Viking’s Funeral

There’s no gentle way to lead into it. Torvald Einar Magnussen, the magnificent FloofViking, the most lovable complete dick ever to inhabit a feline body, has been welcomed into Valhalla.

I had been wanting to post something lately about the Miracle Kitty, as Dr. Cohn called him, a survivor who lived two and a half years past the rough life expectancy of cats who’ve been diagnosed with his kind of heart condition. He just was not having it. We were sure he was a goner twice, the right medication combination took shape, he accepted it every morning and evening with a stoic mien and a thought balloon that said “fuck you with extreme prejudice,” and kept on keeping on.


Torvald On Platform

2009 (probably) – 2018

Last night was no different. He took his pills, let me kiss his nose (a fairly reckless thing for me to do considering that he once nearly took my face off), ambled out to dig the night noises on the porch, and eventually allowed himself to be herded off to bedtime in the basement with his buddy Agatha, the only cat who can be around him without getting relentlessly chased, rassled, body-slammed, and in various ways battered in the style of a Klingon wedding night. He’d been jumping up in my lap nightly — kind of a new thing, so far as frequency — dicking Aggie out of the heatybed, scooting up and down stairs at a clip with his big, fuzzy, jodhpur-like caboose double-clocking, demanding kibble every few hours, obstructing the hall when my clients entered and demanding pettings, which usually led to the most pronounced elevator-butt reaction I’ve ever seen in a cat. Some of my clients I’ve had to block in a little extra time for so they could pet Torvald.

The Engineer went down to put out food in the morning as he always does — he’s the breakfast chef, I handle lunch — and, just when I was clambering out of bed, he bellowed my name.

The Engineer never bellows. He had found Torvald at the foot of his favorite cat tree, right next to the food dishes and water pan, lying on his side, already cold and stiff.

They told me, when his heart failure was detected, that he could die of pulmonary congestion, which he declined into and came back from twice; or that his kidneys could fail because of the medications that kept his heart going (which almost happened); or that I ought to be prepared for the possibility he would just keel over suddenly from an arrhythmia. I think he chose door number three.

We gave Aggie some food in the next room, by the little water fountain that we’d added to the menu when he had to start Lasix and needed to drink plenty. I had to look for a box big enough. He was about eleven pounds, not heavy for a Maine mix, but longer than you would think stretched out.

I called the place I’ve used before to arrange a Viking funeral. Cremation is Nordic, after all, though the burning ships are more of a Hollywood thing.  He may not have died with his sword in his hand, or whatever the feline equivalent might be, but he spent every day of his life in joyous battle with a world full of trees that needed to be shown who was boss (before I snookered him inside for good) and birds on a stick and catnip veterinarian toys (yes, they make those) and every other cat he ever encountered who wasn’t Aggie. Ragnar Lodbrok (which means Hairy Britches), at least as played by Borgnine here, would have saluted him as a brother.

I picture him walking into Valhalla with that rolling lope that somehow took up all the center of a room or a whole door from side to side, as the drinking song becomes ragged and pauses, giving the don’t-try-it stare to the dogs under the tables, and demanding chow and a good fight, in whatever order.


First Visit To The House

New Year Pose

I Now Own The House


Also, Fuck Your Guitar, This Is Mine Now

Every cat you ever own, I always say, is the best cat in the world.

Torvald Einar Magnussen, he who can vanquish Thor, the first, the son of greatness, forgive my Latin: Ave atque vale.




Critter Crises

Just before we start, no one was ever anything but fine. Except me. I think I had my last heart palpitations this morning, just thinking about it.

What happened was, about a week ago I asked the Engineer if he would make me just a giant bowl of braised mushrooms for supper, as I frequently do. Normally he does these bad boys (shiitakes and baby portabellas) with a whack of shallots, along with thyme from the front yard and dry vermouth and some garlic, only we were scandalously out of shallots, so he doubled up on the garlic and the whole house smelled like Lucy Westenra’s bedroom. In the end there were more mushrooms than I could eat and I left my bowl on the table while I did the washing-up. And forgot about it.

In the cold dawn I awakened and remembered with horror that garlic (like onions and all their relatives, including lilies) is toxic to cats. And that four of our six had had the run of the first floor all night. And that my dearly beloved Mr. Ferguson is the one who likes to get up on the table.

The Engineer was off to work early so he wasn’t around for me to cling to as I approached the table and saw the mushrooms, with their visible festoon of garlic chunks, nosed about and looking nibbled-on in the ceramic bowl. We had sprinkled them with cheese. The cats love cheese.

Everyone looked okay. I called the vet and asked. They punted and told me to call the Animal Poison Control Center.  Veterinarians who know their toxicology are standing by, they said.

I have dealt with “toxic to cats” before, at least in a mild way. Once, back in my old house when I was married to my Late and Ex, Apricat of blessed memory ate some azalea blossoms. I found him chomping away and seized my veterinary manual, which advised me that azaleas caused nausea and irritation and that I should cause the cat to vomit them up by placing a quarter teaspoon of salt at the back of his tongue. I am a good cat wrangler and had the salt in there faster than Mr. Zip can spit; Apricat, released, took a couple of steps away from me, turned his head back with an expression that clearly said “You swine!”, put his head down and urked a wad of melon-colored blossoms onto the beige carpet.

Here, however, I faced the possibility that the garlic had gone down the hatch anything up to eight hours ago. I tried to add up the number of cloves the Engineer had minced and divide by the poundage of mushrooms corrected for the water they had released.You get the idea. The best the Poison Control people could say is that there was a low risk of a toxic dose and that I should watch all the cats for the next five days for signs of weakness, nausea and locomotor ataxia. (They said wobbly gait, but I was busily looking it up online and reverting to the medical terminology that I find exact.) Garlic damages the red blood cells, so that the liver and spleen can be slammed with busted erythrocytes that overwhelm the normal clearing functions of both organs. It sounded perfectly horrid.

Everyone was okay all that day.

And the next. And the day after that.

And, well, everyone was okay. Either someone pushed the shrooms around and said “Blargh,” or ate some and went off and barfed in a corner which I have yet to find, or it just wasn’t enough garlic to do damage. Back in the day, some people would tell you to worm your cats with garlic. Never tried it, happily.

Anyway, don’t leave garlicky things out where your cats might eat them. And for god’s sake never let them near lilies, which pack enough of the critical chemicals that a little pollen can kill a cat. They smell like rotting ragout anyway.

The Poison Control Center wanted my Visa for more than I would charge for a half hour appointment. The workman is worthy of his hire and I paid it, but some people don’t have that to pay. I wonder what they do.

In other news, hawthorn extract  alleviates heart palpitations. Verb. sap.




Heatyvent And The Despised Marshmallow Bed


Torvald has discovered a new love and its name is heatyvent.

All the cats, unsurprisingly, like heatyvent but he is the biggest customer, no doubt because he is usually in the living room when the furnace is ginning up for the day. That vent’s right above the heat exchanger and right behind my chair — in a perfect world there would be no furniture near a vent, but I’m not sure where we’d all sit. It makes a nice little sauna.

Most days he’s come out after a half hour or so. Then, a couple of days ago, I was tossing the living room and murdering clutter, and my eyes fell on Marshmallow Bed, which was a big hit when it arrived a couple of years ago but which all have spurned since about the time Torvald got up out of it one afternoon and immediately collapsed from the heart condition for which he now receives five drugs a day. I’ve wondered idly if some whiff of panic adheres to the thing, but it’s been sitting on the floor under the stereo, forlorn, finally used to stash a couple of lumbar pillows that the Engineer doesn’t like.

I looked at this useless heap, threw the pillows back in the Engineer’s chair, and stuck the white fuzzy bed next to the vent. The next time Torvald ambled into the room he disappeared into it almost instantly. About four hours later he emerged.

Heatyvent == well, Heatybed — has become the lodestar of his existence. Where, previously, we dared not open the nearby door to the upstairs because he would be up there like a shot in search of ALL THE BUDDIES that he knew wanted to play with him, now he barely lifts his head when he hears the doorknob turn and says blearily “Huh?” before subsiding again.

I was a little worried, given his dicky heart, but when the furnace heat isn’t going, he’s still the same cranky, unsocialized dick he’s always been, trotting into the kitchen for kibble and down the stairs to harass Agatha. He just loves Heatybed. He always has been quite vocal about telling us that despite clear Maine Coon antecedents he is not suited to withstand frigid temperatures, that his breed is actually Virginia Goon, and he is not having the porch in winter, thank you.

Mr. Ferguson gets it overnight. He’s becoming hard to find, too.

I guess this will go on till around April.

All Hail Fancy Feast

Not the stripper (and yes, there is a badass plus-size burlesque performer by that name), but the canned cat food. I never thought I’d be saying this, but this comminuted slaughterhouse-sweeping gravy-suspended meat collation is my current Gratefulness Object. See, a client who nursed an old cat through the terminal kidney disease of old age brought me the book she came to depend on, and I frantically opened it to the chapter about CAT WON’T EAT ANYTHING. “Cats who reject everything else,” said the oracle, “will sometimes eat Fancy Feast.”

If you are not a cat person, understand that this is pretty much Burger King or Popeye’s for cats, pulverized and pressed-looking fragments of vaguely animal flesh swimming in gluey sauce. The Engineer ran right out to Shoppers Food Whorehouse on his lunch hour. We put the dish in front of Torvald, who was sitting rather glumly on the bath mat in front of the first floor commode — somehow, that was the new favorite place, a bit inconvenient for clients. He looked at it and looked up at us. The Engineer hugged me. I was sad. The Engineer patted me on the back. The Engineer dug his blunt chunky fingertips into my deltoids and forcibly turned me around, a wildly out-of-character act, and there was Torvald ear deep in the dish of soupy crap.

He’s been eating it ever since, at the rate of about three little cans every day. Another client had a case shipped to him from Amazon; he’s got fans, that one. No more turkey baster. The vertebrae have stopped sticking out like nailheads and he trots and leaps and butts me with his head.

No idea why the vet didn’t know about this.

A day may come when his appetite for everything fails. But it is not this day.

His Majesty


Torvald has been having a difficult week, which is one reason I’ve not posted in ages; that, and the heat, which melts your brain.

I fuss over him a good deal, my fluffy Viking. His appetite flagged again about eight days ago, something which was going to happen, given that his kidneys were never going to completely recover from the heart medications that have kept him alive since May of 2015. He is thinner, and spends less time bounding and more time just chilling (though he can still show a clean pair of heels off the sofa back), but he is still every inch a king.

He does not really want to eat, but he’ll let me, without a fight, give him cream in a dropper and cat food by hand, and it perks him up at the cost of two thirty-second indignities every day. The vet said there might be ups and downs. I’ll take what I get, so long as his life is still about catting, not just surviving.

In the evenings he jumps onto a platform on the porch, or stakes out the fascinating Buddy Door (which leads to the upstairs where the senior cats are secured when Torvald is up and about). Occasionally there is a conversation through the cellar door, which is almost all glass, and a white tippy paw thrust under it to try to get at Nickel or Fergie.

As long as he holds like this, tired but seemingly happy, there will be no trips to the vet.

I carve out moments to contemplate his unquenchable majesty.

The Fury Of The Northmen

Torvald got upstairs again.

This always happens when I have no time for it. Actually, it hasn’t happened in a long time — not since the boy developed his heart condition, which isn’t the sort of thing you want to stir up with his idea of convivial play. Someone always gets bitten, or peed on, and cats roll over and over one another in tightly clenched balls like the original undivided human in Plato’s Symposium.

So when I saw that the upstairs door — I freely admit, I had to be the one that failed to check the latch — was ajar and yet an eerie silence prevailed above stairs, I was apprehensive in the extreme. I tiptoed up the steps.

Torvald was reclining odalisque on the landing. Mystery, yellow, dopey and half again his size, mirrored his posture about a cubit away. They were in suspended animation, not looking immediately hostile, but my noise must have made Mystery blink, or move, and before I could reach the top Torvald had pounced and a wild scramble ended up in the dressing alcove with a cloud of variegated cat hair flying aloft, like Jurassic dandelion fluffs. Mystery one-eightied and headed for my closet, followed closely by a growling Torvald, who clearly hadn’t had this much fun in months. I got the laundry out of the basket and the basket over him just in time to keep him from rushing Mystery, who was disappearing behind my formal gowns. (I have some. Don’t ask why.)

There followed a laborious process of levering the basket-encased Torvald down the stairs, one tread at a time, carefully maintaining the position of the basket to prevent escapes and going slowly enough to keep him from coming to grief. Did I mention that I had just returned from the gym, sticky with sweat and smelling like six small goats, and that a client was due in twelve minutes? I got him down the stairs finally, shut the door, released him and gratefully watched him stalk toward the door of the sunporch. I let him out there. He immediately discovered he was on the wrong side of the door and let me know, indignantly and unrepentantly.


Fig. 1

A quick survey determined that Mr. Ferguson was cowering under the bed, Lilly Bast was secreted in the nethermost recesses of the closet, and Nickel Catmium was perched tensely on the tallest platform of the cat tree. I now had eight minutes to shower, dress and be ready for my first client. By the time I had gotten clean her car was in the driveway. We know each other pretty well, so I went down in my spa robe with a towel wrapped around my head and explained the situation. (This kind of thing is happening a lot lately.) Agatha Voleslayer, who usually occupies the lower floors with Torvald (he tried to mate with her when they met, and somehow exempts her from flying tackles), was still MIA. I found her on a window platform when I went back upstairs, but ended having to haul her out from under the dresser. As soon as I dressed and let Torvald back in the house he ran to the upstairs door and said “Can I do it again?”

By the time I had beaten three suffering butts everyone was more or less calmed down, but Mr. Ferguson required a lot of reassurance.


Fig. 2

It seems my Viking is hale and hearty and has no notion that he suffers from a cardiac condition, at least at this point. He’s back to pestering me for food at all hours, and he’s up to making Mr. Ferguson, an Irish charmer if ever one existed, importune Deity with the apocryphal supplication of the Irish monks: “From the fury of the Northmen, dear Lord, deliver us.”

Torvald just wants to know when the buddies can play with him again.