Monday, July 23, 2007

Most Excellent Furry Friends

Scientists have long tried to analyze the relationship between humans and cats. They've come to all sorts of interesting conclusions.

None of which are correct.

How dare I, a mere mortal, make such a claim? Because I am a True Cat Person, and cats will only reveal that kind of information to True Cat Persons. If some bloody scientist comes along and sticks a cat under a microscope, the cat is likely to get a little testy about it. The cat will then engage in all sorts of bizarre behaviors, just to skew the scientist's data.

Cats are like that. Cats are very intelligent animals, and deviously clever when it's to their advantage. I have an excellent example, which I forget if I wrote about before; if so, here it is again.

First off, I'd like to make it clear that I blame my wife, and even she admits her culpability in this case. It stems from the fact that she can be a real sucker for cute animals. Better the luck for me, or I wouldn't have a place to live myself.

She doth protest too much that she is not a cat person, but from the day we brought our Siamese cat, Arwen, home, Arwen decided that she was my wife's cat. Sure, my wife pretended to object, but she could not resist the feline powers that were weaving a web around her. Allergy to cat dander or no (and blame or not, a big round of applause to her for the fact that I even HAVE cats. Fortunately, Oriental short-haired cats' dander is different and much less irritating). Many's the time I'd catch the cat sitting next to my wife on the sofa, with my wife absent-mindedly stroking her head. Uh-huh. This leads to an interesting question: Who decides if you're a cat person? Is it you, or is it actually the cats? I'm not sure myself.

But I digress. On to the tale of "The Ham Incident".

It all began in the morning when my wife would be making a sandwich for my daughter to take to school. Arwen would come in, meowing & purring, rubbing against her legs, begging for a piece of lunch meat. Apparently, cats eat ham in the wild, because most of them love it. Well, me spouse would turn into a complete sucker and let her have some. Before long, she was "dropping" an entire slice of lunch meat on the floor in the morning. I asked her to cut it out; my cat was getting fat. Besides, all the cats already think all food & drink in the house is for them, this only encourages them to hop up on the table when we're eating to get their fair share. Then, of course, I had my doubts that lunch meat is good for cats. You'd think so, since people eat it, but you never know. For one, cats need much more fat in their diet than we do.

Nothing for it, however, the process just kept going on, and no good could come of it.

One fine evening, we're in the living watching TV. We hear this odd rustling in the dining room, but then it stopped. This happened a couple of more times before I finally got up and went in the room and turned on the light. There, on the floor, were the two cats gleefully chowing down on a nearly full package of ham, just as nice as you please. They looked up happily, saying "Yum!", and then went back to work. I was a bit stunned, and asked who'd left the lunch meat out. It turns out that nobody did. Like I said, cats are deviously clever. Arwen had observed for months the whole routine of getting the ham (or whatever) out of the refrigerator, so the rascal knew where it was. All of us were sure that we hadn't left the refrigerator door open. So, how??

There was only one explanation: Arwen, who's quite strong, had pawed the refrigerator door open; then, astonishingly, she managed to pull the meat drawer out (it's heavy) just far enough to get her paw in, where she snagged the package of ham, dragged it out to the dining room, tore through two layers of plastic and began feasting on her prey. The other cat was only too glad to join her.

Now, that is one clever cat.

By the time we discovered this, naturally, they'd eaten through the center of every slice. Each piece of ham had a hole in it lined with cat spit. All we could do was laugh & let them finish it. Goodness knows, Arwen had worked hard enough to get it.

This was the end of the morning treats.

I bring this up to give you an idea of what a delightful pet she is. She's 13 years old now, and until recently has been very healthy. It got clear that something was wrong; she stopped eating, she was obviously in discomfort, and most telling of all, she didn't grab my lap at every opportunity. She's so stealthy & light on her feet that I'll suddenly notice her there & not realize that she'd jumped up, stepped in & curled up. She was losing weight fast. I got her in to see the vet this morning, and a good thing I did. She has a kidney infection, which can be lethal to a cat, especially an older one. I know too bitterly well, for that's exactly what killed Arwen's partner in The Ham Incident. She was too far gone by the time we realized that she needed to see the veterinarian.

This time, however, we caught it before it got that far. My poor kitty had dropped down to 6.8 pounds from a healthy 11, but her system is still pretty strong & she should recover with the treatment program.

The very expensive treatment program.

I wrote the check, knowing that my spouse would be none too happy about the amount, but what could I do? We'll manage, and Arwen should live many more years.

Many people would ask "Why the fuss over just a pet?" Cats aren't just pets to a lot of people; they're genuine friends. Dogs like everybody, but cats don't. If they like you, or love you, it's because they choose to. Mine are especially important to me, because I went through a long-term illness, and they were my constant & attentive companions. They know when I'm not feeling good, and are extra solicitous then. They sat with me, cuddled, purred, made me get their toys & play with them, because it was a welcome distraction & they knew it. I'm not making it up, and I'm sure you can find many people who could tell you a similar story.

So, how can I not look after them when they don't feel well? As independent as your average Siamese can be, Arwen is not at all diffident and the most communicative of my cats. Good thing; she gave me enough signals to notice that she needed help. She might not consider it such a great idea as I shove her antibiotic pill down her mouth twice each day for a while, but she's so good, she even sits pretty still for that. She is, by all accounts, a Most Excellent Furry.

I have to take her in every day for the rest of this week so they can give her fluids (that accounted for a portion of the weight loss, she was dehydrated), and then we have more blood work done on Friday. My vet feels very confident that all will be well. She & the technician were quite impressed with the relationship between my cat & I. Even at the vet, where she's afraid to go, as long as I was holding or petting her? A loud purr.

Few sounds are more comforting and soothing than a cat's purring. I'm glad that I'll be hearing lots more of her purring in the future. In fact, at the thought of it, I feel a purr coming on myself.

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