Tuesday, November 18, 2014


Most cats like warmth, which I find strange, considering that their body temperature is on average higher than ours and they are covered in fur, sometimes thick fur. Yet they enjoy lying in the sun on a hot summer’s day (which doesn’t preclude them later trying to find shade or a spot of cool floor on which to relax) and they like heating pads.

I have two beds in which heating pads have been inserted, and, in the parlour, several folded towels under which a third pad has been placed, for the comfort of my foster-cat, Kola, who spends much of his time in the parlour. But Cammie, who has not discovered or for some reason dislikes the heated beds in the sitting room, has found the heated towels to her liking.

Every week, before movie-night on Saturdays, I vacuum the couch in the parlour. I take the heated towels off, and set them aside. This last weekend, Cammie came in while I was cleaning and, evidently seeking a little warmth on a chilly night, looked for the heated towels. I had placed them on a round side-table. The fact that they were not in their usual spot did not deter the Siamese Princess. She knows nothing of electricity; to her, the towels are warm because they are the towels - wherever they may be.

The towels were displaced only briefly, and soon, Cammie was back on the towels, which were back on the couch. This simply goes to show that when a cat wants something, she will find it, wherever.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Strange Bowl-fellows

A month ago, I published pictures of Renn and Tucker eating almost together from the hard-food bowls, an unusual event. A week ago, I was able to record this occurrence, even more unusual. The cats’ dinner is usually about three-thirty on my days off, and an hour later when I work; their snack-time is approximately three hours subsequent, and the hard-food bowls are made available once more about nine or nine-thirty at night. That means the beasts receive only a ration of soft-food (though it is as much as they want) in five or six hours. This plan to encourage more soft-food consumption is working; the cats are ravenous come snack-time, and there is a happy and somewhat disgusting sound of six animals eating when I put down the stinky goodness on the floor. (Well, it’s in dishes, which go on the floor; the beasts themselves often toss it about the linoleum.) Nonetheless, they are hungry when the hard-food is presented once more.

How hungry? Enough for Josie and Cammie to eat this close. Cammie dislikes Josie. I believe this stems from a fight many months ago which may have pitted my Chubs against the Siamese Princess. Despite her lean and athletic form, and her claws which grow too sharp too fast, Cammie was easily worsted. The damage was not serious, and has not been repeated, thankfully. But the animosity on the victim’s side has lasted. Josie dislikes Cammie, too, I am afraid, though not to the extent felt by the other for her. They trade non-connecting blows from time to time, and Josie passes much too close now and then to Cammie for the latter’s comfort.

And yet, hunger can make cats do astonishing things. The images you see below are like a lion and a gazelle coming to drink from the same water-hole at dusk; a truce forms spontaneously, as they realise that they both need water to survive. Here, however, you have two lionesses: the older, heftier veteran, already a champion of one battle, and the leaner, younger comparative newcomer, wary and watchful, who puts on a fearsome show, but is really not a fighter.

Night falls in the jungle, and the scenes of would-be battle are covered with the sounds of eating. But notice how they keep an eye on each other, even as they chew…

Friday, November 14, 2014

At Sea

Most cats love to sit in boxes. I understand that, for some reason, they like enclosed spaces. (I understand the fact, not the reason.) Even a shallow-sided box, a lid or a shell of cardboard will attract them. They will come over to the box, step inside and lie down. This brings them comfort, perhaps even delight. But sometimes, they look a little odd, even silly, doing it.

I’m sorry to declare that my foster-cat, Kola, the king of floof, falls into the latter category. I put down a box from which tins of cat-food had been removed, and he immediately came over and got in. I certainly don’t object to this; if it makes Kola feel good, then more power to him. But he looked like a Tribble stuffed into a matchbox.

But, true to his feline nature, he cared nothing for what I thought, and continued to bob about in his little craft for an hour. For more than sixty minutes, I had to walk around and over this dismasted schooner adrift in linoleum doldrums. I think it was only dinner-time that caused him to abandon his cardboard vessel.

Sometimes, a person and his cat understand each other well. Sometimes, they are in tune, their wavelengths perfectly matched, like an expert ham-radio operator listening to his favourite foreign station. Then the beast sees a box, and all comprehension is lost.

Tungsten's Game

My oldest cat, Tungsten, has never played much. She used play at string-toys with me, and would zoom through the nylon tunnel when I walked beside it. I’m not sure whether it is age or apathy that is slowing her down these days. It may simply be disdain for my other cats foolish enough to leap and spin and chase things. But there is one activity that the orange one still likes. It’s one that I share with her alone.

When I come home from work, I go to my bedroom to change clothes. Tungsten always follows me. The other beasts will wander about, knowing that it’s dinner-time. Josie and Tucker may pursue each other. Their top-cat, however, comes into the bedroom and gets up on the bed. I spread my arms and shout her name.

Years ago, I would seize her and almost flip her over on the bed, then she’d wrestle and try to nip my hand. Now, she’s too old for such gymnastics. She will sometimes stoop, as if about to roll, but she doesn’t. In fact, she looks like she’s cowering and in fear of receiving blows from my hand. But she’s really just preparing. Periodically, she does flop onto her side - her current version of a tumble. These days, I grab her and gently ease her over. But then, she likes it a little rougher. I rub her fuzzy head until my hand is a blur, massage the sides of her face as though I were trying to use her fur to start a campfire, and finally, rub her boney sides with my fingers, while she claws at the bedspread, trying to stay in place. It looks as if she’s undergoing some painful torture, but when I stop, her little motor is rumbling.

This is often repeated several times. If I think we’re done, I will look at Tungsten. She may stoop, ready to fall over. That means she’s not finished. So we repeat the process. Then at last, I gather her up and take her to the bathroom for a drink of water, and I can feel her skinny frame vibrating.

This is our routine, something we’ve always done, in one form or another. Once in a while, a spark of youth fires through her, and we will wrestle, my hand against her whole tiny body. But mostly, she’s passive and simply enjoys the sensations, the interaction between us. I think it makes her feel good. I know it does me.

Friday, November 7, 2014

The Thanks I Get

A short time ago, I put the storm windows on my house, in preparation for the coming cold months. I wrote about it on this blog and joked that the thanks I received for working hard in the blustery chill was to be ignored by six cats all ensconced in warmth and comfort.

But in reality, this is why I do much of what I do. Pets should not have to worry about being cold or hungry. As with children, if our pets don’t take warmth and contentment for granted, then we, as their protectors, are doing something wrong. Adults have to worry, about themselves and about those under their care. The price we pay for independence (or as much as society allows us) and responsibility is consciousness of the disaster that waits to overwhelm us if we do not constantly strive to stave it off.

It’s true that I would have to work at a job even if I didn’t have cats. My own survival would depend on it. But much of what I manage to snatch from under the daily grind goes to the cats. I come home and they start demanding food almost immediately. I scoop their poop from litter-boxes in a manner that, in terms of human waste management, went out of style a century ago. I play with them and give them their medicines and arrange my time around their needs. And then, when I am done my chores and they are satisfied, they fall asleep in soft beds.

A week ago we had our first snowstorm of the season. This was the scene outside.

And these were the scenes inside. This was the thanks I got for all my efforts: the storm windows, the feedings, cleaning bums, waking up at two o’clock in the morning to run drinking-water, carting thirty pound bags of litter home on my bicycle and spending my savings on their health.

And I could not be thanked better.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Nip in the Air

Some time ago, I participated in an on-line auction and bought a cat-hammock. It is, in fact, a Ham-Mick, made by Forty Paws. A very good purchase it was, too, as it is always in use by one of three cats (Tucker, Josie, Kola) and sometimes a fourth (Renn). But Tucker, though he enjoys snoozing in the hammock, especially, for some reason, after nine o’clock at night, has a reaction that is different than the other cats’.

When the hammock arrived, it was liberally covered with cat-nip. That has a bad effect on some of my beasts (Tungsten, for instance, becomes almost comatose). But after a brief shake, the hammock was put together and ready for use.

Periodically, however, Tucker will detect a smell of cat-nip strong enough to go a little loopy. He rubs his fuzzy face up and down, back and forth. He rolls and twists, this way and that. It’s a very mild reaction and he seems to enjoy himself without getting carried away, though sometimes he ends up a little distance from the hammock, demonstrating his true roly-poliness…

And though I wrote that Tucker did not get carried away, he does sometimes push the hammock from its place. I’ve found it half-way across the dining area, on its way to the bedroom. Then I know who has been having a little fun, and that there’s a nip in the air.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Observing the Observer

I try to keep an eye on my cats’ habits, so I will know as early as possible when something is amiss. One of the traits of which I am particularly watchful is their trips to the litter-boxes in the basement.

Early in October, Renn appeared to be having trouble urinating. An overnight stay in hospital did not result in much but a diminution of my bank account, though I think that the doctor’s suspicion of a mild inflammation, pressing on Renn’s bladder, caused my big boy to think he had to go when he did not really need to. That has long since cleared up and all my cats appear in good health right now.

But they cause me worries nonetheless. Soon after I took Renn to the veterinary, I noticed that he was spending an inordinate amount of time downstairs. That usually means time spent at the litter-boxes - unless it is Tungsten trapped by Cammie, ready to ambush the orange one on her way up the stairs. So I waited until my big boy thumped down the staircase once more and did not return after a few minutes, and then followed him down.

He was at the litter-boxes, to be sure, but he was not interested in using them, except as a means of getting to the back of the space under the stairs where they are kept. As you may know if you’ve read my blog for a while, Renn is my scientist, a scholar of all things. He had evidently seen something that aroused his curiosity: a spider, perhaps, or a centipede. It had likely come out of or gone under the drywall there. All Renn would need is to see the object once, and he would return repeatedly to stare at the spot where he had last observed it.

Renn caused me some anxiety in this matter, and, though many of the alarms I experience in regard to these beasts are false, they are better than real ones. In watching out for the cats we care for, we have to be as observant as my big boy himself.