Thursday, March 30, 2017

Follow the Feeder

It’s funny the relations cats have with one another. Since Tungsten died, there has been no top-cat in the household. Each does what he wants, and as long as he doesn’t interfere with another, there is harmony, more or less. Josie is a bit of a top-cat with regard to food; when she wants to eat, she approaches the bowl and anyone already there must move on. Usually this is done automatically, but sometimes there is whapping.

The boys are another matter. There is no competition, but when Renn goes for a nibble, Tucker almost always comes along, and lies near by, waiting. He often isn’t interested in the food-bowl until he sees his brother go for a bite. For his part, my big boy isn’t intimidated by Tucker, and takes his time. The roly poly one waits patiently, then has his turn.

Following Renn in such a manner may be why Tucker fills up so much space.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Slow and Steady Wins the Race

This past weekend was the first in which spring made itself felt. The sun shone and, though the temperatures were still cool, the air was warm enough outside for the windows to be opened. The cats were enjoying the scents that they could smell through the screens, and someone took the opportunity to attempt a little closeness with his new roommates.

Parker still hopes to become friends with the others, especially Renn. The perm-cats remain reticent, however, and there is a limit to proximity. But with each day, familiarity grows.

We are patient, Parker and I.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Even in Arcadia

Nicolas Poussin painted a famous picture in the 1630s entitled “Et in Arcadia Ego”, which may be translated as, “Even in Arcadia I am.” Arcadia, though a real place, has long been synonymous with the ideal of a pastoral paradise, a land with no industry, where people live in harmony with nature; in other words, a kind of utopia. The painting features several shepherds examining a tombstone, with the title words engraved upon it. The meaning most scholars have ascribed to the image is that of death being present even in the best of worlds.

Two years ago today, my friend Tungsten died. She had been with me for less than eight years, but we were together every day of that time and, except for one or two over-night stays in the veterinary hospital, every night, as well. I’ve described the orange one previously, and told of her character, and how it has affected me. I won’t repeat myself here; I’ll save that repetition for another time.

I may inveigh about how Tungsten was taken away with so many years yet to live, but in fact, in this world of uncertainty – which seems to be growing more uncertain every day – I prefer to be grateful for the relatively short period during which she was with me. The tiny terror – a nickname that her means of disciplining bigger cats earned her – could have been killed earlier by one of the many illnesses, conditions or tragedies that afflict our pets. Or, by any number of chances, she could have gone to someone else. But as it was, she came to me, and she and I shared half of her life.

I miss Tungsten every day. Even so, while people have for millennia realised the truth that even in Arcadia there is death, I like to remember that there is also life. And I am lucky to have been able to spend some of that with my friend.

Friday, March 24, 2017

A Return to the Round

Until some months ago, the cylinder-house cat-tree was Renn’s favourite spot in the apartments. He spent much of his time there, even preferring to eat his meals there, because some human didn’t insist that he get down and eat them on the floor like a civilised animal. Then, Cammie started snoozing in the cylinder-house. This was fine with Renn, as he took possession when it was vacant, which was most of the time. Then Cammie threw up in the cylinder.

After that, neither cat cared to use the cat-tree. For months, it was vacant. This week, however, Renn moved in once more. Why he decided to climb back in after all this time, I don’t know. Perhaps the smell of Cammie’s accidental discharge faded enough for olfactory comfort. But I am glad the cylinder-house is being occupied again. It needed a cat.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

I Should Have Adopted a Giraffe

The sounds cats make are sometimes puzzling, sometimes amusing, sometimes startling. I may have mentioned Tucker’s weird, warbling noises; he puts me in mind of what the Disney character Goofy would have sounded like as a toddler. The roly poly often makes these noises in the evening, but rarely later in the night. When he does, the effect can be unusual.

The other night, I woke from a dream, still befuddled and not fully conscious, to hear what could very well have been a caricature of a human baby roaming the apartment, calling out.

“Helleurrr? Helleurrr? Helleurrr?”

Before I thought I had been cast as an expendable extra in an out-take of the film The Brood, I realised that it was merely Tucker, ambling about the residence, talking to himself in the dark. My interrupted sleep was afterward untroubled, but there are times I wonder that I get any sleep at all.

Just one more reason why I should have adopted a giraffe. They hum serenely at night, like a lullaby. That’d be nice.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

An Unsatisfactory Menu

Perhaps it is no surprise that Cammie has disdained all the varieties of food provided to her for the benefit of her kidneys, which are beginning to fail. The princess lives up to her nickname, and wants only what she wants - and not always even in that case. She will change her mind about what food she likes while she is eating it. She will be contentedly consuming a portion of Fancy Feast - because the Merrick offered her initially was refused - stop, sit up and not want another bite. Wise to her ways, I will then suggest the Merrick earlier condemned as inedible. That will then be eaten without hesitation.

My battle of wills with Cammie - doomed as my attempts to win it may be - is not over. There are other brands of kidney food that I have yet to try. These will be brought from the veterinary hospital soon. In the meantime, I am researching the methods I can work with my cat to increase her health.

Cammie is the worst of the beasts for medicating in even the most innocuous way. The slightest deviation from what she desires - at the moment - will be met with unbending resistance. I look at her with frustration and wonder why I ever adopted her. The reason is that no one else would have. That isn’t so much a reason as a warning. No, the real reason is that I wanted her to be a part of my home and family. I’d tell her that she could show her gratitude by eating well, but she’d probably respond that allowing me into her presence is gratitude enough.

That’s my princess.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

The New Excitement!

Yesterday’s article about playing did not include news about the cats’ latest toy. Over the weekend, I bought a track-ball (or whatever brand name this particular version is called). I had one in the house before, but only the foster-cats played with it, so when one of them - I believe it was Kola - was adopted, it went with him.

But recently, seeing that the beasts often looked bored (they probably just want to be left alone to sleep), I thought I would introduce something that would bring hours of action-packed enjoyment. Instead, I bought a track-ball.

Many cats like the track-ball. Many spend a long time trying to catch that elusive sphere as it spins about the circular groove. Many cats love pushing the ball about as fast as it will go. Many cats don’t live with me.

This is not to write that the track-ball doesn’t get used. I may be in the washroom brushing my teeth, or sitting on the couch reading, and hear the ball make an orbit in its course. The ball moves leisurely, deliberately, as if it were on holiday, thinking of where to go, what destination is best value for its hard-earned vacation. My cats will lie beside the toy and gently prod the ball (which comes with a blinking light for greater fast-paced excitement). The ball may complete the circuit, or it may putter to a halt half-way around. It is all the same to the cats.

Yes, they play with it, in the same way a person may sit down, turn on the television set, flip through the channels hoping for something to pique their interest, then turn off the machine and go and eat a meal because there was nothing good on the one hundred and fifty eight channels now available.

The beasts will use the scratch pad in the centre, but normally simply lie on it; well, partially on it, and partially off. Cammie, like Tungsten before her, is small enough to crouch on the whole pad. Frankly, I think $19.99 is a bit steep for a circle of corrugated cardboard. But if that’s what it takes to give my pets another spot on which to sit and wait while I prepare their soft-food meals, I am happy to pay that kind of money. Really.

With a sigh, therefore, I will leave you with these pictures of two of my cats being thrilled by the slam-bang non-stop action of their latest diversion. I hope the blur of their speed doesn’t give you a headache.

Monday, March 20, 2017

The Playing Kind

My cats are not the playing kind. They do play, but are not frequently enthusiastic about it. Parker attacks a fuzzy mouse and chases a ball more than all the perma-cats combined. But now and then, one of them gets in the mood.

Josie was exuberant for several days in a row recently. She wrestled with the tackle-fish initially, and then seemed to want the string-toy. Her idea of fighting the string-toy is to lie on the floor and to grab the toy as it swings past. My Chubs may actually think this is how life is in the wild; a cat lies down and attacks the various prey and predators that move next to her. Josie’s notion of life outside the apartment is limited.

But she will periodically slip into the nylon tunnel during play-time and then we can have real fun. Sometimes, the string-toy invades her space; sometimes, I do. As with Tucker, I will push at the fabric from the outside, and the cat inside will ferociously assault the resultant bulge with teeth and claws. It’s rather more dangerous than it sounds, depending on when I last cut their claws.

The action never lasts long. Josie tires of it and, as much as I try to interest her in some other toy or frolic, she decides that that is enough exercise for today. Perhaps it’s time for a snack, or a chin-rub. My cats are not the playing kind. But then, it may a little too undignified for cats of a certain age.

Friday, March 17, 2017

A Dream of Friendship

This is how Parker sometimes lies on the sitting room couch. Renn likes lying there, too, but has learned that when Parker is loose, the new boy wants to lie beside him. So Renn has taken to lying on the armchair near by. Parker will rest on the couch, looking at Renn.

Parker is, very slowly, making the other beasts more comfortable with his presence. I try to encourage them to let the orange fellow near whenever possible, but I don’t force him on anyone. When there is proximity, I tell everybody involved how good they are for permitting the situation. It will be a long process, but we are patient in my household.

Until then, Parker will watch Renn, and dream of the day when they are friends.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

The Cosy Apartment Feline Sanitarium

Welcome to the Cosy Apartment Feline Sanitarium! I am John Bellen, the director, and I would like to thank you for wanting to learn about our facility.

We are located in the green and pleasant valley of the Imagination, just near the edge of a Claude Lorrain landscape, and specialise in the emotional and physical care of cats. Our clientele here at Cosy Apartment is small but select. Before I take you on the tour, allow me to present my assistant, Renfrew Foster. Renn, as we call him, is an orderly here, fit and healthy, as you can see.

Our current residents are varied in both background and health. Miss Josefina von Chubs, for instance, required some weight-loss. Now that she is diminishing in poundage, she has stayed on, having recently had a dental cleaning which has left her in a very good physical condition, for a lady-cat of that certain age.

Mr Tucker R Poly has had the most issues with which to deal, and I must say that he has maintained his purring nature throughout his ordeals. From urinary infections and blockages to gingivitis and now, diabetes, he has remained cheerful and young at heart.

Princess Camarouska Albigensia, who has permitted us to call her Cammie, often has nutritional challenges, and is currently a concern because of the onset of kidney failure. However, our dietician, in conjunction with our expert medical advisers, has designed a menu which should control the problem admirably - if Her Serene Highness will condescend to eat it.

Our latest client is a rather mysterious feline known only as Parker. He is here to be treated for his diabetes. He is responding positively to our plans. Due to his newness, he has a private room, though he enjoys mixing with the other residents. His weight is slowly being reduced and the dosage of insulin is also being adjusted, under the supervision of our doctors, of course. 

Here at Cosy Apartment Sanitarium, we try to accommodate the many needs of our clients, because good health isn’t just physical. Naturally, the latter aspect is always a concern, and for it, we have the exercise room, with climbing apparatus, nylon tunnel and toys, including Kick-a-roos, Tackle-fish and the ever popular fuzzy mice. Due to their complex nature, string-toys and laser-pointers are operated by staff only. We will be installing a track-ball course soon; it was used to a great extent by past clients, and we feel that it may be welcomed again.

After activity necessarily comes rest, for which we have numerous beds and chairs. A favoured feature is the heated bed, of which we have two, for the convenience of our residents.

We even present a weekly movie in the on-site cinema, a new feature shown every Saturday night, though this seems to be enjoyed more by the staff. This week’s film will be the 1953 thriller, Inferno, starring Robert Ryan.

Meals are provided, of course. Due to the ever-changing tastes of our residents, our menu is nearly exhaustive. We cater to specific needs and whims, and our clerk of the kitchen is noted for his contacts abroad, able to bring in the most obscure of ingredients for the delectation of the diners. (Please note that Mr Poly does not have a wooden leg; it’s just where he is standing.)

Yes, we try to provide for every need at Cosy Apartment Sanitarium. But we are not alone in our efforts to help cats. There are many thousands, even millions of similar sanitaria across the country, safeguarding the well-being of millions of cats. As well, canine, equine, lapine and even aviarian facilities abound. Some are small institutions, such as our own, catering to one or two, or a handful of cats; others are large, with a sizeable clientele. Many are under-funded; in many, the staff is over-worked. But each strives to give its best for the sake of its residents.

I hope you have enjoyed your tour of Cosy Apartment Feline Sanitarium, and I look forward to your future visits. And remember, as we like to think here, a Cosy cat is a happy cat.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Medical News Good and Bad

The results of Renn and Cammie’s physical examinations have come in. There is some good news and some bad news, though not very bad news.

Firstly, Renn is in as good health, as I had suspected. My big boy with the tiny appetite manages somehow to keep himself fit, inside and out. There was a trace of protein in his urine, but that is nothing to worry about. I don’t know how he accomplishes it, but Renn is doing well, and there isn’t much more to write about that, except that I am relieved.

There is less cause to be enthusiastic about Cammie’s health. She is at the beginning of kidney failure. The laboratory to which the tests were sent noted that the princess (though they didn’t refer to her as such) is not yet in that condition, but her veterinary re-phrased that. Cammie is “in the early stages of kidney failure.” Cammie’s creatinine levels are at the very high end of the normal range, and her specific gravity is on the edge of the lowest at which a healthy cat should be.

The treatment for this is, at this point, purely dietary. Cammie needs to eat food specifically created for this condition, and I will be collecting some this week. Those who are familiar with my princess through this blog will know that her appetite is not catholic. She likes a very small variety, and will not even sample anything else. The food she needs to eat comes in a wider range of flavours and textures than it once did, but the very fact that it is medicated food may put her off. I’m hoping that, like Mikey and Life brand cereal, she - despite hating everything - will eat it. I won’t tell her it’s good for her.

This also means that I will be reserving Cammie’s dental cleaning for an earlier time than I had expected. The procedure will be a relatively simple one. The longer I leave it, the more will need to be done, and, possibly, the greater the complications offered by her renal situation. Surgery and new food: not something to which Cammie would look forward with relish.

The results of the tests were clearly not the success for which I had hoped, despite Renn’s health (and, as he enters middle age, let it not be thought that I am ungrateful for his report.) Someone with Tucker’s enjoyment of most foods would have been a better candidate for needing special nutrition, but my roly poly has his own worries. So Cammie and I will deal with her troubles; her doctor attended a seminar not long ago which featured a speaker who had three renally-challenged cats, and all three were faring very well on diet alone. I am encouraged by this. I will be even more encouraged if Cammie likes her new food.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

So Far, So Good

Renn and Cammie visited their doctor yesterday afternoon. They didn’t like it, but things went well.

The results of the blood and urine tests will not be known until tomorrow, or Monday, at the latest. The technicians were able to draw enough of each fluid from each cat for the tests, which was a relief. In terms of what could be seen and heard in the examination room, the only problems the cats have are minor inflammations of the gums due to gingivitis. The doctor was not overly concerned about this, as the cases are not severe, and I will schedule dental procedures for both cats in the spring.

The beasts were removed in turn from the examination room to the back of the hospital where the fluids were taken. Cammie was gone so long, I was beginning to fear they had lost her. But then I heard her sharp and angry “Reh’!” (note the glottal stop; it’s the best written imitation I can make of her displeasure) repeated as she was carried back to the exam room. She evidently debated physically with the staff regarding the loss of her blood though, true to her character, she didn’t try to hurt anyone. Renn, on the other hand, shook with fright, the poor fellow, and was no trouble at all.

The findings of the immediate examination were not worrisome - the cats’ dental conditions notwithstanding - and will be dealt with relatively soon. I will publish the results of the detailed tests when they become available. I don’t expect any bad news to come of them, but then, the point of this adventure was to forestall such bad news, and, if Cammie and Renn are facing difficulties, we will catch them early.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Cammie's Staff of Life

The veterinary appointment for Renn and Cammie was postponed until later today, due to the doctor not being able to return from a conference in time. The delay allowed a foot of snow to fall in the meantime, which may affect my travel to and from the hospital. The cats, were they to know of their schedule, may applaud the snow, but I will get them to the doctor one way or another.

However, an immediate result of the postponement is that I will write about Cammie and the bread today, rather than later in the week.

I bake bread once every couple of weeks. I don’t mix the dough or set it to rise or put it in the oven. I have neither the skill nor the time for that. But I have a bread-maker I received as a gift years ago and I continue to use it. I enjoy what it produces, both in terms of edible result and of smells. The aroma of baking bread is a joy of civilisation. But until Sunday, no cat had thought similarly.

Though she has never taken an interest previously, Cammie caught a whiff of the baking dough and became mildly obsessed with it. It was at the beasts’ dinner-time, and this distraction threw off any desire the princess may have had for cat-food. She wandered about the apartment, her head raised, her nose twitching, ignoring all offers of proper nutrition. She wanted bread - or at least to know the source of the fragrance she was smelling.

Cammie at last found the bread-maker and inhaled to her heart’s delight. I can’t determine if she became disappointed or merely bored, but eventually she retreated. She sat on a chair at the dining table, something that further disrupted the routine - at least Tucker’s, who likes to relax there and wash his face following a meal.

But even afterward, Cammie wasn’t interested in her own food, not until snack-time hours later. At that moment, it was bread she wanted, and nothing but. The silly carnivore.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Cammie and Renn Visit the Doctor

This afternoon, two of my perma-cats go to the doctor for check-ups. There is nothing wrong with them of which I am aware, but these two haven’t been to the veterinary in a while, so I think it’s time.

Cammie is eleven years old now. (She wouldn’t pose for me last night.) She has had problems in the past, particularly with eating - or, rather, not eating - that have been solved relatively simply. She also has recurring sores on the sides of her head. I believe these to be an allergic reaction but, despite experiments, I have not been able to find the cause. Other than these, she seems to me to be healthy. She certainly can become spontaneously active, and is in good shape for her middle age.

Renn, seen here with his shy little boy look, gives me the least trouble, medically speaking. He eats very little: almost no soft food - there are days when I offer him four or five varieties, different brands, different flavours, and he refuses even to acknowledge them - and not much hard food. How he maintains a muscular body which he periodically throws into playful action, I don’t know. But he is nine now, and entering the phase when things can start deteriorating, so I want to stay on top of his situation.

The pair will go together and receive blood tests and urinalyses, as well as the usual examinations. I don’t expect to be told that anything is amiss, but I am taking them to the doctor now so that I won’t be told that later on.