Thursday, April 29, 2021

The Eternal Labours

While I and the beasts welcome the return of sunshine to the Cosy Apartment, there is one grave disadvantage to the brightness of the approaching warm months.

The sun throws a spotlight on every speck of dust and every errant hair that flits, flies, falls or flops through the air. A grain of cat-litter or dropped food casts a shadow in the westering sunshine like a mighty tower and each missed particle of debris announces itself as though it were waving a banner from a mountaintop. The pointlessness of sweeping, vacuuming or cleaning becomes apparent as the brightness reveals that no application of broom, brush or cloth achieves more than the most temporary relief from a refuse-strewn floor, each tiny manifestation of uncleanliness mockingly descending once more to settle in the same location from which it was banished moments before.

Autumn and winter bring the illusion that my efforts accomplish results, an illusion that settles and stays for a season like a quilt of snow or a forest of fallen leaves, leaves that can be gathered up and disposed of in some manner or another. There is little sun in my home during those months, no yellow light to point its fingers at my half-won hygiene.

But I will continue to sweep and wipe and wash, a modern Sisyphus pushing a long-handled boulder, my steep slope a linoleum floor. But at the end of that day’s eternity, when the sun has set and the moon is more merciful, I will at last be able to relax with my cats - and watch them provide for my future labours with every scratch of their ears and shake of their heads.

Monday, April 26, 2021

The Understanding of Silence

Tucker has a silent meow. He is certainly not the only cat to have one. It is, I believe, not at all uncommon. The small mouth opens and no sound issues, or a sound so small or high that there is little more than a slight straining noise.

I have often wondered whether cats who speak thus think that they are making sounds. Do they, perhaps, know that they are silent but nonetheless believe they are conversing? I am persuaded of the latter. Tucker will give his silent meow as an actual response to questions I ask him. He knows that I am talking to him, and he endeavours to give a reply.

The odd thing is that I not only accept it as speech, but can usually comprehend what the roly poly is trying to tell me. Would he respond thus if he lived among only cats? I doubt it. They do not communicate in such a fashion. I have read that cats in fact do not make many sounds to each other away from human society. This I cannot believe entirely, but even so, the way a cat speaks to a human is unique. It is, I think, nothing less than an attempt to approximate our own languages.

Certainly Tucker creates vocal sounds. They range from a Wookie-like trill to the loopy, roller-coaster wails of a drunk stumbling from a tavern of a Friday night. His implorations for morsels of a particularly delectable human food are used for no other purpose. Yet he has his silent meows. I speak to him, and he answers; does he understand? I think he does, to an extent. He speaks to me, and I answer; do I understand? I do, to an extent.

Through verbiage and expression, through body-language and attitude, my cats and I communicate. Usually we comprehend each other’s meanings. Sometimes, we comprehend and choose to ignore those meanings. Now and then, however, we speak to each other saying nothing. It seems that that is when we understand each other the most.

Sunday, April 25, 2021

The Scientific Habit

Just last month, I wrote about how Renn has a habit of lying across soft objects, such as slippers and plush cat-toys. He has done that since he first came to live with me. Here is another of his habits, the origin of my nicknaming him ‘the scientist’.

He loves to study water. I noted in November of 2010 that Renn (or “Ren”, as his name was spelled then) had, when he first came to live with me, been fascinated by water running in the bathroom sink, and by drops chasing each other down the tub’s wall after a shower. These general observations did not last; instead, Renn decided to specialise in water-bowls. This is my big boy ten years ago.

He continues to watch water-bowls. Either I haven’t been paying attention to such actions, or he had abandoned this one and returned to it recently. In any case, he periodically experiments by dipping his paw into the water, creating ripples, as he used to do in the past. His concentration when studying is intense.

I wish he could publish his findings in this matter. I think they would be as amazing as he finds his subject. Alas, my scientist seems still to be conducting his research.

After more than a decade of inquiries, Renn appears not to have come to any conclusions. He may be someone who finds the study more enjoyable than the discovery; for him, the journey is the thing, not the destination.

Until he and I meet one day where our understanding of each other will be better than it is now – and it’s pretty good at present – I will have to be content with admiring his fortitude and patience. Those qualities alone, after ten years, should be worth some consideration by the Nobel Prize committee.

Saturday, April 24, 2021

The Demon of the Litter-box

So far, things are continuing well at the Cosy Apartment. Tucker’s appetite is good, even on a reduced level of Mirtazapine; the big test will come when the supply runs out. I won’t renew it unless necessary. I of course want him to eat well without it, though even with it, he may not need much.

I was able to load up on the soft-food varieties that the beasts prefer; thanks to a couple of serendipitous sales, I twice bought a large number of tins at decent prices, and thus was able to stay within my cat-budget this month. Other sales enabled me to do the same within the much less important human-food budget. It’s the rare moment when I think of what I need to buy at the shops, and the answer is “nothing”.

However, I must disregard such insignificant matters for now and write about what is truly important: litter-box etiquette.

There are three boxes in the Cosy Apartment, two in the storeroom and one across the corridor in the library. In their use of these receptacles, the three cats here are contrasts.

Renn is undoubtedly the least trouble. He prefers the box in the library. The litter that he kicks out during his waste management is negligible and he has never been known to miss the confines of the box. His one problem is the great and powerful stink that arises from his solid deposits. The litter I use is a good product, but even it takes about twenty minutes to overwhelm the force of my big boy’s refuse. Nonetheless, Renn is clean and conscientious, so his olfactory infractions are forgiven.

Tucker gives the odd problem. Usually he faces outward when wetting, and inward when crapping. Sometimes, I accidentally catch him in mid-use, his head protruding from the box, the rest of his sausage-shaped form lost in shadow. He always wears a look of mortification when caught at such a time, his embarrassment perhaps being great. Now and then, the Tuxter will reverse his directions and wet with his bum toward the entrance. Sometimes, this results in a small puddle outside the boxes. I place a neatly folded towel under them for the purpose of containing such spillage. It is a small difficulty and easily cleaned.

Then there is Neville. The results of the Nevsky’s wetting is without complaint. Logistically, he adds to my work, because he will often wet in one room, then cross the corridor to visit a box in another room for his pooping. He sometimes kicks up the soaker pad in the library before he leaves.

But it’s his second visit that causes some contention. His crap can create the most god-awful contamination of the air since the dawn of the Industrial Revolution. If Renn’s malodorous concoctions are like the Artful Dodger, Neville’s are Jack the Ripper. They are not just foul, they are malevolent, as if they represent the birth of some hideous demon. What’s more, in his joy to be rid of such abominations, Nev will sometimes rush from  the box without actually waiting for the logical conclusion. Sometimes I find the evidence of his monstrous actions on the floor in front of the box. I must dawn my magical armour, gather up the disgusting little enemies of light and cast them back to the nether regions whence they came. (No, not those nether regions; metaphorical nether regions.)

Well, when all is written and done, they aren’t too bad a lot. I have been lucky, really. Cammie used to wet just outside the box half the time. I placed a soaker pad there and little trouble ensued. Josie would wet outside as well, but that was a reflection of her once large bum sticking out the entrance, and even when she was old and weak, she would dutifully make the trip to the box to do her business. Few of my other cats of fond memory gave me problems, and never habitually.

I could use larger boxes, but space is, well, cosy, in the Cosy Apartment, and, except in the case of Tucker’s few transgressions, would probably change nothing. I have experimented with uncovered boxes but have found no difference. As everyone who has cats knows, litter-boxes are not just feline washrooms, but barometers of cat-health. I watch their habits, their products; a change in texture or quantity, irregularity or discolouration; all are part of the constant vigilance on behalf of the cats’ well-being. If I were rich enough to afford a dozen maids and several footmen, I would still scoop the beasts’ litter-boxes myself, to keep apprised of the animals’ conditions.

Besides, I doubt that there is money enough in all the world to induce anyone else to face the devil from Neville.

Tuesday, April 20, 2021

The Eyes of Mr Poly

Tucker usually isn’t one to observe the outdoors. He likes to smell the scents coming through the screens, especially in the spring, but he doesn’t spend much time seeing what can be seen, except when I hold him at the kitchen window.

But we’ve had a small grey cat coming by our outside food-bowl recently. She is, I am told, an owned cat and will be moving with her family some time this month. She is healthy-looking and friendly. When the Tuxter sees her, he is greatly interested. Other cats will stir his curiosity to a degree, but this one seems more intriguing to him than others. (You may have to click on the picture and enlarge it, to make anything out.)

If she weren’t already someone’s, I might have brought her in. I suspect she would be willing, and would probably be adopted by someone quite soon after. She will have to be content with her current family, however, and the roly poly will have to be content with views through glass. I think, whether he knows it or not, he would probably prefer it that way.

Sunday, April 18, 2021

You're Welcome

Saturday was a red-letter day for Neville and me. The Nevsky loves his chin-rubs, but I think they over-stimulate him at times, as he will swat my hand away or threaten to nip it now and then. I don’t take offence at this. It doesn’t happen often; when he has had enough, he usually just leaves.

When Nev climbs onto my lap as I sit on the couch, he will usually stay for only ten minutes or so, receiving chin- or face-rubs, and then jumping down or moving to the other end of the couch. Saturday, he remained for about half an hour.

Why that day was different than others, I don’t know. I must have rubbed him the right way, because he stayed so long my hand was starting to cramp up from so much rubbing. But I didn’t mind. He and I don’t share time as frequently or for as long as the other two beasts and I do; Nev doesn’t express the desire very much. That is changing very slowly.

Whenever I sit on the couch, I tell him to come over. Sometimes he does, sometimes he doesn’t. But he knows he is welcome. And no matter how long his moments with me last, he’ll never outstay that welcome.