Wednesday, July 22, 2020

Ace Moving, Critical Oversight and Snake Transport

On Sunday, I did manage to do all my normal cooking and go to Rainbow, though I was up until past midnight. For some reason, having kittens makes everything take a lot longer. I remember when Carlos died, Howie (my teacher) said, “Anyone I know who’s been through this has been able to do only the minimum.” I think the same may be true of having kittens.

I had placed a rush Amazon order for more of the cat litter D&H are currently using, and more of the food the SPCA sent me home with, and two litter boxes with high sides. All of that came Sunday night, and on Monday I deployed one of the new litter boxes, which they seem to like fine.

Sunday night I didn’t put them in the bathroom at bedtime for the first time. They both hopped onto the bed with me and didn’t cause the slightest disturbance all night, though that appears to have been a fluke. You’re supposed to play with them before bedtime until they get tired out, but so far I haven’t discovered how long that might take. Right now they are not supposed to leap up in the air, because they were both just neutered. Maybe after they can jump up, it will be possible to tire them out a little.

On Monday morning, they both sat on my lap while I had breakfast, and they did the same Tuesday and today, though I think they are animated by different impulses:

Duckworth: “I want to be with my mommy!” (He is always the first one on my lap, flinging himself down and going right to sleep.)

Howie (the cat): “If he’s doing / having that, then I’m doing / having that.”

They are of course very interested in getting into the walk-in closet, where I am putting everything they want to chew that I don’t want them to chew—basically, everything I own is going in there piece by piece. When I open the door, Howie, who is an exceedingly determined soul, rushes in immediately. Duckworth then thinks it over and decides (as far as I can tell), “Hmm, if he’s going in there, I suppose I could do the same.” I pick Howie up and then I pick Duckworth up. By the time I get Duckworth scooped up, Howie is struggling frantically to get down: “Unhand me right now!” Meanwhile Duckworth is like, “Yay! Reunited with my mother.”

This morning, I got a text from Tom saying that the floor guys were coming in half an hour and he needed help moving the rest of the stuff out of his apartment. I knocked on his door and announced myself: “Ace Moving and Critical Oversight.” We also needed to move his snake, in its big glass cage, out of his place.

Then the workers arrived. Actually, they arrived in time to help move the couch, thank god. Then they set up an astonishing racket, exactly over my place. I closed all my windows, remembering how much dust was generated when my floors were done, and ran the fan and HEPA filter. It was great that there was such a cacophony, because once it’s over, two rampaging cats should sound like nothing to my downstairs neighbor.

Today I began taking photos of the cats and wondered why I hadn’t done this right away. Even if none is good enough to post here, I will enjoy seeing those photos later and remembering these first days. I’m sorry now that I didn’t take a picture or two the day they came home with me, and each day since then.

I think at first they both were pooping solid poop, and then one started having diarrhea, and now they both have diarrhea. I hear a sneeze maybe once a day; not sure who. I see someone scratching behind his ear once a day; not sure who. Duckworth has a pellet-like lump behind his right underarm.

I called the SPCA animal hospital to see what I should do. I left a message about 11 a.m. and hadn’t heard back by 5:30 p.m., so I called them again, meaning to leave another message, but this time someone answered and said that diarrhea in cats so young is urgent, and they should be seen very soon. However, they have no appointments available for weeks. However, I can bring them to the emergency clinic—which may entail a wait in line of up to four hours.

After bringing two cats in carriers home in a cab last week, I decided never to go anywhere again with both of them at once, unless absolutely necessary. So taking two cats to the SPCA’s emergency clinic could literally take the better part of two whole days. I was planning to get their medical care there, which I figured even with four cab trips would be cheaper than going where I took Hammett, but I am not going to spend two whole days standing in line at the emergency clinic, especially since it’s urgent, so I’ll likely be going back to my normal place, which is just three blocks away. I can walk there. Both cats remain full of energy, so neither is in dire straits, as far as I can tell, but I will take them in tomorrow, if possible.

Sunday, July 19, 2020

Howie Can Type!

I left D&H in the bathroom when I went to work yesterday. I felt a little nervous about leaving them there for so many hours, but didn’t see an alternative, as I don’t yet know what I don’t know about how to keep them safe. I felt actually anxious at work, enough that I had to do some diaphragmatic breathing. While I suspect a low-level anxiety underlies my entire being, almost never am I in the position to say, “I feel anxious,” but I did yesterday. Maybe it’s the COVID era, specifically, reading too much news about it, cycling compulsively from one news site to the other all day (sfgate, New York Times, Washington Post).

Wonderfully, I got an email from Hammett’s cat sitter during the day asking how our first night had gone. That was awfully kind of her. I told her about the foot standing and the hair digging and she said she didn’t think I actually needed to leave them in the bathroom when I’m out as a way of helping them feel secure in their new place. She said, “They already fell in love with you.”

However, I think I do need to leave them in the bathroom when I’m out as a way of making sure they don’t destroy everything in the apartment or get hurt. I was very happy to see them when I got home from work. I put them back in the bathroom so Tom and I could bring up four enormous boxes from Savvy Rest: my new bed. Then I invited Tom to sit down in the living room for the first time since the coronavirus era began, with his mask on and more than six feet away from me. I opened the bathroom door and sat down again. In a few moments, a little figure appeared.

“You got a cat!”

Then, “Two cats!”

Then, “Awww—they’re friendly! He’s purring!”

(Thank you, cat foster parent!)

The first night Hammett was here, I let Tom peek at him in his cat carrier in the bathroom. He took one horrified look over his shoulder, and that was the entirety of his relationship with Tom. He never came to like Tom, though later in life, he would sometimes let Tom pet him.

But D&H liked Tom right away, and the feeling was more than mutual.

I just hope their running up and down is not driving my downstairs neighbor crazy, especially now that there is no carpeting here. The ambience here has shifted very suddenly and very dramatically over the past couple of days. It was pristine, fresh and airy, with all the windows wide open—the only remotely good thing about having one’s cat die. I was wearing my Birkenstocks, enjoying the sight of my toes.


Howie typed that!

The windows are now closed, or open no more than an inch or so. The bathroom needs a deep clean twice a day, and D&H have already shown interest in Birkenstocks as toys, along with everything else as toys. That’s OK. When I start thinking about how I will handle this or that, I just tell myself, “That is the imaginary future.” What needs to be addressed in this very moment is nonexistent or is easily handled.

I put them in the bathroom last night. I let them out about two and a half hours before my alarm was going to go off this morning so they could play and continue to explore. I found them sitting perfectly still in the bathroom, one on the back of the toilet and one on the edge of the sink, not in their cozy box on the floor.

After being liberated, they periodically joined me on the bed. One of them from time to time climbed under the covers with me, and then back out. Another was interested in biting my hair. Later they began an intensive session of mutual suckling, a sign of being separated from their mother too soon. After awhile, I gently separated them. The SPCA said not to let them do this because they can damage each other’s skin.

I plan to train them using positive reinforcement only, though I’m not quite sure how that works. Like, when I offer a treat, how does the cat know what he’s being rewarded for, since he is by definition not doing anything bad at that moment? I will learn about this. Hammett learned the word “No” and heeded it, but I don’t want D&H to learn that, if possible, though it has already escaped my lips a few times. Some piece of paper I got claimed that cats are trainable, so, along with encouraging them to behave like good roommates, I am hoping to train both of them to enjoy being cradled like babies, with their feet up, and I’m planning to teach one of them to high five and the other to shake hands. Just as a project, and for mental stimulation for them.

I got a really important piece of advice from a worker at Pet Food Express. He said if one of them does something bad, start playing with him. That has been a lifesaver already. It distracts the cat from the undesired behavior, and avoids any kind of negative reinforcement.

I was looking at cat towers and tunnels yesterday online, another disheartening experience if one seeks to avoid non-toxic materials. Fortunately, I have four huge cardboard boxes now! Out of these, I am going to make a cat platform, a cat tunnel, and a thing to conceal the wires under my desk.

The most alarming thing D&H do so far is that they really love to chew on wires. They have already damaged my phone charger cable—in several places, you can see the bare wire—and one of them actually tore part of the antenna off my alarm clock-radio. I have put as much out of reach as I can, and will cover the rest in short order. I imagine you can buy some spiral things to protect wires with, as well.

Neither one of them has any interest in Hammett’s old bed, and they also didn’t go near his scratching post at first, which is a really nice one made out of solid wood that is still in excellent condition. I was thrilled when I saw D (or H) briefly use it this morning, and then later they both used it with great vigor. Whew!

Speaking of enthusiasm, it is great to see them eat with tremendous enjoyment. I am feeding them morning and night, and not leaving food out.

No photos yet because they are so often in motion, and I also would rather take a picture of a specific cat, not just of a cat, and I cannot tell them apart without a moment or so of examination, and they usually are not still long enough for that. The photos I posted were the ones that were on the SPCA website.

I dreamed last night that I was explaining to three men the benefits of nose breathing and that it is even a good idea to tape one’s mouth shut at night to allow a whole night of nose breathing. They seemed skeptical, but it is a good idea; I hope to get caught up on the past couple of months here and will say more about that. But in case I have to let that go, get this book: Breath, by James Nestor. I would type in the subtitle, but I have kittens. He was also on Fresh Air. His book contains a lot of incredibly interesting information. It also contains a huge amount of stuff that I plan to ignore, but what I have implemented has completely changed both my waking and sleeping lives.

Friday, July 17, 2020

Three-Person Family

So, two cats is probably approximately one more than I can handle, but two things pushed me over the edge. One was feeling guilty about how much time Hammett spent by himself when I was out of town, especially his final two years, when I was traveling to New Mexico for school. I will never again leave a cat all by itself. The second was the hope that two cats will be playmates for each other, filling in when I’m not available and maybe tiring each other out enough that there will be slightly less energy for shredding furniture.

I went over to the SPCA to fetch Duckworth and Howie today. “Howie” is an homage to my teacher of the same name. “Duckworth” appeals to me because it has an imposing ring, but also a comical one, and lends itself to the pleasing nicknames Duck or Duckie. It was a lovely day, sunny and warm. I met with an SPCA worker in the parking lot of the adoption center to go over details.

Suddenly she said, “Oh, you can see them—they’re right there.” They were in a room on the perimeter of the building, along with a third kitten. I went over to the window and one or the other of them starting meowing and reaching out a paw toward me. His brother joined him, reaching out so far I feared he would topple off the wooden platform. It was as if they were saying, “Oh, my god, there’s my mother!” I was so glad that happened, because otherwise I wouldn’t have seen them until I got them home, took them into the bathroom, and opened their carrying cases. It reassured me tremendously: I picked out the right cats.

I had sent an email earlier in the day asking where they had spent their first three months, and with whom. I learned that they had come from Animal Care & Control, which was not necessarily good news. It suggested that they had been scooped up off the street, or might even be feral. So another great thing was when the worker at the SPCA, while explaining all the stuff she was going to give me, pointed out the notes about them their foster parent had written. They were in foster care! That was great news. Hammett was in foster care, and was immediately relaxed and affectionate, for which I thank his foster parent. He did not mind being cradled on his back like a baby; I think that was also thanks to his foster parent.

I took Howie and Duckworth home in a cab, one meowing and one making a little squeaking noise. I put them in the bathroom and expected that they might cower in there for a while, but at least one of them immediately wanted to leave the room and explore (but was not permitted). I put Hammett’s bed in there, and I also cut the top half off one of of their cardboard carrying cases and lined it with a folded towel.

I went in to visit them several times, letting them be in charge of how much contact we had. On the second visit, one of them strolled over and casually stood on my foot while grooming himself. I nearly cried with joy: how sweet! I was sitting on the toilet, leaning forward, and after a bit, one of them climbed up my back and then his brother joined him. One of them licked my neck while the other dug through my coiffure. I think this is a match.

They immediately used their litter box to pee and poop. One of them hopped into the sink and tried to drink from the faucet, so I brought in a bowl of water and they both started drinking from it.

Cutest moment: When I leaned over the tub to do something or other and a little black face appeared on either side of my legs, as they tried to see what I was looking at.

They are basically identical, and they weigh the same, although one feels a little rounder than the other. Duckworth has a single white whisker, and Howie has some unobtrusive brown marks on his head. The latter is the main way to tell them apart. Their eyes are very alike.

Thursday, July 16, 2020

First Photos of Duckworth and Howie

Tomorrow I am going to the SPCA to adopt these two three-month-old brothers, at the moment named Leon and Lenny.

I went to Pet Food Express just now to get a second litter box and some toys. The clerk was very helpful, and I felt very depressed after I talked to him. He pointed out the garish plastic litter boxes and the various little cheap plastic toys and an ugly piece of stuff you can put under your garish plastic litter box for pee and poop that ends up outside the litter box and various ugly pieces of plastic you can put treats in to stimulate your cats' minds.

It occurred to me that the last time I had been there, and the tens of times before that, I was picking out something to delight Hammett, and then I just burst into tears. I felt so sad, and also overwhelmed at all the stuff I need that I had not even thought of, and guilty: I have not even brought Duckworth and Howie, or whatever their names end up being, home yet, and already they are being deprived of a lot of important pieces of plastic.

Then I got a grip and reminded myself that all I really needed at that moment was a second litter box, and it did not have to be the perfect litter box. I also chose a couple of toys that I actually liked, and headed home.

When I pasted in their photos just now, I felt better. Aren’t they cute?

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First Photo of Hammett

The day I adopted Hammett, in October of 2006, the SPCA gave me an information sheet about him that had this photo of him on it.

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