Friday, September 22, 2023

Mr Shimmer Teaches Us

I am very pleased with how far Brazil has come. Though I may be repeating myself regarding his progress, I can add that there is now very tentative interest in him from a couple. They realise his extremely timid nature and appear to be the sort who will give the orange fellow with the shimmery fur the time he needs to adjust to a new home. It will be a wrench for Brazil to go to a different environment, but what he has achieved with me shows that he can come around to new people.

Brazil came to live with me on the first day of August. In seven weeks, he has reached the stage at which he almost never runs from me when I reach to pet him, so long as I am slow about it. Sometimes he will dart away as I approach him, but he usually comes back. I normally feed him in the library. When he previously finished his food, and I would come to check on him, he would zoom past me into the corridor; I think he hated the idea of being trapped. Now, he still runs past me, but it is without fear, and calmer.

He and Aurora are getting along very well. In addition to chasing each other, they are beginning to play-whap each other, and may soon be wrestling. They groom each other, and I would not be surprised to see them lying together some day soon. Neville still dislikes Shimmer’s proximity, but that’s Neville. Renn has little problem with it. These are generally good signs, as the family interested in Brazil have a young cat in need of a playmate, and an old cat in need of someone to be the younger cat’s playmate.

I wrote some weeks ago that one of the advantages to fostering a cat is to watch his behaviour evolve. Another advantage is being able to allow it to evolve. Foster-guardians aren’t like adopters who usually like - and have a right to expect - a cat to be their companion, in one form or another, from the start. Thanks to Brazil being in a foster-home, we know that his shyness can be overcome to the point of welcoming physical attention; that he enjoys playing with another cat; that he will not bother cats who want nothing to do with him. If such qualities are what an adopter seeks, then we are now aware that it is a matter of time until Brazil shows them. These, and other facets of his character, are valuable things to know; tools to help find Mr Shimmer the home he deserves.

Monday, September 18, 2023

A Little Fun, Now and Then

Renn is sixteen and a half and fighting kidney failure. His off-days seem to be coming with more frequency now, but so far, each time, he has recovered. He sleeps a great deal but he and I still have our talks at bed-time and spend most movie-nights together. And, once in a while, more often than one might think, he plays.

I don’t make it too strenuous for him, but he lets me know when he feels active, when he’s not in the mood, and when he’s done. Yesterday, my big boy wanted to play.

Sunday, September 17, 2023

Receiving Instructions

Cats make some interesting sounds, and Neville is no exception. He will make appreciative – possibly critical – comments when I bring him his soft-food meals; sometimes he will talk while he eats – not polite, but not quite rude, either. Rarely, he will speak at other times, seemingly for no reason, though there must be some cause.

Unlike Tucker and his eerie calls to the Home-world (, Nev’s talk doesn’t last long enough for me to record. Instead, I must transliterate. Last night, while I was brushing my teeth, he was in the sitting room, and piped up again. This is what I think he said:

“Ohhh ahhh, ohhh ahhh…errrrrrrrrrrrrr… all right, all right.”

It sounded as if he were acknowledging the receipt of instructions. I hope they were benign…

Tuesday, September 12, 2023

A Sudden Thaw

Yesterday, I came home from work to a surprise. I heard a low, heavy hum when I opened the front door, as if a motor were running somewhere in the apartment. It took me a moment to connect this sound with the sight of the open door to the freezer compartment of the refrigerator.

I don’t know how how long the door had been open, but everything in the compartment was thawed. Fortunately, I don’t keep all my frozen goods there, just those that I use often or will use soon. There were also some items that I stored there until they would be moved to the deep freeze. As a result of this little mishap, I will eating a large number of hot dogs over the next few days.

I don’t know for certain how the door to the freezer compartment opened, but I have my suspicions. They rest on someone who likes to lie on the top of kitchen cabinets and periodically leap across the narrow room to the top of the refrigerator.

Someone who, in not quite making the complete jump, might use her rear legs to give herself a push to the surface of the fridge’s top.

Someone who was lying innocently on the refrigerator when I came home, who rubbed her face on my hand as if nothing untoward had occurred. I have my suspicions, but no proof.

I wonder if she likes hot dogs…

Monday, September 11, 2023

Play of Many Colours

Aurora knew how to play before she arrived at the Cosy Apartment, but being confronted with a long cloth ribbon of many colours confounded her momentarily. She didn’t know what to make of it at first. She then started grabbing at it. She fought it and wrestled it, and now she leaps into the air to grab it. I use it to play with her and Imogen simultaneously - though separated by several feet - to show the latter that the kitten just wants to enjoy herself, as Imo does.

I enjoy learning about little Auro, and have discovered that she likes chest-rubs: very gentle chest-rubs, as befits her size and fragility. She likes being held and carried; that’s when her purring reaches its greatest strength.

Though kittens may feel delicate to humans, they don’t think it of themselves. I watch as Aurora prepares to leap from the bed to the cat-tree by the window, gathering her power in her rear end, urging herself forward. I can almost hear her exhorting herself, “I can do it!” And indeed she can.

Brazil has started grooming her. I don’t think Auro knows what to do about it, but if she doesn’t respond positively yet, neither is she put off. I heard them both running about the apartment this morning as I was preparing to leave for work, but every time I looked, they had vanished from view. I don’t believe they were running together, but feeling energetic and active at the same time is another step closer to playing together.

And afterward, even kittens tire out and need a rest. An adult sized cat-bed will do just fine.

Saturday, September 9, 2023

Improvements and Not

Some things have improved since Aurora’s arrival, some have not.

Brazil has come out of hiding and is nearly back to where he was before being traumatised by the suggestion that he eat his meals in the bathroom. He allows me once again to pet him but, as priorly, I must calm him first and not startle him. That aspect of his socialisation will, I trust, become better with time. He is also trying to reacquaint himself with Aurora, sniffing her back and flanks a great deal and even seeming to invite her to chase him. Nothing has come of it so far.

Imogen feels very put out by Aurora, and has even abandoned eating on top of the cylinder-house cat-tree because Aurora has taken to lying in it. I feel very badly about these self-imposed limitations that Imo has made for herself, but there is little that can be done about them at the moment. We will see what time will cause in that regard, too.

But I don’t think that Aurora will be with me for long. She is too attractive and lively a kitten not to be noticed by some likely adopter. When that happens, Miss Silky won’t be so sulky. Until the next new arrival comes to stay.

Friday, September 8, 2023


Last Sunday, I wrote about the rescue-group’s attempts to capture the injured mother of three kittens we had managed to trap. I am pleased to write that, between then and now, the little mother-cat has been caught. This is her pictured below; she has been named Emori.

She is pregnant again. She has seen the veterinary who assessed her missing foot (there will be surgery on that) and discovered that Emori is carrying six more kittens, to be brought into the world as early as next week. A small girlcat, not more than a year old, Emori weighs less than 3.5 kilograms (7.716 pounds), and a substantial portion of that is unborn kitten. To feel her body, one can easily determine that Emori is under-weight, and had not been finding enough food to keep going. Without the kind couple feeding her and her offspring (the same couple who contacted the rescue and helped trap the family), Emori likely would have starved. She was, even before they were trapped, showing some hostility to her first litter, which suggested a second was on its way.

(As an aside, Emori soon will have had nine kittens within four months. A feral’s life outside averages six years; if an abandoned insider such as Emori is lucky enough to survive that long, nine kittens, every third of a year for six years, produces 162 kittens. Few of them would have lived long, which is another kind of tragedy.)

However,  Emori is safe inside now, and ready for her second big event. Her first three (we hope they were her first) are also safe in a foster-home: presenting Julien (the orange boy), and his sisters, Klarra (black) and Evelyn (tortoiseshell).

But their advent - and the future arrival of more kittens - has necessitated a re-arrangement among the few foster-homes the rescue-group has, including mine. Consequently, I have received another new cat. Meet Aurora.

She is a four month old torbie; an orphan, she was taken in by the family who were fostering Astrid (readers may recall her and her four). Astrid and one of her kittens have been adopted, while another who, like Aurora, was accepted by Astrid as her own foster-kitten (even as she herself was being fostered) has also been adopted. This leaves three of Astrid’s still waiting for their permanent homes, plus Aurora. They are joined in foster hood by Julien, Klarra and Evelyn. So far…

Is that all clear?

But wait, there’s more! Aurora is the sweetest little creature you could want to meet. She was quite unfazed by her changed world, and didn’t even need to be isolated, since she came from another foster-home, and was ready to come and meet everyone.

Everyone was not ready to meet her. Before Aurora arrived at the Cosy Apartment, I assumed she would need isolation in the safe-room (the library). Though Brazil does not need the library anymore, it is still where he takes his meals. He objected to being fed elsewhere - in preparation for Aurora, I uncouthly suggested the bathroom for Brazil’s dining room. He objected. That and the appearance of the new kitten put Brazil under the bed for the rest of the day.

This is ironic, since he knew Aurora in their previous foster-home and they had played together. I am still hoping they will become friends and take pressure off of Imogen.

On the subject of Miss Silky, she has taken immediate offence to the newest-comer and has retreated to the highest kitchen cabinets.

So we have some work to do with regard to feline relations. I have no doubt that all will turn out well; it is just a matter of time. I do wonder, though, if Aurora might have been re-named Spanner upon coming to live with us. She seems, after all, to be one of them in the works…

Thursday, September 7, 2023

Relaxed in the Saddle

Brazil has made great strides in trusting me, which now allows me to get to know him further. He will alternate between running madly away from me and remaining still or even coming up to me, and I haven’t determined what I do to influence his decision in the matter. But when he runs, his retreat can often be arrested by calling his name in a coaxing manner. It’s as if he flees as a reflex, rather than in a reasoned response.

He will lie down frequently and permit, even want, me to stroke his back, down to his tail. He seems a little skittish about having his head and face rubbed, but I will work my way into that. A stride forward has been achieved in his simple tolerance of my presence. For instance, when he took to lying in the saddle of the saddle-topped cat-tree in the bedroom, he would always vacate it as soon as I stepped into the room. Then, he started waiting until I walked around the bed, in his direction, before jumping down. Now, if I keep my back to him, I can usually make my way around the bed without startling him into flight.

The newcomer needs a playmate. He tries to interest Neville in playing. This merely angers my grey lion. He fares no better with Renn. And attempts to chase Imogen are interpreted by Miss Silky as attacks, and result in growls and hisses, or worse. At the moment, I am not in a position to bring in a fifth cat, but that is an option. There is, of course, no guarantee that a newer-comer would be more receptive to play than Imo or the oldsters, but it is a good possibility.

For now, I will try my hand at playing with Brazil though, so far, he has been unnerved by such actions, so this too will take time. However, I have seen that time is a friend to Brazil and me, and we will continue to see what it can do to help.

Wednesday, September 6, 2023

Her Attention Caught

For some reason, Imogen has never been interested in looking at the world through the kitchen window. But yesterday afternoon, something caught her eye after she jumped up on the ledge under the window, preparatory to leaping up to the top of the kitchen cabinets. She stopped and spent considerable time watching.

If you enlarge the third photograph, you may be able to make out the magpie, to the left of the yellow sand-bin in the middle distance. Fortunately for Imo, the bird hopped closer, oblivious to the possibly murderous desires of the cat behind the window. Or perhaps fully cognizant of them, and chuckling.

Miss Silky was not amused in any case.

Monday, September 4, 2023

Wear and Tear

Recently, I published an entry that featured Imogen lying on the ancient micro-wave oven that I own, one dating back to about 1980. In that year, we probably would have been surprised to learn that forty years thence, people would be thinking of goods manufactured in the last quarter of the twentieth century as of durable quality. But everything is relative and compared to now, craftsmanship of the 1980s was like Geppetto’s skill and care in carving Pinocchio.

The point is that some things last. And others would last but for cats. I write now of my bedspread. I bought it in the summer of 2020. It is still serviceable, but it is showing both wear and tear. At one time, the tufted, narrow ridges running its length were strong and marked. Now, in patches, they have disappeared; too many furred bodies lying, rolling, turning and grooming upon them.

And then there are the holes. It takes only a tiny puncture to begin, like a black hole that will eventually swallow the universe. (I would not be surprised to discover that black holes are caused by the untrimmed claws of a great cosmic cat.) I don’t know who caused the large wound, but of course, once started, such apertures grow. There are a number of them now, weakening the structure of the bedspread and allowing for still more and wider holes.

As well, the bedspread, once a perfect rectangle, has been pulled and stretched, and no longer retains its pure shape.

Some day, I will have to buy another, and another after that. But at some point in the future, I will be too old for cats, and I will look at a bedspread, still pristine after years of use, and wish for a tiny puncture to begin.

Sunday, September 3, 2023

The Exciting Bit

There are different stages to rescue-work. At the moment, the group of which I am part is engaged in trapping a little feline family, whose mother is injured. We have captured the three kittens, but the mother, not feral but distrusting, remains elusive, more experienced and wilier than her offspring. We will get her and help her.

That part of rescue is tense and exciting; it is, when the anti-climactic sound of the trap-door signals a successful capture, greatly rewarding. But it is usually just the start of the hard work. Yet that hard work is exciting, too.

Brazil is not feral. He never was, really, having been caught as a kitten and socialised. But he regressed, and was similar in many ways to a feral, or at least semi-feral, cat. Readers will recall what has happened so far in my attempts to reverse that process. Yesterday, I was able to take a step forward.

(Pardon the blurs: these count as action shots.) So far, such permission to pet has come only at meal-times. Brazil mills about, impatiently complaining, quietly, that his food is taking a long time to prepare. Meanwhile, he allows me to pet him, to stroke him, to run my hand down his back and touch his tail. This is a first for us.

We have a long way to go. But I see progress in other directions. Brazil used to bolt from any room into which I walked. Now, he will sometimes remain. Other times, when he runs, it is with less speed; one might say he trots, rather than gallops, away from me. And as often as not, he will stop when I call his name.

As well, I am learning about his character. He wants a friend. He has been trying to interest Imogen, but Miss Silky is having none of it. Imo was friends with Percival, so it can happen. I have also seen Brazil try to show comradeship, if not affection, with Neville. During the wait for food, the orange newcomer has rubbed up against Nev, under the grey lion’s chin. I have seen that before: several cats in the feral colony I help manage do that when they know food is on the way. The Nevsky has never had such attention and he didn’t like it. He put the bitey on Brazil, in a minor way. (Lacking almost all his teeth, it is in a very minor way.) Brazil has always had feline companionship – to be precise, friendship – and has not been hostile to any of the cats here. A chum in his permanent home would be an asset.

But first things first. A big step has been taken: Brazil has let me touch him, numerous times and at comparative length. It may not be trapping a cat who needs medical assistance, or bringing starving kittens in from the wild. But when it comes to rescue-work, it is, nonetheless, exciting.

Saturday, September 2, 2023

The New Comfy

Other cats live here besides Brazil, and they have been clamouring for attention. Well, they’ve been lying about snoozing. Potayto, potawto…

Imogen has found a new spot for making herself comfortable. It’s hard to believe, but she seems to like it. This is a cat, after all, who spends only half her nights sleeping on a bed, while stretching out at other times on the hard tops of bookcases and kitchen cabinets. This is my newest perma-cat, curled up on top of the micro-wave oven. If she could, she would express pleasure that I haven’t yet changed to a sleek, two-pound, over-the-stove, modern model. It takes a 1980-vintage appliance, the size and weight of a Volkswagen Beetle, to provide true relaxation.

Wednesday, August 30, 2023

Watching Him Change, Slowly

One of the most interesting things about fostering a cat is seeing his behaviour evolve. Brazil is a good example. He remains wary of me in most cases. But he is becoming accustomed to me, as well. Meal-times bring him out of the library, his safe-room, to wait with the boys. He is impatient for his food, talking (complaining) quietly through its preparation. When the bowl is brought to the library for eating (I still feed him shut up in there; if he can roam at meal-times, he often will inject himself into others’ food, either because he is finished with his or wants to see if there is something better on someone else’s dish), he will dance in front of it until I set it down. He will risk proximity to me to start eating as soon as possible.

He spends quite a bit of time out of the library, in the sitting room, visiting the kitchen, using the litter-boxes in the store-room. And he has begun another new habit: he lies under my bed, near a corner where the bedspread covers him. This is intriguing because if he were afraid of me enough to hide, he would stay in the library or, in extremis, in the library’s closet. Instead, he lies under the bed, knowing I am in the room, just feet away. The only explanation I can conceive is that he wants to be close enough to study me, but wishes to remain moderately hidden, as well. This may be too human a solution to this new puzzle, but it may be true nonetheless.

Beyond this, the way he lies in the library, under the window, on top of the shorter bookcase, is more relaxed than priorly. He rarely squats hunched up, ready to bolt. Now, he stretches out, actually lying down. It would take him a couple of seconds to put himself into a position to run, so it is not the posture of fear. This in itself pleases me.

Imogen had been chasing Brazil almost on sight, but now does it intermittently, settling for growling and hissing instead. Renn will sniff at the newcomer but he and Neville largely ignore him. We’ve a long way to go, Brazil and I, but we are getting there. We are in no hurry.

Sunday, August 27, 2023

The Benefit of His Doubt

Well, Brazil surprised me today. It began at breakfast, when he appeared at the door of the library, wanting to know where his food was. He has done that before a few times. But this morning, he did not back away when I approached him with his bowl. He hissed at me as I knelt to place it on the floor, but again, he did not retreat. He ate his breakfast on the library’s threshold.

Then, this afternoon, I was making sandwiches for my week’s lunches. Brazil came out of the library and wanted to know what I was doing. I offered him some of the ‘chicken-spread’ I was using, and he ate it off my fingers.

Still later, about an hour after the beasts’ dinner, Brazil started roaming about the apartment. I was soon preparing my own dinner, but, though wary, the newcomer continued to move about. He still darted for the library when I passed close by, but he didn’t do it every time. While I ate dinner, he lie down on the floor about five feet away – though only briefly; he was off again exploring, perhaps seeing if the apartment in the daylight was the same as at night. He wandered into the sitting room, then into the bedroom. He visited the bathroom and utilised the store-room’s litter-boxes. And, for the first time, I saw him drink water; not from the library’s bowl, but from that in the bedroom.

Brazil appears suddenly more confident in his place here. He returns to the library closet, even so, but I realised that I have not seen him sleeping. I suspect he sleeps in the closet, where he can shut his eyes and snooze with greater security from the attackers who may yet be lurking in his new home.

Also, he sniffed Neville’s flanks – the Nevsky not bothering to respond – and sniffed noses with Renn. He couldn’t do better than to become my big boy’s pupil in learning behaviour toward humans.

A great distance needs yet to be travelled, and much can send him back the way he has come. But I think Brazil has made a decision about his new home. He hasn’t accepted it, but he may be willing to give it the benefit of the doubt.

Saturday, August 26, 2023

Maybe I Would Like That

For a few months, Renn has been coming to the dining table at dinner-time and waiting to be given morsels of the meal. He has done this sporadically for years, but now it is a habit, from which he will refrain only on one of his off-days. He will sit on the edge of the dining area and wait.

My big boy will not receive anything messy, such as a portion of stew, but if I am eating chicken or beef, he enjoys pieces, cut small enough so as not to present too much trouble for his few teeth. His favourite fare is roasted pork, probably because of the strong taste derived from the fat.

And if I am fortunate enough to have a rare helping of ice cream, Renn gets to lick the bowl (only vanilla, in his case). This too is something new. Perhaps he recalls Tucker’s fondness for the dessert.

No matter what the age, no matter how set in his ways, something always seems to be changing in a cat. It’s usually a minor alteration, which is probably good, and the core character remains constant. But now and then, a cat seems to think to himself, “You know, maybe I would like that…”

Wednesday, August 23, 2023

That Certain Feeling

It’s been a few days since I’ve reported from the Cosy Apartment. The fact is that there is not much to report, which is rather a relief. Renn sneezes his usual amount but eats decently and purrs readily; Neville still dirties his bum from time to time, but not always; Imogen is active half the day, a lump the other half, but affectionate throughout.

Brazil continues his improvements, albeit slowly. He doesn’t hide as much – though he is still invisible for the majority of the day. But he shows himself more, doesn’t run from me quite as much, and even pokes his head out of the library at meal-times, as if to make sure he will be receiving his share.

The real change is in the weather. Every year, it seems, there comes a point in the late summer, in August and not even September, when there arrives an autumnal sense in the air. There will be hot days yet but even high temperatures feel a little different than the same temperatures a month before. It’s like when the current from a forced-air furnace is still blowing up through the vents, but the heat is diminishing, in preparation to shutting off. Warm breezes are less convincing, as if their minds are elsewhere. The grass is still a deep green and the leaves haven’t even turned colour, never mind fallen. Yet there is a change.

I don’t mind this. The torrid temperatures of summer don’t please me, though the bleakness of winter doesn’t treat me any better. Early autumn, with its crisp night air and daytime skies whose blue is just a little duller than a few weeks priorly, provides just the right weather for me. The period doesn’t last long; in fact, its harbingers seem to endure longer than the season itself.

Gradually, we are preparing ourselves here. Windows are open less wide and blankets pulled up at night. And slowly, the Cosy Apartment feels a little cosier.

Sunday, August 20, 2023

Wee Hour Rambles

Brazil continues to make progress in the Cosy Apartment. Though he is still quite shy with me, he nonetheless seems curious, and will, instead of immediately fleeing when I come into the library, stop, half-hidden, and watch me.

Last night provided another big step forward: as has become his wont, he left the library after I went to bed; he not only explored the sitting room, but came into the bedroom, climbed the cat-trees there and looked out the window. He knew where I was – in bed - and where the other cats were, but this did not deter him.

I heard him give some slow, low warnings to someone – Neville, I knew, since the other perma-cats were accounted for – but I am not worried about any confrontation; Nev doesn’t care about asserting himself with any newcomer, and Brazil isn’t a fighter. Of more concern was the fact that Brazil talked through much of his excursion: isolated little meows, perfectly suited to keep a human awake at three o’clock in the morning.

Considering his nearly feral shyness, Brazil’s advances are satisfactory, and I think he will continue to make them. I just wish he didn’t have to make them at three o’clock in the morning…

Wednesday, August 16, 2023

The Haunted Sanitarium

It was a pleasant day at the Cosy Apartment Feline Sanitarium, and Dr Bellen was eating his lunch outside. It was sunny, so he was enjoying the shade under a large umbrella, at a table on the terrace next the dining hall. There were clouds, large and white; they might turn grey toward evening, and rain in the night, but the mid-day was bright and warm. The sounds were of brds in the garden, and the near by brook, and the sandwiches and salad the dining room prepared were refreshing.

Then Dr Bellen saw three cats approaching him across the lawn from the administration building. They looked purposeful. Dr Bellen sighed.

“Hello, Neville. Fancy meeting you during my lunch-break,” the human greeted with a smile.

“I’m sorry to trouble you, Doctor, but I have a petition,” said the big grey cat in his low, muttering voice.

“A petition? I am surprised.”

“We felt we should accompany Neville, since it seems like official business,” said Renn, Dr Bellen’s able assistant, who had indeed accompanied the petitioner, walking on his right side, while the new assistant’s assistant, Imogen, walked on his left.

“Official business. Look, Doctor…” Imogen pointed to the scroll-like paper that Neville held.

“It’s a petition,” repeated Neville; “signed by more than 138 of the residents.” He handed the human the paper.

“One hundred and thirty-eight,” repeated Dr Bellen, examining the sheet. “It looks like there are no more than eleven paw prints on here, and they seem identical.” He raised an eyebrow as he regarded one of Neville’s forepaws.

“They grew tired of signing it,” mumbled Neville.

“I see.” Dr Bellen took a drink of his tea. “What does the petition ask?”

“The residents want a physical trainer!” said Renn breathlessly.

“A trainer for their physical well-being,” elaborated Imogen, indicating the petition again. She made a gesture as if she were lifting weights.

“Not a physical trainer,” Neville corrected, with a little exasperation. He may have explained this before. “An exerciser. Someone who gets rid of ghosts.”

“Ghosts!” exclaimed Renn, a little alarmed.

“An exorcist?” asked Dr Bellen. This petition was at least a little more interesting than previous examples. “Why would the sanitarium need an exorcist?”

“To get rid of the ghost,” answered Neville. His tone suggested that he thought the response to have been obvious.

“There’s a ghost in the sanitarium?” Renn glanced rather nervously about, as if expecting to see the phantom watching him on this bright and warm summer day. Imogen too looked around, though she was rather more defiant in her attitude.

“We’ve all seen it, Dr Bellen,” asserted Neville. “It’s rather a blur, as befits a spirit from the other dimensions, and is an orange colour. It wails in the night.”

“Orange? Wails in the—” The human sat back in his chair. “Are you talking about Brazil? The new resident?”

“The new resident is a ghost?” Renn could not believe it.

“The sanitarium provides for ghosts?” Imogen asked. “He didn’t die at the sanitarium, did he, Doctor? Was he crushed by a toppling armoire? There was never any danger from toppling armoires in my previous home…”

“Brazil did not die here,” insisted Dr Bellen with a smile. “He is, in fact, not dead at all.”

“Then why is he a blur?” demanded Neville.

“And why does he wail?” Renn wanted to know. “In the night!”

“Brazil is new here. He is a resident, just like you Neville, flesh and blood. He is just very shy, and frightened, as well. Coming to the sanitarium is a big change for him. He feels safer hiding for the moment. That’s why you don’t see him much. But he is taking steps forward, and is showing himself more and more. He feels more secure at night. That’s why he visits the exercise room—“ Dr Bellen hurriedly cut off Renn “—exercise, not exorcist…exercise room at night. He talks to himself to build up his courage and to help himself exercise.”

“He’s like Gef,” said Renn, suddenly, and brightly.

“Who?” Neville peered at him sidelong.

“Gef! He was a talking mongoose who lived in the walls of a cottage in Scotland!” Renn recalled hearing the story as a kitten.

“Isle of Man,” Imogen said.

“What?” Renn questioned.

“He lived on the Isle of Man,” the black cat stated quietly.

“Talking mongoose…” Neville regarded his two escorts. “I think you both need a physical trainer…”

The human held up his hand and, with a less lecturing tone than before, added: “Brazil is just scared. Remember, each of you was also scared when you came here. Not long ago, Imogen, you were hiding in a corner of the library.”

“I was reading…” Imogen stated flatly.

“And Renn, do you recall being afraid of the construction crew repairing one of the roofs?”

“I thought they were psychopathic vivisectionists…” the able assistant commented quietly.

“And Neville… Well, you weren’t really scared much at all…”

“Thank you,” mumbled the grey cat.

“But you just have to have a little sympathy for a new resident. He may take a while to settle in, but that’s why he is here. That’s the purpose of the sanitarium: to make cats feel good, whether physically or emotionally.”

“He’s not a ghost?” Renn wanted to make sure.

“We don’t need a physical trainer?” asked Imogen.

“No, he’s not, and no, we don’t…” Dr Bellen replied firmly.

Neville nodded, apparently satisfied. He slipped the petition into the depths of his dense fur.

“I will keep this for later…”

“Now, isn’t it past time for your own lunches?” the human inquired. “Renn, I’ll bet even you are feeling a bit peckish…”

“I am a little,” admitted Renn, purring a little with embarrassment.

The three cats turned and walked away, heading toward the dining hall. The cook was trying out some new recipes, and Imogen in particular didn’t mind some of the novel fare. Dr Bellen relaxed again in his chair, and tasted his tea, which wasn’t too cool to drink.

The haunted sanitarium… Dr Bellen chuckled; that would make a good story at Christmastide, told beside a comforting fire, sitting with friends. Maybe Brazil will be the one to tell it by then…