Altered States

The Engineer’s big doofus Mystery started stumbling last week, and we freaked a bit. He’s almost eighteen and already has old-kitty kidneys, and watching him fall conk onto his side like a tree in the forest was a little alarming.

(He’s not really a doofus. He’s just an uncomplicated, big, yellow cat who has a minimum of settings: “Food?”, “Petting?”, sleeping, grooming his sister Lilly Bast, scarfing catnip, and sloping into your vicinity with an expression that says “whatcha doin’?”)

We were lucky enough to have a cats-only vet move in just up the hill a few years back, a practice I’d already been following on an Instagram account curated by one of the vet techs to show off her special needs rescue kittens, her interesting cases (“CW: surgery pictures”) and Discworld tattoos. The considered diagnosis was probable arthritis. Cats, especially kidney patients, don’t handle the equivalent of Advil et cetera very well, but they had some Chinese herbs for pain that helped immediately, and yesterday he went for his first acupuncture treatment.

My Beezler of blessed memory had miserable arthritis that was completely managed by acupuncture, which also sorted his allergies and slowed down his kidney decline, so I was right behind this. The clinic asked permission to take photos and post them on the main Instagram account, but we got a first look.

(That’s the bottom of his cat carrier he’s sitting in. He resists getting out at the vet’s. He knows.)

Is it just my imagination, or does he look… stoned?

(Acupuncture used to put me in the Twilight Zone. I’d still be doing it as a sort of spa treatment, except that my acupuncturist suffered from a vice common in the alternative health professions, or as my late and ex used to say, “the basic vice of all therapy is the therapist’s need to be considered hot shit.” Her prices I could just manage, but the incessant feeding of her ego was too exhausting. Apparently the veterinary branch of the field suffers less from this.)

He ate for the rest of the evening, which isn’t all that atypical of Mystery, but his appetite’s been less aggressive lately. News as I get it.

Restricted Content

So I got an e mail from the “YouTube Community” alerting me that one of my videos had been “age-restricted” because it’s “not in line with our community guidelines.” No one who is logged out or under 18 can now view it.

This is the video, in case you are over 18 and logged in.

A tutorial on how to put two tennis balls in a sock and use it to massage/adjust your back. That’s all you see. Me in gym clothes, two tennis balls and a sock. At one point I do describe the resulting device as “vaguely obscene-looking,” but…. really, YouTube?

This is why the Internet is a trash fire. I’ve been spammed like 100 times by Twitter hoes inviting me to look at their XXX pictures, and even “YouTube” frankly sounds like some kind of silicone male masturbation device, but some robot thinks adjusting your vertebrocostal joints with a couple of tennis balls is problematic. FFS, I have videos up of my cats in flagrante delicto, one of them titled “Torvald Does Teenage Jailbait” (Aggie was in heat awaiting her spay and Torvald was neutered at the time, but tell him that). You don’t know how many hits that one got.

I doubt this is worth the bother of disputing. Odds are no one under 18 needs their back adjusted that badly anyhow.

Guest Cat

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I looked up from my typing chair (actually a small milkstool; something about my back doesn’t do chairs) to see a tail-shaped flicker of white retreating across the front walk in the direction of the shrubbery. Every now and then we get a guest cat — which is how we eventually acquired Torvald, of blessed memory — and it’s always a bit exciting. The last one was probably a mamma cat with a litter in the shrubbery, because every time she crossed the walk in exactly the same way she had a small rodent of some sort in her jaws. We left food and water out to lure her but after a week never saw her again.

I expected this one to be gone before I could get to the front door to look, but not only was the cat still there, she (?) was inspecting each of my porch steps carefully, one, two, three, finally ascending to the screen door to press her nose against it. May I come in?

She was white as a fresh sheet of typing paper and silky-fluffy, wearing a light green collar — no tag — that matched her eyes. She hesitated in proper cat form when I opened the porch door, then pranced daintily into the screened enclosure, which right now is full of Amazon boxes and booze deliveries. It’s month 8 in Coronastan, don’t @ me.

She let me pet her. She inspected the porch. I called the Engineer.

We had a real issue when he came down, because now she wanted to come inside. She was like the neighbor’s little kid with no sense of social boundaries who wants to see the inside of your house. Unfortunately, Agatha the Terrible Tortie was just inside. (Agatha is not really terrible and seems to like other cats, but she is sort of the Xena Warrior Princess model of cat and they are all afraid of her.)

The Engineer finally sidled out (he is a big boy, and it was a tricky sidle) and investigated. Two humans was a bit much and nothing would make her sit still for a photo to shoot out to the neighborhood list, in case anyone was looking. Well, a little kibble (it’s polite to offer food to guests) got her attention, but you don’t bother people while they’re eating.

But I did get a quick farewell shot when she started to get antsy enough that we let her back out.

She had some serious business in the yard next door. I don’t know what it was.

I hope she comes back. In our eternal Now, it was an Event.

PS. Just before I posted — she did! Definitely a girl. Clean and healthy looking, but happy to sample the kibble and very eager to come up in the porch again and get petted. This may be the start of one of those cats-with-a-circuit stories like you read about.

The Cat Who Gave No F**ks

My post-op mileage was up to about two and a half, which is ridiculous because I’m usually good for about four or six, and then the heat hit. Apparently having big chunks of meat scooped out of you screws up your temperature regulation more than I would have thought, because the heat index seems to be the critical difference between being able to knock out the mileage and me calling the Engineer for a rescue because I’m starting to get a big head and a sense that I’m radiating heat, like a two-bar electric fire.

It’s just frigging HOT out.

I know I’ll make it home without a bailout if I can get the home of the Cat Who Gives No Fucks. He or she (a grey tabby, so gender indeterminate) hangs out in the yard most afternoons, more rarely in the mornings. A couple of hysterical dogs, probably littermates, who look as if there’s some Jack Russell in there, live at the same address and can be heard raising the rafters anytime anyone passes the yard, even if they’re inside the glassed-in porch. They have a dog bed which has been strategically elevated to the level of the window sill and  patrol the yard in all directions, losing their shit in the key of C sharp anytime anyone passes the corner of the chain-link fence. If they’re outdoors, they fling themselves against the wire as if they think they’re Dobermans in a movie and Chuck Norris is about to vault over into the secure installation. It would be cute if it weren’t so noisy.

The cat gives zero fucks.

Seriously, this cat, who typically flops on the walk leading up to the house but has sometimes been seen in a decrepit lawn chair under the one shade tree, has absolutely no reaction to all this canine commotion. The dogs are yelping, the dogs are slamming the fence, the dogs are launching themselves like sugared-up toddlers in a Moon Bounce.

The cat does not move.

My eyes are bad enough now that I sometimes can’t see the cat at first, motionless grey cat in dim shade, and sometimes the Engineer has to point it out. Most times I’m by myself, and I lean on the corner post of the chain fence, enraging the dogs, and take off my mask for a moment like someone who’s just got to stop and breathe, but I’m really only looking for the cat. There is something about that cat’s preternatural calm that I envy and wish to be granted. Maybe it can share.

I probably will never find out its name. In my mind the cat is Zerofux, after a great Merovingian war leader.

Last week I actually spotted the cat outside the yard — it looks like it has a few years on it — slinking under the porch next door, the only shade worth mentioning on the block at the hour. Cats are famously indifferent to extreme heat (I’ve had to pull two back from the brink of heatstroke), but even Zerofux had had it.

It’s not just me. It’s hotter than Hell’s boiler room out there. And I still have a few fucks to give, but they’re going fast.

The Mark Of Zorro

Mr. Ferguson is the mostly gentlemanly, the most debonair, the most delicate and polite of the current cat population. He uses his toes as actual digits — you should see him reach into the bag and pick up a piece of popcorn — and he offers gallantries to his wife on a regular basis, but, well, genteely. He even carries his tail in a dashing curl.

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And then there’s what happens when it’s time for a checkup at the vet.

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That’s my front delt. I didn’t notice until I got back from the gym, owing to the digging of his rear claws into my thigh when we commenced stuffing him into the carrier. It kind of captured my attention.

You’ll be glad to know he checked out A-OK.

 

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

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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

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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.