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…

Monday, August 14, 2023

Vanishing on a Sunday Afternoon

It was a hot Sunday afternoon yesterday, so the cats did what they usually do on hot afternoons. They slept. They slept in order of disappearance. Going, going, gone…

Sunday, August 13, 2023

Recorded for Posterity

You may remember my blog-article on the day Astrid’s kittens were born. That was June 4th. They are nine weeks old now and have had their first veterinary visit and official photo-session for the rescue-group’s website. They are, in descending order, Chiff (the only girl), Dale, Raven and Theodore (who always looks worried).

Garry, found later, was adopted by Astrid and is ten weeks old.

Aurora, another orphan, was also accepted by the little mother, and is about three months of age.

While the youngsters are of course well into regular kitten-food, they seemed to need comfort after the medical appointment. Even Garry, not so old as to be brave under such circumstances, needed his mum. Astrid put up with this for several minutes.

And some parents think they have problems getting the kids to move out of the basement…

Saturday, August 12, 2023

Forward in the Darkness

Last night, Brazil took a step forward in his socialisation. It was nearly bed-time and the door to the library was open but the room’s light was off. I thought I saw a smudge-like form by the window, so I turned on the light and there he was. The significance of this was that not only was he out of the closet while the library door was open, but he did not immediately run for his refuge when he saw me.

We observed each other for a minute and then he did hasten to hide. But he was out again a moment later. This, despite me being awake and moving about the otherwise illuminated apartment, going through the usual bed-time chores. So far as I know, he was still at the window when I went to bed.

In the morning, having left the library door open all night, I saw that Brazil was once again near the window. (Though the two pictures look as if they had been taken at the same time, they were six hours apart; a characteristic of this time of year…) He remained in place, carefully watching me until the relative noise of scooping litter-boxes frightened him away.

He has not been out of the library closet today except to eat and use the box; I shut the door for a quarter-hour or so several times a day for these purposes, as I think he may not come out otherwise. The darkness seems to be Brazil’s friend; night-time evidently gives him security and courage. I know cats well enough to realise that he may not repeat his appearances tonight or for the next week or two – then again, he might. But I’ve found that in growing used to a new situation, assuming all things remain equal, a cat moves forward.

These photographs depict the Cosy Apartment’s newest guest moving forward.

Thursday, August 10, 2023

Renn at Bed-time

There are a number of routines in the Cosy Apartment; cats like them even more than humans, I think. I described one of Imogen’s routines during dinner-time. Renn and I have one at bed-time.

My big boy doesn’t always come to bed when I do. If he’s in a comfortable spot already, he may stay there; if he’s feeling particularly poorly, he will prefer to be alone. But most of the time, he will join me.

He will come up on my left side, and lie down near the edge of the bed. It will always be partly on the blanket and partly on the sheets. He will lie on his chest and stomach, but with his head up and his paws forward - couchant, as the heralds would describe it - and I will pet him. He starts to purr. I will talk to him, then, about the day that was and the day that will be.

We will do this for several minutes. But soon, it will be time to sleep. I will turn off the light and settle down under the sheets. Renn will then turn, keeping the same place but facing the opposite direction. He will continue to purr for a while, until he moves across the bed and farther down, taking up the spot in which he will usually sleep the night.

I once was told that a restaurant chef will leave the kitchen to speak to diners not only to be friendly, but to see who is eating what, and how much; what fare is preferred and how it is consumed. So it is that when Renn spends the last minutes of the day with me, I will use it to gauge how he feels, how much he purrs, what it sounds like; his breathing, his restfulness, his mood. I find that these moments are helpful in judging how my big boy feels, especially since he has entered his old age.

Then, we sleep. I wake sometimes and my feet gently prod the bed under the blanket. They find Renn in his usual place, and I go back to sleep. All is right until morning.

Tuesday, August 8, 2023

Something New Each Day

Brazil continues to take tiny steps forward. He also continues to hide in the closet. But when I catch him out of it, he doesn’t immediately take fright, and when I manage to shut the closet door on him, he stays where he can observe me, rather than hiding away on the principle of not being seen if he himself cannot see. I think he has reached the stage at which I can be judged upon my tone, words and actions, rather than assumed to be evil. That is a positive move for a shy cat.

He is also eating during the day, which is new for him. And I have heard him active in the library while it is still light out. The door to the library is open at night, when the darkness gives him security, though I don’t know if he has availed himself of the opportunity to leave the room. Certainly, others have been in it; Renn has always liked the litter-box there more than those in the store-room, despite the one in the library being the twin of a store-room box. So Brazil is fully aware that there are other felines present.

At the end of this week, I will leave the library door open while I am home, regardless of the hour. While that may violate his safe-room, I think the perma-cats will pose little threat to Brazil’s feeling of security. Once he realises that the oldsters are uninterested in him and that Imogen’s curiosity doesn’t go far, he will relax and even start to explore more.

In lieu of a photograph of the often invisible newcomer, here is one of my oldsters.

Monday, August 7, 2023

Miss Silky's Dinner-time Routine

While we wait for Brazil to come out and be friends, I thought I would continue relating the adventures of the perma-cats. In truth, there may be many adventures related before we see Brazil…

As readers may recall, Imogen enjoys eating her meals on top of the cylinder-house cat-tree. She will eat directly from her small bowl (it used to be Tungsten’s, lo these many years ago) but, as the amount diminishes, she likes to scoop portions out with her paw. Sometimes, she will lick them into her mouth from there; other times, they fall and she finds them on the cylinder-house’s roof.

After the meal, Imo will invariably hurry to the top of one of the sitting room’s tall bookcases, where she will wash herself clean.

Then, it’s over to the bookcase’s twin for a rest, sometimes peering down at lesser beings to see what they are up to. I am still surprised at how quickly Miss Silky developed routines about the apartment. I think she must have felt secure rather swiftly here, allowing her to form habits, which, in turn, reinforced her security. It’s as if she’s been here for years.

One thing she has not included in her routine is the new water-fountain. It was obtained from a friend, but so far, none of the cats has drunk from it. Neville has ignored it, Renn has sniffed at it, and Imogen has watched Renn sniff at it and wonder why he’s bothering.

Sunday, August 6, 2023

His Pattern So Far

For the third consecutive night, Brazil ate food during the dark hours. This time, he ate more, both of the hard and the soft. This establishes the pattern for which I was hoping; in time, he will grow comfortable enough to eat at any time, but for now, this is sufficient.

As well, now that I know he is developing a habit, I can leave the library door open at night. I couldn’t before, since it would have been impossible to determine if he had indeed eaten the food placed for him, or if it was one of the other beasts, who might have wandered in. Now, I won’t need to see evidence of his consumption.

Brazil is active during the night – I found under a bookcase one of the fuzzy mice I left for him on the library couch – so it is likely that he will explore the apartment, if only very tentatively, when the door is open and, more importantly, when I’m asleep.

Brazil hides during the day, which led to his new refuge. I watched a film in the library last night; the television set is in the closet, which I open for movie-time. I turned everything on, went to retrieve my popcorn, and sat down to enjoy the evening. The newcomer was, as I expected, quiet and motionless through the film; afterwards, I looked to see that he was all right, before I shut the library for the night. I couldn’t find him. It turned out that he had slipped into the closet, where he no doubt found a comfy spot amid blankets, cushions and unused cat-beds. At least he came out at some point to use the litter-box…

Saturday, August 5, 2023

A Narrow World For Now

Some readers may be wondering about the lack of news regarding the Cosy Apartment’s newest inmate, Brazil. The fact is that his reaction to the change in his homes has been extreme.

He didn’t eat for several days following his arrival here. It wasn’t a case of not having the right food. The food which he usually eats was offered. Indeed, a large assortment was offered, hard and soft, during the day and the night. He was undoubtedly hungry but had determined, probably both consciously and subconsciously, not to eat. He was angry, scared and confused.

But two nights ago, Brazil nibbled a small amount. Last night, he ate more, from both the hard- and soft-food laid out for him in the evening. I was worried that he did not consume anything during the sunny hours between the two nights, but I think now that, until he grows more accustomed to his new residence, Brazil may eat only during the night, when he feels safe. Confined right now to the library, he has nonetheless been active during the dark hours, as well. His use of the litter-box has been satisfactory, both in quality and quantity (considering his food intake) from the beginning.

The goal remains to bring Brazil to the level of being adoptable. That goal may take longer than I had anticipated, but it is still attainable. Furthermore, from what I have seen from other shy foster-cats, if successful, an integration here will shorten, perhaps even negate, similar troubles elsewhere. But first things first. He will eat more, grow used to me and meet the other beasts, the presence of whom he knows. Once done, Brazil will be ready for wider worlds.

Thursday, August 3, 2023

Reassurance for the Big Boy

I took Renn to see his doctor yesterday. For the past few days, my big boy’s appetite had been diminishing, he had been throwing up, and his feces had been very liquidy. As well, his right eye was reddish, and appeared to be irritating him. I had given him a shot of Cerenia, which curbed his vomiting, and in fact his condition had improved by the time he actually went to the hospital. (That is usually the case with patients, feline and otherwise, it seems.) But since, except for the one appointment-time I was able to secure, there was none available for a couple of weeks, I took him in anyway.

My big boy is doing quite well. He saw the doctor who has been treating him for years, and she was impressed with his positive condition. Renn had lost weight since his last visit, which, I think, was more than a year ago; the veterinary was not worried about the amount lost, though it is something to watch. Despite having diarrhea and kidney failure, Renn was not dehydrated. While he has recurring respiratory infections, his lungs sound clear. His few remaining teeth (he retains his fangs, so his dental presence looks more impressive than it is) may require attention in the future - his reaction to anaesthetic will have to be considered - though he is far from in a bad way now.

As for what had been troubling him, the doctor believes it was a rather more serious form of the infection from which Renn suffers from time to time. The veterinary was pleased that I was able to administer Cerenia by injection at home; she thinks that that calmed the stomach and gave relief to the bowels.

Blood was not tested this time: regardless of what it states about his kidneys, there is little to be done about them; some Fortiflora (which he won’t want) and eye drops were prescribed.

The doctor was surprised that Renn is sixteen now, both because of how time flies - for cats as much as for humans - and because Renn is in such good health. Though he didn’t need, after all, to visit the hospital, I think it was as well that he did. It is a relief to know that my big boy is aging so far without undue troubles or complications. With luck, that will continue - for him and for us all.

Tuesday, August 1, 2023

New to Here

Brazil arrived at the Cosy Apartment yesterday. I don’t think he finds the place all that cosy. So far as I could tell, he spent most of the time wedged between one of the bookcases and the wall. He did walk in the litter-box (without using it) and, I think, drank some water.

This may take a while.