Big cats and laser pointers?

September 20, 2011

Oh, yeah, we know what you teachers do with your fancy laser pointers in the off-hours.  When you’re not torturing your students with Death by PowerPoint, highlighting the vocabulary words, pointing out the routes on the maps, and generally making your students a little jealous of your tools, you take the lasers home to torture your kitties.

If you’re a teacher with a science bent, you might even do a little experimentation:  Do cats chase green lasers, too?  Blue ones?  What about those filters that make starbursts, do they drive cat’s wild?

Ah, but teachers with a science bent, and access to some really big cats . . .

From Big Cat Rescue:

Q: Do Tigers, Leopards & Lions chase laser pointers like domestic cats? Big Cat Rescue decided to find out! …

Do BIG CATS like catnip?? Check out the video! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tklx3j7kgJY

For more info about BIG CAT RESCUE visit: http://www.bigcatrescue.org
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Tip of the old scrub brush to Ed Yong at Not Exactly Rocket Science.


Smokey’s gone

August 1, 2011

Smokey in May 2009 - glare; photo by Ed Darrell, please attribute IMGP0814

Smokey in better days in 2009, expressing her displeasure at being photographed asleep

Her first night out of the pound I don’t think she slept.  Yowled all night long.  Smokey made one aware of her presence.  It was one of the endearing qualities of one of the smartest, most personable, and grayest cats I’ve ever known.

For 21 years she let us know where she was.  Uncharacteristically, perhaps, she left us quietly Saturday at 5:32 p.m.  Kidney failure.

She fought for life so long as she could.  Last Monday she ate a great breakfast.  Then she stopped eating, cold.  She stopped drinking Tuesday.  We had her into the veterinarian, and blood tests confirmed that her long-time kidney disease had taken hold.  No function showed up.  Other than that, the only outward sign was a little more crankiness (as a cranky cat, she was legendary).  So we made the hard decision, and made an appointment to put her down Thursday.

Thursday afternoon, on her clock, she came to life big time.  She fought going into the carrier and wailed as loudly as ever all the way to the vet’s office.  Another family was struggling with a terminally-ill pet, so there was delay.  Smokey’s wails were disturbing others, so we let her out of the carrier, and she headed right for the door.

Going gently?  “Get out of my way,” she seemed to be saying.  “I’ll go at home, or take somebody else with me.”  At the vet’s office, she’s famous for fighting “procedures,” one of those cats who had to be muzzled on occasion.

We let her have her way, and brought her home.

Two years earlier, she fought a nearly-fatal infection.  Kathryn and I (mostly Kathryn) had to inject her with saline solution twice a day to get her hydrated enough just to hang on.  Her kidney function showed late-term renal disease, then.  The prognosis:  Perhaps two months.  But as soon as she got hydrated, she beat the infection and sprang back to life.

A more self-confident cat I’ve never met.  Cats’ tails go up when they feel good and secure.  For the first 18 years of her life that tail never fell below full sail.  She never met another cat she liked, which created some conflict with the older, gentler rescue cat she joined and the younger, meeker rescue cat who came along later.  Smokey got along with the dogs.  They were bigger, more appropriate for her ego.

She was a cat of many names.

Smokey came from the local animal pound, a hoped-to-be companion for a cat rescued from the side of the road.  She was smoke gray from nose to tail — even her lips and foot pads.  “Smokey” was a natural name, and Kenny suggested it.  James, just one at the time, had some difficulty with the name.  “Bokey” stuck as a nickname, turned to “Pokey” for her habit of yowling to have a door opened, and then pausing, half through the doorway, to ponder several things. Then “Pokes,” and “Poquito,” and “Pokesalot.”

Compared to the longer-haired cats especially, she was sleek.  Finely muscled, she could have been the model for what a good, lean cat should look like.  Each muscle was well exercised.  There was no high place she would not attempt to get to, and no impossible balancing act she would not attempt earning the awe and jealousy of the Wallendas.  “Sleek and gray” was a name she’d answer to — “Fink and gray” when she took to knocking stuff off our dressers to get us up at her preferred rising, at 4:30 or 5:00 every morning.  On weekends, or any day we wanted to sleep late, she’d get on the bed and gently tap a nose until she got a reaction.  Sometimes she’d lick a nose (“kitty kisses”).  Once she bit me.  Once was enough for her — she went back to gentle taps.  Very smart cat.

We resolved to keep the cats indoors, both for their protection and for the protection of the birds who visit the yard.  Within a year Smokey began making runs at the open door.  Astonishingly we avoided a broken or clamped-off tail, or broken ribs.  Finally she made a dash with several yards to build up speed, and by the time she could stop she stood in the middle of the street.  Calmly, she strode back to the curb, tail up, and proceeded to groom herself.  We couldn’t catch her.  After an hour, she yowled to come in.  So she made herself an indoor-outdoor cat.

Of course she had to wear a bell, as lithe and fast as she was she posed a great threat to smaller birds.  But she learned how to shed her collar, and got it down to a record 30 minutes.  Once she figured out we’d put the collar back on when we found it, she took to ditching the collars where they couldn’t be found.

Bird deaths tapered off, fortunately.  We were grateful for her hunting prowess when she made it a personal mission to rid the neighborhood of rats who had tried to move in.  It took her almost a month to get the family of rats under the shed — one by one — but within a summer the neighborhood was safe for squirrels and other more friendly rodents.  Soon after that, she stopped hunting.  The rats never returned.

For the past two summers, blue jays brought their offspring to see Smokey lying in the sun on the patio, teaching them that this was one cat they didn’t need to fear.  After a few months of that, Smokey stopped even glaring at them.  It was almost as if they were visits from old friends, sort of a Blue and Gray reunion after the conflict.

The last year was tough.  Arthritis in her hips slowed her.  We rescued another cat from the pound, and true to form Smokey took an immediate disliking to Luna.  To avoid Luna, Smokey retreated to the back parlor, generally off limits to pets but blocked only by a child gate — which Smokey quickly learned to climb.  As the arthritis affected her more, we put a step stool on one side, a concession she took to immediately.

Smokey on the window sill, with sun and pansies

Smokey enjoying the sun from indoors, with pansies. It’s not an easy sill for a cat to balance on — Smokey would balance, and fall asleep.

The affair at the vet’s office Thursday was her last great show of will.  One thinks cats know they are dying.  Smokey would meet death on her terms, thank you very much.  By Friday she was clearly unable to walk or stand well.  Saturday Kathryn sat with her on the dining room floor.  When she wasn’t sleeping, Smokey would meow.  A stroke or two from Kathryn and she’d go back to sleep.  She had refused water until Friday night, but then started taking a little sips from a syringe.

Kathryn ran errands about 4:00 p.m., and I checked that Smokey was sleeping.  About 5:00 she woke up, wanted water, and looked around for Kathryn.  Kathryn returned a few minutes later, and Smokey relaxed, and breathed a last time.

A companion for more than two decades insinuates herself in ways one doesn’t even recognize.  Saturday night I turned off the kitchen lights to head to bed, and instinctively looked into the parlor to say goodnight to Smokey.  Sunday morning I got up to make coffee, and looked to see if Smokey wanted out.  I would have sworn she batted my nose this morning to wake me up, but no cat even close.

Sometime in the next few months I’ll take out a pair of pants or a coat, and notice it’s covered with Smokey’s gray fur.  At some point she used it for a pad, perhaps.  I’ll have to decide whether to clean the thing, or keep it as a reminder of our longtime friend.


Obama’s EPA looks out for pets, on pesticides

March 17, 2010

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) — Obama’s EPA, we can say, now — announced today it will review pet flea and tick products, to prevent abuse and errors of use.

The flea and tick lobby will be upset, of course.  Will the rabid Nobamistas join them?  I expect someone will complain that this is creeping socialism, unless they say it’s running communism.

Before they get too far down that road, let’s note that pet ownership, and pet protection, were not exactly a high priority of the Soviet Union, nor are they great concerns of the Peoples Republic of China, nor of the Peoples Republic of Korea, nor Cuba, nor Vietnam.  On the political continuum, protecting pets from pesticide abuse is about as bourgeois as it gets, rather the opposite of socialism.

How badly do the  heathen want to yowl?  Watch that space.

Full press release below the fold.

Read the rest of this entry »


Meow Meow, 19

December 27, 2008

Meow, reminding her humans that paying attention to the cat is always more important than reading Dilbert - June 24, 2008

Meow, reminding her humans that paying attention to the cat is always more important than reading Dilbert - June 24, 2008 (photo copyright 2008, Ed Darrell)

It was a dark and stormy night.  A meow rang out.

That’s how she came to adopt us.  Kay Lawrence was out walking, before the storm blew in.  The wind was picking up.  50 yards from home, she found a sad scene:  A kitten dead on the pavement.  Kay got a bag to hold the body.  As she was scooping it off the road, she heard a loud meowing from the bushes.

It was the sister of the dead kitten, probably.  Alone in any case.  Kay knew that Kathryn had studied how to save kittens, and having a large golden retriever, she thought better of taking the kitten to her own home.

With the first flashes of lightning, before the rain, there was Kay Lawrence at our door holding a remarkably flea-ridden kitten, wide-eyed and making enough noise for a litter of 12.

“We’ll find a good home for her,” Kathryn said as Kay dashed back home before the rain.  I suspected the kitten had already found that home, though Kathryn was still at least mildly allergic to cats.*

That was more than 19 years ago.

We learned from Meow that cats show joy with their tails, express love by blinking, and that each one has a different personality.  Some cats can ignore catnip, for example.   She liked to join us in reading newspapers — or perhaps more accurately, she liked to prevent us from reading newspapers, telling us that paying attention to a cat was a better use of time.

Meow would occasionally become seriously agitated when a peanut butter jar was opened, making a ruckus until she got a half-teaspoonful of the stuff for herself.  She wasn’t concerned at how silly a cat looks trying to get peanut butter off the roof of her mouth.

Meow left us this morning. For the past couple of weeks her eyesight was failing much faster — she had cataracts.  For a week she bravely tried to learn how to navigate the house blind, mastering a lot very quickly.

Something else happened, though.  One veterinarian said it was brain — stroke?  Tumor?  We don’t know.  For much of the last week she was walking circles through the house, sometimes bumping into things, sometimes walking over things she shouldn’t.  And in the last couple of days, the circles she walked grew smaller.  She’d circle until she couldn’t, then collapse in the middle of the floor and sleep.

On the way to the vet this morning, the clouds rolled in.  It grew dark.  Lightning flashed, and the rain came furiously.  It was a dark and stormy morning, very similar to the night she found us.  Meow passed very quickly.  The clouds disappeared, and the sun shines.

Down at the end of the path past the big live oak, Meow now rests with others in our departed menagerie, Maggie and Rufus the dogs, Sweetie the rat, and Katie, the other brave, one-eyed road kitten (from a different, later rescue).

We miss her. We started the year with two dogs and three cats.  Now we’re down to one cat, with the two dogs.  It’s a lot quieter.

Meow, winking for the camera, 2008 - photo copyright 2008, Ed Darrell

Meow, winking for the camera, 2008 - photo copyright 2008, Ed Darrell

*  A book we had Natural Cat, had a recipe for a food supplement for cats which, the author claimed, would alter the cat dander so it would not trigger allergic reactions.  What can I say?  It worked like a charm.  We stopped feeding the supplement to the cats 15 years ago.  Kathryn’s allergic  reaction, to our cats, has not returned.


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