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.


lisajean1015 said...

CONGRATULATIONS on your two new little bundles of joy!!! I'm so happy you've adopted these adorable brothers.

This post also brought back memories: I remember turning to you for advice in 2014, when we adopted JoJo as a five-month-old kitten. I was a basket case of anxiety worrying about all the ways she could get hurt in our apartment, and I wanted a mindful approach to managing my feelings. You recommended I use the phrase, "Having the thought that ___" to remind myself that all my suffering was being generated by the thoughts I was having, not from any real-world events. I found it incredibly helpful, and it's a phrase I still use.

Like D&H, JoJo was a champion cord-chomper when we adopted her. Phone charger cables were short-lived in our home for a while. We tried to keep as many cords as we could out of her reach and bought cord-covering doohickeys for others. Fortunately, she somehow seemed to know better than to chew on wires that would have caused her to get shocked (it's still a mystery to me why she left those alone). And you may be comforted to hear that she outgrew the habit (not sure how long it took...but it's been years since we had to worry about it). So stay vigilant, be patient, and take heart.

Bugwalk said...


How kind of you to remember and share that anecdote about when you and The Captain adoped JoJo. And thank you for the reassurance regarding the wires. That is mysterious that she knew to avoid certain wires. I hope D&H are tuned in to the same cosmic channel.