Friday, October 29, 2021

The Old Guard Still Stands

I started out, as many do, with one cat, Tungsten. A year and a half later, I added Josie to the family. Another year and a half passed before I brought in Renn, and very soon after that, Tucker.


Though they did not all join me together, I have always thought of these cats as my originals, the First Four. I don’t know why, since it took three years, from 2007 to 2010, to assemble the group, and I had foster-cats between their arrivals. But this quartet were my Old Guard. I wrote about them as such last year, in September, when three remained, and they seemed relatively healthy.


Tungsten died in 2015, and Josie passed away just this year. My remaining veterans have aged rapidly, it seems. Renn clearly is not as strong as he once was, and the black in his coat is shot with white. Tucker is battling diabetes and kidney failure; his eye-sight is failing and his hearing is dulled. His skin hangs on him like a great warrior’s armour on a child. And, of course, he is toothless. (“I haf no teef!”, as the once-roly poly himself might say.)


Though they barely play now, and their appetites are irregular, yet they manage to jump from the bed to the cat-trees in the bedroom. While they sleep most of their days and nights, yet they rouse themselves to indignation at the intrusion of young and impudent new cats. Renn remains my big boy, and Tucker continues to purr more than all the other cats combined.


When the last of the veterans passes, things won’t be the same in the Cosy Apartment. Like a new levy of soldiers recruited after battle is joined, those who follow will not have the same experiences, the same familiarity with this little world in which they will live. The newcomers’ bond may be fast, but it will not be that which joined the First Four together.

Nonetheless, though they have suffered casualties, and their numbers are diminished, the Old Guard still stands. In my heart they always will.

Tuesday, October 26, 2021

A Big Noise in the Small Room

Every cat has his own routine when visiting the litter-box. From where they derive their various habits is largely a mystery. I recall my Cammie would scrape at the inside walls of the hooded box, as if trying to bring down the sides of a tunnel in the dirt. Sometimes, a cat will alter his pattern, do something different, something without precedent, which creates an even bigger mystery.

A couple of months ago, Neville started to bang the insides of the litter-boxes. It is so loud and hard, I liken it to someone beating on the plastic boxes with a mallet. It is as though a fight had developed in the box, or a noisy protest against a lack of proper facilities. Maybe Nev is re-enacting a scene from Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, with the crew members being flung from one side of a room to the other by external disturbances.

The only explanation I can conceive for this new behaviour is that the Nevsky, with his long fur, will sometimes suffer from unwelcome debris, clinging to his nether regions. It may be that he has devised what he believes is a means of dislodging such inconveniences. I have never seen him in the act of hammering on the inside of the litter-boxes, so I cannot vouch for what part of his body creates the noise. In fact, I cannot determine whether it is done after number one or number two, or both.

In any case, this new action leaves little more mess than any of his previous. Nor does he do it in the wee hours of the morning. So, if it is a better means of coping with what needs to be done, I will not discourage him. Yet the mystery for me remains.

Monday, October 25, 2021

Portia's Constitutional

Portia likes the fresh air. She is often at the door leading to the concrete ditch. When Hector first came, Po was forced to find a new place in which to relax, as the library was, for the time being, out of bounds to her. She settled on the cat-tree in the sitting room by the sliding door. It turned out that she rather liked her decision, especially when the glass was opened to the screen door, and she could smell the outside.

Now, she has a habit. After each meal, she waits for me to open the glass door to the screen. Her eagerness is such that she will trot beside or in front of me to the door, anticipating its opening. Sometimes, she will croak a reprimand about my speed being insufficient.

This is Portia’s constitutional. Being unable, and probably unwilling, to go outside for a walk (however much good that would do her figure), she nonetheless enjoys how the outside comes to her. What I am going to do when the winter comes, I don’t know. The air is already chilly at night; this evening, there is a stiff wind, which is lowering the temperature further. Po doesn’t spend all night at the door, but long enough for the Cosy Apartment to lose some of its cosiness as the air inside cools to equal the air outside.

But that’s in the future, albeit the near future. For now, my round girl will take the air, smelling what the world brings her. And I will put on a sweater.

Sunday, October 24, 2021

Overturned Fun

Hector is a typical cat in that he loves boxes. This one is a favourite of both the new boy and Portia. They take turns using it; whoever gets to it first has his or her turn. Though Po will scrabble in it, especially during one of our play-sessions, trying to grab a shoe-string, Hec will use it as a springboard for a sudden rush, or to jump into or as an arena for combat with a fuzzy mouse. This time, however, he managed to overturn it.

Evidently, it’s just as much fun upside down.

Wednesday, October 20, 2021

It's How You Look At It

The angle from which one views something can create quite an impression. Last night, I think Hector was trying to appear horrible, a vicious and pitiless vampire. But then, he seemed to have doubts…

I want to thank everyone for their suggestions on how to combat the little Turk’s water-mania. I am looking to implement some of those ideas. One of the troubles is that I have different bowls, of different sizes, in different locations. I don’t want to reduce the number of water-sources or change their placement, as I think the convenience of a bowl is valuable in enticing a cat to drink. I have also learned more about Hector’s habits, which gives me a clearer picture of what may need to be done.

In the meantime, Hec will continue to entertain me and, to a much lesser extent, his fellow beasts.

Monday, October 18, 2021

The Infiltrator

Hector is slowly worming his way into the population of the Cosy Apartment. To watch him, you wouldn’t think there is anything subtle about him. Last night, however, I was at my desk and Hec came into the bedroom. He climbed the stairs to the bed and, as he does, stopped on the top step. I urged him to come forward; I thought he would cross the bed, walk across my desk and continue to the ledge under the window, as he has done before. Instead, he slowly settled himself next the pillow. Both Renn and Tucker were snoozing on the bed. Renn ignored the little Turk for a while, then left for the cat-tree. Tucker woke, stared at Hec a minute, then, with my encouragement, set his head down again and closed his eyes.

From now on, I think it will be just a matter of the perma-cats getting used to Hector. They know his behaviours; they are beginning to understand that his charges are attempts at play, rather than intimidation (which they may have been originally). This realisation doesn’t mean they approve of such actions, but they are growing accustomed to them. I think that will be the pattern in any home to which the new boy may go in the future. He would benefit greatly from a friend a year or two older than himself, a playmate, but also a slightly more mature mentor, to teach him what to do.

Until then, he will have to settle for learning from my lot what not to do.

Friday, October 15, 2021

The New Boy So Far

Hector is turning out to be a fun little guy. He’s very energetic and playful. Though I think his chasing of Neville is deplored sometimes by the latter, I don’t believe it is always unwelcome. I’ve watched them run and Neville’s is not always the hectic attempt to escape something dangerous. There may be an element of play in their interaction. Certainly when the Nevsky lies on the floor near the mouth of the nylon tunnel, in which little Turk is hiding, it is not a sign that the older fellow is demanding distance from the younger.

Hec’s soaking of the floors is abating a little. I am looking for the right tray or pan on which to place his water-bowl but, in the meantime, have noticed the newcomer’s splashing has diminished somewhat. That doesn’t mean he won’t get into trouble. He will go anywhere in search of the unknown. Actually, he will go anywhere in search of soft-food. If that takes him into the unknown, so be it.

He has had no difficulty becoming an indoor-cat. He has seen me at the door to the concrete ditch and has shown no desire to be outside. I am careful in opening doors around him, of course, but he seems happy to be inside. He is more curious of what lies beyond the door to the corridor outside the apartment but, then, that looks like a door to yet another, unexplored room of his new home, so different rules apply. But he is content to spend quiet times curled in the cylinder-house cat-tree, or lying stretched out on the heated towel in the library.

That doesn’t mean he is sedentary. He will decide to zoom through the rooms without warning, and seems especially to like starting suddenly from surfaces that shoot out from under him: a box lid, or a rug on smooth flooring.

He is an intelligent boy. He knows his new name, and the meanings of “dinner” and “snack”. He has learned quickly how to use the stairs by the bed; he also knows he’s not allowed on the kitchen counters, though this means little in practical terms…

He is most amenable to being picked up, and petted, and is partial to gentle head-rubs. He will grab my hand or fingers to bite them if annoyed with my actions but doesn’t follow through; it’s a protest, not an assault, and he responds immediately to an admonition of “uh-uh” if I feel he is too rough.

Hector is the most immediately-adoptable foster-cat I’ve had, I think, even more so than Xanadu, who was too much of a good thing, if you understand. (The X-man has settled very nicely in his new home and complements his feline siblings perfectly.) Hec is of course welcome to stay in the Cosy Apartment as long as he needs to, but with so many good qualities, it would be a shame not to see this youngster in a home with another playful cat or two, and a family of attentive and loving humans.

Tuesday, October 12, 2021

Hector's Drinking Problem

I think I’ve discovered one of the reasons why any bowl from which Hector drinks water is emptied of its contents and, sometimes, pulled half-way across a room.

I watched this weekend while the little fellow went to a water-bowl to quench a thirst. A first, he drank from it as most animals do. Then he sat up and started pounding the water with a paw. Water flew everywhere; he also struck the edge of the bowl several times. After this, he licked his paw until, I assume, all the water was removed.

Certainly, some cats will drink by dipping a paw into the water and licking the moisture from their fur. Portia does that. But to soak a paw entirely by slapping the water is new to me. Perhaps it’s a remnant of Hector’s outsider-days, when he sometimes drank from puddles (if he did).

I will be buying a different bowl for the library, where Hec drinks - and spills - most of his water. I intend for a heavily-bottomed, broad and shallow bowl. This won’t prevent him from throwing water about, but should reduce the tipping and dragging that produces most of the fugitive liquid. After that, we’ll see what we can do about the splashing.

Monday, October 11, 2021

Thankful Again, Still

Today is Thanksgiving Day. As usual, I must point out – more as a reminder to myself than as anything else – that I should be grateful for what I have - and what I have avoided, in many cases – every day, and not just today. However, at certain times, we recognise the good fortune that we may have, and give thanks, or at least express relief, for it.

As in the past, I am happy for my continued health; it is surely not what it once was. Changes in my health (they are usually negative; I never am walking down the street and realise that I suddenly have the strength of ten men) have been those which come with age, I think, and so must be expected, even if regretted. My physical well-being is better than that of many of my years. If it is worse than others, that is my fault.

I am glad of employment, and I am glad of my home, the Cosy Apartment. It continues to provide warmth on cold days and security in times that are not as safe as they once were. I am pleased that I have money and food, and the expectation of their future supply. If they are not in the abundance that are offered in daydreams, they are enough for reality, which is not everyone’s case.

And I am grateful for my cats, and the opportunities I have to take care of them. They sleep unconcerned with hunger or fear; they take for granted their meal-times, their bowls of clean water and their comfy beds. That is how it should be. I am thankful for their companionship and friendship. If their behaviour causes me inconvenience from time to time, that is not a high price to pay for their presence.

May everyone have at least as much for which to be thankful. Simple peace of mind and contentment mean a great deal, and I hope these foundations of happiness are granted to everybody.