Thursday, October 23, 2014

A Welcome at the Window

When I come home from work, there is often a cat or two looking out of a window. I can’t say for certain that they are watching for me, but it is enjoyable nonetheless to see them on a cat-tree, staring out. Tucker and Josie are the ones I see most often. In this first photograph, Tucker may be plainly seen, and Josie is almost hidden in the reflection above him.

I usually enter the house from the side-door, but sometimes I climb the steps to the front door, then peek around the corner at the roly poly one, if he’s there. I usually get a meow, silent to me, asking why I’m not coming in already.

My Chubs is most frequently seen, if gazing at the outside world, on the shorter of the sitting room cat-trees, to one side. There she is, all folded up and blob-like.

Renn I sometimes observe from outside curled up in the sitting room armchair, one of his favourite sleeping spots. But now and then, I’ll catch him at the bedroom window. The weather is getting a little cooler these days, and windier, so the windows are not open as much as they have been. My big boy has to crouch to peer out.

Cammie is sometimes watching the world from her old saddle-topped cat-tree in the bedroom, but pictures don’t show her dim-coloured body very well in such a setting. Kola will more often see me off from a window in the morning than welcome me back from one in the afternoon. And Tungsten would show up colourfully if she ever looked out a window, which she does rarely. Besides, as my veteran beast, she knows I’ll be home, so why rouse herself from a comfortable snooze just to look for me?

Seeing my cats at my windows is a sight that never fails to make me smile, especially when I return from an inauspicious day, which, at my job, is nearly every day. Yes, I will spend the next forty-five minutes feeding the animals, sifting through their litter-boxes, sweeping up debris and perhaps even cleaning up the odd pile of vomit. But then I will eat, and finally relax, and my cats will tell me I’m home.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

A Brighter Future, One Step at a Time

I am quite proud of Cammie. Last night represented the first time I was able to pick her up without her protesting in some way, usually with a violent hiss. I was sitting at the table after dinner, writing, and, as she often does, the Siamese princess came over, wanting to get on my lap. She will usually jump up and stay there for ten or fifteen minutes. At other times, she will not be in the best of moods, and will leap down again after just twenty or thirty seconds. I don’t think she is, at these moments, displeased with me. She will be dissatisfied with that evening’s dinner or perhaps one of the other cats.

Once in a while, she will hesitate before jumping onto my lap. Last night was such an instance. So I simply reached down and picked her up. Cammie is not a violent cat. She is not aggressive. She puts on a good show - she puts on a spectacular show - but she will scratch only in extremis. I have been hurt worse and more frequently by my other beasts (though in every case it was either an accident or they had gotten carried away while playing.) But Cammie may have deep memories of being abused, and being seized unexpectedly may trigger them.

But perhaps those memories are receding. Perhaps she feels less reason to fear; certainly, she allows me to pet and stroke her more than ever these days. Perhaps it’s because I put her on my lap sooner than she could react. One second she was on the floor, the next, on my legs, where she almost immediately started purring. Maybe this being picked up isn’t such a bad thing, she thought. Maybe I’ll get him next time, she thought.

In any case, this is progress. She becomes more and more accustomed to being touched and handled. It’s slow work, but with each step, Cammie's future becomes brighter.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Age of Wonders

I should know better than not to be surprised by my cats.

Tucker has wanted to beat up and bully Kola since the latter arrived as a foster-cat. I attributed this to the roly poly one’s reluctance to remain on the bottom of the totem pole. He decided that Kola, being de-clawed and, as a result, shy and pacific, was defenceless. The law of the jungle dictated that this was the perfect victim. I have been letting Kola out of the parlour much of the time, but only while I am present to supervise the results.

I had been letting him out at night, too. There were a few scuffles but I was woken and swiftly separated the parties, with no harm to Kola except his nerves. Recently, however, Tucker has been coming into the parlour at night. One early morning, about two o’clock, I woke and checked on Kola, who was ill at the time. I saw not the floof-king on his heated towels, but a stouter and stubbier animal. Kola was hiding under my computer table. There were no blows struck, and Tucker was snoozing, but clearly Kola was frightened, so I evicted Tucker. Since then, Kola has been in the parlour at night, with the door closed.

Tucker still stares at Kola, intensely, and I usually talk to the sausage then to distract both his gaze and his thoughts, which probably are not about the universe at large and the various mathematical inconsistencies therein. I dislike chasing Tucker out of the parlour when it is open; it is part of his home, and he deserves to have the use of it. On the other hand, I want Kola to feel safe, and to have a refuge. As late as Saturday evening, during movie-time, Tucker came in to the parlour and, jumping up on the ottoman, lie down for a snooze. He was on one side of my feet, and Kola on the other. But the foster-cat nonetheless felt too uncomfortable at the propinquity, and got down to hide under the computer table.

Yet what happened the next day? That sunny afternoon, Tucker waddled in to the parlour, said ‘hello’ to me, then jumped up on the ottoman, ambled around Kola, who was already lying there, and set his tubular form on the heated towels, which were vacant. I started talking to the beasts, trying to keep them calm - especially the floofy one. Eventually, Kola lay his head back down, and the two remained quiet for about half an hour. The peace ended only when Tucker decided to get a drink of water, and left the room.

I have no illusions of this being the end of chases and beatings. Kola remains locked in the parlour alone when I am absent. And yet, if Tucker will curb his desire to assert his mancatliness and Kola will control his fear, something better may yet arise from this one half-hour. We may yet live in an age of wonders.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

The Effect of Starvation

I would like to feed all my cats only soft-food, good quality tinned products. That’s not going to happen. Some will simply not eat the best that I can provide (Cammie). Some eat too little soft-food (Tungsten). Some eat soft-food today but not tomorrow, but maybe the next (Renn). I have attempted to give them different brands, different flavours. If I had fed them only soft-food from the moment they had come to me, perhaps I would have succeeded in keeping them on such a diet. However, that was not the case, so I do now what I can.

And what I can do is try another experiment. When I get home each day from work, I feed the beasts a soft-food dinner. I give them a similar meal, which they know as ‘snack’ about eight o’clock. In the interval, they are free to nibble on the hard-food. I have now removed this option. It has resulted in a better and fuller consumption of the soft-food I give them at snack-time. I am only into the third day of the experiment, but I like what I see. I may extend the experiment to other times.

But what a fuss it has created. The period between dinner and snack-time is now filled with prowling carnivores seeking a kill with which to slake their hunger; cringing mendicants grovelling at my feet, begging for scraps; vultures swirling about looking for scant pickings in a land of immortals, and self-pitying whiners who bewail the skeletal remains of once sleek and stout bodies. You would think these cats were Oliver Twist in the workhouse.

And when, after the snacks have been disbursed, after time has been given for digestion, I put the hard-food bowls back down, they have the gravitational pull of red giants on tiny asteroids. Last night, I observed something I had never observed before. Have you ever seen pictures of a family of cats, all eating at once, all from bowls arranged in a close-set line? Perhaps that is your family. It’s not mine. I feed my animals practically in separate rooms. But last evening, Tucker and Renn were too hungry to wait, too hungry to dislike one another’s proximity.

You can see how I am abusing the cats by the gaunt and boney form that Tucker has become. He’s virtually a stick, and I am being made to feel appropriately bad for it. But starvation loves company - and company loves its food.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

The Kola Report: Improvement

Kola is feeling better at last. He is not back to normal, but he is getting there. I had to put food into him by syringe for a couple of days, which neither of us liked. He would eventually curl up on the bathroom floor and refuse to move at all while I struggled to fit the syringe tip through clenched teeth. He would not take any kind of food voluntarily, from my finger or a bowl, so I had to resort to the syringe.

But now he is eating on his own again. He still has little appetite for hard-food but, because I started giving him soft-food whenever I thought he would want it, he has eaten more of that in the last day than he would under normal circumstances. This will, I hope, provide enough nourishment to push his recovery still further.

I love seeing signs of recovery in sick cats. (It would be better if they were never ill in the first place, but that’s like a desire to have been born rich instead of working to get there. Which I haven’t, by the way.) First, Kola started wanting water. He asked for it from the tap, which was fine by me. He seemed lacking in the confidence to jump up onto the counter by himself (that has since improved, too), due perhaps to weakness from his ill health, so I would lift him up.

Then he started eating solid, albeit soft, food on his own. Small amounts at first, too small to warrant a cessation of the syringe method. But yesterday I realised that he was eating more on his own than I would be able to give him otherwise, and since the syringe caused him so much distressed, I decide to push more food at him instead. As aforementioned, I gave him food outside the regular mealtimes, which he seemed to appreciate.

He has also begun talking more than was the case in the past week, and when I come into the parlour, he wants attention, about which he has been apathetic. Even that came back in stages. He first accepted pets without much reaction, then he lie down for them, next he purred, and finally, last night, he started flexing his front paws, kneading the air.

As I wrote above, Kola is not his old self yet, but a few more days should take care of that. I want to thank all those who expressed sympathy for the floofy one's plight and good wishes for its betterment. It helps knowing that others care. I wish I knew if he had what Renn had had (and if so, why it hit him so much more severely than it did my big boy) or whether it was something independent, or perhaps caught because Renn’s cold weakened him. In any case, it’s on its way out, and Kola is on his way back.

Friday, October 10, 2014

First Renn, Now Kola

More than a week ago, Renn went to the hospital to treat whatever was making him think he had to wet, when he really didn’t. When he came home the next day, he was much better. He did, however, bring home a cold. I am certain that he caught it at the hospital, where all the sick animals are. The cold expressed itself almost entirely in sneezing; long series of sneezes, in fact. But his appetite was good and he even played.

My big boy’s cold left him swiftly; where it went was into Kola.

First Kola developed a cough, a kind of choking bark that resembled somewhat an attempt to dislodge something in his throat. I was worried that he too might have to see a doctor, but this phase passed, and developed into a genuine cold.

When I came home yesterday and opened the parlour door to release my foster-cat, he did not leap out with a cry, jubilant at being free. He did not seem excited at all. He remained where he lay, on the heated towels of the parlour’s couch. I knew something was amiss then.

The floofy one started sneezing last night. Like Renn, his sneezes come in gaggles, one after the other. Unfortunately, unlike his roommate, Kola has a stuffed nose that forces him to breathe through his mouth. He cannot smell, so he will not eat. I’m not sure if he has drunk from his water-bowl, either; he certainly has not asked me to run the bathroom tap for him, lately one of his favourite pastimes.

This is a more serious illness than Renn’s, and I will be watching Kola carefully over the weekend, a long one due to Thanksgiving Day on Monday. I may have to apply the syringe to Kola, just to put some food into him. I hope that won’t be necessary, as it is unpleasant for any cat, even if it is done expertly, and since this would be my first attempt at feeding the floofy one, my actions would not qualify as expert.

I am not otherwise too concerned, since I am sure this is a cold, and it will pass. But how quickly, I cannot say. The failure to eat and drink is my greatest fear. In any case, Kola will be spending the next day or two close to his parlour, no doubt on his warm towels. He doesn’t seem to believe in the adage of misery loving company, so I will let him be, to rest and recover.

Thursday, October 9, 2014


I’m sure I’ve written before that I find the personalities of my cats very interesting. I see examples of their individuality every day, of course, but I experienced one a little while ago that shows a fundamental difference between two of them.

Cammie and Kola, my two foster-cats, are starting to remind me of The Odd Couple. The fact that they both enjoy being in the parlour forces them to take each other into account, and I can see a lessening of Cammie’s unease at Kola’s proximity, and vice versa. (This does not mean that the Siamese princess doesn’t chase the other at high volume when she’s had enough for the time being). And, at least in a single instance, one is tidy and the other messy - or at least not as tidy as she should be.

Every morning before I go to work, I lock Kola in the parlour, to prevent him from being terrorized by Tucker. In addition to food, water, toys and the Track-ball, the floofy one is of course given a litter-box. I place that in the room just before I leave, to prevent the other cats from nipping in and using it. I wasn’t fast enough to stop Cammie the other day, and she left a little clump in the litter. She did not cover it, because she cares nothing for anyone’s opinion of her, good or bad.

I closed the door on Kola and went to get the scoop. When I returned a minute later, the clump had been covered with litter. No other deposit had been made, and Kola was lying where I had left him. He had quickly jumped down from the couch and finished Cammie’s job for her.

Thus are personalities revealed in just a few seconds.