Wednesday, July 17, 2024

Learning the Rules

Indigo is spending more time out of the library, and even venturing into the sitting room, as long as she thinks the other cats are snoozing somewhere. She is also learning more about the rules of the household, and how to ignore them. After I took this picture, I removed her from the kitchen counter. She protested, probably asking what the problem was, since she did the same thing every day for eight hours while I was at work…

Tuesday, July 16, 2024

My Problem Child

Tempo is going through a bad period. After a short time of eating and drinking well, she began refusing food last Saturday. She has turned her nose up at all cat-food, and was eating only human food - roast chicken and ground beef. Yesterday, she stopped eating even that. Sardines and other fish have no appeal for her. I know that she is hungry, but she won’t eat. She squats by water-bowls, as if she is thirsty, but won’t drink. I have begun syringe-feeding her, and I gave her an amount of Cerenia appropriate to her weight. She is scheduled to see the veterinary on Thursday - I couldn’t get her in earlier - but I hope that the Cerenia will have a positive effect by then.

She seems otherwise well, though I think she is weak from the lack of food. She purrs and is alert when she watches out the windows. She has chased insects, and so is not losing interest in the world - just in any kind of food. I know that some cats decline food when in heat, but the girl shows no signs of that right now. Having an adult go through this would be bad enough, but seeing a kitten with this strange malady is worrying. I don’t know that an appetite stimulant would help because, as I wrote, Tempo is hungry: she simply won’t eat.

Some good wishes directed her way won’t be refused.

Sunday, July 14, 2024

His Name Was Renn

Renn’s portrait has been added to the memorial wall. I had long had in mind this picture, if ever my big boy were to die. The fact is, I never thought much about him dying, even when he was old and frail, because he had been with me for so long. But everything passes away; even the stones of the Earth crumble into dust, eventually. And even Renn has left, to go on ahead.

He was my good and long-lasting friend. His name was Renn, and I will remember him.

Friday, July 12, 2024

In Memoriam: Renn

Before I begin writing of Renn, I want to thank Ann of Zoolatry, and Ingrid of Meezer’s Mews & Terrieristical Woofs, for the work they put in to create the badges that now have taken their places on my sidebar. The results of their efforts are, as may be seen, beautiful, and wonderfully honour my big boy Renn.

Renn – Renfrew Foster, to give him his full name - came to me in May of 2010, when he was three years old. He was one of five brothers, born feral to a socialised cat who had been abandoned in a country park. Renn and his brother, Charlie, were in a foster-home when Renn bit the woman who was caring for him. She was trimming his bum-hair and he didn’t like that. As a result, he was put more or less permanently in the basement. I was asked to take him in to the Cosy Apartment.


Renn was inquisitive from the start. I called him my scientist, because he was always curious about how things worked, especially water. I wrote this in an early blog-entry: “Water. The abiding mystery in Renn’s life. He will watch its flow, its ebb, its stillness; the way it ripples, the way it drops. There is something endlessly fascinating about water for my big boy. He will stare at the bowl from which the cats drink. He will climb up onto the counter next the basin in the bathroom and stare at a tap that hasn’t even dripped, because he knows it may. He will tap water’s surface, to test its texture. Falling water has the allure of a living animal for Renn: his ears turn straight ahead, his eyes grow large, his movements become jerky and attentive. What is this attraction? He drinks water, so he knows what it is, yet its qualities are to him what the stars were to a Renaissance astronomer.”


He also liked watching insects - a moth or a fly - and birds, congregating or flying over a lawn, or from tree to tree. The world was a wonderland for my Renn.


He was a prodigious sniffer with that big nose of his, a feature shared with all his brothers, each of whom was eventually adopted (as was their mother.)


I recall that initially he and Josie, my Chubs, would have disagreements, and would come to blows, though not serious ones. They eventually came to understand one another and consequently, to leave each other alone. There was also a brawl with Tucker, who arrived soon after Renn. Fur flew in that one, and I think the roly-poly had the better of my big boy. But in fact, Renn was never much of a fighter. He was a big, strong cat, and could have thrown his weight about, literally, but chose the way of peace in most cases. He would become annoyed, and utter a long, drawn-out whine; this became well-known in my household. He never did like either his bum-hair or his claws cut, and submitted to such inconveniences only under duress. But physical altercations involving Renn were rare.


It was with Tungsten, my first cat, that Renn developed a friendship; his only one with another cat. They often lie together on a chair, and they groomed each other, a rarity among my beasts. Their acquaintance began a little rockily, however: Renn was using his big nose to sniff the the orange one, and Tungsten didn’t like it. She delivered Renn a whap on the top of the head that made my teeth rattle. Renn was more respectful of the tiny terror’s personal space thereafter, and they became chums.

Initially, Renn was very shy of visitors, and, in particular, the roofers working on the neighbouring building frightened him. He would often retreat to his ‘roofless cave’: a lidless box I fixed to the top of the kitchen cabinets. It was a safe spot for him. But it was not long before his natural sociability came to the fore. He gained confidence. He would apply his empirical policy to guests: he would watch and listen; if they seemed harmless, he would come out to say hello. With repeat visitors, he was quite relaxed. He would lie next to them and let them rub his chest, which he loved.


I forgot recently how much Renn liked to play. He enjoyed the string-toys, and would run and leap - and he could leap! - after it. He would run through the nylon tunnel, and hide in it, wrestling with the string-toy as it swung by on the outside. He would play by himself, too, and also, in his early days with me, chase and be chased by Tucker - once they had resolved their differences.


He was a light eater. I would often remark to others about how Renn could maintain his fine physique, with his obvious strength, on such a small amount of food. He would eat what amount he wanted, and nothing could coax him to eat further. Yet it fuelled his energy, gave him power to climb and jump. The Renster was an active fellow.


And his whiskers! They were as magnificent as was his whole form. They spread like curved rapiers from his big snout. I am sure that he was proud of them.


One of the events of which he was likely not proud was the monster in the closet. He was rummaging in a closet one evening; I should have paid attention to what was in there and discarded it, because he somehow managed to stick his head through the handles of a soft plastic bag. The closeness of it, and its rustling, brittle noise undoubtedly startled him. It became some nefarious creature attached to his back, and he tried to flee from it. He dashed through the house, from one end to the other. Tucker was as terrified, and also ran, trying to escape whatever was attacking his fellow. Renn, panicking, must have determined that Tucker was running to safety, so he followed the sausage-shaped cat at top speed; everywhere Tucker ran Renn ran, also, seemingly to chase him. I had to catch Renn as he flew up the stairs from the basement, letting Tucker rush by and grabbing his inadvertent pursuer. A pair of scissors removed the monster, and another enemy of felinity vanquished.


Other memories include how he liked to hang his head over the edge of the cat-tree platform on which he was lying. When on human chairs, however, he preferred to lie on his back; not the most graceful of postures, but it was probably comfortable.


We had our moments together. He was, for most of his life, my companion on movie-nights. Saturday nights, I would sit down to watch the film and, soon be joined by my big boy, who would come ambling in to lie down on the couch beside me. He rarely remained awake through the movie, more frequently than not sleeping through it. But now and then a moving image on the television screen would attract his attention, and he always noticed the ringing of a telephone.


And he was my bath-buddy. He would saunter into the bathroom as the tub was filling. He would, much of the time, stay for the whole bath. Finding a spot unoccupied on the bathmat afterward was not easy for me, with a bath-buddy the size of Renn lying there. Lately, his inclusions in bath-time were of a much shorter duration, but even on his last Saturday with me, he came in for a visit for a few minutes.


He was also my bed-buddy, sleeping on the bed the entire night for many years. This changed as he aged and preferred cooler spots in the high summer. But he always spent some time on the bed. I would wake in the dark and move my feet under the covers; I could usually feel his bulk lying on the comforter at the bed’s far end. In the last few years, he had the habit of coming up to talk to me after I’d climbed under the blankets, and before I turned out the lights. I would ask him about his day, and see if anything was amiss before the hours turned into tomorrow. He would purr.


His purr was deep and rumbling. It had often to be encouraged before it was heard. Rubbing his chest was like starting a motor. But there was no mistaking when he was happy. And he was happy often.

I sometimes called him my ‘big dog’: his size and colouring put me in mind of a sheep-herding dog…

Renn fought his battles. He had to have most of his teeth removed, starting with two in 2017. In 2019, he began showing signs of kidney disease. Remarkably, he kept that at bay for five years. With increased water-consumption and subcutaneous fluids, he continued to fare adequately. Kidney problems will often contribute to early morning vomiting, and Renn certainly had that. If it wasn’t simply food coming up, it was hairballs. But my big boy gave fair warning: the first heave would wake me, and I almost always had time to put a bucket or box lid under him before he upchucked.

As he aged, he started walking on his whole feet, rather than his toes, as cats should. Arthritis was taking its toll. But he still liked to satisfy the lingering curiosity of the scientist. I would let him go for a walk down the corridor outside the apartment, knowing he was now too feeble to run away.


At the beginning of this year, Renn developed a mass in his bladder, though it seemed neither cancer nor stones. It did fill his bladder and make him feel as though he needed to wet, however, so some anti-inflammatory medicine was prescribed. This made him more comfortable for another six months.


But he was nearing his seventeenth birthday, and he was very old. He had trouble walking periodically, stumbling or slipping. But he continued to make it to the litter-box, and when I sat at my computer, Renn would rise from where he was lying on the bed and come nearer to me. And he was very thin; he was losing weight and when he lie down, he looked flat.


In the last week of his life, his abdomen swelled, and he stopped eating. It turned out that a hard mass had formed in or on his intestines. It may or may not have been related to the mass in his bladder; in any case, it was blocking passage of food. Renn instinctively knew what it was doing and had stopped eating. I syringe-fed him some Recovery convalescent food, not knowing that nothing was getting through. The blockage was, in fact, causing him pain, and I inadvertently added to it. I hope he forgives me for that.


This new issue was explained to me on July 2nd, 2024, when I took Renn in to see about his sudden gain in girth. Unlike Tucker, who, when his fatal diagnosis was given, reasonably could have expected - did experience - another good day, with pain medication and appetite stimulant, Renn could look forward to nothing but more pain. I said good-bye to him then and there.

Renn was with me for fourteen years. He came as a young adult and left me an old man. He was the last survivor of the quartet I called the First Four. He and I had been through a great deal, many changes, and he knew almost every one of my cats, from the first to the latest, missing only a few early fosters. He was astonishingly tolerant of the diverse personalities who came and went.

He was the great constant in my life, and in my work with cats. Thirty felines came into his home during his life, and he tolerated them with great patience. Some stayed, others left. Renn outlasted most of them, in one way or another. Renfrew Foster, the temporary cat who stayed; Renn, who began as one-n Ren; my big boy; my very good friend.