Tag Archive: cats

the small cat with the big name

introducing: solstice friday XIII.  more often known as solstice, soli, friday, sophie, smooches, or fuzzkin.  as of three weeks ago (tomorrow), we are back up to a two-cat household… following the loss of our beloved levi, we had friends staying with us for a few weeks, whose two little cats kept tanuki busy (and vice versa).  after they left, it was fairly evident that she was lonely and in need of much crazy chasing-time when we got home from work, so we eyed up the ‘available cats‘ page at the spca (warning — that is a dangerous link) for a few weeks and noticed a few we were interested in meeting.  as it happened, the day we made our visit, only one of those was still up for adoption (yay for the others!) and he wanted to be an only cat.  however, in cage 13 (where else?!), we found this little girl hanging out with her two sisters.  they were 8 months old, a little younger and smaller than tanuki — just about perfect.  and she pretty much chose us.  we had our eye on her anyway, with her gorgeous black coat and tiny sprinkling of white throat-hairs, but her constant purr and head-butting of our hands and legs made it so that we didn’t really need to meet anyone else.

she settled in quickly at home, living in our room for a couple days to give her a secure smallish space, but we did allow tanuki to come in a few times and say hi.  overnight, they happily shared us and the remaining space on the bed, and have since settled into an easy friendship that alternates between napping in close proximity (though not touching), eating side by side, and frantic chasing up and down the hallway and stairs (as i type).  when friday came down with cat flu (or some other similar respiratory ailment) and spent a few days hunched in on herself with eyes mostly closed, sneezing pitifully (and juicily), tanuki already showed signs of play-withdrawal and was overjoyed when friday began perking up (the result of two pills and two applications of eye ointment a day for a week; not the best way to get your new cat to trust you).

her personality is already quite distinct; she is not a lap-cat but will happily curl up next to warm legs (at night) or on the arm of the sofa, to be happily encircled by a person’s arm.  when dozing, any human touch will elicit an adorable brrt!  she is far more vocal than either of our other cats and chats cheerfully with anyone in the room who talks to her.  she does not mind her (still naked from the spay) belly being stroked.  she likes to chase fast-moving toys where tanuki prefers the ones that creep slowly and erratically across the floor; the chasing may be to offset friday’s impressive appetite, which has allowed her to put on 400 grams in the three weeks we’ve had her.

so here she is, the newest member of the family.  hope you like her — she’s sure to be a recurring feature.  :)

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eulogy for a black cat

i found levi at a garage sale, on what must have been a saturday morning in april, 2003 (the heyday of my garage sale habit, as i worked on furnishing the empty flat i had rented in march).  this particular assortment of second-hand furniture and knick-knacks held nothing appealing, and i was turning to leave when i spotted a gorgeous, ink-black beast lounging in the sun, every hair-tip afire and obviously the king of all he saw.  i asked the smart-ass question ‘your cat’s not for sale, is he?’ and what do you know – it pays to be a smart-ass.  for sale, no; free to a good home, when the owner moved to australia in five weeks, yes.  she called me a month later and we arranged a pick-up, which turned into several pick-up attempts as he demonstrated his strength and unwillingness to travel in a cardboard box.  eventually i drove her son to my house, hugging ‘tom’ to his chest in the toweled kitty-burrito method we would use to transport him ever after.

he lived in my room for several days, getting accustomed to me and his new home; by the second night, he came out from under my bed to sleep on top of it, a post he would faithfully keep every night for the next eight years.  we tried out a variety of names on him: spades, scutus (which was perfect except that it just didn’t stick), others i don’t remember.  eventually we settled on ‘levi’; he seemed to like the long ‘ee’ sound.  he introduced me to the anxieties of ‘outdoor’ cat ownership, including despair when he first escaped outside and didn’t return for 24 hours, a non-negotiable need to live on a quiet street to minimize the risk of car danger, and the joys of regular flea prevention (or else the consequences).  on summer nights, when i turned the light out from reading, he would patrol my windowsills and snack with appalling gusto on the hapless ‘christmas’ beetles that had trapped themselves inside the panes.  in future houses he would chase flies, and when he grew too lazy (or spoiled) to chase, he followed me when i took the fly-swatter in hand, and hoovered up the twitching carcasses.

he was black, black, black from nose tip to whiskers to his tail and his pads, with one tiny white freckle on his lower right eyelid.  following some minor scuffle later in life, five white hairs sprouted over a healed scab on the top of his head, but otherwise, his fur was a moonless night and nearly impossible to photograph.  he was my hallowe’en kitty, silhouetted sentinel in the window waiting for me to come home, a pool of deeper darkness guarding my dreams at night.  he was the only exception to a friend’s dislike of felines, earning the name ‘stealth cat’ from an idealistic admirer who chose to ignore his companionably steady sleeping half-purr, half-snore.  he had impeccable instincts for the moment i had finally resolved to get out of bed, arriving inevitably to re-settle his rumbling bulk on my chest.  he was hopelessly conditioned to make use of any lap covered in a shark-printed fleece blanket that my grandmother made (probably for the still non-existent great-grandchildren).  he followed us through four houses, learning where the sunniest spots were in each within a matter of hours, and greeted us at the door, waiting to smell everyone’s breath in turn.

he hated the rustle of plastic bags; the sound of someone talking when he wanted to sleep on a comfortable, quiet lap; and, to my endless amusement, my phd supervisor.  he had little love for tanuki when we adopted her, but had begun to play with her (claws in, no hissing) over the last several weeks, and may even have had a little soft spot for her in that outwardly growly old heart.  he was crazy for raw meat scraps and would streeeeeetch his right paw up to the counter (a good meter in height) when he could smell it; a rare snack of wet food would send him into a focused ecstasy of slurping.  he tolerated brushing only while being liberally bribed with cat treats.  his warm, inert, heavy body was the best insulator by miles, through a series of chilly houses, and only with great regret and (unaccepted) apologies could one put him aside once he had chosen his nap site.

these are some of the memories, and none of them do him justice.  we wrote him into our wedding vows, loved him deeply, spoiled him, missed him whenever we traveled.  his steady, loyal presence throughout our entire relationship cannot be reconciled to the knowledge of his body now curled forever in the sunniest part of the garden, under the bench where he basked.  his clear green eyes never faded, never clouded over; his purr grumbled on until the end.  bedtime is incomplete without his settling-in routine and mornings without his early awakening; arriving home to an empty front window is heartbreak anew.  yesterday there was time for snuggling, following the sun, saying all the important things and countless strokes of his warm, sable, purring side, but it was nowhere near enough.  today there is peace for him, and only the ache of his departure for us.

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smitten kitten

tanuki is 7 months old now, and it’s incredible to think that when she first arrived with scuttle and neenish, her whole body would have fit into the current volume of her head.  she is a total lap cat, a goofball, a shower-water-drinker and a tireless teaser of our older cat, who usually tolerates her but does not hesitate to growl and swat when he’s had enough.  i will not gush on about her (at least not right now), but a few recent portraits are worth sharing.

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apart from the zoo, the final week of my trip at home was made of nice, quiet days at my parents’ house.   the cats and i entertained each other (in very different ways… leo likes games of hide-and-seek, exploring cardboard boxes and bags, riding on shoulders, and napping on your chest; for fizzgig, it’s more of a wary circling with occasional hissing [she does most of the hissing, but sometimes you just have to answer], until she sits on your lap and pretty much dares you to move or fidget); i joined dad and limo on walks, cooked a bit, played a lot of scrabble with mom, and did more stuff triage in my room. 

tragically, it was too wet outside to get drafted into any yard work, but at least the flowers were happy.

and so the final few days passed.  i left with more than twice as much luggage as i’d had on arrival, but there’s still plenty to do when we return for christmas. :)

i’m on a train in north carolina, and i have been on it for eight hours.  it is an hour behind schedule, an hour off from my destination still, and we are stopped with locomotive trouble.  this seems like a good opportunity to look back over the last few much more enjoyable days, the review of which will hopefully subdue my urges to kill someone.

so, boston!  i stayed with my college friend mensch, her two lovely, culinarily spectacular roommates, and her wry, chunky cat, brussel (above).   upon landing, the city greeted me with a gorgeous sunset and several colorful characters, just to remind me of their gregarious ubiquity around town.  first was a rather vacant individual who sat next to me on the bus, lolling his head over toward me every couple of minutes to ask a few more slurred questions.  these ranged from queries on whether i had any children (and may lose me a bet i made with the pebbles about how many people would raise the subject on this trip – i, apparently optimistically, did not foresee this as a frequent topic of conversation with strangers), to whether there was much gang activity in new zealand.  i was divided on how to answer this line of questioning – was it an attempt to appraise my gang-savviness?  however tempted, i refrained from saying, ‘yes, and the most vicious is the colossal squid gang, of which i am king.’  then, on the walk from the t-station to mensch’s house, another garrulous person approached me, with a running environmental commentary that evolved into  ‘wow, that’s a lot of stuff you’re carrying!  pop pop!  you got a baby on there, too?  no?  oh, sorry’ as he walked past.

apart from the chatty strangers (of which there were several more, including a hotelier-gymnast from barcelona who tried to convince me to come to starbucks with him – no go for several reasons), the visit was a fantastic mix of visiting old stomping grounds (wellesley, neaq) and catching up with very good, far-too-seldom-seen friends.  there was an octopus encounter to rival the one that got me hooked on cephs, some 13 years ago, at the very same tank. the final morning was something of a strike-out, when i failed to check the garment district’s opening hours before going there, and then discovered that an old friend whom i had decided to try dropping in on unannounced had actually moved to chicago a few months earlier, but i did find a nice exhibit on arthropods at the harvard museum of natural history, and spent some time happily peering at claws, segments and various other jointed appendages in jars.  and some very cool ceph items in the gift shop.

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a quick swoop through dc was next, staying with koenigin and encompassing another quick series of location and old friend visits.  there was a delicious ethiopian dinner (now traditional for dc visits), and pilgrimages to the old neighborhood and to the bookstore that the pebbles remembers with great fondness, despite being the object of a failed pick-up attempt the last time he visited there.  (i considered, but ultimately decided against, buying him a book on gaydar.)  there was ice cream, a stammtisch with some other waldsee veterans, a visit to the baltimore aquarium, admiration of the copious new leaves and blossoms on trees, and a rather chilly reminder that april weather is fickle and often wet.  there were busy and important people in shiny shoes crammed into trains, pointedly ignoring each other in spite of very close quarters, and ambient discussions of the averted government shut-down, and descents down 126 non-functioning escalator steps into deeply subterranean metro stations.  in short, everything i remember about dc from previous life and visits.

and then, inevitably, we reach the point where this narrative catches up to the present moment.  it didn’t even have to travel terribly fast to catch up, since we are still sitting in the same train station.  the sun has set, the train is dark inside since the power is out, we have just been told it will be at least another 30 minutes, and a couple of small children in the back of the car are treating us to a rousing chorus of ‘bad romance’.  people are on cell phones all around me, expressing varying degrees of pragmatism and ire.  my parents have been informed that we will be arriving by bus, but no one on the train has been told this information; i am torn between waiting it out, and spreading the news.  either way, i think i will stash my laptop in preparation for an ever-more-imminent riot.

epilogue: an hour later, my parents picked me up, having driven from our destination in lexington.  thank cthulhu for cell phones.  i found someone to speak german with in the meantime, and was just generally thankful to have broken down close enough to be rescued, unlike many other poor sods who were waiting to go to charlotte but wouldn’t arrive until probably 1am or so.  we got home around 10, 3.5 hours later than i was supposed to arrive, but it could have been so, so much worse.


i suspect no one will be surprised that we ended up keeping one of our foster kittens – perhaps only that we were able to hold out until the second batchthe first litter will always hold a special place in memory, and we love that we can visit one of them at bumbly’s house, but when this little girl came along, we were goners.

already, on the way home from the SPCA as a foster, she distinguished herself, albeit by getting one claw stuck in a litter-mate’s head.  she was the most active, the most coordinated, and consistently the most affectionate, being willing to be picked up and held, purring, for nearly an hour at a time.  it got to the point where, when visiting the kittens, i would have to make a conscious effort not to pick her up first, because the others would get bored and go back to sleep waiting for their turns.

when she got cat flu a few weeks into her stay with us, she was the most pathetic thing ever.  not visibly affected in terms of energy or health, but more congested than i have ever heard an animal, she wheezed and snorkeled like – and i’m sorry for the mental image – a sucking chest wound.  it was awful.  on the worst day we called the SPCA to find out what to do, couldn’t get ahold of them, and rushed her to the local vet.  the upshot was that, apart from the breathing difficulties, she actually seemed to be fine, and as long as she was eating, we should just monitor her and keep up the antibiotics.  we steam-tented her several times a day – she always came out damp and panting, but breathing more easily, managing to raise a piteous string of meow-oooos by the end of each session, and as i would towel her off and hear the big purr come back (between gurgling snorts), i knew it would be very, very difficult to give her back.

luckily for me (and her, i like to think), the kittens’ return date was three days before valentine’s day. the SPCA wanted them at that time because they had a big adoption initiative on.  so not only would they most likely be adopted within 48 hours… i also had good cause for campaigning to keep the one we were calling ‘diva,’ because although she would surely be snapped up instantly once returned, i assured the pebbles that she would also be at the top of my valentine’s wish list.

so here we are, two months later, with the most beautiful adolescent ‘torbie’ cat i’ve ever seen.  her coat is a tapestry of interesting markings, from her orange back knees, ear-spots and eyelashes on one eye, to the leopard-spots bordering her white belly, the symmetrically striped front legs that she likes to keep daintily crossed, and the white tip on her tail.  although still a kitten in my mind, she is already more than full lap-length when stretched out, and nearly as tall as our larger, senior cat when she arches her back upward.  the big purrs and joyful morning smooches continue, but her behavioral repertoire has expanded to include an adorable staccato meow-growl hybrid when stalking bugs, a fascination with leftover shower-water and the faucet in the bathroom sink, and a frenzied delight in plastic bags, mouse toys, string, flax leaves, ping pong balls and cardboard boxes.  she will happily sleep on laps, recumbent chests, and in the circle of protective arms, even in the car.

after much discussion, we settled on the name ‘tanuki,’ for the mischievous shape-shifter of japanese folklore and for our favorite japanese restaurant in auckland, tanuki’s cave.  and although this statement is probably moot, given the rapturous post above – we are smitten.  :)

coming soon

travel updates!  house & garden updates!  spiders!  new zealand scenery!  and… tanuki!  :)

ferocious jungle beasts

the time has almost come for foster batch #2 to trade their reproductive systems for forever-homes; tomorrow they will go back to the spca, have their next round of vaccines and their desexing surgeries, and be up for adoption on the weekend.  (come on, auckland, you know you want them!)  although we didn’t get these kittens in the fuzzball stage — they were about 7 weeks old already — their development has been noticeable and impressive.  they are speedy and agile, have definite personalities and have learned a number of things, including how to be gentle with their claws when playing (with humans at least — diva did get a scratched nose from someone last week), how to climb and balance on the papasan chair frame (cushion removed for cleaning, post-accident… sigh), and how to start looking for the red laser pointer spot when they hear it click on.  and wow, does that provide hours of entertainment for everyone!  each kitten has his/her own way of stalking and chasing, and they often ambush each other while one is distracted in the laser hunt. they are bigger than the previous batch were when they went back, because they got a relatively serious case of cat flu (diva sounded like a croupy duckling for about three days) and had to stay with us for treatment.  darn ;)

so here are the latest pics.  because i can’t post videos here, i have started to put them on youtube (both the first and second batches — and the first ones look so tiny!)

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so much for the empty nest

i’m sure you knew it wouldn’t be long before the debut of foster batch #2.  the last of the first litter, imp-nacho-weasel-crumpet, is doing well at my sister’s — getting big, and learning not to mark his territory in the middle of the feather bed.  ah, cats.so here are the newbies.  they all came to the spca individually, so they got foster siblings as well as foster parents.  scuttle, the black tiger (i’ve never seen a black-black tabby before!)  is the only male; he is coltish, baby-faced and has a tiny but ever-more-frequent purr.  diva is the pushiest, feistiest, and purriest of the lot, and is pretty much a little femme fatale with her tortoise-tabby markings (including orange back knees and ear spots), plus white feet and tail-tip.  neenish, the black-and-white (of course),  is the most stand-offish, but we’re working on her – stay tuned!

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you can tell they’re trouble already.  :)

kitties go bye-bye

2010 has departed and so have the first batch of foster kittens.  the day of parting was inevitable and i won’t dwell on it; instead i offer some more sickeningly cute photos of their ongoing shenanigans.  by the time they went back for adoption (and all were snapped up pretty much immediately, including zoe), they could jump a good 40 cm off the ground and leap over long distances; they barely fit into their favorite milk-jug toy anymore; their bellies were well above a good, chunky handful each; and i was slightly in love with all of them.  in case you couldn’t tell.  i actually thought zoe was coming back to us for a little while since the spca said they were completely overrun with grown cats, so i had planned to have her for a few extra days following her spay.  but then it turned out she had gone up for adoption instead, so i didn’t really get the chance to say goodbye (see?  see how i am not dwelling?  yeah) — but i’m sure she’s completely won over some new hearts already.  as it turned out, the one i will have ongoing contact with is imp, since my sister adopted him!  now called nacho (or weasel, or crumpet, or schnurbart, depending whom you ask), he is already a lanky adolescent with a giant purr.  so here are a few final shots of him and his siblings in their kittenhood.