. I had long thought that if I had a pet, Tungsten would be a good name for either a male or a female. So, when I adopted my first cat, I re-named her Tungsten. She had been called Presley. Long afterward, even after her death, I realised the fitting significance of the name I had given her. As I have written before, she was small and thin, and brought light and warmth to my life, but for only a relatively short time. Tungsten is the element that comprises the glowing wire in incandescent light bulbs.

The other cats in my life were named by rescue-groups from whom they came. All those I have adopted but Josie came to me as foster-cats. Even my Chubs was a trial-adoption, to see how well she and Tungsten got along. As it turned out, they didn’t; I decided to keep her anyway. I suppose I could have changed her name then - there was, in fact, another Josie in the Lethbridge PAW Society awaiting adoption; she was black, mine was white - but as mine had been with me for several months already, I retained her name. I figured that, as she was used to me calling her ‘Josie’, switching to something else would have confused her too much. Coming to a novel situation and having strangers call you a new name is one thing. Having someone who has always called you ‘Josie’ suddenly start calling you ‘Fillibuster’ - or whatever was chosen - would have been puzzling.

The Great White became Josefina in official correspondence: Josefina von Chubs.

Renn and Tucker were also named by the PAW Society. The names chosen by rescue-groups may seem arbitrary but one must realise that they have many animals to name, and these names cannot make people wary. I’ve seen dogs and cats for adoption who are called ‘Jaws’ or ‘Pounder’, ‘Mischief’ and ‘Trouble’. Inoffensive names convey an inoffensive character - there’s plenty of time to discover the real nature of your new family member later.

Renn initially had just one ’n’ in his name. I don’t know from where he acquired the second. It is more a syllable than a name, so I decided that his name was short for Renfrew - Renfrew Foster, which is what he had once been. As my big boy came to me as a foster-cat, I could not change his name; by the time I had adopted him, he had been with me too long to inflict such confusion on him - the same situation as with Josie.

‘Tucker’ is a common name for cats, I’ve found - as common as one name can be, at least. Another member of the PAW Society had a cat named Tucker, and I have come across several others, as well as a dog with the same name. Again, I felt I could not alter his name once I adopted him. He had been ‘Tucker’ for five years with one family, and so he remained with me: Tucker R. Poly.

I was a part of Cammie’s rescue. I argued for ‘Beulah’, the name applied to Jerusalem after the Israelites returned from their Captivity. I think she would have made a good Beulah. However, Cammie she became, and from the first, she seemed to be a princess, disdaining the more plebeian care given to her roommates - also disdained - and demanding greater service. Her attitude has become much warmer toward me, but the demands are still there. So, while she remains ‘Cammie’ for everyday use, her official designation is Princess Cammerouska Albigensia of Siam.

Others have passed through my life, including my foster-cat Kola, whom I named, partially: he was originally Lola. His people thought he was a girl and, though still a kitten when they discovered their mistake, they did not re-name him. I thought Kola (spelled like the Russian peninsula, rather than the beverage) would suit him better.

I named Faber, a found-cat who was returned to the people who had lost him, and regained his name of Frodo.

Then there was Bear-Bear, notable for his gentle nature, his long, lean frame and his unusual name. He came from a different rescue-group than the one to which I belong; his name did not suit either his shape or his character, but it is engraved on the wooden casket that holds his ashes.

From Wixie to Noah, the names come and go. The cats arrive; some stay, some leave. Some leave after they stay longer than was intended. But each has a name, a name that becomes his own, a name that defines him, at least to me. Names are important; they help us remember and, if there is something after this life, they will help us call once more to those we have missed.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016


In many ways, Cammie is my most interesting cat. I think that may be due to her initial reluctance to trust me. I believe that has been overcome - and was, some time ago - but it has made hers a character that has been revealed only gradually. My other beasts are pretty much what you see.

Cammie has started to talk to her toys. I should clarify that she talks to one toy, the white and yellow fuzzy mouse. I first heard her one night while I was in the bedroom. She was making a moaning sound that began at medium pitch and descended; this was repeated numerous times. I thought it might be the first stage of throwing up; though it did not sound like Josie’s ‘wow-wow-wow-wow’ that presages vomiting, I could not think what else it may have been. I walked into the sitting room and found the princess crouched in front of the mouse. She ceased speaking to it when I entered.

This incident was replicated another evening. And then on a third, I found Cammie talking in a corner. This mildly concerned me, as I thought she may have retreated to isolation to be sick. I tested her by immediately lying down on my back, and patting my chest. She trotted over and crouched on my chest and started purring. She clearly was not feeling ill. After fifteen minutes or so, she left; that’s when I saw the fuzzy mouse, in the corner. She had trapped it and was taunting it.

Now when I hear the princess talking in such a way, I don’t disturb her. She is obviously carrying out some phase of her hunt, telling the mouse just what its role is in life. Tungsten taught me long ago that cats can pretend, even using their imaginations to conjure up prey, so it is hardly surprising that a cat can see a real mouse in a toy, and give it what-for. I was rather surprised that it was Cammie who did this, but then, in many ways, as I have written, she is my most interesting cat, and more surprises no doubt await me.