Archive for the ‘cats’ Category

Domestic Chores and Days Off

I’m a writer with a day job married to a musician with a day job.  Free time for either of us is pretty rare.

However, because the organisation I work for has a flexi time system, it does mean that if I build up enough hours I can occasionally take a day off work without having to use annual leave.  Such days are useful for doctor and dentist appointments, and such, but they are also useful for dealing with domestic chores that require being at home on a weekday.  So I generally try and schedule as many such tasks as possible for these days off.

Friday this week was such a day, and although it was a completely unproductive writing day, on the domestic chores front we got quite a lot accomplished.  First of all, we got the plumber round to replace the cracked plastic pipes on the side of the house that drain the water from the bath and the sink in the upstairs bathroom.  Well, we thought the pipes were cracked.  What we did not realise until the old pipes had been removed and the plumber showed them to us is that both of them had completely disintegrated on one side.  Every time we’ve been running the water in the bathroom it must have been cascading down the side of the house.  Just as well we got that fixed, then.

While we had the plumber we also had him plumb the American fridge freezer we bought when we moved into the house in September into the water supply.  So our fridge now dispenses ice cubes and cold water.  I’ve got disproportionately excited about this.  All weekend I’ve been drinking lots of glasses of water, just to have an excuse to fill up a glass with ice and water from the fridge.

I also took the kittens to the vet to get neutered, since they have now reached five months and we cannot start letting our female felines outside until we can be assured they can’t get pregnant.

Alia in post-operative recovery

Alia in post-operative recovery

I didn’t think this would be too much of an ordeal.  Our last pair of cats were both female, and we had to get them done.  However, these new kittens have very different personalities than our old cats.  For starters, they are a lot more intelligent.  With our former cats (who admittedly inherited pedigree genes) all we had to do to get them to vet was get the cat box and leave it on the floor with the door open.  The cats would think “ooh! Box!” and would promptly go in because they loved boxes. Then I’d shut the door on them, as they belatedly realised they’d been foiled again.

Not so with these cats. They have already learned to associate the box with unpleasantness and as soon as they saw it they were running to hide.  I managed to grab one and shove her in the box, chased the second one for a while, but after catching her I opened the door to shove her in and the first one promptly escaped. Now I know the origin of that phrase “herding kittens”, used to describe the difficulty of getting a group of people in the same place at the same time.

Eventually I did manage to get both cats in the box but not without injury.  They came home after their spaying op safe and well.  Unfortunately we have to go through the same fiasco on Monday, as I have to take them back to the vet for a post-op check.  And I don’t have the luxury of a day off on Monday – it’s back to work for me.  Which means after leaving work early to dash home in time, I’m probably going to be chasing the kittens around the house in my work clothes.  And I will have a limited amount of time to get them into the box.

I’m already dreading this task.  At the very least, I think I shall dig out the gardening gloves before attempting it.  Any suggestions from cat owners to get reluctant felines into the cat carrier are welcome…

New Feline Friends

This is a post all about our new kittens.  Just to forewarn you.  Just in case you don’t like cats, or something.

When I blogged about putting my old cat Misha to sleep a few weeks ago, I’d already decided to get new cats.  The house just felt too empty without them.

We took our other cats from kittenhood to old age, and we decided we’d like to do the same to some more cats. There really needed to be two, to keep each other company, since we are generally out at work all day.

We went through the Cats Protection League in the end.  As it happened, they had plenty of kittens looking for homes – as it was June, it was possibly the right time of year.  They dutifully sent someone round to check our home was suitable for cats.  No problems there, since we have plenty of space and a good size garden.  And thus we were sent to a CPL ‘foster mum’ who had kittens needing homes.  The lady we saw was lovely, but was one of these people who seem to be better with cats than with people.  The place was absolutely full of cats.  About a dozen of them were hers – I gathered that she would adopt any cat who came through her care who did not find a new home.  There were also lots of kittens, in cages.  The two that immediately charmed us were a pair of black and white sisters, who were 12 weeks old.  They seemed very laid back when we picked them up and stroked them, and seemed very friendly.  We were told that they were the last two of a litter that had been abandoned at the police station.

They were extremely nervous when we brought them home, and spent two days hiding behind Hubby’s guitar cases before they would come out.  But eventually they got a bit braver, and started to explore their new home.

Cassie (L) and Alia (R)

Cassie (L) and Alia (R)

They are both black, with white back paws and white patches on their chest.  We have named them Alia and Cassie.  Alia has a bigger white patch on her chest, and is a bigger kitten, though I imagine this situation will not remain as they get older, as Cassie is greedier and is now almost as big as her sister.

We’ve had them about a month now, and they are four months old.  They are very familiar with the house, and with us, and they are into everything.  They chase each other around the house, climb up anything that’s static and chase anything that moves.  They are particularly fond of chasing shoe laces – normally when you are trying to do them up.  My last cats were old when they died, and spent most of their time sleeping.  I had forgotten how active kittens can be.  You have to be careful where you step, as they have this habit of following directly behind you, and you have to be careful what you leave lying around, as they’ll either play with it or try to eat it.

They were rather timid when we first got them, but they have now got to be very friendly.  They run and greet me when I come in from work, wanting strokes and cuddles.  When other people visit the house they remark on how friendly the kittens are – they now seem very comfortable with visitors, and have worked out that if they come over looking all adorable, they’ll get some attention.

The Cats Protection League are quite insistent that all kittens get neutered at the appropriate age, and that cats are not let out until they have been neuteured, to prevent unwanted kittens.  I have no issue with this policy, and I have every intention of getting them neutered.  But that can’t happen until they are five months old, and they are already trying very hard to get out.  We have to be careful not to leave either the back or the front door open, as if they notice it they will make a run for it.  The UK has been sweltering in a heatwave over the last three weeks.  Not being able to open the back door to let some breeze in has been a tad inconvenient.

We have instead been opening the windows, but now we have to be careful of that too, as Cassie has already got out through one of the upstairs ones.  The window is right above the front porch.  It seems she made her escape from the window to the porch, and then the porch to the ground.  I spent ages hunting high and low before ascertaining she wasn’t in the house.  I found her eventually under the car, looking rather terrified.  It seems this kitten wanted to explore the world, and when she got there she decided that the world was big and scary.   I had trouble persuading her to come out from under the car.  In the end I had to entice her out with a plate of tuna, so I could grab her and bring her back inside (they are both very fond of all kinds of fish, we’ve worked out).  She seemed no worse for wear for her little adventure, but I’m not sure she’s learned not to jump out of windows.  Just in case, I’m now endeavouring to make sure they are open just a tiny crack, and not leave a space big enough for a kitten to squeeze through.

There will come a point when they will get too big to both squeeze onto this windowsill - currently a favourite spot.

There will come a point when they will get too big to both squeeze onto this windowsill – currently a favourite spot.

If anyone’s wondering about the names, we have a tradition of naming our cats after characters in current D&D games.  These two kittens happen to both be named after magic users, but since they are mostly black, like witch’s cats, that seems appropriate.  Alia is my character in one of the games we play.  The more discerning geek might have remembered that Alia is the name of Paul Atreides’ mad sister in Frank Herbert’s DUNE.  This is, of course, where I originally got the name from.

They do keep insisting on doing cute things.  So I have no doubt you will be hearing lots more about their adventures in future…

Goodbye Misty

Misty: 1996-2012

This is my cat Misty, who died on 16 September 2012.

She and her sister, Misha, were born on 1 August 1996. Their mother was a pedigree chocolate point British shorthair who belonged to a colleague of my husband’s. This particular cat, though being very well-bred, obviously fancied a bit of rough as she escaped one night and went out looking for some mongrel action. She must have had herself a good time, because she came back pregnant. She gave birth to a litter of five kittens. One of them was a beautiful British blue – exactly the same colour as her uncle, another pedigree (also owned by Hubby’s colleague). Two of them were black, and the other two were a random tabby colour – possibly an indication of the mongrel tom who fathered the kittens.

We’d just moved from our flat into a maisonette, and since we now had a front door of our own, that could be used for feline egress, we decided the time was right to get a cat. In fact we decided to get two – since we were both out all day, we thought two cats from the same litter would keep each other company. We went to see this new litter of kittens, and we picked two. We had the British blue, which we named Misty, and one of the black kittens, which we called Misha. When they came to us they were about nine weeks old – adorable little bundles of fluff.

Misty & Misha as kittens

Being half pedigree, these cats had been born with generations of the inclination to do nothing but sit around on cushions looking pretty bred into them. They were always rather lazy, even for cats, and both got rather fat as they got older. They were also not exactly at the top of the feline IQ chart – generations of inbreeding tends to make pedigrees rather less bright than moggies. But they both had a very gentle nature, and were very sweet cats.

Misty’s unusual colour always drew attention. Every time we had visitors, they would make a fuss of her and say, “what a beautiful cat.” She got rather big-headed about this after a while. Whenever someone came to see us, she would emerge, and pose in the middle of the room, as if to say, “well? Aren’t you going to tell me how pretty I am?”

Misty & Misha getting comfy in a guitar case

Misty had a thing for boxes. Every time something new came into the house, she was there waiting for us to unpack the box so she could squeeze into it. Even if she was too big and the box too small, she would try to squeeze into it anyway. She was particularly fond of hubby’s guitar cases, which had the added advantage of being felt lined, so more comfortable than regular cardboard boxes.

She liked to sit in the bathroom when I was taking a bath. The first few times she did this, as a kitten, she would sit on the side of the bath with her tale hanging down into the water. The fact that it would be getting wet appeared not to phase her. Once, she tried to jump on me while I was in the bath. I saw her sizing this up for a while, and then she took a flying leap off the side into the water. She hit the water, yowled, turned around in mid-air and shot back out again, before shooting out of the room. This all happened in one movement, and was rather amusing to watch. Suffice to say she never tried to jump in the bath again. She would instead come in and sit on the bath mat while I was bathing.

Misty and Misha spent all their lives together, and right to the end they would curl up and sleep together. But over the last few years I was aware that as cats they were past the expected life span, and would not be with us for much longer.

In the summer I took Misty to the vet, who confirmed that she had lost quite a lot of weight – a kilogram in the last 12 months, specifically. The vet offered tests to find out what was wrong. I declined at the time. Misty seemed quite happy – she was still jumping up and purring. She wasn’t eating as much, but she’d been a very fat cat to begin with, and she didn’t appear to be in pain, or particularly miserable.

Two days before we moved, she came down the stairs vomiting blood, and we had to take her to the emergency vet surgery (it was a Sunday – the usual surgery was closed). She died on the way there. It turned out she had a throat tumour. If we’d have had the tests, we might have found out about the tumour, but it was untreatable, so we could not have done anything about it. All we could have done was wait for her to die. In the end, she died in my arms, which is probably the way she would have wanted to go. Sometimes I feel bad that I didn’t do the tests and find out earlier what was wrong. Partly it was because I think I didn’t really want to know. But the other part is I didn’t think it was fair to subject a 16-year-old cat to tests and treatments that were going to be painful and distressing. In the end she got to spend the last few months of her life at home, in comfort, with the humans she knew and loved. The end, when it came, was sad, but it was all over quite quickly.

In retrospect, I am convinced that Misty knew she was going to die. The night before she’d been unusually active, coming down to talk to us and our guests and visiting favourite spots she hadn’t been to in a while, like the windowsill. I think she was saying goodbye.

It seems Misha knew it, too. We took her on that final journey to the vet, because we knew at that point Misty wasn’t coming back, and we wanted to make sure Misha understood that. Misha has settled into the new house well. I think she’s a bit lonesome, but she’s accepted the fact she’s now the only cat in the household. And the vet says she’s surprisingly healthy for an old fat cat, so hopefully she’ll be with us a bit longer.

I think perhaps moving to a new house immediately afterwards helped all of us. It made a stressful situation even more stressful, but we’re in a new place where there are no memories of Misty. She was with us for 16 years, and I think she had a happy – if lazy – life with us. Losing a pet is always hard, as they become part of the family, but we can remember the happiness they brought us.

Goodbye, Misty. You were a special cat, and I will always remember you.

Fat Cats & Vaccinations

Yesterday I had a day off to do those things I don’t get time to do when I am at work all day.

First errand of the day was to go to the doctor’s surgery to get my annual flu vaccination. This is offered to me free of charge every year because having asthma puts me in a ‘high risk’ category. I normally get a letter in early October asking me to make an appointment at the flu clinic. I hadn’t had a letter so I rang the surgery, asking if flu jabs were available yet.

“We’ve sent out the letter”, the reception told me. I explained that I hadn’t had a letter. “Do you normally get a flu jab?” she asked. I replied that I did, suppressing the urge to add that I wouldn’t be phoning otherwise.

“Then you’ll get a letter,” the receptionist went on.

“I haven’t had a letter,” I explained again. “Can I just make an appointment now?”

She took my name and went off to check my records and some time later came back and said, “you have asthma. That means you can get the flu jab.” I think my doctor ought to start offering a higher salary when he advertises receptionist jobs.

But I did get my appointment, and when I turned up to see the nurse, she also offered me a vaccination against pneumonia. In the other arm.

I had also arranged an appointment to take my cats off to have their annual boosters later that day. My cats are big, fat, lazy things, as I’ve mentioned before. And they now know what the cat carrier means. They will let me pick them up without objection, but when I try to put them in the carrier, they do the old – ‘rigid paws clutching either side of opening’ trick.

With both cats eventually locked in the carrier, I heaved said carrier out to the car. And I do mean ‘heaved’. I’ve always put both cats in one carrier – I figure it’s less traumatic for them that way. But they are now far too heavy for this. I think I’m going to have to invest in another carrier, and carry one in each hand. It might actually balance me out a bit and be easier to carry.

The vet’s surgery isn’t far away, but parking anywhere near the surgery is always hit-and-miss. Yesterday it was a ‘miss’. In fact the traffic was a bit of a nightmare. I had to park around the block, meaning I had to lug the carrier quite a long way before arriving at the vet’s surgery.

Once the carrier is deposited on the vet’s table, getting the cats out of it so the vet can look at them is another ordeal. Before now I’ve resorted to tipping the thing upside down and waiting for one or both cats to fall out.

“Your cats are adorable, but they are both far too fat,” the young vet said cheerfully. She was lovely, but she looked about sixteen.

I explained that with my cats being half pedigree, and getting old, they aren’t too interested these days in doing much apart from lying about sleeping. Not that I blame them for that. I quite fancy that sort of life myself. But I do have to acknowledge the fact I have two fat cats. The vet suggested I merely give them less food. Not being very active, they don’t need to eat much. Of course, I’m not sure I can explain this to them.

In spite of their protests, the cats are not remotely traumatised by their vaccinations. I, on the other hand, have two extremely stiff arms, where each needle went in and pierced muscle that was probably already tense, because I hate needles. I suspect the strain on the arm muscles of having to lug two overweight cats half a mile down the road right after the piercing trauma did not help this situation.

I think the lesson learned in this little adventure is not to arrange a trip to the vets after I’ve had my own vaccinations. It’s going to be another couple of days before I can move my arms again.

Feline Distractions

My two elderly cats are half-pedigree (Mother was a chocolate point British shorthair who got out for a bit of action with the mongrel toms one night), and age and breeding makes them inclined to remarkable laziness – even for cats. The only time they get any exercise is when they move from one favourite sleeping spot to another.

Misty – the British Blue – has a fixation with boxes. Misha, the black cat, isn’t quite so bothered.

The other day, however, they both decided that Hubby’s guitar case was a fine place to sleep, and they spent several hours there. We thought it was very cute, and we took a picture.

My cats eat too much, throw up all over the place, scratch the leather sofa and sit on the top of the stairs, in the dark, making one inclined to go flying. But then they do things like this and I remember why I have them. Aww.

Writers & Cats

I’ve always been a ‘cat’ person. Dogs I’m just not very fond of. They are rather noisy, and too high maintenance. They require walking every day, they need to be house broken, and being pack animals they require constant companionship.

Cats, on the other hand are far more aloof and independent. They are clean animals that don’t need house training, they don’t seek approval and on the whole, don’t really care much about whether you are there or not as long as they get fed on a regular basis.

I think this is why I’ve met far more writers with cats than dogs. Writing is a solitary pursuit, and writers, like cats, are happy in their own company, not needing the approval of “the pack” like dogs do.

There are some dog-loving writers out there, of course, but it seems that the cat-loving ones make up the majority.

Clumsy Kitty

My two cats, Misty and Misha, are fat, lazy things. They are also getting old – they’ll be 13 this year – so are getting ever lazier.

We have had them since they were kittens and because I know their parentage, I attribute some of the laziness to genetics. Their mother was a pedigree chocolate point British Shorthair who got out one night and was “serviced” by some mongrel tom. So my cats are half pedigree, and pedigree cats are genetically programmed to sit around on cushions and look pretty. My two can spend the entire day sleeping in the same position without moving once.

Misha, however, becomes a bit livelier when I am at the computer, and frequently jumps up on the desk. She likes to sit on top of the mouse – I am sure this is so I have to pay attention to her instead of the computer, and it does make it very difficult to write.

The other day, however, she attempted a jump up onto the computer desk – a move she’s made hundreds of times before – but missed. She teetered on the edge for a while, scrabbling for purchase, dug her claws into the nearest solid object (which happened to be my forearm, ye-oww!!!), before falling off and landing on the floor. Then she stalked off with that expression cats always wear when they do something really stupid. The one that says, “I MEANT to do that.”

She hasn’t tried it since. I think she’s still recovering from the humiliation.