Cat Lessons: Gratitude

We are fortunate that all three of our cats get along with each other so well. The bromance between the trio is pretty cute – it apparently involves using one another as pillows. They do play with each other frequently, though that is more difficult to photograph, and evidently share their toys. Such gentlemen cats!

What I have noticed about the trio is that they seem so content with one another’s company and apparently grateful for it. (Perhaps I’m overly anthropomorphizing…) Be as it may, being happy and grateful for one’s friendships is a worthwhile lesson to learn!

Do your cats get along? What kind of relationships do they have? Do they share or do they compete with one another? Share in the comments!

Desk Visits

Garrus has always been reserved but he has been slowly becoming more affectionate. Being on Zylkene has noticeably helped him be more relaxed, faff about less and actually eat at meal times, and regularly ask for pets. He’s not accustomed to being picked up or held much, though, so we will continue to work on that.

Lately, Garrus started jumping onto Aaron’s Mac desk in his office and recently started to do the same on my desk more often as well. At first, he was more interested in sniffing the monitors and investigating everything on the desk. When he turned his attention to either Aaron or me, he seemed like he didn’t know what to do. (Charlie and Mau, by contrast, know exactly how to ask for pets and can be most persuasive about it.) We talk to him and offer him scritches, and if he is in the way (e.g. standing in front of the monitor we are working on), we can ask him to move and he does. He doesn’t knock items off the desk either.

“Excuse me, I would like attention please.”

“Pardon me, madam. Would you please take a break from reading your library book to give me scritches? I would most appreciate it.” After giving me this look, he softly bunted my chin and he received a smooch on his head in return. [please excuse the messy desk]

Often, when Garrus comes over for desk visits, Charlie trots into my office squeaking and flops onto the window seat for his own visit. Then I have to ensure both kitties get enough attention! It’s a demanding job to be sure.

Look at this purr monster!

I believe that Charlie is a happy little boy. I mean, look at that face!

Do your cats demand desk visits? Do they demand visits in other locales in your home? Do they get obnoxious about it or are they polite? Please share in the comments!

Playing vs Fighting

Feline housemates, just like human housemates, may not always get along. Depending on the cats involved, they may actually fight or simply ignore one another. Other cats like to play and tussle with one another, and that can sometimes look like they’re fighting.

Photo courtesy of Petcha

How do you tell the difference between tussling and actual fighting? Here are a few things to look for:

  1. Body language. When cats prepare to fight, they will adopt a defensive stance, curve their spine, bristle their fur, and flatten their ears. A big bottle-brush tail lashing back and forth is another indication of escalating aggression. By contrast, play cats will generally have calm, forward ears (sometimes they may flick back but are not flattened down) and won’t not have bristly fur or look like a classic Halloween scaredy cat.
  2. Position. Playing cats generally have looser positions as they tumble. Sometimes they put a paw around the head or go after the belly area (playing may look rough), but note that they take turns. Fighting cats square off against each other, attempt to intimidate each other with posturing and loud vocalizations, and strike only when necessary.
  3. Noise. Playing cats generally don’t make a lot of noise. They don’t yowl and scream, but if the play gets too rough, there may be a couple meows of protestation! When they do this, they teach each other manners and that biting too hard ends the game. Kittens learn this from an early age, ideally from their siblings and from occasionally disciplinary nips from their mom. Fighting cats hiss a lot, growl, scream, snarl, and generally make A LOT of ruckus.
  4. Friendship. Cats that play together generally have a friendly relationship and see each other as belonging to the same social group. They may snuggle together, groom one another, and even share toys or food. When cats do not have this kind of cordiality, they avoid one another and may have totally separate territories.

Photo courtesy of PetMD. Note these two tense cats are squaring off and just look angry.

Photo courtesy of Free Cat Images. These two cats are tussling, not fighting.

Photo courtesy of Chewy. The tabby on the right prepares to playfully bop the one on the left.

If you want more information about determining whether your cats are playing or fighting, check out Vetstreet, AnimalWised, and PetHelpful.

Do your cats play or do they fight? Do they like each other? What kind of antics do they do during a tussle session? Please share in the comments!

Foster Anniversary

At last year’s Clear the Shelter event (held on Saturday, August 19th), our lives changed when we decided to foster two tabbies. We had not fostered before but Aaron and I decided jointly that these boys really needed us.

Aristotle was gaunt, pitiful-looking, and had patchy fur due to overgrooming. Because of his severe stomatitis, he had (understandably) a poor appetite.

Tink, then two years old, had spent cumulatively 18 months at the shelter (partly in foster care). He had been adopted and returned three times, and had recently lost his buddy cat Pan. While he had been successfully paired with a new buddy, Tink was decidedly not doing well in the shelter and spent 95% of the time hiding.

Both cats were skittish, extremely shy, and wary. They needed a lot of TLC and a quiet respite from the shelter. In our care they made noticeable improvements, especially because we were patient and made an effort to gain their trust. Only two weeks later they moved in! Since we brought them home during the Clear the Shelter event, the adoption fees were waived.

A year later, they are very different, and much happier, cats. They are no longer so skittish and timid. Charlie (formerly known as Tink) blossomed into a perpetually sunny, friendly, and affectionate cat. He squeaks! He flops! He snuggles! Garrus (formerly known as Aristotle) underwent dental surgery to treat his stomatitis and is now a much healthier cat with bunny-soft fur. While still on the reserved side, he now asks for visits, bats at crinkle balls, and chases after the red dot with gusto.

As you can see, Charlie and Garrus are not concerned. They may, however, be only slightly overloved in our house.

Pet Appreciation Week

The first full week in June–Sunday, June 3rd through Saturday, June 9th–is Pet Appreciation Week! Summer is the time for family vacations and fun, so make sure you take the time to acknowledge and truly treasure all the benefits that your pets have brought to your life. My cats bring me joy, laughter, and warm fuzzies, and have taught me about love, family, true friendship, and compassion.

I managed to snap a photo with Charlie looking directly at the camera while Garrus enjoys his buddy’s company.

What do you appreciate most about your pets? What lessons have they taught you? Share in the comments!

Farewell to Boudicca

Shortly before 3 o’clock on Friday afternoon, my beloved Queen Boudicca Mata Hari Sophia passed from this life and found peace. It was dreadfully sad. Boudicca was terminally ill with multiple chronic, incurable, and progressing medical conditions, and she was suffering as a result. I had to to be her advocate and, out of love and duty, I had to act on her behalf and end that pain. The tears flowed and ebbed. Boudicca passed painlessly away, hopefully with the knowledge that her human family loved her fiercely.

I knew this day was coming and began to prepare myself mentally and emotionally weeks beforehand. I had to make a hard choice but in the end it was the right one, and I don’t regret that choice. Her human mother–me, the human she chose all those years ago at the ASPCA–loved her enough to let her go.

Afterward, everything seemed surreal and out of focus. Happysad feelings are difficult to articulate in coherent sentences. I felt a sinking feeling in my chest–sadness and loss. At some point, relief trickled over me. Comfort knowing that Boudicca was in good company with the rest of my family’s pets that have gone over the Rainbow Bridge. Gratitude for the 18 years of loving companionship and joy that she brought to my life.

It still feels mildly surreal to accept that my sweet baby girl no longer lives among us. Her pink beds lie empty, vacant thrones upon which Queen Boudicca lay in languid repose. In the evening, the boys aren’t interested in or know how to enjoy lap time yet. Charlie, for example, would probably enjoy it quite a bit but he’s rather wiggly. The boys certainly like to snuggle with one another but they’re not snugglebugs with humans yet. We’re working on that. I love Charlie and Garrus deeply (every pet in my house always winds up slightly over-loved) but they do not and will not replace Boudicca.

There are hundreds, if not thousands, of little things I will miss about her. Without fail, Boudicca greeted me when I came home, yammering and dancing around my feet until I picked her up. She turned into a limp slinky accordion cat when held. Her purr rumbled, punctuated with trills, when she was filled with lazy contentment (or feline entitlement), especially when I kissed her in between the ears. I would sometimes wake up with her camped out on my chest in a smug cat loaf. I miss her quirks, like when she went through a kleptomaniac phase and repeatedly stole my grandmother’s light blue mohair scarf, complete with matching hat and gloves, and absconded with them to her tower. She became an early riser and pawed me awake. Her eyes turned lantern bright Maleficent-esque green, as though she was plotting nefarious deeds and how to take over the world…just as soon as she finished her nap. She sprawled across books and newspapers and refused to budge. She explored new boxes with relish or took her responsibilities seriously when testing a crocheted blanket for softness and nappability. When I spoke on the phone, Boudicca contributed her two cents to the conversation. Queen B was an excellent reading buddy, especially on quiet rainy days.

Rest in peace, Queen B. I love you.

P.S. I am very grateful for all my friends and family that reached out to me and offered me hugs, comfort, and condolences. Your kindness and thoughtfulness is truly touching. Thank you.

Garrus and Charlie’s Story Part Five: Slowly Opening Up

The boys needed time to realize that they were in a safe, quiet, and less-stressful space and were not going to be roughly handled. All of us needed to get to know one another and establish trust. In order to do so, Aaron and I spent time sitting on the floor in order to hang out with them; if we stood up, the boys scattered and hid. (Understandably, humans loom over cats when they stand up. We needed to work slowly with these guys.) We spoke in low, quiet voices to the boys as another way for them to get used to us.

Garrus was the first to come out of hiding and tentatively approached us. We moved very slowly around the boys as to not inadvertently startle them. We let Garrus sniff us and choose on his own terms how to engage with us. If he wanted to come toward us for pets, he could do that but if he chose to back off and hide, we did not reach in after him. A few hours later, Charlie emerged from his hiding spot and timidly checked us out. We noticed that he first watched what Garrus did and followed his lead. We were both quite pleased when we were able to give the boys gentle pets and strokes. They jerked away if we put our hands on either of their bodies, even to give scritches, so we worked very slowly, read their body language closely, and took our cues from the cats.

Garrus slowly started to explore his surroundings. He was the first to explore the chair and desk.

Charlie came out from his hiding spot!

Stay tuned for Part Six! (If you haven’t already read them, check out Parts One, Two, Three, and Four.)