Posts Tagged With: cats

 
 

Something the Cat Dragged In

Cute, yes?

Cute, yes?

One of the four cutest kids I know has a cat at her house, named Penelope Buttercup. Also, there’s a dog named Pabst, which you should imagine as a teddy bear that Penelope has targeted as arch-enemy number one. Oh, and this sweet girl also has a stuffed toy mouse who goes by the name of, well, Mouse.

When I’ve been lucky enough to spend time at her home she uses some big words for such a little girl. And by big, I mean loud. If the cat walks past she’ll yell “TAAAAAT!” If the dog walks by she hollers, “PAAAAAAAP!” And if you show her the stuffed mouse she proclaims, “MOWW!”

There’s no question which of those three she’s referring to. Not sure why the dog isn’t called “DAWG!” I suppose “PAAAAAP!” can be shouted easier. Who knows what goes on in those little computer brains of babies these days.

When I see a cat now I automatically yell in my head “TAAAAAAAT!” It’s my little equivalent of seeing a moon and thinking someone else I love who lives far away is seeing the same moon. I see a cat and know that my little palindrome grand-daughter sees a cat during her day, too.

Every I look I see cats. Especially online. Cats, cats, cats, cats, cats.

Why?

These aren’t particularly friendly critters. Hardly. They’re standoffish and snooty. And yet the human race seems to embrace the furballs with unbridled ridiculousness.

Of course, I used to be the same way. As a tweenager I adopted a stray cat every time the last stray disappeared. Which was often. Weird. They were various combinations of black and white, whose names I don’t remember except for Zorro, which, of course, sported a little black mask around his eyes. And there was Tom, the feral cat, who was horse cat of a different color.

The term “something the cat dragged in” could have and often did refer to my Tom. You can read about him here if you’re curious.

My oldest daughter’s cat, pre-Penelope, would bring lizards and live birds in through the cat door at her house. Things got a bit exciting then, especially with multiple cats and a dog or two living there.

In Washington state we had neighbor cats that used to leave dead birds on our doorstep as a gesture of friendship. How sweet. We felt so…loved, or some other emotion. Just recently I thought that some human relationships are just like that. One person presents what they perceive as astounding gifts of love and sacrifice and the receiver only sees mayhem and grossness. That’s one of the saddest kinds of stories I know.

MSH hasn’t ever been a cat person. In fact, he taught my son at a very young age about the “handle” on a cat. SMH (Shaking My Head.) I’m afraid he took too well to that teaching and hauled many a neighborhood cat around by its tail.

My middle daughter and I once watched a cat play with a mouse in a sloped driveway. It was all kinds of fascinating. That is until the cat bit off the mouse’s head and played with that for a while. When the crunching started we left the area.

In a similar tone my parents’ cat leaves dismembered field critters on the driveway, proving his usefulness in spite of all proof to the contrary.

Sweet half-size Oreo.

Sweet half-size Oreo.

A notable exception to uppity cats is my son’s recently adopted dwarf cat, Oreo. He’s fully grown but still quite small, with a smooshy face and no meow. He doesn’t really jump or climb or do much of anything cat-like. That is, except for taunting the grand-dog Blondie by walking near the dog food dish. Subtle but effective snark there, if you ask me. (This little guy belonged to my brother who has five kids at home and has now rehomed of all the pets.)

Figuratively speaking, I often look like something the cat dragged in after a few hours of yard work, but then, don’t we all? Actually I think I look that way first thing in the morning too, but a bike helmet covers that up pretty well.

Some days I feel like something the cat dragged in, discombobulated, disoriented and “dis” in general. Days like that I kind of wish I were a cat, able to lounge about in odd places, soaking up some sun, or sprawled along the top of the couch. Maybe curled into a ball in a dark corner somewhere. Those days I just want someone to rub my neck and reassure me that I’m worthwhile and useful and loved and that yes, that “everything is gonna be okay.”

Ever so un-catlike, I have to actually be useful. I go about my days and nights fulfilling my obligations, contributing to society and the well-being of a few people I know and attempt to stay cheerful. I think I’m more like a dog than a cat. But that’s not all bad.

If all else fails I can always watch funny cat videos on YouTube, right?

~~~~~

“Meow” means “woof” in cat.” 
 ~ George Carlin

Categories: Being Human, Communication | Tags: , , , , , | 1 Comment

Pet Peeved People

Friday Letter to my Kids

Dear J, J, L and L,

After Sunday’s hour long downpour and subsequent temporary pond creation, nearly every member of the neighborhood walked past or around or through the park/pond. I couldn’t help but notice how many dogs accompanied the humans. I see people walking their dogs every day all day at the park since it’s right outside our front door. I just had no idea quite so many lived here as I saw concentrated in one Sunday evening. I’d guess three out of four neighbors house one or more dogs.

Clearly, that puts our family in the minority.

Since one of you recently adopted a blingy blond princess dog, (Blondie) and one of you has a ginormous, slobbery, loveable dog named after a beer, (Pabst) as well as a cute but moody cat (Penelope Buttercup) I’ve thought some about the few pets we’ve had over the years.

I suppose first I ought to discuss the elephant in the room, or more concisely, the dog not in the room.

I know, I know, we never owned a dog.

That’s more your Dad’s doing than mine. I’d have probably relented, against my better judgment, if it had just been me making those decisions.

Or not.

There were various dogs in my household growing up, one or two of which produced some slightly traumatic experiences. (Being home alone when the small Beagle began birthing the babies of the biggest dog in the neighborhood didn’t go over well in my pre-facts-of-life brain.)

stunnedSorry. Had to call my therapist and have a conversation there for a minute… (kidding)

Anyway. No dogs for your growing up years. And look, you survived!

Laaaaaa!!!

Cue the orchestra.

Nope. No dogs.

Instead Parakeets blessed our household. Bright green Sunny lived up to his namesake by being a ray of chipperness and laughs. I loved how you used to build Lego mazes for him to search through to get to the inanimate love of his life, a bell. Weirdest relationship on the planet.

image by Testostera

image by Testostera

I’ll never forget when he flew out the open garage door and Little J followed him through the neighborhood, climbed a forty-foot tree (what was I thinking?) and got him to climb on her hand. Completely inspired, she tucked him into her shirt and shimmied down the tree and ran home. Talk about heroic love!

I’m not sure if we can count “Suffer” as a real pet, since it was a stray that hung out by the back door that we occasionally fed. And occasionally bought medicine to put in its food. And occasionally, on really cold snowy days, let in the house if the parakeet was in its cage. It remained a stray when we moved cross-country. I didn’t really feel too guilty sending it back to its free and wily ways of mooching off whatever neighbor took compassion on it.

I learned a few years later that three-year old Big L’s naming of “Suffer” wasn’t in reference to his mangy, tattered countenance, but a reference to Disney Cinderella’s cat “Lucifer.” Say it out loud like you just found a dead mouse and you’ll see where she came up with the name.

Maverick, the blue parakeet, escaped the same way as Sunny, but we never saw feather nor tail of her again. And Blossom, another blue, met a most unfortunate demise, which also might require calls to therapists if I ever divulge in what state I found her.

After Sunny passed away, with the requisite burial in a box in the side yard, we didn’t have any more pets for a while.

That is, until the fish. Teenaged Little J had a spell with that saltwater tank. But it’s tough to bond with fish and crabs and snails. And that thing never smelled very good.

And Little L had that poor oxygen deprived goldfish that was more depressing that cheering, about exactly the opposite of its intended purpose. And then a few other nameless, nothing whatsoever like Nemo the Disney cartoon personality-filled fishies, swam in and out of our lives for a brief spell.

And finally, two more parakeets who, thanks to Dad and his overly generous and somewhat sidetracked nature, flew out of their open cage that he’d set out on the back patio during an extra windy day.

Thus ended the Tilby family pet saga.

A predominate theme with all but the saltwater fish and the cat: Mom did the majority of cleaning.

Ew.

Not happy memories there.

At least with human children the poop eventually becomes the child’s own task. With pets, it’s forever the job of the human to clean up the piles and putrefaction.

Give me kids any day.

Bottom line. I’m happy if you’re happy in your pet-filled or pet-less lives.

Carry on.

Lovingly yours,
Mom

P.S. Thank you for not asking me to experience snakes, pigs, rats, rabbits, mice, hamsters, miniature deer or tarantulas as pets.

photo-23 copy 5

 

“Owners of dogs will have noticed that, if you provide them with food and water and shelter and affection, they will think you are god. Whereas owners of cats are compelled to realize that, if you provide them with food and water and shelter and affection, they draw the conclusion that they are gods.” ~Christopher Hitchens

Categories: Family, Friday Letters, parenting | Tags: , , , , , , | 7 Comments

A Cat Tuner Changes his Tune

I didn’t plan this, but a year ago today I wrote this post about my Dad, the cat tuner extraordinaire. Strange, sometimes, how life circles back around.

Dad brought their cat inside the house (it’s definitely an outdoor cat) shortly after I arrived here and told me a story.

A week or two ago Dad says their cat went missing. When Lulu finally showed up her back right leg was dragging behind her and she acted out of sorts. Dad looked for obvious injuries and found none. No bleeding, no cuts, no scrapes, no missing fur. After a bit of thinking it over and talking with Mom, he decided to take the cat to the a local vet. The estimated wait time seemed too long, so Dad headed to another vet in the next town or two over who could see the cat right away.

After an exam and some tests and X-rays the vet determined the cat’s ligaments and tendons in that back leg had torn somehow. He could repair it with some surgery. After talking it over with Mom, (who is not a cat person, nor a pet person of any kind) Dad agreed to the surgery.

What?

Who are you and what did you do with my real Dad? 

So for the past week he’s been giving doses of antibiotic to Lulu and babying her like I’ve never seen before. Even Mom has let the cat sit on her lap and rubs its soft gray head until the purring vibrates some inner chord of contentment. That purr soothes Mom in return. And voila, a calmer Mom makes for a calmer Dad.

The stitches came out yesterday. The vet’s assistant commented that she’d never worked with a calmer, more well-behaved cat. No hissing, no scratching, no meowing, just Dad and Mom holding the trembling mass of fur while the stitches got snipped.

Not enjoying the car ride.

Not happy about the car ride.

The three of them make an interesting group.

  • Long haired Lulu with her back leg shaved, limps along like every movement hurts beyond contemplation, and yet she can carefully jump up on a chair or climb the stairs.
  • Mom who’s got the usual aches and pains of her age along with the effects of her stroke and seizures, sitting on the porch swing with Dad.
  • And Dad who last year didn’t like the porch swing swinging, but now doesn’t seem to mind it, who used to hobble about like an old man just for laughs, now hobbling about like an old man, but taking on some of Mom’s tasks, and keeping up with his own.

It’s almost as if the cat’s injury endeared them to it and made them all feel more connected. They’ve had to slow down and become content to stay put a bit more.

I asked Dad if his cat-tuning ways had changed tune. He denied it. He said something akin to, I’ve still got plenty of other cats to tune, or something like that. He’s just a mischievous twelve-year old at heart. But he’s also become more tender-hearted this past year, more attentive to Mom, more in tune with her and what she needs. It’s as if her injuries, and consequently her dependence on him, have endeared her to him more.

And Dad’s ministrations and attention to Mom have made her more affectionate and appreciative toward him.

Interesting turn of events, wouldn’t you say?

I think so.

None of them are the same as they were a year ago. In big, drastic ways. Mostly for the better in spite of, or maybe because of, the tough road. Who would have thought?

Sounds like a harmonious song to me.

 

 (For Twitch, who went to kitty heaven yesterday.)

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Categories: Family, Relationships | Tags: , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Cat Highways

When we first moved here to the Arizona desert eons ago I had a learning curve to scale. It took a bit of time, but I got used to the oddities. Lizards, crickets, scorpions,  white flies, warm water coming out of the cold tap, the juxtaposition of police helicopters at night and roosters crowing in the morning,  running errands after the sun went down or before it rose in the morning, the pungent odor of dairy farms, pine trees in the same yard as palm trees, and monsoons that involved no rain whatsoever.

Portrait of a Wall lizard (Podarcis muralis

Portrait of a Wall lizard  (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Assorted other desert adaptations for survival became necessary, but I think I’ve blocked those from my memory.

One of the first things I said to myself when I made the mistake of running to the grocery store at noon was, “who in their right mind would start a settlement here and then stay in this inferno?”

No one answered me.

I figured whoever decided that this was a good place for a town, and then another town and then a dozen or two more, most likely was suffering from some heat exhaustion or heat stroke. That was the only explanation.

I imagine the land was a great deal too.  Kind of like those real estate plots in the Everglades.

But I digress. Sorry, it’s been a long, long, long, long, long, long summer. I think someone mentioned breaking records, but I’m sure they meant CD’s or DVD’s.

Anyway.

The point I was trying to make was there’s this oddity I don’t recall seeing in other parts of the country where I’ve lived.

Most everyone in the country appears to believe Robert Frost’s adage that “good fences makes good neighbors.”

Chain Link Fence

Howdy neighbor!

Oklahoma had chain link fences, but then, they’re a really friendly bunch. They pretty much adopt you into their family right after you’ve made introductions. So the fence is really more of a dog deterrent than anything.

There were long expanses of six-foot tall wooden fences in North Carolina. Mine, mine, mine seemed  the word each nail punctuated in those fences. Don’t get me wrong, I liked the people alright, but boundaries seemed very important and well-defined. But then I lived there less than a year. I’m open for discussion on this one if you’re from Charlotte, or parts thereabouts.

The Seattle area employed a combination of wood and chain link depending on the neighborhood. Those fences seemed more of a suggestion than a real threat or barrier.

Creative Block

Cement block wall. More than just a fence between neighbors. (Photo credit: lukeroberts)

By contrast, here in the desert, the fences are really walls. Six foot high cement block walls. I still haven’t figured out what that means. Go away and leave me alone? I’ll stay on my side and you stay on yours and we’ll get along just fine? I have a room full of guns and I’m not afraid to use them?

What I noticed, early on after moving here were the cats on top of these lovely interconnected walls. The cats made really good time from one section of the neighborhood to the other and stayed well out of reach of any dogs. In fact, I believe they stopped and taunted dogs as often as time and speed allowed. I took to calling the walls “cat highways.”

Just last year I realized that teenagers had adapted and learned by watching the cats. They frequently scale the walls and run along the tops to get to where ever they want to go. Not sure if they taunt the dogs, though.

It’s important to know that the top edge of the wall is only six inches wide. The kids I know who do this seem oblivious to the possibility of falling, trespassing, irritating a rabid neighbor or injuring their often bare toes and feet. But then, most teenagers are oblivious to most things not orbiting their own personal universe. (No disrespect intended, just stating a fact.)

I guess if you live in the desert you adapt, change, melt a little, and do whatever it takes to survive.

You use what nature and construction offer and you run with it. Or, in this case, you run on it.

My take on it all? Extra good fences make good neighbors and in some cases, really good shortcuts.

_________________

Just in case you were wondering, here’s the actual poem by Frost that I was referring to. I consider it an astounding work of art. Enjoy. Read it out loud! It rolls in a warm wave and fills the room with the scent of an open meadow, pines and apple blossoms. At least in my mind it does.

Mending Wall

Something there is that doesn’t love a wall,
That sends the frozen-ground-swell under it,
And spills the upper boulders in the sun;
And makes gaps even two can pass abreast.
The work of hunters is another thing:
I have come after them and made repair
Where they have left not one stone on a stone,
But they would have the rabbit out of hiding,
To please the yelping dogs. The gaps I mean,
No one has seen them made or heard them made,
But at spring mending-time we find them there.
I let my neighbour know beyond the hill;
And on a day we meet to walk the line
And set the wall between us once again.
We keep the wall between us as we go.
To each the boulders that have fallen to each.
And some are loaves and some so nearly balls
We have to use a spell to make them balance:
“Stay where you are until our backs are turned!”
We wear our fingers rough with handling them.
Oh, just another kind of out-door game,
One on a side. It comes to little more:
There where it is we do not need the wall:
He is all pine and I am apple orchard.
My apple trees will never get across
And eat the cones under his pines, I tell him.
He only says, “Good fences make good neighbours.”
Spring is the mischief in me, and I wonder
If I could put a notion in his head:
“Why do they make good neighbours? Isn’t it
Where there are cows? But here there are no cows.
Before I built a wall I’d ask to know
What I was walling in or walling out,
And to whom I was like to give offence.
Something there is that doesn’t love a wall,
That wants it down.” I could say “Elves” to him,
But it’s not elves exactly, and I’d rather
He said it for himself. I see him there
Bringing a stone grasped firmly by the top
In each hand, like an old-stone savage armed.
He moves in darkness as it seems to me,
Not of woods only and the shade of trees.
He will not go behind his father’s saying,
And he likes having thought of it so well
He says again, “Good fences make good neighbours.”

Robert Frost
Categories: Humor, People, phoenix | Tags: , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Tuning the Cat

“If you try and take a cat apart to see how it works, the first thing you have on your hands is a non-working cat.

—   Douglas Adams

English: This feral cat is about to drink wate...

Have I mentioned that my dad is a cat tuner? Yes, you read that correctly, a cat tuner. No it’s not a Boston-accent kind of fish.

The best I can do is illustrate how he goes about tuning a cat.

My youngest brother had a cat named Car Keys.  Now Car Keys would be lounging about, sleeping, minding his own business in some quiet corner. Dad would slink up beside Car Keys and in one swift movement stamp his foot, clap his hands and let out an ear-piercing whistle. That poor kitty would leap about three feet into the air, let out a yowl and take off running out of dead sleep.

“That is how you tune a cat,” my dad would say, laughing.

He was simply honing the cat’s natural instincts.

Another time Dad might pick up Car Keys and snuggle him, pet that sweet spot behind the ears, love on that cat as if it were the best friend he ever had. Car Keys would get all comfortable and feel loved and cared for.  At about that point Dad would gently toss the cat on to the roof.

You know if he could speak that cat would be saying, “*$($%*@(??*!!!!” Which is simply cat language for “what the heck?”

If I were that cat I’d leap down on Dad’s head and claw his ears apart. But no, Car Keys would slink about the roof looking for an easy way down.  That cat liked to hang out on the roof after a while. I think it figured out Dad couldn’t sneak up on him very easily up there.

Having been the instrument of many of dad’s tunings, Car Keys didn’t, surprisingly, run away when he was around. That cat would still rub up against Dad’s leg, meow at him with affection and interest, and generally treat Dad like a regular person. Maybe it was Car Key’s way of proving to Dad that he wasn’t going to be manipulated, changed, or tuned.

I think Dad ’s also keeping himself sharp and tuned, like a young kid. That’s how he stays young, by being mischievous. That twinkle in his eye comes from seeing the world through a humorous lens.  I think his mind is always thinking, “What can I do to liven things up, stir the pot, or kick things up a notch?”

Another brother’s cat lives with Mom and Dad nowadays. It seems to tolerate Dad’s tuning and teasing. It still snuggles up to him, doesn’t scratch him, and brings him dead critters it caught in the field as gifts of love.

If people were more like cats, or least like the cats my Dad has tuned, life would be a heck of a lot calmer and there’d be less contention.  It’s as if those cats get my Dad. They understand he’s not mean. He’s just being silly and having fun. The cat mentality is so chill and relaxed, so forgiving and easygoing that none of Dad’s antics can keep it ruffled for long. People need to chill out, learn to laugh, relax, forgive, move on.

Come to think of it, Dad used to tune us kids. We’d be riding in the front seat of the truck or car, with him at the wheel, watching the scenery blowing past, relaxed and  feeling good. There wasn’t much conversation usually. Next thing you know Dad would let out a whoop or an ear-piercing whistle and grab that tickle spot on just above your knee caps on the outside edged. We’d yelp and leap about four feet, which is tough to do in a vehicle with a low roof.

He’d chuckle and, once our heart rate slowed down a bit. Oh, we’d be in tune, but wary.

Never could return the favor.

Dang it.

Categories: Family, Humor, Relationships | Tags: , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Crazy Going Slowly Am I

I think I have all the makings for becoming a crazy cat lady.

I used to love cats! As a kid I almost always owned a stray cat of one stripe or another.  Zorro had a black mask around his eyes that made him seem mysterious and sneaky.  He’s the only one whose name I remember of six or eight little fur balls that I loved.

A photograph of a stray cat I have adopted.

A stray cat. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

There was this Tom cat with bald patches, a short crooked tail, huge clumps of white matted fur and two different eye colors. That was on a good day.  He would disappear for weeks at a time and return with injuries, sores, greasy fur and skinnier than when I’d last seen him.

I’d get him washed up, fed and snuggled into a blanket on my bed and then rub his ears to reassure him that all was well.  He’d stick around for a month or two and then disappear again for a few weeks.  On his return we’d repeat the cleaning ritual. After a few years he simply never returned from one of his forays. I like to think that scraggly Tom went out with a wild cat fight that matched his obviously wild life.

We adopted another scruffy stray when I had a toddler at home.  This one I didn’t let in the house, but it got fed and watered and loved by my toddler.  She was the one who came up with a name for it, “Suffer.”  Seemed like a really appropriate name for a mangy stray who attacked the birds from my feeder and looked like he lived a rough life.  Years later that toddler told me she got the name from cat in the Disney movie “Cinderella.” That cat’s name: “Lucifer.”  Apparently to a toddler’s ears the name sounded like “Suffer.”

We don’t own or feed any cats anymore. MSH is allergic to the critters and I don’t have time or patience for one. Lately I just chase cats away from the yard.  The overfed orange tabby I refer to is usually lying in wait for some hapless bird to get complacent and comfortable.

English: Orange tabby cat

English: Orange tabby cat (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

So why do I think I’m ripe for becoming a crazy cat lady?  Maybe the emphasis needs to focus more on the “crazy” and less on the “cat.”

Cats are only predictable in their unpredictability. You can’t count on them to snuggle you when you need snuggling, not like a dog, who senses a need and fills it. No cats are all about spontaneity and whimsy and fluffiness.

I’m unpredictable, spontaneous, whimsical and all too often focused on the fluffiness.  I’m a dreamer with little follow through, a planner lacking energy. Stacks of papers fill surfaces like a litter box and things sit around half-finished, waiting for inspiration or desire to strike, like a cat waiting for motivation.  It isn’t gonna happen.

At this stage in my life am I capable of scaling back or ramping up or finding balance, chi, inner peace, feng shui, enlightenment, reason, order or balance? Or am I one quickly becoming of those people everyone will want to avoid for her eccentricities?

“Crazy  Aunt Kami, man was she ever weird, let me tell you about the time she…” they’ll say and I’ll roll over in my grave to listen to yet another story of my non-exploits.

Maybe if I got a cat, I’d be a little less “Crazy” and more “cat.”  Sassy and content, carefree and clueless, living in the moment. Oh, and lots and lots of naps.

Actually, I think I’m already doing that, and that’s the problem.  What circular thinking I have.

Maybe I’ll just be crazy. I think it’s unavoidable.

Categories: Humor, Mental Health | Tags: , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

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