Monday, January 31, 2011

Carl the Cranky and Tabby Tom: Part Two

Wherein we read of un-looked-for collaboration, suffer a shocking assault, and give chase to a pair of  scoundrels.

Sasha in Shadow

(Be advised, Dear and Gentle Reader, that this post is the second part of a tale, the telling of  which began last Monday with Carl the Cranky and Tabby Tom: Part One. )

Summer waned and gave place to the brilliance of Fall, who waned in her turn, stepping aside for the arrival of Winter. I, no less than the colony of cats, took a deep breath of appreciation when at last Spring, vigorous and green and full of bright life, waved a flowery handkerchief at old Winter and bid her be gone. It had been a cold and an uncomfortable three months. We welcomed the return of warm days and sunshine.

There is nothing more relaxing, nothing better for the unknotting of tensions that sneak in and settle about the head and shoulders, than to sit quietly and gaze at a cat who is sleeping in sunshine. This is a deep medecine. I suspect it is an ncient one, too,  for people have been watching cats for millenia. This particular spring I was happy enough to sit on the back deck, whenever I could, quiet and still. The cats would come, after a time, hunting their favorite patches of sunshine.

Friday, January 28, 2011

The Coming of the Cait Sidhe

In which a strange but welcome visitor makes a first appearance.

In a realm close but far, visited seldom by citizens of our own country, a king sat brooding.

He sat, looking out the open window of a tall tower, his golden eyes gazing into the far distance, or into nothingness, his long, elegant fingers folded, the forefingers extended upward, pointing to the sky, as he rested a handsome chin on folded fists.

The king sighed a deep sigh, a sigh with the weariness of a hundred worlds on its back.

"I am troubled, Cat," said the king. A handsome black cat, who might or might not have been there just a moment ago, turned luminous eyes on his sovereign. He was a huge beast, blacker than a starless night, blacker than the deepest cave. A shining patch of white fur blazed on his dark chest.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

The Joys of Hot and Cold

In which we venture into obscure realms in search of water, and discover much more than what we sought.

The backyard in snow
It gets cold in the City. The winters, by my standards are bitter, though I understand folks from Chicago-land, or, from even further afield, Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, they mock my wimpishness. Well, let them mock, so long as they keep their winters to themselves. St. Louis is as far north as I go. I grew up in more temperate climes, and this is as much as I can take. One morning last week it was three degrees.

That's right, gentle readers. It was three degrees on the Fahrenheit scale. Not thirty degrees, which is two degrees below freezing and plenty cold enough. Three. Uno, dos, tres. Three. In whatever language, that is too damn cold.

Nevertheless, at six in the morning, I stuffed my feet into tennis shoes, wrapped a wool scarf around my head, put on a coat, and ventured outside. The handy desktop weather widget said it was three (three!) degrees. What, you may ask, was the inspiration for this madness? Why armor up and sally forth, when hot chocolate and warm blankets beckoned from a heated house? What madness indeed.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Dirty Socks and Purple Stars

In which we read somewhat concerning the languages of love, the fierceness and generosity of cats, and the kindness of children.

How does one say "I love you?"

I've been thinking about that lately, about the ways each of us says, "I love you." I've been thinking, too, about how and when we receive that message. A cat doesn't say "I love you" in the same language a dog does. Mandarin and Swahili don't use the same sounds to deliver the same message.

Do we always hear the message when it comes our way? Do our own messages of "I love you" always get through?

It's an amazing and humbling thing when your children grow up and start recommending literature - books and movies - to you. When they are young, we expend so much effort on funneling to them the best messages we have to offer.

"Children ought to be provided with property and resources of a kind that could swim with them even out of a shipwreck." ~~Vitruvius, "Architecture.

How diligently we try to provide them with those resources. We peddle ideas, books and music and art. We try to provide a civilizing influence. We try to teach, by word and our own actions, compassion and respect, hope, perhaps faith. How often and how badly we bungle our efforts. But we try. At least, a good many of us do. We try to gather up the best  we have,the best that we are, and put it into the hands that will craft the future.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Advice From Our Friends

In which we discover an interesting suggestion regarding the care of our feline friends, and have a good, healthy belly laugh to boot.

As I continue my decade long liaison with the neighborhood alley cats, I am constantly in search of  any and all information that could potentially be of benefit to them. To this end, I read several lists and websites devoted to catly topics.

Some of the information I find is useful, some inspiring, some funny, some cathartic. As with all information gathererd by whatever means, I have to sift through it, picking out the good bits and discarding the bad. You shouldn't check your brain, after all, when you open your browser.

The other day, I was reading  feral_cats, a yahoo group to which I subscribe. It is devoted to helping feral and stray cats (they're not the same), and to providing support and information on Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR). One post I ran across soon had me laughing hysterically. The minute the spousal unit arrived home, I grabbed him.

"Listen to this," I said,

Monday, January 24, 2011

Carl the Cranky and Tabby Tom: Part One

In which we read of alliances formed and enemies revealed.

When I'm in the bathtub, I confess I'm in another world. I hear nothing from the outside, see nothing, am aware of nothing. Bathtime is an indulgence, a break in the routine of morning showers undertaken daily for purposes of hygiene. A bath may indeed be hygienic, but it's so much more. Taking a bath merely for hygiene is like drinking a glass of Dom Perignon because you've been out working in the yard and need to re-hydrate. Baths for me usually involve candles and music, chocolate, incense, a book or two, and three, sometimes four hours of uninterrupted solitude. A bath is a cherished decadence, not to be undertaken lightly.

I'm pretty sure the building could all but fall down around me, during bathtime, and I would be none the wiser. So it was one evening that a great battle ensued on behalf of the cats, between their allies and neighbors on one hand, and a murderously angry Marine on the other. Threats were made; police were summoned. A small crowd gathered in my alley for the fray while I, deep into the pleasures of hot water and bubbles, bathed obliviously on. I had no idea a veritable riot was underway outside my back gate. It happened in this wise.

Friday, January 21, 2011

A Unique Masterpiece of Extraordinary Beauty

In which we read more of the wisdom and uniqueness of cats, and are inspired somewhat to follow in their pawprints.

" As I contemplate cats, their ways of being, their ways of approaching life, as I ponder what things they may have to teach me, I am struck by not only their grace and their masterful savoir faire, but also by their absolute, unflinching self acceptance. I have never know a cat, from the most pampered housecat to the scruffiest alley tom, who in any way seemed to question the nobility of his own personhood.

"The smallest feline is a masterpiece." ~~Leonardo da Vinci, via

This year will see me attain my fiftieth birthday, supposing I live that long, as I hope to. For many women in our beauty and youth focused society, if forty was frightening, fifty is terrifying beyond belief.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

The Stories We Tell

In which we read of artists and Frenchwomen, cats who spin and speak, and somewhat of the values of things.

"I have often wondered how people decide if they are "dog people" or if they are "cat people." Even people who love both, who consider themselves "animal people", as I do, still, generally, will admit, if pushed, that they really actually prefer to live with this type of creature rather than that one. There are horse people and bird people, even fish and snake and turtle people.

I do confess I find myself most friendly disposed towards mammals, and stand in the least friendly relations towards reptiles.  My relationship with arachnids and most insects is one of open, armed, and mutual hostility. (I allow for some exceptions: lady bugs, praying mantis, butterflies I count among the friendly nations of bug-dom.) Perhaps, though, we don't choose whether to be cat people or dog people. Perhaps we just are, cat people or dog people or horse people. It's almost like a clan division, or a tribe.

I knew from before the time I could read I was a cat person.

Follow up to: Do All Cats Go to Heaven?

This is in the nature of a reply to comments on the previous post Do All Cats Go To Heaven

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

In The Beginning

In which we read of trust and longing, of old friends and of the beginnings of things, and learn somewhat of the purpose of rivers.

It was March of 2001 when the spousal unit and I moved in together here at our little brick house in the City, all full of hopes and enthusiasms and dreams for "Ever After." His teenage daughter, for whom he was the custodial parent, was a part of our little household; I had high hopes of dramatically debunking the "Wicked Stepmother" mythos by what I knew would be my splendid step parenting skills. My biological children were all grown and married; the next generation, the generation of grandchildren, had begun to make their appearances on the world stage. I was working as a tutor in a math help lab, trying to get into graduate school. The Twin Towers still stood proud and tall over New York's harbor. Life was good. We had no intentions of getting a cat -- much less thirteen!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

It Takes a Village...

In which we read of Booty the Cat and his rise to Lordly status; a terrible tragedy is narrowly averted, but happy endings ensue.

It's a joyful thing to see when friends reunite. Yesterday, as temperatures inched toward 40 degrees F, life was not so bad if you happen to be a feral cat in a particular managed colony. All souls are accounted for. In fact, if you were to peer into the back yard about feeding time, you would have seen happy cats decorating the deck and its environs, draped elegantly over the railing or loafing in any available patch of sun. The deck is dry and free from snow; the sun is shining with benign intent. The water bowl is full and unfrozen, the kitty kibbles are piled high in generous helpings. Raven, a big neutered male, black as jet or ebony or a raven's wing, hears me putting out the kibbles. He leaps to the top of the chain link fence, then saunters into my yard. He approaches the deck, tail held straight up in the air. This is the signal to all and sundry that he is a happy cat, and is happy to greet the group he approaches.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Cats and Neighbors and Shoveling Snow

In which we learn something of madness, weeds, blue northers, and neighborliness.

The week of Christmas, we had a snow storm blow in. Yes, yes, that made for a White Christmas. Lovely. I don't mean to be facetious; it was indeed beautiful, especially since the spousal unit and the housecats and I could enjoy it from within the warm comfort of our cozy home, where we cuddled and cooed, drank hot chocolate, (warm milk with no chocolate for the kitties) and watched

Friday, January 14, 2011

Do All Cats Go To Heaven?

Reassurances on the afterlives of cats, and the partial tale of a cat named Bob.

Although thirteen is the number of cats currently in my life (eight in the managed feral colony with which I assist in caregiving, four family housecats, one guardian ghost), this number isn't stable. There are other cats who have come and gone, over the years. Each of them leaves indelible pawprints on my heart.  From each I learn, and with each I grow a bit, in both happiness and in sorrow. With beings such as they, whose life spans are so much terribly shorter than our human ones, the sorrow is inevitable. It's how we deal with it, and with the joys, that counts. 
One cat who lived with us for a little over two years was Bobby of the Golden Eyes, or "The Bobster" as we sometimes called him. He was elderly, and came to live with us

Thursday, January 13, 2011

A Visit from Tabby Tom

Skitter's arch rival, Tabby Tom, comes for a visit, and a cat fight is narrowly avoided.

At first, the colony was nowhere to be seen this afternoon. I wiggled my way out the front door, juggling a caserole dish of canned cat food, today's empty water dish, a pitcher full of water and another of dry kibbles. I managed to not slip on the front step (the wind chill has been FAR too low to get out and do any shoveling), set everything down, locked the front door, got my gloves back on, got everything picked up and adjusted again, and went crunching through the snow around to the back deck, kitty treats in hand (or in arm, rather).

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Snow Day

It was 19 deg F at feeding time yesterday. Only Little Bit and Miss Cally showed up right away, as  I swept some snow off the deck, making some dry spots for kitty paws to stand while munching. They still look fluffy and healthy; happy too. Both tails were 
straight up in the air as they greeted me. I noticed out the back window that Handsome showed up after I'd come back inside. I'm guessing everyone else is hiding out in this cold weather, probably in the Kitty Palace of Hay, or in the abandoned row houses next door. I need to be scrupulous, especially as long as this really cold, snowy weather holds, about sticking to a consistent feeding schedule, same time everyday. That's one of the recommendations of the people at Alley Cat Allies regarding caring for a feral colony. Seems cats are creatures of habit, and being fed at the same time every day is a benefit for them. They know to expect you, and the food.
Another challenge in this weather is keeping the water unfrozen and drinkable. Ours is currently frozen solid. I think I'm going to have to get another deep water dish,  so I can rotate them, bringing one inside to thaw while the other is outside being drank from. Handsome, in particular, is always looking for water; he checks the water dish before checking the food dish. I know that, as an elderly male cat, it's especially important for him to get enough fluids.

Where are the boys?

Seventeen degrees F today, with four inches of snow on the ground, but the cat colony was out in force at feeding time. Little Bit, the smallest female, solid black, but definitely the matriarch of the clan despite her size, was waiting on a cookie sheet for my arrival.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Handsome Returns!

I was so excited yesterday during the noon feeding of the colony. Handsome is back! He's still limping, but seems to be better. He was putting some weight onto the injured foot, not trying to hop about on three legs like before.  Also, he seemed more confident. He was still avoiding the larger and younger males, but

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Handsome Gone Missing!

Handsome is missing, and I'm worried about him. My desktop weather widget says it's 13 deg F, and my toes--tucked up under the green comforter as I write this-- say it's a cold Saturday morning. A hot chocolate type of morning.