My Cat’s Been Telling Me Something

Weird as they are, cats do seem to follow some sort of cat logic. When they start acting differently than normal, they’re usually trying to tell you something. Which is why I should have been suspicious when all of a sudden the kitchen counter became Wash’s favorite hang out spot. Now Wash has always had a bad habit of jumping on the counter when I’m doing things in the kitchen. Spraying him in the face with water has helped, but not cured the problem. But for the past week and a half or so, I’ve walked into the darkened kitchen at night to find him just sitting there, always in this one corner. I should have been suspicious, but I just assumed it was Wash being weird.

Tonight I walked down to the kitchen with an entourage of orange kitties to feed them and fix myself an adult beverage. Wash, who normally follows ever step I take until I feed him went immediately to the oven and started staring intently at something under it. Now I may be slow, but I know what it means when a cat stares at something under a stove. It means you have a vermin problem. Except with Wash sometimes it means he’s lost a toy under there and last winter it just meant he was suddenly obsessed with the stove. So I tried to ignore him. Until he chased something from under the stove to under the cabinets. Right in that corner where he always sits.

I didn’t get a good look at whatever he was chasing, but out of the corner of my eye it did look like there was something there and feline roommate, who probably has more reliable instincts than Wash, also seemed interested in it. And as if that wasn’t evidence enough, whatever this was, Wash found it more interesting than food (or possibly saw it as food).

Great.

I didn’t even think I was afraid of mice till I found myself staring at the counter, waiting for one to jump out from underneath the stove.

Well… here’s hoping Wash is a better hunter than I sometimes give him credit for having.

Wash, Year One

One year ago today I drove to the PetSmart on the outskirts of town. I bought the cheapest cat carrier I could find, a large sized litterbox, litter scoop, food and water bowls, a bag of Science Diet, a bag of Greenies and a couple of cat toys. Later that afternoon I went to my friend L’s house and picked up an adorable orange ball of fluff. His temporary mommies were a little teary to see him go, but promised to visit. Then we drove around the block to my house.

Wash spent the first hour he was at my apartment searching for the escape hatch that was bound to take him back to L’s house. He didn’t find it. He eventually gave up and played with the toys I bought him, but truth be told he wanted nothing to do with me. Having spent enough time with cats I knew not to push it. I actually left for a little while to let him get acclimated. That night he tentatively climbed up on the bed with me after a while, only to be terrified by the sound of a passing train. He spent the rest of the night under the bed.

During those first couple days I tried desperately not to get attached. He had been living on the streets but didn’t have the behavior of a feral cat. The only clue at all was two other kittens of similar ages and descriptions found about the same time in the same apartment complex. My guess is someone dumped a litter. But at the time there was an add online looking for his owner and I was taking him to the vet to get checked for a microchip in three days. I told myself I’d be fine if an owner turned up. I was happy to have him, but it really wasn’t a convenient time for me to get a cat. And if he had a family that was missing him he obviously belonged with them. I really believed I was fine with the idea of giving him up until I was driving him to the vet that Monday. I looked over at him and he made one of his adorable little squeaks (he never has learned to meow properly and he has no clue how to hiss) and I thought, “what if I don’t get to bring you home with me today?” I nearly burst into tears.

Turns out I had no reason to worry. No microchip. He did think the microchip scanner seemed like an awesome toy, but no one would let him play with it. He was so excited when the vet offered him a little dish of canned food that he didn’t even notice when she gave him a shot as he ate it. When he stayed overnight a few weeks later for his little “procedure” he had charmed every tech in the place. Three women were crowded around him cooing at him as I took him home.

Yes, my baby’s a ladies’ man. He’s alternately a sweet little snuggle bunny and the jerk who punches me in the face when I don’t feed him often enough. But he also has magical anti-depressant powers and is largely the reason I have survived the last year. A few traces of his rough beginning remain: he will eat anything left unattended. And I mean anything. His favorites are peanut butter and anything made with chickpeas. Oh yes, he’s my cat. Sometimes he plays a little rougher than he means to—not his fault Mommy isn’t another feral cat. He loves to play with toys, plot the demise of the birds outside, and eat. And I like to think he likes his mommy pretty well, even though she doesn’t feed him enough and goes to work when she should be snuggling with him.

All told, he wasn’t the cat I was planning to get and it wasn’t the time I was planning to get a cat. But he was clearly the cat I was supposed to get.

Happy anniversary little Wash. Let’s hope we have many more to come.

Five Discarded Blog Posts

I have nothing I want to write about tonight.  Not a thing.  It was a pretty long day at the bill-paying job and I mostly want my acetaminophen-pm and my pillow.  But, since it’s my turn to post (and I’m all kind of resolved to be better about that this year)….here are things that I considered and discarded:

1) The Job.  One day, when I have other means of income, I will write a fabulous tell-all about my way not glamorous job.  It will be a fantastic mix of tragedy and comedy.  I will be hailed a genius, and the world will be changed.  Until then, I like paying the bills.

2) Politics.  Not touching that with a 10-foot f-ing pole.  To quote Josh from The West Wing, “I’m so sick of Congress I could vomit.”  If I hear about one more damn Republican Primary….

3) The Idiot Who Nearly Ran Me Into a Ditch This Morning.  He made my day start out sucky and since he didn’t actually manage to run me off the road and to an early grave, you’re stuck reading this sub-standard post.

4) The Weather. I’m not talking about it because ours has been fantastic and I don’t wanna jinx it by saying more than that (having written this much, we’ll get 6 inches of snow and -15 temps tomorrow)

5) The Cat.  She’s being bitchy and a little attention-whore, and paying her the slightest mind will only make it worse.

And on that note, my little painkillers-o-wonder are standing by to cure the pounding in my head and whisk me off to the land of Nod on 25mg of Diphenhydramine.

Showering with Kittens

It’s been at least a couple weeks since I updated you on the antics of my adorable, insane orange fuzzball.  Recently he’s developed yet another… quirk, shall we say?  He’s decided he’s very upset by this habit I have of showering every night.  It’s a habit I’ve had since before he came to live with me, so I’m not sure why it’s only recently become so disturbing.

If I don’t allow him in the bathroom when I take a shower he sits at the door and cries.  If I do allow him in he waits impatiently outside the shower, occasionally sticking his head around the edge of the curtain.  If I turn off the water, even for a moment, like to let conditioner set or shave my legs he tends to climb in the shower and pace around for a little while.

But the strangest thing is what he does when I get out.  He comes rushing to me as though he was afraid he would never see me again and stands up on his hind legs, putting his front paws up on my stomach or chest if he can get high enough.  And if I make the mistake of wrapping myself up in a towel, he climbs the towel until he can snuggle up against my chest.  He continues clinging to my chest until I put him down, which often requires a lot of finagling since he wants to prolong the snuggling.

I’m not going to lie: unlike some of his other oddities, this one is at least as cute as it is annoying.  What gets me is trying to imagine what’s going through his little head to prompt this behavior.  Is he thinking, “Mommy!  Don’t go in there!  It’s wet in there!”?  Or do I smell differently when I get out? (like TJ’s Tea Tree Tingle instead of Wash) Or does he just really like snuggling in a warm towel?

I don’t know, but I’ve started drying off as much as I can before removing the towel from the towel bar, just so I can be somewhat dry before I have to stand there with a crazy tabby clinging to my chest.

There’s a Nazgul in my Bed!

I’m posting late again.  I doubt anyone’s really noticing and even if they do notice, I doubt they care.  But there’s a reason this time and it’s this week’s Time Vampire.

It now takes me upwards of two hours to change my sheets.

WTF? You say?

Well it’s always taken more time than expected to accomplish that task.  This results from a) the fact that I like my bed positioned in the corner because I cannot sleep without a wall at my back b) the fact that I have a lot of pillows c) the fact that I have a nearly OCD quality obsession with making sure things are lined up correctly.  But still, I used to be able to accomplish this task in an hour tops.  So what happened?

My fuzzy orange Time Vampire entered the picture.

At some point, I think it was over the summer, but I’m not positive, Wash discovered one of his favorite games.  It’s called variously the “sheet game” or “imitation Nazgul.”  For some reason understood only to his tiny kitty brain he thinks it’s the bestest game ever to wrap himself up in a newly laid down sheet and attack anything that that moves outside of this little sheet bundle.  So I go to put the fitted sheet down and Wash burrows inside it.  We wrestle for a while.  He attempts to bite my hand off.  He rolls over and shows me his belly so I will be too dazzled by the cute to punish him for said biting.  I try to move him/distract him with toys.  I have only marginal success.  I finally manage to get the fitted sheet over all four corners and put down the flat sheet.  Lather, rinse, repeat.  Through two more blankets and a comforter.

Next thing I know it’s midnight, I have scratches to clean out, laundry to sort, and I haven’t had a shower yet.  And I’ve been up since 5:30am thanks to my fuzzy orange alarm clock.

Sigh.  I love that cat.  I really do.  But if it weren’t for his magic orange tabby powers… he’d probably get fewer greenies.  No way he’s going anywhere not matter how much of a distracting sheet monster he is.

Raising Wash

We all know the stock figure of the crazy cat lady.  But there’s another cliché among the no-longer-so-young and single set—the 30ish single gal that uses a pet as a substitute for a child.  I am that cliché.

Well, sort of.  My kitty is no substitute for child on account of I like kitties and I don’t like children. But there are an awful lot of ways in which living with Wash is like living with a baby.  Here are a few of them:

1.  I talk about him more than anyone wants to hear.  You know how new parents go on and on about their baby to the annoyance of all around them?  That was me.  I’ve kind of got control of it, but the rep holds and it’s not undeserved.

2.  He wakes me up at all hours of the night.

3.  He cries a lot.

4.  When he gets tired he wants me to hold him nonstop and I wind up learning to do a lot of things one handed.

5.  Sometimes he’s really tired but doesn’t want to go to sleep for fear of missing something, so I wind up tricking him into going to sleep.

6.  He leaves his toys all over the floor.

7.  I spend my afternoons hoping for him to take a nap so that I can do the things I can’t do when he’s awake (cooking, cleaning, etc.)

8.  His food and medical expenses are a definite drain on my finances.

9.  Oh crap.  I’ve become the pet owning equivalent of a Mommy blogger!

Feline Discrimination

I don’t really think that any of our readers are so naïve as to believe prejudice has been eradicated by any means.  I know for a fact several of our readers have been victims of it.  But I think there are some forms of prejudice and discrimination that just don’t get the attention they deserve.  Some people may even be unaware they exist.  I would like to address one of these today.

This is, for obvious reasons, a cause that is very dear to my heart.  I am speaking, of course, about the prejudice against cats.

WTF? You say.  Have you somehow missed it?

Well perhaps the easiest way to show how pervasive this prejudice is, the best strategy is to examine our popular culture.  I was reminded of this prejudice just the other night when I was talking on the phone and she remarked that Captain America would be much cooler if he had a radioactive cat for a sidekick (believe it or not in the context of this conversation this made perfect sense).  I realized that this would clearly never happen, though if memory serves at one point Captain America did have a dog sidekick.  Because there is no way the unwritten rules of our popular culture would allow a cat to be a servant of good and democracy.  So felines everywhere get passed over for the good guy sidekick jobs and are forced to take positions working for villains.  And I know these positions seem like they might be more glamorous and fun, but keep in mind they also bring a lot more danger.  And I don’t think you can count on your paycheck not bouncing when you work for a supervillain.

Culturally speaking, cats still implicitly represent evil and deception while dogs are used to represent good and loyalty.

Think about it.  Inspector Gadget.  Dr. Evil.  Countless other films and television shows reinforce this dichotomy.

Why?  Well I would argue that it’s a holdover from medieval European traditions in which cats were thought to be servants of the devil while dogs were… well essentially slave labor.  And I would argue that those traditions evolve out of a number of factors.  For starters dogs have been domesticated longer.  We like things that are domestic; they’re easier to control.  Things we can’t control scare us.  Dogs were easier to domesticate because they’re pack animals and so if you can convince them to see a human as the alpha dog they’ll do whatever you want them to.  Cats on the other hand are quite secure in the knowledge they don’t need us to survive.  They will bond together for mutual benefit, but loyalty only goes so far as it’s profitable.  They aren’t afraid to do their own thing.  They also remember being worshiped in Egypt.

So yeah, I would argue this shows us something very disturbing in our society.  We like blind loyalty.  We don’t like independent thought.  There also might be some disturbing gender implications, but that’s another blog post.

So just remember the next time you see that villain with a cat on his lap, he’s just reinforcing centuries old superstitions.  And prejudices.

Bi-Species Road Trip

If, for some really sad reason, you check this blog desperately every Monday evening waiting to see who we’re going to have coffee with, you didn’t see it this Monday.  That’s because I posted on Tuesday and changed the dates.  Why?  Because Monday I was too exhausted from driving 11.5 hours with Wash.  Yes, I drove cross country with a cat who is barely a year old.  Why?  Well clearly I’m insane.

Traveling with a cat is an adventure.  To be fair, I think Wash is fairly well behaved compared to other cats I’ve heard about.  I give him some homeopathic stuff to keep him calm and generally after I let him out of his carrier he makes one round of the car and curls up somewhere.  On our first trip together he settled in my lap which meant that I was stiff and sore by the end, but worked well over all.  This time he was a lot less cooperative.

This time he insisted on sitting on the floor at my feet.  You know, in that area where the pedals are?  Yeah… not so good.  On the first leg of the trip he kept wanting to put his head under the brake pedal.  Which meant I had to nudge him with my foot while continuing to drive the car.   Clearly that wasn’t going to work.  So on the next leg I created a barricade with my purse which meant I had to drive with my right ankle resting on my purse.  My left foot I kept under the brake to keep anyone else from going under it.  Yeah… not sure that was completely safe.  And it definitely wasn’t comfortable.

The other thing about driving with a cat, especially when it’s super hot, is that it changes your views on breaks.  Because, of course, they aren’t chances to stretch my legs and rest from the road.  They times when I have to run in and pee as quick as possible because I’m worried about my baby in the hot car.  And eating is a big problem since Wash wanted to share everything.  The upside is that I made it the whole way without purchasing any food and the only beverage I bought was a cup of coffee.

I decided at some point earlier this year that musicals make the best road trip music.  I’m not sure Wash liked my rendition of Ragtime based on his response, but he seemed less displeased with my Evita.  By the time I got to Miss Saigon he was too tired to react and I think he just completely slept through Chess.  Such a critic.

Fuzzy Orange Time Vampire

Many of you have noticed that we’ve been unusually quite here in the domain of legume spreads.  On my side that’s mostly been due to the end of the semester.  Cammy’s had her own time vampires.  But since blogging about paper grading and paper writing is less than riveting, here’s another little Time Vampire that’s not helped add to my blogging time.

Now you all know that I adore my new kitten Wash.  He’s a little orange ball of adorable and schmoopiness.  He’s also a discount anti-depressant.  But he has one problematic idiosyncrasy:  Having been feral for part of his early life he still believes he’s responsible for hunting his own food.  He does not trust for a minute that I will continue to feed him, so he has to find other things around the apartment to eat.  In the past he’s had an obsession with peanut butter cookies.  I found this out the hard way when I had one (wrapped in plastic) hidden on a high shelf.  I didn’t think he could reach said shelf because there had been a bag of catnip sitting on it for a week and he hadn’t bothered it.  Well I got up one morning to find the partially eaten peanut butter cookie on the floor and the catnip untouched.

He has since put holes in my purse and my lunch bag because he knew there were peanut butter cookies inside.

Last Monday I came home from Cammy’s with among other things a couple of Reese’s miniature peanut butter cups.  Keep in mind they were in a ziplock bag inside a plastic grocery bag inside a cloth grocery bag.  I dropped my stuff off and ran out to a meeting.  I came back several hours later to find that someone had ripped open the Reese’s cups in order to get the peanut butter out.  It was obvious that was what he had done, as most of the chocolate part was still there, but I knew he had to have ingested some of the chocolate, which, as most people know is toxic to cats.  Also his paws and face were clean so I knew it hadn’t just happened.  Needless to say I spent the rest of the night searching for information on cats and chocolate and debating whether to drive him to the emergency vet in Indianapolis.  I decided not to because I didn’t think he had really eaten enough to be dangerous, he seemed fine, and chances were it had been more than two hours which would mean it was already in his system and too late to induce vomiting of anything.  I didn’t sleep at all I was so terrified I’d made the wrong call.  For the record, Wash slept just fine.  (and clearly is doing fine or this wouldn’t be a funny story)

The next day I was in my room grading papers (due to things related to the chocolate incident that are gross enough I’m not going to mention them) my couch was unusable.  Then I heard some plastic crinkling and went to investigate.  Apparently in my sleep deprived state I had left a package of shredded cheese on the counter and he had ripped into it.  Cheese is more an upset stomach food than a dangerous food for kitties, but still I felt awful.  And I pointed out to him, “Wash!  Your little tummy is going to be so unhappy with you!”

The next day it got even weirder when he opened a package of wasabi peas.  Now to be honest I think this was more about getting to play with the fun little rolly things than it was about eating them, but I still had to research kittens and wasabi.

I love the little guy, but he needs to stop giving me heart attacks!  There are limits to how much I can take!

Kitty Calorie Counts

Lately I have a new minor obsession.  I’ve been doing a lot of research into portion sizes and calorie counts.  Turning to the internet for more information than comes on the food labels.  Looking at weight charts.  I’ve even been thinking about getting a scale.

Those of you who know me well enough are probably thinking at this, “WTF?”  I don’t count calories.  I loathe the concept of dieting.  I flat out refuse to own a scale and the only times I ever get weighed are when I’m at the doctor.  So what gives?

The answer?  None of this is for me.  It’s all for my cat.  Yes, it’s poor little Wash whose calories are being monitored.  Now let me be clear that Wash is not overweight.  Yet.  The problem is house cats have a tendency to get heavy.  There are a lot of health issues that are associated with overweight cats—more so than there are in humans.  And I’ve been in the position of trying to make an overweight cat lose weight and it isn’t fun for anyone involved.  So we’re trying to head it off at the pass.

On top of that I’m up against Wash’s lingering feral mentality towards food.  He doesn’t yet believe that I’m going to keep feeding him.  So if there is food he can reach, he must eat it ALL!  As fast as he can!  Someone might steal it!  And occasionally he finds it necessary to steal peanut butter cookies from his Mommy.  *Kristy tries to give Wash a dirty look, but he’s too adorable sleeping in her lap*  This means if I don’t closely control the amount of food he has access to, he’s gonna get heavy real fast.  Especially since he’s getting fixed on Thursday and that slows down their metabolism.

So at the vet’s suggestion I’ve been incorporating some canned food into his diet because it’s amazing how low in calories that stuff is compared with the dry stuff.  He can have a whole can of food, plus another third of another can per day or half a cup of the dried stuff.  We’re mixing it up so he gets canned food right before mommy goes to sleep (this means his tummy is full so he’s less likely to wake up Mommy) and dry food the rest of the time.  The problem is cat food does not include calorie information.  So I’ve been having to search for all this info online.

And I’m happy to do it because he’s my baby and I love him no matter what size he is (or how many cookies he steals), but sometimes I pause and think, “When did I become this pet owner?”