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A brief (yeah, right) history of my cats

I've had a cat of one sort or another nearly all of my life. My first cat was called Tiger, and she was (of course) a striped tabby. My earliest memories are of her having a litter of kittens. When one died, some idiot told my brothers and me that it died from overhandling, thereby making me think that I killed it by petting it. It was many years before I discovered that I hadn't.

There were some periods of catlessness from the time my parents split up two years later, until I was eleven, when my father told me he had a present for me in his car. I ran to the car and saw nothing on the seats. "Must be under the seat," he said, so we ducked down and there was a gorgeous multicolored Angora kitten. I named her Fluffball. I plead being eleven. A year later, she went out one day and never returned. But a neighbor's cat had kittens, so we next adopted a grey and white female whom I named Little One, because she was the littlest one in the litter. I plead being twelve. We had her for nine years, until she disappeared shortly after my mother moved to Florida.

In the meantime, I had taken home a kitten in January of my freshman year in college, intending to give it to my father. She was a multicolored striped tabby, and she was beautiful. He didn't want it. He got it anyway, as I shortly thereafter left my mother's house and moved in with him, kitten and all. A year later, she presented us with a litter of kittens. I chose one even more beautiful than Lady (I plead being a freshman in college), named her C'mell (I plead having just discovered Cordwainer Smith and The Ballad of Lost C'mell), and a year later left New Jersey for the west coast, cat and all. She and I ultimately drove from Steilacoom, a suburb of Seattle, to Rancho Bernardo, a suburb of San Diego. Then we flew to Florida and ultimately back to New Jersey, where I had her for seven years, until one day she went outside, never to return.

I waited another year before getting another cat, as I was then out of school and working and saving money to move out on my own. Lady was still there, and very happy to be an only cat again. I told my friends to keep an eye out for me. I wanted a female, multicolored, shorthair cat, much like C'mell. I wanted it after Labor Day, since I was going to move into my new apartment that weekend. A month before Labor Day, a friend of mine called me up. She'd found my kitten, she told me. "Is it female?" "I think so." "Is it multicolored?" "Sort of." "Does it have short hair?" "I think so. Come and look at it." So I went.

The cat was an orange and white striped tabby, it was male, and it had the telltale fuzz which, on a kitten, denotes a long-haired cat. I didn't want it. I told my friend I wouldn't keep it. I'd take it for the weekend, because she was allergic, and on Monday I'd bring it to a shelter and find one that I wanted. Her next-door neighbor laughed at me and told me I would never give that kitten up once I took it home. I assured her that she was wrong.

Tigger started out life with another name, but after a week, I noticed that when he played, he hopped with a stiff, four-legged hop that was, essentially, a bounce. In fact, he bounced his way from the bottom of my bed to the top the very first night I had him, thus assuring he would never have another home. So his name became Tigger, and he bounced until nearly the end of his life, which was five years ago next month. Wow. February 4th is the fifth anniversary of The Tig's death. That was a rough one. He died of cancer at the age of 13 and a half. I had never been so attached to a pet before; I had never had clinical depression before--the combination had me worried I wasn't going to make it much longer than Tig. I did make it, obviously. Family and friends helped a lot. I had no idea you could get so attached to a pet that you would grieve for it like it was a family member. It explained a lot to me about other people's behavior.

I had to wait three months before I could get my new cats, because I wanted kittens. Until Tig died, I was unaware there was a "kitten season", and that February wasn't it. But I did want an orange tabby like Tig, and one day my downstairs neighbor told me her daughter had just the kitten for me. Some jerk had left twelve (yes) ten-day-old kittens at the Clifton animal shelter, and all but one were orange. She fostered two, and on Easter Sunday, I got a glimpse of the two kittens. I wanted the male straight off. Pure orange, fuzzy, cute as a button. The female was dirty and ratty, covered with milk and whiny. Nah, one cat was all I could handle, I said.

By the end of the day, I'd guilted myself into taking them both. I got them when they were twelve weeks old. Tigger and Gracie, my polar opposites. Tig is my big dumb Tigger cat who loves everyone, sleeps in my bed with me, plays constantly, talks constantly, plays fetch, gives hugs, and follows me around. Gracie is a CAT. She's affectionate in her way, at her choosing, and in her places. She runs from visitors (unless there's tuna or brushing), doesn't talk much, wants you to throw things so she can look at them as you throw them but not chase them. She likes nothing better than to hide somewhere I can't find her, or sleep in the sun. But she's my Sweetness, and my world would be emptier without her, and without Tig.

So now you have the basics. Let the stories--and the pictures--begin.--MAY



Cats and medication

(Sung to the tune of Californication)

I kicked my cat in the eye two weeks ago. Well, not really, but I was barefoot, and I took a step to get something on the other side of the room--probably socks, as it's wintertime--and Tig was, as usual, underfoot. Only this time it was literally--my big toe went straight into his left eye, toenail first. Result: Two weeks later, a weeping eye infection that spread to his right eye, an expensive trip to the vet when I can least afford it, and eyedrop medication that has to be put in twice a day.

This, mind you, for the cat who can no longer get his claws clipped at the vet's because the last time we tried it, we wound up having to wrap him, got extra assistance, and even with the vet, his assistant and me holding him, Tig slashed both the vet and me before we finished all four paws. That was the last time I bothered. I figured they'd start charging me more if I kept asking for his claws clipped.

Yesterday, he hissed and yowled and swatted at the vet and me. He leaped when he got his feline leukemia shot, but the vet had a good hold of him. And the vet showed me how to put in the eyedrops. "See how easy that was?" he said, smiling. "Yeah. The first time," I said. My vet is a sadist when it comes to my handling Tig. He likes to tease me about how it's no real problem. I knew that from then on, Tig would run and hide as soon as he saw the dropper bottle. I was wrong--he didn't recognize it until after I put one drop in one eye. Then he tried to leap for the ceiling and run. I managed to get the other eye done, but despaired of being able to figure out how to do it again this morning.

So here was my brilliant idea: Tig loves tunafish. I'd made sure to buy some yesterday. I held the plastic bag in one hand, the dropper in the other. "Let me see your eye," I said, which is a phrase he already knows, as I've been saying it umpteen times since he got kicked. He doesn't mind having his eye cleaned with a tissue. So for five minutes, we went back and forth between his desire to eat tuna and his refusal to get drops put in his eye. I cajoled and enticed, until finally I just gave up and grabbed him and put the drops in. He didn't like it, but was less violent than last night. And I gave him tuna afterwards, in the hope that he'd associate getting eyedrops with getting treats.

I'm guessing that for the next six days, I'll be wrestling my 16.4 lb. Maine Coon cat twice a day to put drops in his eyes.

All I can say is, if he was the one that turned out to have asthma and need steroid pills every other day instead of Gracie, he'd be dead by now. Either from lack of medication or because I just plain killed him out of frustration.



Short stuff

Last night as I was trying to answer some email, I heard strange noises from the direction of one of my cats. Tig was asleep in the Coca-Cola box (which is too small for him, and was Gracie's, but neither fact makes a bit of difference to Tig). I couldn't place the noises--they sounded something between a snore and a whimper, if cats whimper. While I was looking at him and trying to decide whether to wake him up, Gracie, who heard him too, crept slowly and cautiously toward Tig, just as curious as I was. I started laughing silently as she stood next to him, ready to run for cover, when he suddenly woke with a start, raised his head, and looked at Gracie, who had stepped back--just in case, you see, not because she was frightened. Perhaps he was having a nightmare about some strange woman grabbing him and putting eyedrops in his eyes. In any case, he went right back to sleep.

Sleeping cats are an extremely relaxing sight. Mark Twain said that you can tell the comfort level of a house by the number of cats sleeping in the windows. Gracie, the one with asthma, snores regularly, Tig only occasionally, but more often than not, he sleeps next to me, usually touching me, and I often wake up in the middle of the night because my 16-and-a-half pound cat has decided he wants more room in the bed, and is pushing against me. The fact that he never succeeds, indeed, the opposite occurs with my pushing him further away, never seems to get through. But the moment I wake up in the morning he's yowling for me to pet him. A purr in the morning is a good thing.

Gracie needs to be pet in her own time, at her place of choosing, and in her own way. There's the bathroom sink, her favorite petting place. There's her "nest", the bottom shelf of my bookshelf that I lined with a towel specifically for her to sleep in, since Tig took over the kitty condo practically the moment I brought it home. There's the spare room, which she has claimed for her own, and where she sleeps of an evening. And there's right next to my CD tower, so she can rub against the sharp plastic edges with the side of her face while I pet the rest of her. Our evening ritual is generally my having to follow her through my bedroom until she decides where the petting place will be that evening. On rare occasions when I catch her lying down and pet her then, if I ask her, "Who's my girl?", she responds by flexing her claws in and out, that kneading motions cat do. I read once that dogs consider their owners to be pack leaders, and cats consider their owners to be their mother. I don't know how true that is, but there are definitely times when I feel like cats are as much work as babies (see below).



Wanna go outside?

Since I moved to these garden apartments, I've been letting my cats outside, first in supervised visits, and now I just leave the front door open wide enough for them to go in and out. They've gotten so used to it that they can't understand why I won't do it in the wintertime, such things as "I'm not leaving the door open when it's freezing outside!" never having entered a kitty mind.

Tig will stay outside if I close the door, but Gracie will not. She freaks if she doesn't have an avenue of escape. Tig will also yowl at the door outside until I come let him in. Gracie will merely hide somewhere nearby in a frenzy of fear until my neighbors come home and knock on my door to tell me there is a half-crazed cat that wants to get inside.

So all of this introduction is for the following: I have a balcony, which in bad weather serves as a substitute for the full outdoors. Tig scratches at the door enough to have ripped off the weatherstripping I replaced this winter after he ripped off the previous year's weatherstripping. Every morning while I'm eating breakfast, Tig does this, often accompanying the scratching with a few yowls. Every morning, I reach over and open the door. And every morning--every single fucking morning--Tig refuses to go outside the first time I open the door. I close it, he waits a few moments, scratches again, and goes out the second time.

I hate cats.



Permission not granted

Perhaps it's just because it's still wintertime, and I won't leave my front door open for my cats to go in and out as they please. Perhaps it's because I'm unemployed again, and therefore home a lot more often. But I am no longer allowed to write, or surf the net, or blog--at least, according to Tigger. My sole job is to pay attention to him. That means I'm supposed to pet him, brush him, play with him and feed him tunafish whenever he wants. I am allowed to pet Gracie once in a while, but only for a little while, and only if he's busy doing something else at the time. He will literally push his head under my hand as I'm reaching out to pet her, if he decides he wants the attention.

Okay, so I'm a bit indulgent. There are a pair of comic book boxes sitting next to my chair in the kitchen, and Tig has gotten in the habit of jumping on them and meowing when he wants me to pet him, and I've left them there because I've found it easier to deal with that than to have him stick his paw through the back of my chair and smack me on the back until I pay attention to him. Remember, I can't clip his claws, so if I'm wearing a thin shirt, his claws are most unpleasant attention-getters. I'll eventually move the comic boxes, but for now, Tig gets to sit a foot away from me, at chair level, and beg and beg and beg for attention. And he's an attention addict; once you give him a little, he wants more, more, more! In the meantime, Gracie waits stoically until she gets tired of all the attention Tig is getting. Then she yowls in short, loud bursts, indicating that she wants some loving, too, and I had better do something about it. Preferably while giving her water in the bathroom sink, and with Tig licking her ears all the while.

It's a little disconcerting to think of yourself from a cat's-eye-view. But then again, it's a lot comforting to be followed from room to room by a small, purring creature who only wants to stay within arm's reach because he loves you so.



Cat Scratch Spring Fever

If you have cats, you're going to get scratched. That is a given, unless you want to be one of those beasts that declaws your cat. The only legitimate reason I can see for declawing a cat is if you have a child at risk from said cat's claws and will give up neither the cat nor the child.

I have--sigh--six cat scratches at the moment, the worst of which is on my right thumb and hurts like a sonofabitch. That one was from last night, when I was brushing Tig and he tried to tell me I was getting too close to the tangles. Well, he did tell me, actually, only we disagree on the proper language for such a complaint, and so, my thumb is scratched. Deeply.

Anyway. Today is a beautiful spring day, and we have all been outside several times, doing the laundry, eating grass, and just sitting in the sun and feeling glad that winter is nearly over. I will leave it to you to decide which of us were eating grass, and which were doing the laundry.

I've read that dogs think of their owners as their pack leaders, and cats consider you their mother. I'm inclined to believe those theories, because they begin to explain Tig's behavior while exploring The Great Outdoors. He tends to wander the farthest, often out of my sight, and from time to time, I go outside and call him, as I like to keep him close by. To my utter surprise, he comes running. If he's about fifty yards down the sidewalk, and heading into the yard with dogs, and I call, "Tig!" he (most of the time) will turn and start racing towards me. Today the connection clicked in my mind. Have you ever watched those animal shows where they study the big cats in the wild? The cubs go off on their own a lot, but when Mama Cat roars that certain roar that says, "Get your asses back to the den, kids!" they come immediately.

So when I go outside and call my Tig, he's probably thinking something like, "Ooh, Mom's calling, maybe there's food!" and he comes a-runnin'. Mrowr.



Who will stop the rain?

We're getting some desperately-needed rain here this morning. It started last night as a bit of snow and ice; it's a rather miserable March day, but that's not really odd for this time of year.

This morning, after I got up, Tig headed straight for the front door and started yowling to go out, because it's been nice out most of the last week, and I've been letting him and Gracie wander. "It's cold and rainy out," I told him. "You're not going to want to go." He yowled and yowled. "Fine," I said, opening the door. He stepped to the outside door as I opened it, then immediately stopped and started blinking at the rain. He surveyed it for a few moments, then turned around and meowed at me. His meaning was clear: Make it stop. I laughed at him and he came inside, and immediately went to the back balcony door, where he thought perhaps it wasn't raining. I opened that one, too. Now he's sitting and sulking, yowling from time to time, because if he can't go outside, he wants my full and undivided attention, and some belly rubs besides. He is, in fact, yowling as I write this, at intervals of perhaps five seconds, and is quite close to being permanently silenced.

I know I said I'd always wanted a Maine Coon cat, but I wish I had known beforehand how vocal they are. Are there breeds that don't meow? Because I think I want one of them. Especially at, oh, five in the morning when Tig is yowling for me to get up and play with him.

Every breath she takes

My Sweetness is sick. She has asthma. She nearly died of it the first time she was diagnosed--fortunately, when she had her seizure, it was at the vet's office, where I had brought her because I didn't know what all that coughing and hacking was about. I thought she just couldn't cough up a hairball or something. Then she seized as we were leaving. It was touch-and-go for a while, but she made it through. And now I get her steroid shots or give her pills. Giving her pills is a major undertaking. She's smart--you do something once, and she won't let you do it again without a struggle. She knows the sound a pill bottle makes and heads for the hills if you jiggle one, so I put the pills in a plastic bag next to the bottle. She now knows what I'm doing when I reach up to the top of the microwave and try to remove a pill from that bag. She won't touch anything that you try to mix the pill in--not even tunafish. So it's a struggle to catch her, but once I've got her and gotten the pill past her clenched teeth, we're done. Oh, unless I don't put the pill far enough down her throat and she pretends to swallow it and then spits it out when I let her go.

But she's been worrying me since Friday. I have increased her dosage because she's having asthma attacks, and they are coming with increasing frequency. They're not supposed to be happening at all. The pills are supposed to be controlling it. This morning she had an attack at 5:45, and it was a small, quick one so I thought I'd just go back to sleep and give her a pill when I got up in a few hours. Minutes later, I could hear her starting to hack again, and Tig, who was standing inches away from Gracie, began to meow anxiously, chirruping to her or to me, possibly to get me to make her stop choking. I got a pill and gave it to her while Tig watched and chirruped, and then when I was done he hastened to sniff her to make sure she was all right. I went back to bed and hoped that would be the last time today I'd hear choking.

Now I'm on Gracie Watch the rest of the day--the vet's booked this afternoon and doing surgeries this morning, and wants me to come tomorrow afternoon if it isn't an emergency, or bring her and leave her there if it is. I don't want to leave her locked in a cage at the vet's for hours. I have the pills; I can raise her dosage to prevent more attacks. But Gracie is lying with all of her feet tucked under, which is her "I don't feel so good" position, and I am concerned about my poor Sweetness.



Diary of a madcat--or two

Excerpt from Tigger's Diary

Can't understand it. Mother put me in the jailbox again, and took me to The House of Pain. I know I didn't do anything wrong--she just did this to me a moon or two ago, and The Evil One stuck me with his longclaws. Stuck that damned bluntclaw up my ass again; what is it with that thing? I am not his mate.

Mother knows this wasn't the time for longclaws. I don't understand--I only threw up four times, and only twice on the green soft stuff on the floor.

First thing they did when she left me there--why did you leave me with them, Mother?--was throw me into solitary. I tried to talk the free sister into getting me out; she pretended not to hear me. I hate her. She lives in The House of Pain and turns a blind eye to what The Evil One does. If I can get out of this box, I'm going to give her such a beating. I'll stick my shortclaw up her--whoops, here comes The Evil One's assistants! More Later.

Excerpt from Gracie's Diary

Hey. Mother took Tig out in the jailbox. ALL RIGHT! I have the whole place to myself! Par-tay!

First thing I'm gonna do is sleep on the inside tree. The one Tig never lets me sleep on. Then I'm gonna mark all of his spots and make him mark them all over again. Big bully. I hope they stick him with the bluntclaw.

Excerpt from Tigger's Diary

Oh, cats, this is the worst they've ever done. Ever. They stuck a longclaw in me, and then I fell asleep, and I seem to remember something noisy and a bellyrub, and then when I woke up--you're not gonna believe this--my belly fur was gone! My fur! My beautiful long fur! The fur that Mother brushes every day with the Belly Tickler.

This is ridiculous. And cold, too. And my head hurts, and my mouth is dry, and I'm hungry and they won't feed me and oh, shit, I have to go to the bathroom again. Wait. They're coming this way again. No! Take him! Take that funny-looking thing over there, look, his tongue's hanging out, he must be sicker than me, he's not even a cat, no, wait, leave me a--

Excerpt from Gracie's Diary

[Yawn] Okay, let's see what else. I know. I'll eat out of this bowl. Now I'll eat out of this one. Ha! Now I'm going to take a nap--on Mother's bed, and I'm gonna mark it, too. On his pillow!

Excerpt from Tigger's Diary

Okay, it's been long enough. Mother should be coming to get me by now. They've stuck longclaws into me, they've stuck shortclaws into me, they've stuck bluntclaws into me. They took my beautiful belly fur. They took my blood! There's nothing left for them to take. It's getting dark. Where's Mother? Mother? Mother!

Excerpt from Gracie's Diary

This has been the best day ever. Mother and I watched the soundbox together. Mother didn't have to stop Tig from beating me up--because he's not here, hahahahahaha! He's at the House of Pain, hahahahaha! Hey, tonight, I'm gonna sleep with Mother, and he can't stop me!

Excerpt from Tigger's Diary

Tried for hours to get the free sister to let me out of jail. Then I got too tired and fell asleep. They didn't give me any food. They stuck this thing in my paw and this stuff dripped out of it into me. When I woke up, I forgot where I was for a minute. Then that thing in the jail next to me made those noises again. Woof. What kind of sound is "woof"? It must be one of the lower animals; cat speech has been developed for thousands of years. I once met a cat who knew sixteen different cat languages, and he cursed me out in all of them after I kicked his ass. Editor's note: For the sake of accuracy, I must point out that Tigger never won a fight in his life, and is generally the first one to run inside my apartment and jump up on the windowsill. I never knew why he was meowing to the cats outside before, but I do now.

Daylight again. They stuck me with longclaws again, took more blood. And I found out that while I was asleep yesterday, they broke off my claws! Can you believe that? How can a cat protect himself without his claws? The Evil One is heartless and cruel, and if he comes near me today, I'm gonna get him. Damn. I can't. He broke off my claws!

Later: They tried to get me again. That's it, I give up. They're gonna have to take me dead, 'cause I ain't moving from the back of this jail. Go ahead, Evil Ones! Your paws aren't long enough to reach me back here. Ha! Wait. What's that voice I hear? Mother? MOTHER!!

Gracie's Diary

Goddam goddam goddam goddam. Mother brought that loser back. I was so hoping he was gone for good. Well, I'm gonna let him know he can't kick me around anymore. AHAHAHA! Look! Mother just stuck pink stuff down his throat! AHAHAHAHA! Serves you right for--hey, wait! No, it's not time for the white thing yet! No, don't put that in my mouth. Ew, it tastes terrible!

Editor's note: And here the diaries ended. For the record, Gracie has been hissing at Tig ever since he came back, and I will never give Tig another dose of pink liquid medicine, which is now decorating my rug, my leather sofa, my kitchen floor, and Tig's fur. His colitis can damned well heal by itself. That'll teach him not to eat so much grass.

And a four-inch-diameter bald spot looks ridiculous on the fat underbelly of a longhaired Maine Coon cat who likes to lie on his back all the time. I wish I had a digital camera.




If you are easily grossed out, leave now. I don't know why I feel compelled to discuss this, but it's almost as if an overpowering urge is forcing me to write about it. Perhaps Tigger has finally learned the trick of hypnotizing me in my sleep--you do realize all cats work on this their entire lives, don't you? The purpose of a cat, you understand, is to enslave us without our realizing we are slaves. A happy, seemingly independent workforce to take care of their every need--that's the ultimate goal for all of catkind. I know this because, as you can see below, I can understand cattalk.

Oh, the gross stuff. Well, Tig's problem of some ten days ago was that he has been eating enormous amounts of grass, and choosing the really indigestible kind while he was at it. So a large mass of grass combined itself with a large mass of cat hair, made its way down to his lower intestine, and stayed there, blocking the usual workings of the intestines, and causing me to be late on my first day back to work, as he was literally leaking from his behind. It was surgery day, so I left him at the vet's and they called me back for permission to X-Ray. The vet had felt the mass of grass and cat hair and thought it was either a third kidney or a tumor, and decided he needed a picture of it to be sure which it was. He also did an ultrasound at some point, which required shaving a four-inch-wide swath of lower belly. The X-Ray showed one kidney was larger than the other, which worried the vet for a while, and required overnight hospitalization. Sometime after I got off the phone with the vet, Tig apparently passed the mass of grass and cat hair (major owtch!), at which I am certain that at least one member of the vet's staff must have said, "Holy shit!", and so when I called the next day they told me fine, pick Tig up after work and the vet would let me know what the problem was, but overall he was okay. Oh, and they were going to give him a bath, because, as the vet said, "He was a mess down there." I kinda figured, and was grateful someone else was going to clean his butt, thank you very much. Bad enough I had to clean up his vomit four times the previous morning. (I told you this was going to be gross. Actually, I haven't quite gotten to the part that was weighing on my mind yet.)

So when I went to pick him up, I had to wait a while, and then I went into the exam room with the vet and listened as he described what he had done to Tig and what had happened. After a few minutes, an assistant came out and said, "Uh--we're going to need Miss Yourish's help with her cat. He won't come out of the cage." I was envisioning Tig at his worst, all hisses and claws--but it was quite the opposite. He had obviously decided that they had done enough to him, and he wasn't coming out of the cage ever again if he could help it. He pressed himself flat up against the rear, and wouldn't let anyone come near enough to grab him. He was wet, bedraggled, hungry, shaven, tired, and frightened, and when I came to the cage and called him, he walked slowly in disbelief toward me. I picked him up and he practically flew into the cat carrier, the other familiar thing in the room. You could just hear him thinking, "Get me out of this hellhole!"

It took Gracie nearly a week to decide that Tig was, indeed, her brother that she was raised with. The vet smell lasted a long, long time. (Either that, or she's just a bitch. Tig only hissed at her for one day the time she was stuck at the vet's overnight.) But they're back to normal now, although I have not let either of them out front since the incident happened. I've decided supervised visits only--it cost me a hell of a lot of money to find out that Tig had his unique form of indigestion to deal with. Oh, yeah--his shaved belly revealed that he has a double row of orange spots, like a tortoise shell, which I couldn't see through all the fur before. It's quite cute.

I still haven't gotten to the part that I hesitate to mention out loud, but ya know, I keep saying that I will, so damn the torpedoes and I'm gonna say it anyway.

All of the above incidents have made me far too aware of my cats' bowel movements (including the fact that Tig's took days to get back to normal and caused me to be late for work again the morning after I brought him home, as well as banish him from my bedroom until I was sure he was having no more accidents). And I'm sitting here in my kitchen about an hour ago, and Tig is in the litterbox. I know it's Tig, because he is the Felix Unger of cats and litterboxes. Gracie goes in, does her business, and leaves. Tig gasps in horror and says, "YOU FORGOT TO COVER IT!" and leaps in after she is done to do the job for her. When it is his turn in the box, he does this: Digdigdigdigdig. Squat. Move. Digdigdigdigdig. Squat. Move again. Digdigdigdigdig. He repeats this, mind you, sometimes for as long as five or ten minutes at two o'clock in the fucking morning! And I live in an apartment, and the noise is LOUD. (Have I mentioned lately that I hate cats?)

So an hour ago, I hear Tig in the litterbox, and when he finally decides on the right position (more than likely using his KGPS device--Kitty Global Positioning Satellite), here's the thing that I've always noticed but never yet mentioned aloud: When a cat takes a crap, man, they shoot out like big brown bullets. Pop! Pop! Pop! Makes you wonder how far those suckers could go if you could aim a cat while it was excreting. Not that I would, but it certainly does make you wonder. Okay, maybe not you, but it made me wonder, and now I've gotten to that point again where I wonder if I'll be able to deny having written this if I ever run for public office.

But it's probably okay. Most of you never read Cattales, anyway.



Oh wow, man

About a month ago, I discovered something a little weird about Gracie. I had bought a box of Junior Mints (movie sized!) form the local CVS, and then Passover hit, so it stayed in the CVS bag, forgotten, for about a week. Then I remembered it, got the mints, and put the bag in the microwave cart. Only it got taken out of there, because Tig pulls bags out of the cart to get my attention when I'm not giving him enough attention (his ultimate goal is 24 hours a day, including having me stare at him while he is napping). And Gracie suddenly went a little ape over the bag. That is, she started treating it like it had catnip in it--rubbing her face against it, purring, basically making kitty love to it, and refusing to share with Tig. And then she exhibited all the behaviors of having just ingested catnip, including munchies and the final nap. I could only conclude that catnip and peppermint extract may be from the same family, which makes a bit of sense, as spearmint looks a lot like catnip.

And results of a swift on Google search confirms that catnip is, indeed, a member of the mint family. Which explains why Gracie is now making passionate love to the After-Eight dinner mints wrapper that I gave her since she caught a whiff of it while visiting me at--sigh--the kitchen table.

The most amusing thing is that Tig is completely unaffected by the mint scent, but since he saw Gracie with the wrapper, he wanted it, too, and rubbed against it and you could almost see him going, "Uh--heh. I don't get it." That was enough for him, he left Gracie to rub her face on the foil wrapper and then roll around on her back and try to capture her tail with her front paws. I expect her to fall asleep any minute now, with a kitty smile of satisfaction on her face. I am tempted to give her a piece of mint, but there's a lot of chocolate in it, and it's the bittersweet kind, which is most poisonous to cats, so I think I'll pass.



Short stuff

I am right-handed. Months ago, I allowed Gracie to sit on the chair to my right when I work at the kitchen table. File this under Einstein's definition of insanity (repeating the same action over again and hoping for a different result each time): Gracie has a whip-like tail. When you pet her, she tends to flail right and left with the tail. As I said, I am right-handed. I cannot count how many times I've had to move my drink to avoid getting cat hair in it, or, if it is near empty, to avoid getting it knocked over.

You'd think I'd finally realize this and put either Gracie or my drink on the left. Insane. That's me.

I drug my cats. That's right, I am my cats' supplier. When I want them to leave me alone, I get out the catnip and distribute it liberally around several areas. I have to put it in multiple places, because it's the only way Gracie gets any. Tig is that annoying older brother who hogs everything, even if he doesn't really want what she has. If he wants to sit on the kitchen chair while Gracie is in it, he will leap up and stand over her until she moves. She always moves, unless I shove his big fat butt off the chair first.

My cats are talkers, especially Tig. He chirrups, meows, and yowls on a constant basis, even when he's asleep. He has taught Gracie to be more talkative. This is not a good thing, as they both have a tendency to talk to me while I'm writing. I expect they're saying things like, "Why are you doing that again? You did that yesterday. Come outside and watch me catch a bird and eat some grass." Or, "I'm hungry. Can I have some tuna? Were you going to feed me tuna? Are you opening the big box that has tuna in it? I want tuuuuuuuna!" And then there's, "He's picking on me! He's picking on me!" "Well, she won't play with me. All I did was ask her to play. And bite her ass a little." "He bit my ass a lot!" And my favorite one: "Why are you lying in bed with your eyes closed? Get up and play with me. It's almost light out!"



Virginia is bugging me, man. It's bugging me.

I'm so happy that Gracie is happier, healthier, and more playful here in Richmond than she was in New Jersey. I expect some of it is because I have no more carperting, only wood floors, and sliding on a wood floor is fun. Also, no carpet and central air means her asthma is more under control, and I'm giving her less medication for it. She's even coming into bed for bellyrubs. (Though I'm convinced that's because the nighttable got switched back to the left of the bed, where it was two moves ago, and the left side is her side and the right is Tig's, and things were reversed in Montclair. Gracie does not like routine change. She simply stopped coming into bed.) Anyway. She's happier and more active, Tig is utterly unchanged and unimpressed. His routine is the same. Only the settings have changed.

Except for the bugs. I'm not really liking the bugs. The cats are very much liking the bugs, but me—I could easily live without them.

My townhouse seems to be a haven for crickets and cricket-like creatures. The cats had a big one tonight that was smart enough to get under the television stand. I thought there was an excessive amount of noise coming from the living room earlier, but it wasn't until I said, "What have you got there?" and looked that I figured out why. Jiminy was captured (by me) and deposited outside in the rain, thank you very much. And he's only the latest of the cricket-things. There have been these big brown bugs that have cricket legs but flat, beetle-like bodies. I don't know what they are. They're related to cicadas, I guess, only not nearly as ugly. The cats killed those. There are (sigh) Daddy Long Legs. Really big mothers. The cats killed those, sometimes inadvertently pulling off a leg and making me think of my childhood. (No, I never did that, but some of the boys I knew did.) There are various and sundry spiders that sometimes get killed, and sometimes get away. There is the occasional fly, but we're all fine with that—my old apartment complex had zillions of flies due to slumlord refusing to keep the garbage/recycling areas sprayed. I used to actually reach behind me to open the kitchen door when I heard a fly buzzing around, wait a few seconds until the fly flew out, then close the door. It became rote after a while.

The thing is, I really don't like bugs. The only insect in the world that I can stand is the butterfly, and then only if I don't look at it close up. It isn't that I'll shriek and run away; quite the contrary. I don't run. I don't shriek. I generally utter a resigned sigh and get either a cup (good bug) or a newspaper (bad bug) and take care of business. But I don't like bugs. And I especially hate finding dead bugs on the floor, which is what I do on a daily basis now. I hate it even more when I pick up the dead bug and it moves. That happened last week, while I was getting rid of one of those brown cricket thingies. I threw it outside. It must have recovered, because it was gone a few minutes later.

Anyway. Bugs. Cats. A good combination when you're trying to write and they're bored. A bad combination all the rest of the time. Plus, half the time—the cats eat the bugs when they're done playing with them. Ew. Ew. And may I say: Ew.



Cat language

My cats come when you call them. It's true. When I let them outside, they often disappear from view but almost never from earshot. So when I need to get them back inside, I go to my patio door and yell their names. About 98% of the time, they come running home. Sometimes, they get that ornery cat thing. "Yeah, you're calling my name. So?" That's when I have to go out and grab them. Tig likes to pretend he doesn't hear me far more often than Gracie. I think he sits in a nearby bush and laughs at me while I'm calling him.

They have quite a vocabulary, my cats. I read somewhere that cats can learn only about a half-dozen words. That is patently false. My cats know, among other things, "Wanna go out?" "Get down from there!" "Get off that chair!" "Tigger, come say goodbye." "Tig, say hello to..." "Who's hungry?" "Come here." "Tunafish?" "SHUT UP!" "Don't rub around my legs!" "Who's my girl?" "Give me a kiss." "Want to get brushed?" "Leave her alone!" "Leave Gracie alone!" "Hey! Leave your sister alone!"

Gracie also knows her other name (Sweetness). Tig knows his name but answers to anything, including, to the great delight of a friend's six-year-old who tried it, "Anything." The phrase, "Give me a kiss" gets Tig (when he's in the mood) to rub his face against mine. I've almost gotten him to where he does it on command, and I am working on getting him to rise up on his hind legs when I say "Up." (Go ahead. Laugh. When I say, "Tig, come say goodbye," he runs out from where he is and leaps onto the top ledge of the kitty condo for one last pat before I leave the house.) "Don't rub around my legs" is the phrase that all of my cats have learned, as it is said when I am in my work clothes and don't want to brush cat hair off them before or after a workday. "Who's my girl?" is what Gracie hears when it's her turn to get some major attention and petting, and never fails to get her to knead her paws in response.

Of course, there are a few phrases I haven't been able to get them to understand. Unfortunately, the one that I need them to understand the most is, "What do you want?" Alas, I think that one will remain a mystery to them.



Who the hell are you?

So I've had this awful sinus/cold/whatever thingie for the past week, and one of the beauties I've had to contend with is the reintroduction of my cats, who have known each other since they were ten days old. Because on Tuesday, Tig got incredibly sick with some kind of virus, forcing me to isolate him in the upstairs bathroom while removing anything made of material that I'd have to wash, as he was vomiting and leaking diarrhea and doing the messiest things a sick cat can do. I debated taking him to the vet because I thought he was possibly trying to pass another mass of cat hair and rough grass, but by about 7 p.m., when he barely lifted his head as I checked up on him, I decided I might have a dead cat on my hands if I didn't bring him to the emergency vet. So, out through the pouring rain with a sick cat. Several hundred dollars later, we're back home, I'm completely certain that emergency vets' sole job is to relieve you of as much money as they possibly can no matter what's wrong with your pet, he's been given IV fluids and some kind of antibiotic shot, and is re-isolated in the bathroom for the night. I go to bed with earplugs in, fully expecting him to yowl at the door. Didn't matter; I was up until three in the morning coughing my lungs out, unable to sleep. He did surprise me by letting me go back to sleep for a few hours later the next morning. He must have been wiped, too.

But here's the thing: Gracie refuses to allow that Tig is her brother with whom she's been living these past five years. She did this the last time Tig was at the vet's, but I thought that was because he was gone overnight and smelled medicinal when he came back. He was here, albeit in the bathroom, overnight, and groomed himself quite quickly once he recovered from his weakness. Doesn't matter to Gracie. If Tig comes near her, she growls and hisses. If Tig looks at her, she growls and hisses. She won't eat while he's eating, won't come inside if he's standing at the patio door, won't come near me if he comes near me. And Tig's response to this is blissful ignorance. Yeah, she's growling at him, but he knows she doesn't really mean it. So for the past two days I've been hearing a chorus of hisses and yowls that let me know exactly where both cats are at any given time.

The only truce area seems to be my bed, and I think that's because I form an unwilling wall between the two of them. Tig sleeps to my right, Gracie to my left. They know the other is there, but perhaps there's a little-known rule of cat life that allows them to share the human even when they loathe each other. I've noticed that Gracie keeps a watchful eye on Tig even while she's getting her bellyrub. But she really enjoyed herself last night, when Tig decided to stay downstairs and sleep on my bathrobe, giving Gracie about half an hour alone with me. And they were both in bed with me when I woke up this morning. But it's been a hiss-a-thon day. And I'm damned tired of it. Someone explain to me again: Why is that two cats are better than one? They're supposed to befriend and play with each other and leave you alone? Yeah, right. Not when Gracie wants desperately to be an only cat.



A study in Tig

My new digital camera is paying off in many ways, most of which have nothing to do with the cats. But occasionally, it allows me to get pictorial proof of the way things go around here.

I currently have my laptop on the kitchen table because, well, I'm too lazy to set up my office upstairs, and once I do set it up, I'll have to come downstairs every time I want to refill my glass of soda or watch the soaps or go outside for a breath of fresh air, and have I mentioned I'm too lazy?

Anyway. The chair immediately to my right is, during most of the day, the chair in which Gracie comes to say hello, be petted, and often pretend to sleep while I'm working. I've recently allowed Tig to jump on the chair, because, well, he's a pain in the ass and it's stopped him from being as much of a pain in the ass. He'll jump up for a scritch under the chin, get one, and then take complete and utter advantage of his position in the chair to break the rules and try to either get on the table, or play with objects on the table. A case in point:

Here's Tig deciding that he's going to help me write a post, but first he needs my pen.

Here's Tig with the pen, thinking of what to write.

Here's Tig after I've finished writing the post, accepting my thanks for the inspiration. (That's only the partial look. I'll capture the full look another time, I'm sure.)

That's my Tig. When he's not doing that, he's climbing something he's not supposed to be climbing, or shredding something he's not supposed to be shredding, or beating up Gracie—all to get my attention. Then again, he is one gorgeous, affectionate, playful kitty. Which is why he hasn't yet been killed.